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The Pope's Bookbinder: A Memoir Hardcover – June 18, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Biblioasis; First Edition edition (June 18, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1927428173
  • ISBN-13: 978-1927428177
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"David Mason's absorbing memoir might be summed up by a button I recently acquired: 'Life? Of course I have a life. It's a life filled with books' ... Early on in this rambling, easygoing account of his career, Mason mentions three outstanding classics of that tiny subgenre: Charles Everitt’s The Adventures of a Treasure Hunter, David Randall’s Dukedom Large Enough and David Magee’s Infinite Riches. The Pope’s Bookbinder belongs on the same shelf."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"[David] Mason catalogs for posterity a time when books were sold by hand, sought on foot, and priced accordingly … in what may be one of the last great booksellers’ accounts."—The San Francisco Book Review

"Plain-spoken, sometimes gruff, but always unafraid ... the book stands as a monument to what are, or perhaps were, the last great days of traditional shop-based bookselling, a world in which booksellers still educated each other, a world in which the expertise and traditions were handed on, a world in which bookshops brought new collectors into being with beguiling talk and modest initial purchases. It's a way of life already disappearing: the parting question is, 'And what will happen to the education of new collectors when there are no used bookstores? Who will teach them what they need to know?'—it's a question we have to answer."—Laurence Worms, Antiquarian Booksellers' Association

"A witty raconteur and compulsive gossip, Mason has written a book that will delight anyone who loves literary scuttlebutt."—The Globe & Mail

"Mason is a confessed 'inveterate gossip,' unafraid to name names or pass stern judgment on various bitter controversies that have rocked the Canadian trade. But his portraits, rarely black and white, are typically affectionate, with page after page displaying his plentiful stock of unusual characters … The Pope’s Bookbinder strikes a fine balance between impressing with insider lore and welcoming the outsider ... The chatty digressions and omissions — sometimes hinting at truly salacious tales sealed up for the principals’ lifetimes — invite you to learn more."—The National Post

"A sweeping tour of the bookselling industry through the eyes of a man who has been at the heart of it for decades."—The Toronto Star

“Riveting and valuable. No less than a life seen through the lens of a love of books and literature, Toronto antiquarian Mason’s memoir provides eloquent proof that Gutenberg’s descendants are not ready to give up the good fight. Bibliophiles — you know who you are, folks — will find bottomless solace in these pages.”—Montreal Gazette

"Completely charming ... His sly humor and passion about the idea of collecting made me see my library as the personal achievement that it is."—Paper Over Board

"Buy it. Buy it. Buy it."—The Dusty Bookcase

"Atmospheric, informative memoir by a Canadian seller of used and rare books. Born in 1938, Mason as a kid was more comfortable in pool halls than the Toronto school system and got “permanently suspended” at 15. He wound up bumming around Europe, taking odd jobs and drugs, talking passionately about books with fellow free souls. A brief stint as a bookbinder in Spain ... gave him a marketable skill when he returned to Toronto in the late 1960s, but a part-time bookstore job showed him his real talents: talking to people and finding books for them. After a few years’ apprenticeship with Jerry Sherlock, one of the many rare booksellers to whom Mason pays affectionate tribute, he went out on his own. One of his first areas of expertise was Canadian editions of books by foreign authors, a bibliographic area he pioneered in a project for the National Library of Canada, until he broke bitterly with the library and a colleague over what he considered a breach of faith. His memoirs reveal Mason as a good grudge-holder, and his feelings about librarians are mixed; affection for those at local branches who initiate youth into the wonders of books balances disdain for the bureaucrats at major institutions. He wholeheartedly loves anyone who loves books—no matter how eccentric—as we see in a hilarious chapter about private collectors. Mason is a shrewd commercial operator when he needs to be, but his main focus is on the vital role non-chain booksellers play as preservers of our cultural heritage. His burning sense of mission ... gives a vivid sense of its author’s idiosyncratic personality. Gossipy, rambling and enchanting, alive with Mason’s love for books of every variety."—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

David Mason was born in Toronto and has been an antiquarian bookseller in that city since 1967, after serving an apprenticeship with Joseph Patrick Books. He has, during that period, had five different locations and continues to insist on having an open shop in downtown Toronto in spite of the huge costs, general indifference, and the disappearance of most of his colleagues. His present shop is called David Mason Books.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Peat O'Neil on September 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is my favorite book of the season. Funny thing is, I browsed and very occasionally bought books at The Village bookstore while I was a low-income student at U of T. Michael Dirda praised this memoir of a bookman in the Washington Post and it is every bit as good as the review promised. And more because Toronto is one of my hometowns.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful By N. Houde on August 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First of all, the Title is a scam. The author possibly worked on a book that was destined to the Pope while he (author) was working in a bookbindery in Spain.
I know it is a 'memoir' but author is too self-centered and he gives too much importance to the antiquarian book trade in Toronto as if Toronto were the antiquarian book Canadian capital. That great booksellers are just mentioned makes this book, and they don't all are from Toronto.
As far as I'm concerned this book is a missed opportunity to give a more complete view of the antiquarian book trade in Canada.
A great opportunity was also missed to put a bit more meat on the ABAC (
N.S. H.
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