Document Type

Open Access Article

Author Biography

Rebecca Romney co-founded the rare book firm Type Punch Matrix, as well as the Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize. She is on the Council of the Bibliographical Society of America and is a member of the Grolier Club.


This article seeks to delineate principles for incorporating feminist practices into the three main roles of the antiquarian bookseller: buying, cataloging, and selling. While scholarship in feminist bibliography is growing in the academic sphere, and feminist movements for individuals in the rare book trade (such as the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America’s Women’s Initiative) have seen success in recent years, few formal explorations of feminism in the everyday practices of the trade have yet followed. Laying this groundwork is an important step in the wider efforts to build a more diverse, inclusive, and accessible rare book trade and body of avocational collectors, both of whom play critical roles in deciding what gets preserved, what ends up in institutional collections, and what is ultimately available for scholarly research. This article surveys principles for feminist practice with examples based on the author’s own experience as an antiquarian book dealer and cofounder of a rare book firm. It outlines typically unspoken economic influences that have shaped the culture of the rare book trade, as well as how some traditions of the trade can perpetuate bias that results in unnecessary obstacles to attracting, welcoming, and maintaining relationships with collectors. In providing specific examples, this article also demonstrates how incorporating feminist principles into the fundamental skills of the rare book trade is beneficial to dealers, and thus why every bookseller should be a feminist bookseller. This practice benefits dealers in the short term by enabling them to buy in a more informed manner, as well as reducing the risk of needlessly alienating potential buyers of specific books in their cataloging and selling practices. Further, it benefits dealers in the long term by supporting the growth of a much bigger pool of buyers, as it is they who fundamentally keep the engine of the rare book trade running.

(In the issue section "Rethinking Catalogs and Archives")