Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Oldest Living Rare Bookseller in the World

Muriel Craddock, 97, with daughter Kay in their family book store
in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Joseph Feil.

Muriel Craddock, at age 97 1/2 surely the oldest living rare bookseller in the world, has announced the re-opening of Kay Craddock Antiquarian Bookseller, her family business in Melbourne, Australia.

Muriel, known as the Queen of antiquarian booksellers, and her late husband, Les, established the business forty-four years ago as The Treasure Chest. As the business grew it morphed into the Bourke Street Bookshop. When daughter Kay - who started working in the shop when she was sixteen - assumed management of the bookshop in 1990, the name was changed again to reflect the circumstances.

The Craddocks entered the business later in life, in their early fifties, their habit of giving old books a home snowballing to a crisis point. Following a long-established plot line for booklovers, ''it got to the stage,'' says Kay, ''that we either had to open a shop or stop buying them.'' For the book-intoxicated, the latter was not an option.

The renovation of the bookshop's building forced a 12-month temporary move that squeezed the (accounting) books. Now it's back to home sweet home.

''Mum is much-loved by customers,'' says Kay. ''Just sitting there, talking to people.'' Muriel says she never loses interest in the book trade, but in recent times she has been concerned at the attrition of old faces. ''I'm out-living everybody,'' she frets.

One of the great advantages of the rare book trade is that you can continue working in it until the day you die. I expect to, and can only hope that when/if I make it to 97 I will be perched at the counter maintaining full control of my body functions, just sitting there, talking to people, and not mumbling slobbered bibliographical points to myself or to those I have not outlived.

Full story at The Age.

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