The Pope's Book Binder: A MemoirDo any of you for one moment think I could ever resist a book entitled The Pope’s Bookbinder? Of course not. Once I discovered my public library had available copy of this cool sounding book I simply had to get my hands on it. As misleading as the title was, The Pope’s Book Binder did not disappoint me. I mean come on, how could not enjoy a memoir by a Canada’s premier dealer of rare and antique books?
In his memoir 2013, Mason recalls his life-long obsession with books, beginning with his adolescent obsession with cheap paperbacks. The ones that caught Mason’s eye were the ones with tawdry cover art, usually depicting some scantily clad woman or two in a sexy pose. Yielding to his youthful and prurient interests, he finally bought one of these nasty looking little editions. Later that night, as he lay in the bathtub reading it, Mason soon realized much to his disappointment it was not a piece of cheap smut but a copy of I Claudius. But to his surprise he fell in love with what he read, and soon after that reading and books in general. A rebellious but intellectually precocious  young man who loved reading but hated school, Mason dropped out at 15 and fled to Europe. After bumming around the Continent hippy-style he found employment in Spain in a book bindery. It was here he helped bind a high-end volume for the Pope. Returning to his native Canada he was able to broker his love of books and valuable work experience to land a job in the book industry. Eventually, after borrowing seed money from his father his started his own bookshop. From there he would go on to the that nation’s leading bookseller of first editions and rare Canadiana.
The Pope’s Book Binder was a glimpse into a world of books of which I knew little, including rare Canadiana but also foreign bootlegs of English language books. Thanks to the many anecdotes he shares throughout the book, (The Pope’s Bookbinder is nothing but wall to wall anecdotes) I also learned how close-knit and quirky the antiquarian book world tends to be. In a nutshell, it’s chockfull of eccentrics.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff on what it’s like to run a bookstore and all the adventures that go into stocking it. (Remember one of my earlier posts when I mentioned buying cheap books from carts outside the bookstore? According to Mason, those books tend to be leftovers from when a store has purchased a large collection of books from a private party.)
With my love of books about books I had no problem enjoying Mason’s memoir. I have a kind of personal cannon when it comes to books on the rare book trade. From time to time, I find myself recommending The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession, Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of BooksA Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict and The House of Twenty Thousand Books  Now, along with all those, I’ll also be recommending David Mason’s The Pope’s Bookbinder. 

Books About Books: The Pope’s Bookbinder by David Mason

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