Michael Laundon, Managing Director of World of Rare Books
AbeBooks recently caught up with Managing Director of World of Rare Books Michael Laundon to talk all things bookish. Sister company to World of Books, WORB was founded in 2012 and focuses on rare and antiquarian books from the pre-ISBN era. Naturally, Michael had some interesting stories for us. From providing a special book to a Nigerian tribe, to returning a long-lost childhood treasure to Australia, this Sussex-based bookseller is living up to their name. Read the Q&A to learn more about the fascinating world of rare book selling.
AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?
Michael: I love finding homes for the most unusual books the most. It thrills me to sell an obscure book on Geology when the only online alternative is a reprint. One such story was a book we had on the ancient Ibibio People of Nigeria – we sold a very rare book about a particular tribe to a chap who wanted to collect the book in person. When he arrived at World of Rare Books HQ we quickly realised he had traveled all the way from Nigeria and was part of the tribe. The book was so precious to his people that they wanted him to collect it in person rather than having it sent via the postal service!
Vintage Penguin paperbacks from World of Rare Books.
AbeBooks: What is the most prized item in your inventory?
Michael: Currently my favorite showpiece is Anglo-Saxon Magic by Godfrid Storms. I love this book because of the bizarre nature of it, and I find it interesting to read about history in the context of how far society has moved on – in this case, how there is no requirement for using a leech to cure a sore throat! I also think it represents our stock nicely – it’s an interesting, unique, and fun book.
AbeBooks: What is the most interesting book you’ve come across?
Michael: Too many to mention, however, it always sends shivers down my spine when holding a famous first edition in my hands, especially when researching how to spot the printing errors to define the validity of the copy you have. An example I can give is the now sold first edition of Pickwick Papers with the famous printing errors.
Beloved classics from World of Rare Books.
AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book?
Michael: I think it has to be a bullet shot into the actual book! Most frustrating thing is probably crayon marks in the illustrations of classic children’s books!
AbeBooks: What’s your most memorable moment as a bookseller?
Michael: Many years ago, we sold an old children’s annual from the ’60s to a customer in Australia. A few weeks later we received a phone call from the same very excited customer – she was looking for her favorite childhood book, which is what she purchased…literally! When she received the book she realised the book had her name in the front and all the puzzles were filled in by herself as a child! The most interesting thing here is she had never been to England. The book had somehow exchanged hands and managed to travel across the world to England where it ended up with us 30 years later and resold to its original owner. Let’s just say it made everyone’s day!
AbeBooks: And of course, what’s your favorite book?
Michael: War of the Worlds by HG Wells – yes, it pained me to sell a first edition of this a few years back that I should have purchased myself!
Les Phipps, Joy Ridley, and Michael Laundon of World of Rare Books.