Wednesday 14 September 2011

Interview with Barbara of March House Books

It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week, everyone! I was deliberating about what I could do to celebrate, and thus decided on interviewing a fellow blog blogger. So I'd like you to meet Barbara – the author of one of my very favourite blogs, March House Books Blog. She also runs her own online book shop where she sells beautiful rare, used and out-of-print children's books.

So, without further ado, here we go!

Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed Barbara! I absolutely love your blogit’s so charming and unique! What inspired you to start collecting and selling vintage children’s books, and to start writing about them on your blog? 
Thank you, Sophie. I appreciate being a part of your lovely blog.

My love of books and book shops began when I was a little girl. My dad collected back issues of the National Geographic Magazine and most Saturday mornings would find the two of us in the local second-hand book shop. Most of my ‘pocket money’ was spent in that shop and by the time I was a teenager I had a large and varied collection of books. As I got older most of them were lent to other people, given away or sold at car boot sales.

Years later an article in a magazine reminded me how much I enjoyed those Saturday mornings. The article was discussing bookselling and book collecting and several of the books mentioned were ones I had owned as a child. It was at that point I resolved to ‘find’ all the books I had loved as a child. I started by visiting second-hand book shops, charity shops and book markets but it was a very slow process so I plucked up the courage to go to a book auction. That was the beginning.

The blog is something I’ve been thinking about for a while but only got around to starting in May of this year. I wanted to share more of the illustrations from the books and although I was writing ‘articles’ for my website and including a few scans I didn’t really have the room for everything. I’m not sure what direction the blog will take but I hope to develop it further as time goes on. 

Some of the titles you post about and sell are pretty hard to come by. How do you track them down?
I still buy a lot of stock from auctions and book fairs but much more comes in from people who contact me and ask me to buy their books. A lot of the books I’m offered are fairly standard but every now and then something wonderful turns up. 

Do you have any funny stories you’d like to share about the people you’ve met along the way?
One that makes me chuckle concerns a conversation with a local auctioneer. I visited his auction rooms to bid on a collection of books by a relatively unknown (at that time) author. The auction estimate was £60 to £80 but I ended up paying a little over £950 to secure the lot. The auctioneer was astounded and sought me out after the sale to ask why on earth I had paid that kind of money for ‘worthless’ books. I ended up thinking I had made a terrible mistake but was happy to report back a few weeks later with the news that I had sold the books to a collector for a great deal more than the auction price. The look of astonishment on the auctioneer's face was worth a few sleepless nights! 

How many books do you have in stock right now? Is your own personal library just as big?
I have around 2500 books listed on my website, with approximately 2000 waiting to be catalogued. Listing is a slow process because I include a condition report and description of each book. I always intend to list more books than I do but then I find myself reading instead of listing. Yesterday I was cataloguing One Man And His Dogs by Ian Niall, a story about a Cairn Terrier called Susy. Our little Cairn Terrier, Rosie, died 2 years ago so this book really appealed to me – I ended up reading it and crying over the inevitable ending! My own collection is around the same size, with more than 300 books illustrated by Rene Cloke, about the same number of titles by Enid Blyton, plus lots of annuals and other vintage children’s books. I also have a large collection of modern 1st editions. 

What were your own favourite titles when you were a child? Do you still have them with you now?
Anything by Enid Blyton. I don’t have any of the actual copies from my childhood but have managed to replace nearly all of them. My dream is to find a book or books with my name in – after all I find lots of inscribed books so why not one of mine? 

It must be so tempting to keep some of the beautiful books you find for yourself! Are there any that you’ve found it particularly hard to part with?
It is incredibly difficult to part with any of the books but I feel lucky to be able to ‘own’ them for a short time. If it’s something I really love I will keep it for six months or so before offering for sale. I do buy books for my own collection and the very fact that I am able to sell some enables me to keep others. My husband is very good at reminding me that I am running a business as well as being a collector! 

Have you written any books of your own? If so, can we find them anywhere?
It’s very kind of you to think I might be capable of writing a book! My writing skills are poor to say the least, so although I sometimes think it would be wonderful I don’t think it will ever happen.

Apart from these gorgeous children’s books, what other genres and authors do you enjoy reading?
Everything and anything! I love the Twilight saga, Harry Potter, Jane Austen, ZoĆ« Heller, C.S. Lewis, Grahame Oakley, Anthony Browne, Dan Brown, Daphne du Maurier, Penelope Lively, Robert Westall, Marion St John Webb, Alison Uttley, Sophie Kinsella, Natasha Solomons, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anita Brookner – the list is endless and always changing. This week's ‘bedtime reading’ is Pride and Prejudice (again), and next on my bedside table is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 

And lastly, in honour of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, are there any other book blogs you enjoy reading and would like to give a shout-out or two to?
There are so many!
CarryUsOff Books
Bibliophile’s Corner
The Children’s War
Rich Lakin’s Blog
Deborah Lawrenson
Playing By The Book 

Thank you again for taking some time out to share with us, Barbara!
Thanks again for including me, I appreciate it very much.

Be sure to check out Barbara's blog at and her online children's book shop at