Barbara Chalk and her husband Robert who together run Rare and Antique Books.

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1. How did you get your start?

Robert had been collecting for many years and the number of books we had was forever growing. A few years ago we decided to start selling, creating a brand and setting up a business.

Robert also runs a marketing agency and we used his team’s skills to create an e-commerce website. On launch day of the new website, we made a sizable sale – a full set of The Chronicles of Narnia first editions, with jackets, by CS Lewis. We were very happy! Now we’re successfully selling books all over the world. We’ve not looked back.

2. Why are fairs central to the book trade specifically?

From the collectors’ point of view, having a huge selection of well displayed books from numerous dealers all under one roof is like being a child in a sweetshop. The only problem is what not to buy! From our perspective as dealers it is an opportunity to sell, meet new people and establish potential ongoing relationships, also to chat about business with fellow dealers whilst picking out the odd book to buy for our own stock. It is surprising how frequently this happens.

3. How has the book trade changed in your experience?

Obviously the ability to search online has transformed the market. The fun of searching through bookshops and the excitement of finding that special, elusive book has, to a large extent, been superseded by the ability to access the global bookshops such as Google and AbeBooks.

Compiling a complete collection can literally take minutes online as long as the buyer has the finances to do so. Less of a challenge but an awful lot more convenient.

4. What’s your ‘holy grail’?

We specialise in modern first editions and for us, obtaining the US copy of The Great Gatsby is the ultimate – with its dust jacket, of course.

5. Real ale or espresso martini?

Real ale every time.

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