RETAIL TRADE: The Barnum of Books

A few years ago, an eccentric Englishwoman sent a £250 check to Foyle's bookshop on London's Charing Cross Road with a request for "the best and worst books ever published." Without arching an eyebrow, Foyle's sent her, as the best book, a rare and handsome Kelmscott Press edition of Chaucer. As the worst book, Foyle's shipped a six-volume edition of Count Donatien de Sade's gruesome 16th Century work on sexual perversion. Wrote the grateful customer: "How extraordinary of you!"

It didn't seem at all extraordinary to Foyle's. Such services have made it the biggest bookstore...

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