David Plumtree obituary

Other lives: Antiquarian bookseller whose expert knowledge was much sought after around the UK

My friend David Plumtree, who has died aged 74, ran the Holleyman and Treacher antiquarian bookshop in Brighton with his business partner, Michael Kadwell, from 1983 until its closure in the late 1990s.

David had worked in the shop since he left school in 1973, and took over with Michael once George Holleyman retired. The shop was located on Duke Street in a building that had originally been a five storey temperance hotel, and was filled with thousands of books, many of which were rare continental volumes.

When party or trade union conferences were in town, it became full of well known book lovers, from Denis Healey to Clive Jenkins.

The middle of three sons, David was born in Egypt to Patricia (nee Lyle) and Air Vice-Marshal Eric Plumtree. After finishing his secondary education at Ardingly college in West Sussex, his first paid job was at Holleyman and Treacher as an assistant. Later, as its quiet and genial impresario, he was known to his admirers as Professor Plum, a host whose immense knowledge was much sought after by customers, as well as others in the trade. David could scan any volume and, when prompted, divulge its history, its travails and its monetary value.

The shop closed in 1998 for a range of reasons, including because David and Michael both wanted a change. Afterwards David worked as a consultant, cataloguing the rare book collection at Brighton library and helping Maggs Brothers, the London antiquarian booksellers, to deal with the books they bought from large estates. Its founder Ed Maggs was known to have regarded David as the most knowledgable bookseller in the country, and another Maggs worker, Carl Williams, once described him as “a born bookseller who turned everything into light and illumination around him”.

David offered the same illuminating qualities to his wide circle of friends, who benefited hugely from his vast knowledge of the arts, literature, history and architecture, something he always shared generously.

David met his wife, the artist and film-maker Barbara Loftus, in 2001 at the introduction of his friend Chris Mullen, a former university lecturer. Chris had told Barbara, who was at the time researching the Berlin childhood memories of her mother, Hildegard, to seek out Professor Plum for advice on books that would help her.

They were married in 2006, and she survives him.

Julia Winckler

The GuardianTramp

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