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Cover for Guarded by Dragons

Guarded by Dragons

Encounters with Rare Books and Rare People

Rick Gekoski


List Price: 26.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


The Times Best Literary Non-fiction Books 2021 - 'a super yarn'

'Rick Gekoski's encyclopaedic knowledge of rare books is matched only by the enthusiasm and brio with which he writes about them' Ian Rankin

Rick Gekoski has been traversing the rocky terrain of the rare book trade for over fifty years. The treasure he seeks is scarce, carefully buried and often jealously guarded, knowledge of its hiding place shared through word of mouth like the myths of old.

In Guarded by Dragons, Gekoski invites readers into this enchanted world as he reflects on the gems he has unearthed throughout his career. He takes us back to where his love of collecting began - perusing D.H. Lawrence first editions in a slightly suspect Birmingham carpark. What follows are dizzying encounters with literary giants as Gekoski publishes William Golding, plays ping-pong with Salman Rushdie and lunches with Graham Greene. A brilliant stroke of luck sees Sylvia Plath's personal copy of The Great Gatsby fall into Gekoski's lap, only for him to discover the perils of upsetting a Poet Laureate when Ted Hughes demands its return.

Hunting for literary treasure is not without its battles and Gekoski boldly breaks the cardinal rule never to engage in a lawsuit with someone much richer than yourself, while also guarding his bookshop from the most unlikely of thieves. The result is an unparalleled insight into an almost mythical world where priceless first editions of Ulysses can vanish, and billionaires will spend as much gold as it takes to own the manuscript of J.K. Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Engaging, funny and shrewd, Guarded by Dragons is a fascinating discussion on value and worth. At the same time, Gekoski artfully reveals how a manuscript can tell a thousand stories.

Praise For Guarded by Dragons: Encounters with Rare Books and Rare People

Rick Gekoski's encyclopaedic knowledge of rare books is matched only by the enthusiasm and brio with which he writes about them—Ian Rankin

Feisty, astutely dry, intellectually adroit - an intensely pleasurable and rewarding read—William Boyd

Shrewd and gossipy memoir—Observer

The great, renowned rare-book dealer Rick Gekoski is . . . like something out of a Raymond Chandler . . . an absorbing read . . . such fun—Spectator

Gekoski, a fine raconteur, does for bibliomania what James Herriot did for vets. As his previous books, such as Tolkien's Gown, remind us, he has a wealth of quirky stories, and you feel he could keep entertaining his readers for ever—The Times

Entertaining, beautifully written and deeply personal—The Critic

Combines a relish for commerce with tremendous joie de vivre. He loves literature . . . Guarded by Dragons is fresh and fun and bursting with good stories—Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

Many entertaining anecdotes . . . Gekoski - a larger-than-life character both on and off the page - writes with style,verve and just the right amount of self-deprecation . . . Gekoski proves a genial companion in the thrill of the chase—Financial Times

Gekoski is wonderful company on the page, with a fine flair for storytelling and an eye for fascinating eccentricities among his colleagues and customers . . . Gekoski lets us in on the intricacies of the trade with candour and insouciance—John Banville, Irish Times

A cache of engaging tales . . . He is an incredibly gifted storyteller who spins yarns with broad literary appeal . . . Gekoski never fails to amuse and to amaze. Guarded by Dragons is a bibliophilic treasure—Fine Books & Collections magazine

Highly entertaining and frequently very funny—Jewish Chronicle

Wonderfully gossipy, sharply written memoir . . . Gekoski's swashbuckling stories reveal a trade that is certainly not for cissies. That's precisely what makes this book as engrossing as it is entertaining—Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

Entertaining and revelatory—The Chap

Gekoski, possibly the most important book dealer of the last 50 years, fills page after page with witty anecdotes on dealing with the rarest books in the world, the people who wrote them, and the people that collect them. Beyond great stories well told, it's an education on the book trade itself. An absolute must-read for book lovers.—Mark Galeotti, War on the Rocks

Constable, 9781472133854, 256pp.

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

About the Author

Rick Gekoski came from his native America to do a Ph.D at Oxford, and went on to teach English at the University of Warwick. In 1982, sick of lecturing, he decided to become a full-time rare book dealer, specialising in important twentieth-century first editions and manuscripts. He lives in London and spends time each year in Paris and New Zealand.