Erknul the AntiquarianAn elderly man who runs Zargosa's largest and finest illegal bookshop from an octagonal tower in the ancient quarter behind the Sea King's Temple. His operation is protected by a large gang of erudite thugs, the patronage of several wealthy bibliophiles among the city's upper social tiers, and his reputation as a discreet and non-discriminating fence. He will move most product that is not too hot, and can generally be relied upon to not reveal the identity of either buyer or seller, although he sometimes charges a service or two to ensure his silence.
Artisan MarzuliErknul's former lieutenant, who has set up shop indepentently, much to his displeasure. She operates out of an old barge upriver, and is rumored to deal in books that most other book traders refuse to handle, like the cognitively toxic tomes from far-off places like Yoon-Suin, Quelong and the Southernmost South,. She doesn't enjoy the noble patronage that Erknul does, but someone highly placed must be protecting her, considering that she manages to keep her brazenly illegal trade going. She is also rumored to keep a large terrarium, for reasons unknown.
The Corner SquiresZargosa has the finest and largest university in the world. Students come there from all over the continent of Tlön and beyond to study law, metaphysics, natural history, rhetoric, and all the other sciences, high and low. Tuition fees are steep, however, and even though the University faculties run their portion of the city as a more or less independent fief, the book prohibition has greatly affected the availability and price of course literature.
As a result of these factors, increasing numbers of students each semester turn to a life of semi- or full time criminality. For those whose funds have run dry, there has always existed the option of working as a private tutor for the children of the wealthy, and/or prostituting themselves to the same (the wealthy, that is). More and more however, who are either too desperate, incompetent or impatient for these lines of work, are drawn to the Corner Squires. These are simply criminal gangs of students, who make money by selling books to their peers, and those bibliophiles among the citizenry who cannot match Erknul's or Marzuli's prices. The Squires operate out of street corners in the University quarter, where they settle their turf boundaries by short and ugly street battles. There are at any time four to six major gangs, depending on the economy. The books they peddle are generally of low quality, copied by hand or on cheap printing presses. The source of their product is a matter of speculation, although it is rumored that some highly placed academics make money by supplying them with knock-off versions derived from their own private collections of books.