The Bookman’s Tale, Charlie Lovett (2013)

My Edition:Bookmanstale.jpeg
Title: The Bookman’s Tale
Author: Charlie Lovett
Publisher: Penguin Books
Device: Paper book
Year: 2013
Pages: 369
For a plot summary


When I read a book I want to be affected in some way, to think differently, maybe to investigate a part of the story that captivated me. At the very least, I want something to have shifted.

Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale, satisfied all of the above, with intriguing subject matter and his ability to tell a grand, complicated story.

This is a book about books and those who care about and conserve old ones and the sometimes dirty and dangerous world of antiquarian book selling; it details the practice of historical document forgery; the provenance, over centuries, of one particular book that concerns whether Shakespeare did or didn’t (write his own plays); there is one murder and almost three; two love stories and the beginning of another; there is a centuries old family feud; and a main character with social anxiety disorder, who creates a fruitful life anyway. Throw in intrigue, blackmail and people dying before their time, this is a book I could not put down.

How did this book affect my world? Where do I start? With the pros and cons of the legitimacy of Shakespeare as the writer of his plays? Learning to forge historical documents? Or perhaps a trip to an antiquarian bookshop in hopes of finding a mysterious picture stuck inside a book? (Although, that did happen to me, sort of) And what about rare book conservation and restoration? Should I learn how to do it? What a noble vocation!

The idea of provenance strikes me as well: imagine coming across a centuries old book with a list of the owners marked inside the cover, who just happen to be well-known historical figures?

This is the kind of book I didn’t want to end and rationed pages to slow down the inevitable…What a way to spend the weekend!


8 thoughts on “The Bookman’s Tale, Charlie Lovett (2013)

  1. From what you’ve said it sounds a lot more fascinating than I’d heard and I already wanted to read it then so up the list it goes. I do like the idea of a fictional book that deals with the Shakespeare possibilities.


  2. I was impressed with this too ( despite one or two caveats (like the contemporary Elizabethan dialogue, which I found unconvincing). Interesting too as I’ve just finished Lovett’s First Impressions, another book-sleuthing story with murder and intrigue but this time about present-day Oxfordshire and Jane Austen.


  3. I remember hearing a commentary by a biblical scholar on why oral tradition was trusted more than the written word, and it was precisely what you said–it was too easy to change something or forge something without being detected. When passing down oral tradition you were held accountable to a mentor so you had to be accurate. Even the printed word of course changes (multiple editions of a book). Print does not make something set in stone.

    Have you read the story of Madeleine Stern and Leona Rostenberg called “Old Books, Rare Friends”, about their adventures as antiquarian book dealers?


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