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An interview with Gotcha By The Books

Biblio checks in with Gotcha By The Books to learn more about their book business, collecting interests and more! To view and shop their inventory, click here.


When did you get started in bookselling?

I began selling books in Brisbane in 1985 at the original Archives Bookshop (then known as Archives Fine Books and Curios), in the Queen's Arcade Brisbane, owned by Emmanuel Meschers. I worked at Archives for a number of years, during which time it became something of an institution in Brisbane. I had my own bookshop in West End in the early 1990's, and then worked for a couple of years (again with Emmanuel) at Bibliomate bookshop in Mt. Gravatt. This was the late 1990's. At this time we began to sell books online, and I could see my future laid out before me. I began selling books online, working from home, in 2001, and have been doing so ever since.


What drew you to bookselling?

In my late teens I discovered literature, poetry, and art, and this led inevitably to the world of books. I began to frequent (haunt) Brisbane's second hand bookshops (of which there were many in the 1980's), and this led me to a love of books, not only as carriers of knowledge, but also as beautiful objects in themselves. From there it was natural for me to look for a job in the book trade.


Did you have any mentors in becoming a bookseller?

Yes, my main mentor was Emmanuel Meschers, who founded Archives Bookshop in 1985. But I would also mention all the other second-hand and antiquarian booksellers in Brisbane over the years, all of whom taught me something (whether they know it or not). In recent years Nicholas Pounder has encouraged me to refine my collection, and contextualize my stock in catalogues, and this is something which I have taken to heart.


What are your specialties as a dealer?

Over the years I have learned that you can sell books on any subject, from fine leather-bound editions to old workshop manuals to art books, and so on. So it is important to me to not over-define my specialties. However, I do have a love for poetry, and have put out a catalogue of rare Australian Poetry in the past. I also specialize in literature, drama, art, Australian art. But I would look to acquire


What's the most amazing book you've ever sold?

Probably a book from the early 1700's detailing the rules for Courts Martial in the British Army.


What is your favorite part of being a bookseller?

The part where I have to pinch myself to confirm that I am actually doing this for a living.


Do you have an open storefront or have you in the past?

I have had my own bookshop in the past. I now work from home, but I am always happy to have visitors come through (by appointment).


If so, do/did you have any bookstore pets?

My cat Mona, who is 20 years old and who has the loudest voice and most complex vocal range of all time.


What is the funniest / strangest / scariest thing that ever happened in your store?

Too many and varied to describe here. It's a subject for a lengthy book.


What is your favorite bookshop (other than your own)?

Berkelouw in Eumundi


What do you personally like to read? Collect?

I read widely, mostly in the Classics (modern and ancient), and I also read copious amounts of poetry; but I do also read politics, natural history, science, history, etc. I don't collect books by any author, because the books which I would most like to collect are always those which are most likely to sell! I do have a liking for Concrete Poetry, Books on Books, Typography, etc, and any good books on these subject are likely to stay in my private collection.


What's your favorite book you personally own? Would you sell it, if the price were right?

No, sorry, I've sold them all. But if there's one I wish I had not sold, then it would be a late 19th-C 2 volume folio set of Dante's Divine Comedy with steel-engravings by Gustave Dore.


What one book would you buy if price were no object?

The book which Michael Faraday put together from attending the lectures of Humphrey Davy. Faraday was an apprentice bookbinder, but was of course a scientist at heart. He was lucky to acquire a ticket to attend a lecture given by Humphrey Davy, during which he (Faraday) took extensive notes, which he accompanied with his own illustrations. He took these notes home, bound them himself, and presented the book to Davy, who in turn gave Faraday a job. I'm not sure which collection this book has ended up in, but if price were no object, this is the one I would like to buy.


If you were stranded on a desert island and could bring three books, what would they be?

'The Dream Songs' of John Berryman, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, and the Complete Plays of Shakespeare. But if you ask me tomorrow it will be three different books.