Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Bibliopole, Bibliophile, Antique dealer, Book seller, Rare, Expensive
Photo by Hans Dinkelberg


Noun. Late 18th century.
[Latin bibliopola from Greek bibliopoles, from biblion book + poles seller.]

A dealer in (especially rare) books.

As someone that knew a number of antique book dealers growing up, I must confess that I had never heard the word bibliopole before. Even now it seems fairly obscure; a search on the internet for bibliopole yields surprisingly few relevant results. It's all positively conspiratorial!

To pounce on the OED's ambiguity for effect, it does seem fitting that a dealer in especially rare books would have an especially rare word for the profession. And perhaps they have good reason to be furtive, as rare books can fetch a pretty penny indeed. A first edition copy of The Canterbury Tales, for example, fetched £4.6 million at auction. Even for a bibliopole with a serious parchment-mite allergy, that's not a sum to be sniffed at.


  1. It's funny that bibliopole is such a rare word in English; that's what a regular book-seller is called in Greek (βιβλιοπώλης), so it's a word that comes up frequently.

    1. Well ... I *think* it's rare, although it's not marked as such in the OED. It's just based on me not having heard of it (not really evidence) and not being able to find much use of it (kind of evidence). However, it's interesting that this is just the word for bookseller in Greece.

  2. I have a brief vision of a store which only sells the works of Stanislaw Lem. I think that might have limited commercial success, though.

    1. Or a bookshop in the Antarctic or Arctic perhaps? Again, limited commercial viability.