The second in our Books Not Borders series, where we're breaking down the barriers to the rare book world, introducing you to the many specialists at Shapero and giving you an insight into the world they inhabit.
This week we're interviewing the head of our Russian department, Eleanor Moore.
A fluent Russian and French speaker, Eleanor is in charge of our Russian Department, and also works with illustrated books. A graduate of University College London, she has travelled and worked in Russia, including a spell spent on the Siberian Steppes teaching English as a foreign language.
How did you get in to rare books?
I first went to Russia when I was fifteen and bought a WWI novel on the Arbat in a nice cloth binding as a souvenir to take home with me. The book itself was nothing remarkable and I was probably fleeced by the stall holder but it sparked an interest in rare books that stayed with me as I travelled back to Russia to study and work. I bought library sets of all my favourite authors and lugged them around in a suitcase from Siberia to Ukraine. Luckily I now know that some of the most interesting books can be quite unassuming and a lot easier to carry round.
What is your favourite rare book?
The colour plate books are so impressive it would have to be one of them. Mornay’s 'A Picture of St Petersburgh' features twelve views of the city, one for each month of the year. It makes me miss Russia’s snow and the beautiful architecture a lot!
What's the most expensive book you've ever sold?
The Russian Department has been lucky enough to sell some of the most expensive works published in Russia such as first editions of classic literature and Solntsev’s Drevnosti Rossikago Gossudarstvo. The coronation albums of Russian Tsars are seriously luxurious works of art and were only produced for European royalty, so are accordingly very rare. They are ginormous, too heavy to lift for some; just opening them is quite the undertaking but well worth it.
The rare book world is global, where has this job taken you?
I went to the SLAM Paris book fair shortly after joining Shapero. It's held in the Grand Palais and taken pretty seriously, with a PA from the President to boot. It was pretty eye opening to see so many beautiful French bindings all under one glass roof and get a feel for one of the international hubs of antiquarian books.
Any advice for budding young collectors?
Stick to what interests you.
If you had to choose one book currently on the shelves at Shapero to add to your own collection, what would that be?
Pushkin's 'Conte de Tsar Saltan' illustrated by Natalia Goncharova. She's one of my favourite artists of all time and it is incredibly pretty. I also speak French and am a big fan of Pushkin so it sums up all my interests in one work.
Last but not least, what does a book specialist read - desert island book choice?
Vasiliy Grossman's 'Life and Fate' - it's basically the Soviet version of 'War and Peace' but ten times better.