I started trading as Roger Gaskell Rare Books in 1989 in Warboys, Cambridgeshire. Before that I worked at Bernard Quaritch and then Pickering and Chatto in London. I have produced 50 catalogues, and several ephemeral lists, concentrating on early science, technology and medicine. My customers include major academic libraries, chiefly in the UK and North America, as well as private collectors. I am now spending more of my time on research and teaching in the history of printing and book illustration.
While living near Cambridge I enjoyed a close relationship with the University Library and the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science. In 2015 I moved to the Brecon Beacons in rural Wales.
For more about my career and approach to bookselling, see Sheila Markahm’s interview for The Book Collector in 2012.
From printing letterheads for my parents’ friends as a teenager, and early in my career in the natural history department at Quaritch, I have always been interested in printing history and the techniques of book illustration. I have published a number of articles on image making and picture printing, accessible on Academia.edu, and am posting further research on this site. I have led seminars in Cambridge and now teach a regular summer school course ‘The Illustrated Scientific Book to 1800 at Rare Book School, University of Virginia’, looking at the bibliographical implications of the technologies of picture printing.
My 2004 article ‘Printing House and Engraving Shop, a Mysterious Collaboration’, grew out of a Library Scholarship at the Clark Library in 1999 and a Winship Lecture at the Houghton Library in 2000. In the article, which has been widely cited, I suggested that the bibliographical analysis and description of illustrations should be as rigorous as that for the text of a book. The printing of engravings in books has been neglected by book historians. To remedy this, in 2016 I built a replica eighteenth rolling press which is now installed at the University of Virginia. It is the first such press to be used for bibliographical teaching and research.
My logo is taken from the title page of Guidobaldi del Monte (1545-1607) Mechanicorum liber (folio, Pesaro, Hieonymus Concordia, 1577), regarded as the most important contribution to mechanics since Archimedes. The globe and lever device is an emblem on the saying ascribed to Archimedes, ‘Toleret quis si consisteret’ – give me a place to stand and I will move the earth. The device was frequently used in later works on mechanics, but I do not know if it has a prior history. In Mathematical magic (1648), John Wilkins gives a version of the device, and explains that ‘[Archimedes] was frequently wont to say, how that he could move, Datum pondus cum data potentia, the greatest conceivable weight with the least conceivable power: and that if he did but know where to stand and fasten his instrument, he could move the world, all this great globe of sea and land’ (pp. 79-80).