Pierre-Yves Guillemet of PY Rare Books.

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1. How did you get your start?

I developed and headed the Russian department at Shapero where I worked for more than 10 years and ended up being the company’s number two. I left last September and am now an independent dealer focusing on work from the ex-Russian empire, including eastern Europe, Caucuses and central Asia.

2. Why did you decide to go independent?

In part because I wanted to change the sort of pressure I have at work. I’ve worked with an auctioneer and a dealer and I wanted to be more flexible with my time rather than having the responsibilities of an employee, even as a shareholder.

It allows me to spend more time with my family, it’s a completely different rhythm and I’m quite enjoying it. Business is doing well. But I have to accept that I can’t do everything simultaneously.

3. How did you choose your focus?

I speak and read Russian – that’s a competitive advantage – and I’ve developed knowledge and skills in that field on the job. It has a wide-ranging appeal: dealers, private collectors, entrepreneurs and libraries all buy Russian works. There also used to be an active trade in people buying expensive gifts.

4. What is your holy grail – something you would love to get your hands on?

The first Slavonic Bible would be very nice to find. There are a few copies around, it’s not impossible but it’s tricky. It’s from the very early days of Russian printing.

Also, the very first Russian ‘ABC’ – you would say primer – from the 16th century. It’s from the same printer as the bible but I’ve never even had a chance to handle it.

5. Real ale or espresso martini?

Espresso martini definitely – I’m French so not really fond of ales.

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