Advanced Search

Add Best Comp

Add comparable title

Remove comparable title

Biblioasis Fall 2021

A Factotum in the Book Trade
By (author): Marius Kociejowski
Marius Kociejowski





Product Form:


Form detail:

Paperback , Trade


General Trade
Apr 26, 2022
$24.95 CAD


8in x 5 x 0.68 in | 400 gr

Page Count:

360 pages
Memoirs|Biography: general|Media, entertainment, information and communication industries|Antiques, vintage and collectables: books, manuscripts, ephemera and printed matter|Travel guides: museums, historic sites, galleries etc

A lifelong antiquarian bookseller’s memoir describes the trade from the factotum’s perspective—and in doing so reveals its ticklish underbelly.

A memoir of a life in the antiquarian book trade, A Factotum in the Book Trade is a journey between the shelves—and then behind the counter, into the overstuffed basement, and up the spine-stacked attic stairs of your favourite neighbourhood bookshop. From his childhood in rural Ontario, where at the village jumble sale he bought poetry volumes for their pebbled-leather covers alone, to his all-but-accidental entrance into the trade in London and the career it turned into, poet and travel writer Marius Kociejowski recounts his life among the buyers, sellers, customers, and literary nobility—the characters, fictional and not—who populate these places we all love. Cataloging their passions and pleasures, oddities and obsessions, A Factotum in the Book Trade is a journey through their lives, and a story of the serendipities and collisions of fate, the mundane happenings and indelible encounters, the friendships, feuds, losses, and elations that characterize the business of books—and, inevitably, make up an unforgettable life.

  • Contemporary resonance: in an era of growing anti-Amazon sentiment and the widespread effects of COVID-19 on bookshop employees, Factotum takes up the unsung anthem of the bookseller. While there are quite a few memoirs of the book trade, Kociejowski's is told not from the perspective of those who run the trade but from its ticklish underbelly—the factotum ‘as watcher, spook, chronicler of the mundane.’
  • This book originated as an essay in The Pebble Chance (2014). Publisher Dan Wells requested it be turned into a full book, and it joins our growing list of bookish books:
  • Kociejowski’s previous work (poetry, essays, travel writing) has garnered rave reviews in Washington Post, TLS, the Globe and Mail, Library Journal, and elsewhere.

Marius Kociejowski, born 1949, is a poet, essayist and travel writer. Among the books he has written are The Street Philosopher and the Holy Fool – A Syrian Journey, now reissued by Eland, and a sequel, The Pigeon Wars of Damascus published by Biblioasis in 2010. His first collection of poetry, Coast (Greville Press, 1990) was awarded the Cheltenham Prize. His most recent books are God’s Zoo: Artists, Exiles, Londoners (Carcanet, 2014), The Pebble Chance: prose & feuilletons (Biblioasis, 2014), Zoroaster’s Children and other travels (Biblioasis, 2015) and Collected Poems (Carcanet, 2019). He has recently completed another travel book, The Serpent Coiled in Naples. He lives in London, England where, until recently, he worked as an antiquarian bookseller.

  • Print run: 5,000 copies
  • Co-op available
  • Advance reader copies
  • Edelweiss digital review copies
  • National TV & radio campaign
  • National print media campaign
  • Online and social media campaign
  • E-book available at same time as print edition
  • Virtual launch and festival appearances
  • Excerpts in Lit Hub, Electric Lit

For more information contact
[email protected]

Praise for A Factotum in the Book Trade

"A Factotum in the Book Trade is memorable because a) it’s well-written, and b) it’s close in touch with the books. [...] It's an account of a life well, happily and grouchily lived."—Dwight Garner, New York Times

"A Factotum in the Book Trade displays the prose style of someone who takes inordinate delight in the unlikely conjunctions afforded by such places. Kociejowski pinpoints the joys of bookstores for readers and booksellers both, while sketching a miscellany of the personalities he has encountered throughout his career."Literary Review of Canada

"A representative slice, a core sample, of the rich and partly vanished world of bookselling"—The New Yorker

"A dizzying diversity of books and authors strike against each other, creating sparks of insight. In the space of a few pages, he mentions Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Green, Emily Dickinson, William Hazlitt, J.L. Carr and Patrick Leigh Fermor, offering concise assessments of each. Frequent footnotes, rendered as chatty asides, deepen his memoir’s digressive charm."—The Wall Street Journal

"A Factotum in the Book Trade is an extraordinary work that will give all readers an increased appreciation for what books are and the many intricate roles that books play in our lives."—Ottawa Review of Books

"[A Factotum in the Book Trade] is cranky, obscure, charming, ... and illuminating. It reads like a used bookstore smells."Globe & Mail

"Bibliomaniacs will find much to warm their hearts as author Marius Kociejowski shares his love of books, travel and name-dropping anecdotes of those famous in the arts and in the antiquarian book trade in England."—Ron Robinson, Winnipeg Free Press

"An accomplished poet and beguiling essayist [...] [Kociejowski is] spiky and forthright in his views.”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"Eccentric, meandering ... fascinating"—The New Criterion

"It is a witty tribute to a disappearing niche industry, and its wistful reflections complement its sense of passion for unexpected troves"—Foreword Reviews

"Full of humour, and gossipy in a good way, A Factotum is also tinged with an autumnal sense of loss and the self-examination of a man looking back on half a century in the trade. From start to finish the book is a delight."—The Spectator

"Kociejowski is eloquent about the magic of books, their bindings and associations."—Times Literary Supplement

“[I]n the book’s swirling opening chapter [...], we find him reflecting on a working life (mostly in the antiquarian book trade) [...] Mortality sets off this reflection [...] then books [...] and bookselling [...] It is this interplay between books (Kociejowski has authored books of poetry and travel writing) and bookselling (a staging ground into which enter books, employees and casual customers, but also literary archives, personal libraries, collectors and celebrated authors like Patti Smith, Robert Graves and Bruce Chatwin) where the magic happens." —Michael Turner, The British Columbia Review

"An absolute 'must' for the personal reading lists of all authors, publishers, booksellers and dedicated bibliophiles, A Factotum in the Book Trade is an absorbing, entertaining, informational, and inherently fascinating combination of memoir and book trader insights and commentaries. One of those life stories that will linger on in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf ... A Factotum in the Book Trade should be on the Biography/Memoir shelf of every community, college, and university library."—Midwest Book Review

Praise for Marius Kociejowski

"Kociejowski draws on all the aspects of his life in these engaging, idiosyncratic personal essays ... [that] proffer the reader equal measures of autobiography, insight and quirky charm." —Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“Here the charm is deep, the splendour unlaboured; the colours of history, reckoned afresh, saturate singular people, in whom passion is lucid again...here is one who collects his extraordinary resources, and strides.”—Christopher Middleton

“It is a testament to the power of this superb book that I felt not despondency, but ... elation."—Adam Thorpe, Times Literary Supplement

"Treasures are revealed ... with a formidable erudition, and at their best they gleam with an enameled splendour."—Ken Babstock, Globe and Mail

"Kociejowski writes beautifully ... unusual, poetic, and thought-provoking."—Library Journal

of 18

Also Available

Book Cover
Zoroaster's Children Marius Kociejowski 9781771960441 $22.95 CAD Oct 15, 2015
Pebble Chance, The Marius Kociejowski 9781927428771 $22.95 CAD Oct 20, 2014
Book Cover
Pigeon Wars of Damascus, The Marius Kociejowski 9781926845029 $21.95 CAD Apr 21, 2011

Forgotten Password

Please enter your email address and click submit. An email with instructions on resetting your password will be sent to you.

Forgotten Password

An email has been sent out with instructions for resetting your password.