Books, Book selling, book reading, book loving

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Bookseller/Customer's View of the Sept. 13-14, 2014 Brooklyn Antiques and Book Fair

The inaugural Brooklyn Antiques and Book Fair was held this past weekend at the spanking new Greenpoint Expo Building and this was also the first show held at this new venue. Everything was very sparkly and shiny as my daughter Leigh and I attended on Saturday afternoon. A two-hour preview had been held the night before, and my conversations with various booksellers report that attendance and sales were good. When we arrived around 11 am on Saturday, the crowds were respectable, with several people browsing around each of the booth and good numbers of book purchases tucked under their arms, always healthy signs.

I liked the sleek glass and chrome lines of the Greenpoint Expo and the lighting inside was really good for viewing the books, even on an overcast day.

There were some exuberant customers, as well. This wise guy jumped in as I was steadying my camera for a shot of a bookseller friend, so that gives you some impression of Brooklyn's biblio-energy.

I first spied Don Lindgren of Rabelais, in Portland, Maine, who brought a savory sampling of books and ephemera about food and drink. An eye-catching array of bookseller brochures and postcards were on the front table as you checked in, but none more so than Don's lurid trade card, a purplish selection of head cheese and other jellied meats, which is sure to be my favorite book mark for a while before I enshrine it on our bookshop wall of biblio-flotsam.

Here's a snap of Don with the book that he deemed the most interesting in the smorgasbord that he brought along to the Fair:

It's basically a 1697 liquor license from that bastion of Puritan culture, Massachusetts. An exquisite historical item indeed.

Right around the corner from Don was my former Albany Antiquarian Book Fair booth mate, Ann Brockschmidt of Carnegie Hill Books. Ann's specialties include art, design, and architecture and here she displays "Collectif", a jazzy 1937 French volume about book design. That front cover illustration of a pile of books is so sharp. Ann's lighted display case was chock full of these kinds of treasures and she had the great idea to display a short catalogue description and the price of these items behind each of them printed within an attractive Williams Morris-esque border.  I thought that was very smart, as it gives browsers more of an idea of what an otherwise unprepossessing volume might contain within.

I bought a couple of books from Sanctuary Books for my reference library, Strange and Wonderful: An Informal Visual History of Manuscript Books and Albums,  and Shakespeare's Beehive. The former showcases a great variety of unique handmade books from a variety of eras and I was interested in obtaining it both for the intriguing images and for examples of how to catalogue such one-of-a-kind material. The latter is a fascinating look at the 1580 dictionary which Daniel Wechsler of Sanctuary Books and his colleague George Koppelman purchased and believe to be Shakespeare's own, heavily annotated copy.

I was persuaded to buy both of these books by the knowledgeable and enthusiastic young woman who works for Sanctuary Books, whose name I unfortunately didn't get. As she was totaling up my purchases, I saw my CABS 2014 colleague Evan Bates of Pictograph Books, and I helped sell him on the Strange and Wonderful volume too, and perhaps sold the Sanctuary Books bibliographer on the virtues of CABS 2015. We also both ran into Nelson Harst, of Antifurniture, another CABS seminarian, so it was a mini-CABS reunion.

It was a pleasure to finally meet Forrest Proper of Joslin Hall Rare Books, after many years of Internet camaraderie. Here Forrest poses beside a counter display for a (then) forthcoming book about the malingering effects of atom bomb testing on Bikini Atoll.

Richard Mori and his magical Mori van were in attendance and his booth was well populated with folks perusing his nostalgic children's books, art books and his inventive displays. He certainly packs in more colorful items per square inch of booth space of any book fair bookseller I know.

I asked Richard about a few of the books he had on display and he was gracious and erudite as always, explaining the significance of each. Then I made the mistake of asking him to show me two beautifully bound books that had fore-edge paintings. Richard leaned in and whispered that they were erotic in nature and looked toward my daughter. I awkwardly croaked out that she was over 21, so he cast a baleful eye at me and my bad maternal instincts and proceeded to show off their hidden paintings.

Aye caramba! One exhibited a scene of a man and woman busy with a small terrier and goat, respectively, while the second, a Walter Scott novel, displayed a kilted man showing his Scottish Independence with a little Highland Fling sans undergarments.

After that excitement, it was off to visit my bookseller buddy, Peter Luke, the Emperor of Ephemera. His body language was hilariously morose: he seated in a folding chair facing his U-shaped booth, legs out, hands laced behind his head, brooding. Turns out he had just discovered that the Brooklyn Book Fair was a two-day deal, and he was mourning his lack of a free Sunday. He reiterated that the preview had been very successful for him, and pointed me towards some great Adirondack railway brochures that I snapped up. While we were chatting, Michael Zinman, the ebullient keynote speaker at CABS 2014 strolled up, looking for items for his many areas of social history collecting, so after a quick handshake for both book maestros, it was off to browse some more biblio offerings

After another purchase, a history of New York City's Book Row, I had exhausted the patience and blood sugar levels of my daughter and pack mule (she was carrying  my purchases so I was free to talk, which in my case involves lots of wild gesticulations). It was time to get her some sushi and trudge back in the pouring rain, our books hidden under our shirts to protect them from the elements.

The next day we visited the American Museum of Natural History, where, after a solid two hours in the Hall of Minerals (payback for yesterday's book fair. Ask me about fun facts about stibnite) we ferreted out a small but very edifying and visually appealing display of scientific illustrations from the Museum's rare book collection. The exhibition runs through October 19th.

Rachel and Octopus

Cuddly looking hippos. Later naturalists know better.

My Pearl with an Ammonite

Dancing Sloth.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar 2014: Accept No Substitutes!

I am a long time bookseller, having owned a used bookstore since 1996 in upstate New York. I am now also a 2014 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS) alumnus and grateful recipient of an Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA) scholarship to attend CABS during the first week of August. One might think I had enough bookselling experience so that the CABS sessions wouldn't have taught me much that was new, in which case you'd be completely wrong.

The Hill Behind the CABS Classroom at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

I learned an enormous amount; about what I have been doing reasonably well, but more importantly, about all that I have been doing wrong. I also learned about aspects of bookselling and research that were not even on my radar. CABS is simply an essential education for anyone who is serious about being a better bookseller. My seminar certificate has given me bookseller credibility, friends, colleagues, revitalizing energy, inspiration, edification, thirst for additional knowledge and more. In the weeks since CABS ended, I have already put some of my new found skills and knowledge to work at my shop, evaluating incoming books with sharper, fresher eyes and greater confidence.

Professor Terry Belanger with CABS Students

Most CABS attendees this year had some experience selling or collecting books, but there were also a few novices and some veterans, like me, who SHOULD HAVE attended many years ago. A sprinkling of librarians and book collectors also filled our ranks, and we learned volumes of book knowledge, the compressed equivalent of a semester of rare book university curriculum.

Imagine learning about early printed books from one of the foremost booksellers of such material, Nina Musinsky, and the Eric Weinmann Librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Daniel De Simone, or about high spots of American literature and Americana from the legendary Rob Rulon-Miller, a former ABAA President and CABS Director, or book scouting and the history of American radicalism and other social movements from top shelf bookseller Lorne Bair. There were lectures on bookseller catalogues, websites, databases, and photography from marketing expert Dan Gregory (check out a Between the Covers Rare Books catalogue sometime to see what he pioneered). University of Tennessee Dean of Libraries Steve Smith introduced a wealth of book references and revealed how to approach academic libraries and what they are looking for as they develop special collections. Booksellers Sally Burdon of Asia Bookroom and Brian Cassidy offered reams of information on how to run a profitable specialty book business and shared precious, hard-won advice on current trends in book collecting. Then there was Terry Belanger, Founder of Book Arts Press and the Rare Book School, Professor Emeritus, and Wikipedia entry, who tutored us on printing history, book anatomy, collation and repairs.

Dan DeSimone with Penny Clipperton of Calgary's Sparkle Books

There were libraries of reference books to peruse, rare and beautiful books on which practice cataloguing techniques, breathtaking books to be auctioned at Thursday's CABS auction fundraiser, books that displayed various bindings and features (a 3-D version of John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors), and an array of rare and unusual books from Rulon-Miller Books for the very last book evaluation exercise of the seminar, Rulonomics.

CABS Students Examine Some of the Shelves of Antiquarian Books

The CABS Class of 2014 was a fascinating group. Among us were artists, writers, lawyers, geologists, physicians, a chemist, a midwife, an advertising executive, a pair of flower farmers and even that most increasing rara avis, the bookseller from an open shop (I counted a dozen of that species, including Nelson Harst of Antifurniture, who carries and hawks his wares en plein air around Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood). After the first day, I had twin personal goals for the week ahead: 1) examine all of the fantastic books on display; and 2) have at least one conversation with all of my fellow Seminarians. I ran just shy of both goals, but I still consider that a smashing success.

Warning: It takes a lot of physical and mental fortitude to keep up with the faculty and CABS participants. One must have:

-The Brains of a bookseller,
-The Hands of a medieval scribe (I filled up one spiral notebook and one legal pad full of notes),
-The Bladder of a camel (constant hydration therapy required for this high altitude location has predictable results),
-The Liver of Charles Bukowski (one can get well-marinated during the after hours bull sessions),
-The Guts of a book scout (some guts are instinctual, but guts honed after CABS function so much better).

Our CABS faculty displayed all these anatomical features and more. They gave us constant gifts of invaluable information and patient answers to our many questions. CABS is incorporated as a nonprofit, so having the faculty members take a week away from their businesses -as well as all the time spent organizing, writing and rewriting the lectures, traveling and recovering from this tumultuous week- is no small effort. It was evident that CABS faculty sincerely wanted every last one of us to share in their knowledge and success in the antiquarian book trade. While the sessions were full of information and entertainment, there was also plenty of sincerity and heart.

Sally Burdon of Asia Bookroom celebrates with newly minted CABS Alumni at the Closing Ceremonies

The best way I know how to repay these smart and dedicated book professionals is to incorporate their teachings in my own business and to impart what I've learned to others coming into the book trade. As they exhorted, I don't want to be a quasi-bookseller, I want to really "look at the books", and I don't want to give them Schulduberkatastrophe (Dan Gregory's fanciful phrase for guilt over having overstimulated and overwhelmed by all the information packed into the seminar week.

In short, my advice to anyone who is serious about studying, collecting or selling antiquarian books and ephemera, is : Get thee to CABS 2015! There are a number of scholarship opportunities that can help ease your decision and it will jump-start your further education in the trade. There is still much research and work ahead for me and the others in the 2014 CABS crop (they never did get around to showing us the secret bookseller’s handshake) but it was a wonderful introduction to an arsenal of skills, research techniques and range of antiquarian bookselling business models to explore further. 

And that’s how I became a CABS-evangelist.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Hunting Down in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair & Aboard The Magical Mori Van

I was off in Colorado last week to attend the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS). Heeding the advice of CABS alumni, I gave myself a couple of extra days on the front side of this epic bookseller education to rest up for a week of adrenalin rushes, high altitude and sleep deprivation. I flew into Denver airport on Friday, August 1st, surrounded by flat grasslands and wondered where the vaunted Colorado Rockies were. It wasn't until after I had an early morning stroll around my hotel the next day that I caught a glimpse of the spectacular Front Range looming off to the West.

I caught the hotel shuttle to the Denver Mart, where the Rocky Mountain Book Fair was being quartered and happily browsed the 80 booths of booksellers from near and far. I was happy to greet former acquaintances and lots of new ones. I chatted about the Bibliophilegroup email list with Eric Mayer of Bluebird Books, bought a Hemingway bibliography and some bookseller memoirs from the delightful Richard Chant of Abacus Bookshop; 

applauded Clausen Books' brilliant idea of displaying their travel books in a vintage suitcase;

and admired the Brobdingnagian ear decorated with acupuncture points displayed in the booth of Lori Hughes, Cookbook Lady, of El Sobrante, California, where tasty titles abounded- everything from the incomparable "Eat a Bug Cookbook" to antique gelatin cookery pamphlets;

I also scored a good illustrated horseshoeing title and a couple of other history titles from Orrin Schwab  and chatted about antique children's books and illustrated books at the booth of Ken and Shirley Donner (yes, they are related to those Donners).

I was delighted to meet some of my fellow CABS classmates, including designer Barbara Mortkowitz and book fair exhibitor Gail Santfleben of Read'em Again Books, gushing about our forthcoming adventures. I had the chance to hear bookseller Sally Burdon of Asia Book Room in faraway Canberra, Australia, one of the wonderful CABS faculty members, give the keynote address at the Fair, and looked over letterpress printing and book repair demonstrations.

Richard Mori, Road Warrior of the American Book Fair World, on the right, in one of his trademark fancy shirts (this one had Maxfield Parrish-esque scenes)
Instead of only spending a couple hours at this Book Fair, I lasted the full 7 hours on Saturday. I do regret that I never did get to penetrate the force field of constant customers and fellow booksellers that encircled larger-than-life bookseller Ken Sanders. His exploits in hunting down book thieves are outlined in two excellent books I had previously read ("The Man Who Loved Books Too Much" by Allison Hoover Bartlett, and "The Poet and the Murder" by Simon Worrall). I'll have to wait until another book fair.

When things cooled down about an hour before closing, I managed to get the attention of my New Hampshire bookseller colleague Richard Mori, who had offered me a ride from Denver down to CABS in Colorado Springs by Sunday.  I never did get a firm idea from Richard about how we were actually going to get my carcass, suitcase and now a heavy bag of book purchases down to CABS.  Richard had remained steadfastly and unnervingly vague about the logistics of this travel when I was in the planning stages of this trip.  He just told me check in with him at his exhibitor's booth at the Book Fair on Saturday, the day before CABS officially started. Not wanting to pester him with any more followup emails, I made sure I got to the Fair shortly after it opened. I kept circling around his booth, but, consummate bookseller that he is, he was constantly busy! How unsettling for me, if lucrative for him.

Finally, I butted into a conversation that I was certain was going nowhere (the "customer" was asking for advice on how to get a fellow bookseller to go way down on the price of one of his really great books, which Richard wisely kept redirecting into advice on pouncing on good books when they present themselves to you). Richard just cryptically stated that we'd "work it out" after we had packed up his booth. That took a really long time (he was the third to last bookseller to leave the Denver Mart) because I kept gasping at the amazing books he kept nonchalantly showing and describing to me as we packed up his wooden shelf boxes and loaded them strategically into his Magical Mori Van. Understand that Richard's the Mad Max of the American Book Fair World, impressively showing at 50 BOOK FAIRS PER ANNUM). His van ALWAYS has room for more books, since he buys almost as much as he sells at each weekly book fair.

When we were done he offered me a tour of Denver's neighborhoods topped off with dinner (an awesome green chile burger) and more bookseller advice. So much for resting up for CABS, but Richard, like most other members of our book trade, was so generous with his time, advice, encouragement and book lore, that I just couldn't beg off early.

The next morning he picked me up from the hotel which amazingly still had room for me and my suitcase and we were off on more book adventures, having breakfast with the lovely Lois Harvey, a longtime Denver bookseller and mentor. Lois was instrumental in helping found the Denver Book Fair and was on the CABS faculty for many years, so I was impressed already. They showed me more of downtown Denver by car and on foot, including the many streets that are named after authors (Lowell, Tennyson, Alcott).

Richard was off to buy Boy Scout books from someone who had stopped in his booth the previous day (would they fit into the van?) so I was free to shop in Lois' handsomely stocked and creatively adorned bookshop, Westside Books, housed in a former auto garage.  The shop had a wealth of unusual titles and in the seemingly short burst of time before Richard returned, I managed to purchase an armload of books about books, and a book for my own personal collection, I'm Papa Snap, a children's book by Tomi Ungerer, whose wry text and illustrations always make me laugh.
Westside Books in Denver with the Magical Mori Van parked in front
By now I was really barricaded into the passenger seat, holding my suitcase with my left arm so that it wouldn't clonk me in the head every time we made a right turn and gripping my new book purchases between my shins in the Magical Mori Van. Unbelievably, there was always more room for book purchases in this Van of Infinitely Expanding Space. I expect that a student of quantum physics might like to examine this van and would make discoveries enough for a spectacular dissertation thesis.

We stopped at four more Denver bookstores, all of whom were hosting a welcome brunch for CABS participants: Broadway Book Mall (bought a matted print of a screaming librarian), Fahrenheit Books (bought local history, Tasha Tudor, cookbooks and Gladys Taber), Gallagher Books (took advantage of their one-day CABS discounts to pick up some wonderful regional history titles and a book on wassail.) Plus they shipped it all back home so I could fold back into The Van.

Sue Gallagher, Scott Austin and Don Gallagher at the beautifully appointed Gallagher Books in Denver

After our Gallagher Books haul, Richard and I headed next door to Printed Page Bookshop, a group shop, where I traded cash for books about caving around the Helderberg Mountains and more regional history. From there, we entered the special time-space continuum of The Van and made our way to Colorado Springs, where I checked into the CABS dorms at the University of Colorado. I  burbled about books with my new roommate, Libby Ware of Atlanta's Toad Lily Books until the kickoff lecture with noted book collector Michael Zinman later that evening.

Phew. So much for saving my mental and physical strength for CABS.

To be continued......

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Seen at the August 12, 2012 Brattleboro Book Fair

The Book Trout was on the road at the as a first time exhibitor at the Brattleboro Book Fair, the summer show for the Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association. I had previously had a good experience at the Spring Book Fair in Burlington, and since Brattleboro is even closer to home, it was easy to pack the old Chevy Blazer up with some folding shelves and boxes of books (this time only seven boxes, which seemed a little skimpy after setting up).

We set up on Saturday during extremely unsettled weather conditions. My hair-o-meter told me it would rain imminently and it did, very hard, on the last trip back out to the car, with all my windows and back hood up. The temperature wasn't too bad inside the venue, but you can see that all those damp booksellers and their soggy boxes raised the humidity to rain forest levels and when we came back the next day to start the show, lots of softcover and paper items were curled up or droopy, causing some rearrangement of book displays.

I brought my mom, Carol Marie Davis, a Vermont author, to help me out with my booth. She has written two books thus far, The Adventures of Moonspirit: A Girl from Florida's Past and Anna: Heart of a Peasant and is researching on a third book, tentatively to be about some handmade dolls that travel up the Underground Railroad during the Civil War era.

Mom seemed to enjoy minding our booth at the Book Fair. Unfortunately my free labor situation may be in jeopardy as I was ratted out by my colleague, Richard Mori, who informed her that I was not only supposed to pay her for helping me out, but I was to throw in a free lunch! I'll find a way to fix his wagon at the next book fair.

My tables adjoined a space with Mary Faneuil Hill of Old & New England Books, who had a lovely display of Tasha Tudor books and history volumes, spiced up with a couple of Punch and Judy puppets. Mary has a seasonal shop in Newfane (open May through October) and regaled us with stories about having Tasha Tudor come to her shop many times for signings and visits.

Mom really was excited to meet Donald H. Cresswell of The Philadelphia Print Shop, who appears often as an appraiser on the Antiques Road Show. He was very generous with his time with Mom and other fairgoers and she was thrilled to pose with him and an Audubon print of an osprey. Cresswell was one of several exhibitors who offered ten minute symposia throughout the Fair on various bookish topics such as prints, Theodore Roosevelt, and folk music. This continuing education idea is the brainchild of the gregarious Book Fair impresario Gary Austin of Austin's Antiquarian Books in Wilmington, VT.

(Intriguingly, right after the Fair I read The Island of Lost Maps, by Miles Harvey, which is all about the world of antique maps, and it turns out that Cresswell used to work for Graham Arader, who features prominently in the book. It's a fascinating read. And Mom recommended it to me, so you can see why I want to keep her on as an adjunct employee).

It was nice to see some familiar bookseller colleagues at the Fair. Donna Howard of The Eloquent Page in St. Albans, VT was there with an eye-catching booth, and I was pleased to see John and Carol Hess from Arlington, Vermont's Catamount Books. They are a delightful pair and I have to say that they won the Biblio-Synchronicity Award from my perspective with their side-by-side display of a copy of The Sucking Lice of North America next to a photo-essay entitled "Asses".

The most luscious eye-candy that I saw at the Fair was at the nearby display of Susan Krinsky, of Brandywine Antiques and Books of Amherst, New Hampshire. She had so many lovely antique children's books and other lovely titles, and I couldn't resist a few snaps.

That's Susan above proudly offering a first edition of Wanda Gag's wonderful book "Millions of Cats" and Robert Heinlein's "Red Planet".

All in all, a great day at the Brattleboro Book Fair. The venue was well-lit and there was plenty of space for the crowds and exhibitors to spread out. We sold some books (mostly Vermont history, vintage paperbacks and children's books), gawked at many others and had some illuminating conversations about authors, illustrators, book history and other bibliophilic topics, so I will be sure to be back next year.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vermont Antiquarian Book Fair in Brattleboro this Sunday

I am a busy bookwoman squirreling away some of my lovely recent acquisitions to bring to the Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Summer Book Fair this Sunday, August 12 in Brattleboro. The Fair runs from 10 am to 4 pm at the Withington Skating Rink in Brattleboro Living Memorial Park. For more information and directions to the Fair, see the VABA website.

At my booth you will find me, my mother (an author of two books!) and lots of Vermont and New England history, folklore and books by Vermont authors. I'll also be bringing some choice books from our collector's section, including a lovely copy of The Nutcracker illustrated by the late Maurice Sendak, some Victorian etiquette books, a signed Mickey Mantle memoir, and some nineteenth century children's books.

Hope to see you in Brattleboro!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bookselling at the Burlington Book Fair

Here's a helpful travel tip. When traveling in the pre-dawn hours to a destination you are unfamiliar with in a vehicle you are unsure of, it's helpful to avoid spooky mountain roads where your cellphone doesn't get reception. I foolishly set off at 4 am  from Saratoga County, New York to exhibit my wares at the Vermont Book and Ephemera Fair in Burlington, hoping to arrive early for the setup. The plan was to arrange my book booth and then stroll around leisurely with a strong cup of coffee to see what my colleagues were selling before the official opening at 10 am.

While I spent a lot of time rehashing my book fair packing list (I remembered my cash this time, unless last November's Albany Book Fair, when I had to beg for singles from another bookseller) and picking out the books I wanted to bring to Burlington, I was less diligent about researching my driving route and ended up taking Route 9N through the Adirondacks to Ticonderoga, where I collapsed into a fast food restaurant after almost two hours of hairpin turns, a couple of deer in the headlights, 20-30 mph driving through villages through rain and fog and having my check engine light come on after grinding up a particularly steep incline. The cheery counter lady assured me that Burlington was only another hour and a half away, which proved to be the case and I made it in plenty of time to be set up.

I was greeted at the door by these three lovely women, who steered me to my booth and a bountiful breakfast setup, where a restorative few cups of strong coffee and some fresh pineapple got me back in business.

That's Donna Howard on the left, of the Eloquent Page  in nearby St. Albans, who was the main Book Fair organizer and had boxes full of everything we exhibitors needed awaiting us at our booths, so I could just waltz in and get cracking. She also manned a lovely book booth herself, studded with antique children's books and interesting history and railroad titles. 

I got to chat a bit with Barbara Harding of Otter Creek Used Books in Middlebury, VT as she was setting up. She had a gorgeous selection of P.G. Wodehouse novels, artfully arranged on light blue shelves, and indulged me with little light conversation about the author's hilarious character names, like Chuffy and Stilton Cheesewright. I will definitely have to plan a Vermont bookhunting trip in the near future and visit her shop, a self-described  "community book store experience".

A couple of the antiques dealers had great displays. Carwin's Antiques of Morrisville, VT had both Dr. Seuss and a parade of glass paperweights beckoning from one booth,

while Jean Tudhope of Backdoor Antiques in East Middlebury, VT had great posters and ephemera to lure in shoppers. I most coveted her tray table, however, and will have to scout one up and bring it to my next Book Fair instead of juggling my cash box, receipts and pens in my lap when a customer checks out.

Caffeine in hand, it was time now to pop up my own book display. I had a half booth and had brought along another small table to pop up in the middle of the horseshoe area I shared with the delightful artist and bookbinder Carol Ceraldi, of  Graham Hill Bindery in Craftsbury, VT. Carol lugged in a huge book press, clamps, binding supplies, rolls of leather and book cloth, (and a cello to schlep to orchestra practice after the Fair) and had a computer slide show on hand to display examples of her interesting bindings. She was busy throughout the Fair, chatting with attendees, doing various book repairs and making beautifully folded origami boxes out of her hand decorated pastepapers. Visit her website to see examples of her work on various book restorations, bindings and book enclosures.

Here's my setup. I only brought 7 boxes of books with me, rather than the 12 or so I've brought to other book fairs, since I thought that facing out more books (and more colorful books) would bring in just as many sales.

This proved to be true, though the bestsellers were overwhelmingly books on Vermont history, folklore and books by Vermont authors. I should have brought my entire New England section and only a smattering of other subjects. (Actually, my "best seller" was the bowl of peppermint Life Savers on my front table.)

I had the good fortune to be near two other gracious and interesting booksellers, Sandy Lincoln of Sandy's Books and Bakery in Rochester, VT and John Hess of Catamount Books in Arlington, VT. I thought I had a shot of Sandy reading among her stacks of interesting books, (from R. Crumb art books to Sherlock Holmes), but none turned up later in my camera, so I will have illustrate with words how great it was to chat with Sandy and her husband about the book biz, global politics, and her unusual selection of titles. Sandy specializes in books about sustainable living, renewable energy, wilderness living, agriculture and cooking and her bookstore incorporates a garden and bakery/espresso sales. Another destination for my Vermont bookhunting tour!

John and his wife manned the Catamount Books booth, which was stuffed with gorgeous antiquarian volumes. I spied several hard-to-find Cherry Ames nursing novels for a customer of mine, and saw lots of other unusual books in great condition. Arlington is not too far over the border from Schuylerville, so as we were chatting, I offhandedly asked if he knew anyone from his hometown who had been painted by Norman Rockwell. John immediately replied that his grandfather was the model for Norman Rockwell's iconic painting, "Freedom of Speech" .Note a resemblance?

Overall, I had a great time at the Burlington Book Fair. I made back my expenses, handed out a ton of bookmarks and brochures, made some new bookseller friends, and talked to many bibliophiles about what kinds of books they read  and collected.

As a bonus, my car didn't break down on my alternate route home and I got home just before dark to a warm welcome from the family and pets, with a cold glass of Gewurztraminer to boot!  A great day!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Burlington and Books

Rachel will be exhibiting some of our bookwares at the Vermont Spring Book and Ephemera Fair in beautiful Burlington, Vermont this Sunday, March 25th from 10 am to 4 pm. The Book Fair is being held at the Sheraton Hotel located at 870 Williston Road and admission is $4.

Some of the books and paper items we will be bringing including Vermont history and folklore, some new-to-us titles in art, music, how-to, country living, popular culture and an assortment of postcards and other ephemera. There are some interesting new acquisitions in poetry, Chinese antiquities and Americana that will also be on our table.

Dan and I visited the Burlington Book Fair a couple of years back and had a nice time chatting with Donna Howard of the Eloquent Page, who organizes the Fair and has an open shop in nearby St. Albans, Vermont. That's Donna, neatly turned out in her Edward Gorey T-shirt in the photo above. We bought a nice stack of books and blogged about our visit at the Book Trout at this post.

Hope to see you at the Fair. I'll be back with a report on how things go and on  interesting bookspotting and people watching.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guerrilla Marketing for Dummy Heads

Ever the intrepid scrounger, husband Dan has come up with our most eye-catching street sign yet. We always find interesting stuff thrown out in the alley behind our shop and they often end up repurposed in our shop as shelf adornments or book ends, but I think Dan has outdone himself with his mobile street sign advertising our March-long Spring Cleaning Sale:

A rusty supermarket cart now sports a shelf of mounted beauty school mannequin heads (stamped with the names Debra, Sam (like our store cat!) and Deluxe Debra), festively adorned for St. Patrick's Day and expertly bungee-corded to the lamp post at the vacant lot at the main intersection of our fair village of Schuylerville. Dan or I take the Debras in each night for fear that they may be kidnapped by drunken patrons of the nearby sports bar and this certainly earns us some rubbernecking from passing motorists. It was a bit surreal the other day to see a passing car of nuns in full habit do some synchronized gawking at my lovely trio as I was taking them on their morning stroll.

Judging from the number of remarks we're getting in the shop, this marketing madness is working well. I have had several local first-time customers tell me that the Heads got them inside our doors despite the fact that we've been around for 15 years and have book carts, flags and stacks of books on our sidewalk whenever weather permits. 

We're now planning our Easter makeover for the Debras, and may even continue this street side show longer if it continues to draw in new customers. Certainly, a Bastille Day tableau could be interesting. And the Debras are waterproof.

In a village that sports three storefront leg lamps a la A Christmas Story, another vacant lot adorned with a selection of painted retro bicycles, and a hybrid horse/cow sculpture pastured into a landing pad of grass on the sidewalk next to our shop each spring, we think the Debras blend right in.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Visit to Atlanta Vintage Books

I was let out of our own bookstore for a short trip to Atlanta to check out Emory College. The young' un has been dreaming of an education at this fine academic institution, despite my entreaties that it is way too far away, out of our budget, too much of a change from our hobbity rural life, etc. She insists that this is her dream college, so off we went for a four-day trip to investigate.

After a three-flight extravaganza that began at 3 am, followed by a white-knuckle rental car drive up I-85 during rush hour, in which I was consistently in the wrong lane, we flopped at our hotel for a quick break. The plan was to freshen up, drive over to Emory to scope out how to get to our scheduled tour the next morning, shop quickly at a used bookstore and then seek out some delicious Southern barbeque.

I had thought that Emory was located in a northern suburb of Atlanta, but it's really part of the urban area, replete with lots of traffic congestion, so our introduction to Emory was not as auspicious as it could have been. We sat in a big traffic jam past the Center for Disease Control and Emory Hospital and saw people walk, push strollers, and limp past with three-pronged canes overtaking us in our rental car. We finally inched past our intended target, the Admissions Building, and then headed out of the gridlock up Clairmont Avenue to catch the last half-hour at Atlanta Vintage Books.

What a treat!  We pulled up to the curb and saw a young man feeding and petting a covey of long-haired cats on the sidewalk. He welcomed us and when I told him we were looking forward to meeting one of our bookstore colleagues, whisked us into the shop and introduced us to more cats and Bob Roarty and Jan Bolgla, the husband and wife owners.

Jan was busy on the phone with customers during our visit, but Bob was so kind and generous with his time, leading us both through the labyrinth of wonderful book rooms, each more interesting than the next. I love that different subjects get their own rooms and we had a grand time talking shop, examining some of the gems in his rare books section (a signed Finnegan's Wake! a signed Gone with the Wind! Tasha Tudors in jackets!). Every once in a while, his delightfully exuberant employee Mallory would whoop or snort from her corner cubby to punctuate our discussion, and that made me laugh every time.

I wish I had more time to browse, but with hungry teen in tow and mindful of the 7 pm closing time (which we exceeded by far) my perusal was limited to the American history section. I am always looking to replenish our colonial history and Revolutionary War shelves, as well as our upstate New York history selections, so I did leave with an armload of books that filled up my airline suitcase to its 50 lb. limit.

Bob probably would have kept the lights on all night for us, so generous was he with his time and kindness, but after providing us with a short linguistics lesson to help us in our travels ("all y'all" is the plural of "y'all", "the great Unpleasantness" refers the Civil War) and some detailed instructions to get us to Fat Matt's Rib Shack for dinner, we reluctantly left. Bob also practically adopted my daughter into the family should she end up at Emory, so I am very grateful to everyone at Atlanta Vintage Books. Talk about the fabled Southern hospitality!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our February 2012 Bookshop Hours

We are taking our annual break during the month of February at Old Saratoga Books and will be open for reduced hours: Fridays and Saturdays from 12 noon to 5 pm. Our shop will be back to the normal schedule above on Thursday, March 1st, 2012.