Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Booking at Austin's Antiquarian Books in Wilmington, Vermont

After a hectic holiday bookselling season it was a much-needed treat for Dan and I to visit Garry and Karen Austin at their jewel-box store, Austin's Antiquarian Books, just up the road a-piece in Wilmington, Vermont. I've known Garry for several years now, as an exhibitor at some of the regional book fairs he organizes, and have always enjoyed his combination of professionalism and teasing banter during the setups and breakdowns. After driving past his bookstore twice now on my way between Bennington and Brattleboro, and looking wistfully in my rear view mirror (but not for too long, because Route 9 is a bit twisty), I was determined to get out for a visit.

Garry and Karen graciously agreed to meet us at their shop on one of our mutual days off (or was this my first "or by appointment" antiquarian bookstore visit?) for a quick tour and then we headed out for a bookseller's lunch. Their shop has two floors full of beautiful bindings and interesting antiquarian titles. There are all sorts of book alcoves tucked into corners of the first floor, crowned by large front room with a majestic stone fireplace. At all turns there were interesting displays of handsome and tempting books and it was hard to break away from browsing and be social.

Some of the bookstore specialties include books about Theodore Roosevelt, Western Americana, flyfishing, natural history and travel, and each had its own nook.

The Book Trout couldn't resist this shot of a print of its cousin, the Brook Trout, hanging on the wall.

I headed upstairs for a bit of browsing with my good friend BABS, the Books about Books section, and looked over a wide selection of literary biographies, gardening books and history titles. Every book was in impeccable condition, and each section was populated with interesting choices in a range of prices. You can browse 2,000 or so books that have been been catalogued on the shop's website, but the serious bibliophile will want to head over in person to ferret out those hard-to-find titles in the Austin's specialties.

The shop is spacious, well-lighted and invites luxurious browsing. I picked up a few interior design tips for our shop, but, mindful of our hosts' post-lunch need to get back to packing last-minute holiday book orders, I had to rein in my desire to while away the rest of a very pleasant afternoon in the stacks and headed out with our party of four for some local grub and book shop talk. The Austins ran several used and rare bookshops in Maine before opening their present location in 1993 and it was great to hear their stories about bookselling in the pre-Internet era.

Austin's Antiquarian Books is open Thursday through Sunday from 10:30 to 6. The shop is located at 123 West Main Street (Vermont Route 9) overlooking the Deerfield River. Garry and Karen are open all five seasons (summer, fall, winter, mud and spring) and can be reached by phone: 802-464-8438 or by email: mail@austinsbooks.com.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Books for Holiday Gift Giving from Old Saratoga Books

At Old Saratoga Books we have a few glittering biblio-baubles for you to consider for gift giving this holiday season. We've discounted these books for our blog readers so if you are interested in ordering any of these titles through December 20, 2014, please order from our secure website and we'll revise the price down when we process your order. Alternatively, you can call or send us an email and we'll adjust the totals then.

Consider this feast of bookish gift ideas:
1) For the medieval mystery lover, a Brother Cadfael Christmas novel signed by the late Ellis Peters:

Peters, Ellis [Pargeter, Edith], The Raven in the Foregate.

London: Macmillan 1986, first edition. Very Good in Very Good dust jacket. Signed by the late Edith Pargeter, using her pseudonym, Ellis Peters, on the title page. Pages toned. The twelfth novel in the bestselling Brother Cadfael historical mystery series, in which our hero, a 12th century English monk and herbalist, investigates the Christmas Day drowning of a detested priest in the abbey mill pool. 201 pp. $150

2) For the fan of classic western films, a scarce labor of love production by a fellow devotee of the genre:

Mathis, Jack, Valley of the Cliffhangers.

Northbrook, IL:Jack Mathis Advertising 1975, first edition. Very Good. No dust jacket as issued. Light scraping to boards at corners, page bottoms and fore-edges. A master work on the serials of the classic movie studio, Republic Pictures. One of 2000 copies. Library of Congress number 75-195.

This book is the definitive reference for the vintage movie serials devotee and collector. The author, the late Jack Mathis, was a passionate fan of the western and other "cliffhanger-ending" serials he watched as a child, and spent years assembling the research and archival photos contained in this exhaustive reference. Valley of the Cliffhangers documents the 66 serials produced by the classic Hollywood studio, Republic Pictures, during their lifetime (1935-1955) . These chapter plays included such iconic characters as Zorro, Red Ryder, Dick Tracy, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Trader Tom, the Masked Marvel, Captain Marvel and Fu Manchu, as well as the lesser-known, but highly entertaining Panther Girl of the Kongo, Flying Disc Man of Mars, and the Mysterious Doctor Satan. Mathis provides cast lists, running times, plot synopses, numerous stills, financing and distribution information, and other tidbits in this beautifully produced volume. An index and technical credits listing is in the rear. The book measures 17.5 inches by 12 inches and is bound in brown faux leather with a gilt design of the Republic Studios building framed by the San Fernando mountains on the front boards. Gilt lettering on spine. Glossy paper stock. 448 pages. $750

3) Does the woman in your life have Bette Davis eyes? If so, could her peepers open even wider upon unwrapping an inscribed film memoir signed by the Hollywood icon?

Stine, Whitney; Davis, Bette, Mother Goddam: the Story of the Career of Bette Davis.

NY: Hawthorn Books 1974, first printing. Very Good in Good dust jacket. Inscribed in red felt-tip marker on the half-title by Bette Davis. Index, filmography, list of stage appearances, many photographs. Page tops spotted, jacket lightly soiled and tattered. Author photos on rear jacket panel with empty quiche pan. Library of Congress number 73-10265. A sympathetic biography of the 10-time Academy Award nominated Hollywood legend, written by Stine with "running commentary" by Davis inserted throughout the text in red ink. "Mother Goddam" is apparently a nickname that Davis called herself. 374 pp. $125

4) In the days when British cuisine conjured up a plate of mushy peas, mutton and overcooked brussels sprouts, Elizabeth David came in like a ray of light, exposing Brits to the joys of garlic, fresh herbs and bright flavors. The hero cook in your own household may be hankering for this copy of David's first book, as interesting to read as it is to cook from:

David, Elizabeth, A Book of Mediterranean Food.

London: John Lehmann 1950, first edition. Very Good. Illustrated by John Minton. Pink cloth binding with gilt lettering surrounded by brown stamped border on spine. Index. Spine cocked, owner signature on front free endpaper, pages lightly toned, bookseller's ticket on rear pastedown endpaper (Nedwick's Book Store of Chicago). The first book by the influential doyenne of modern British cookery. 191 pp. $200

 5) Know someone who's in stasis until baseball season starts up again in the Spring? Perhaps this signed baseball book by legendary pitcher Jim "Mudcat" Grant will lure them back out of their torpor:

Grant, Jim "Mudcat"; Sabellico, Tom; O'Brien, Pat. The Black Aces: Baseball's Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners.

Farmingdale, NY:The Black Aces, LLC, first edition. Very Good in Very Good dust jacket. Signed by Mudcat Grant on the title page. Photos. A look at the 13 African-American pitchers that won twenty wins in a season after Jackie Robinson pioneered integration in the game of baseball. Mudcat Grant is one of those baker's dozen and the first African-American in the American League to be a twenty game-winner and the first to win a World Series game. 480 pp. $35

6) Is there an outdoorsman or woman on your gift giving list? This collection of hardcore hunting, fishing and hiking tales may warm up their winter evenings:

Whelen, Townsend, Wilderness Hunting and Wildcraft, with Notes on the Habits and Life Histories of Big Game Animals.

Marshallton, DE: Small Arms Technical Publishing Co, 1927, first edition. Very Good. Navy cloth binding with gilt lettering and blind-stamped moose skull stamped on front boards, gilt lettering on spine. Many photographs and illustrations by the author. Bibliography and appendices. Boards waterstained at lower corners. Whelen was a larger-than-life outdoorsman, who, like Teddy Roosevelt, came from a patrician background and was a spindly lad, later blossoming into a hale and hearty wilderness adventurer after a course of self-improvement in the American and Canadian forests. He was a soldier in the Spanish-American War and served as a Colonel in the 29th Infantry Regiment guarding and mapping the Panama Canal Zone and surrounding rain forest. He was never happier than when he was by himself in the woods, hunting (and sustaining himself on) big and small game, tinkering with guns and ammo and writing his experiences up for his many published articles and books. This volume contains chapters about various game animals, clothing and personal kit, how to make camp beds and shelters (Whelen preferred a lean-to) , rifles, marksmanship, photography and the physical preparation needed to survive extended wilderness outings in all manners of terrain. There are many wonderful photographs of wildlife, dead and alive, and of Whelen posed with various beasts and portions thereof, including a splendid shot of the author with a bull moose head and scalp on his shoulders, "a heavy and awkward load of from 125 to 175 pounds". 338 pp. $75

7) Military historians will enjoy this handsomely bound  volume full of engravings of historic weaponry:

Demmin, August, Die Kriegswaffen in Ihren Geschichtlichen Entwickelungen Von Den Altesten Zeiten Bis Auf Die Gegenwart: Eine Encyklopadie Der Waffenkunde.

Leipzig, Germany: P. Friesenhahn 1893. Very Good. A beautifully-bound copy of this comprehensive history of the development of military weapons. Half-leather with marbled boards. Leather is a chocolate-brown, crocodile-grain morocco. Marbled edges and endpapers. Gilt stamped armorial designs on backstrip. 4,500 small illustrations of various knives, pikes, swords, armor, helmets, lances, clubs, maces, axes, catapults, spurs, saddles, bugles, sabers, crossbows, cannon, bullets, rifles, and other instruments of war. Text in German. Slight rubbing to corners and spine extremities, owner name embossed on top right corner of title page. 1,110 pp. $200

8) Turned on by urns? Or is there a gardener on your holiday shopping list who is thus moved? Consider this volume:

Israel, Barbara Antique Garden Ornament: Two Centuries of American Taste.

NY: Harry N. Abrams 1999. Very Good in Very Good dust jacket; Jacket scuffed, remainder mark on page bottoms. Preface by Mark Hampton. Numerous color photographs by Mick Hales. Index, notes, bibliography, appendices. A well-researched history of American garden ornament in the various regions, from fountains, statuary, sundials, urns, furniture, obelisks, fencing and much more. Includes an illustrated catalogue of 300 examples of ornaments. A useful and lively reference work for the gardener, landscape architect or historian. 256 pp. $20

9) This first edition of a medical classic might endear you to your favorite physician:

Osler, William, A Way of Life: an Address Delivered to Yale Students Sunday Evening, April 20, 1913.

Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company 1923, first edition. Very Good in Very Good dust jacket. Blue boards with front boards stamped with gilt lettering and profile bust of Dr. Osler framed by two college graduates in gowns and mortar boards. Measures 4x6 inches. Gray pictorial jacket repeats design with navy ink on front panel. Frontispiece photo of the author. Boards rubbed, jacket lightly chipped at corners and head and foot of spine, several pages show penciled erasures. The renowned physician gives his advice on clean living and how to achieve good mental and physical health in this Yale lecture. 38 pp. $80

10) Photography and jazz aficionados alike would love to see this book unwrapped in their lap:

DeCarava, Roy, The Sound I Saw: The Jazz Photographs of Roy Decarava : January 20 to March 20, 1983.

NY: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1983 Softcover Very Good. Covers very lightly rubbed. 60 black and white plates of such jazz greats as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Milt Jackson, Billie Holliday, Count Basie, Zoot Sims, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins and many others. Other photos of jazz clubs, patrons, and R&B and other musicians. Preface by Willard C. Butcher, foreword by Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, introduction by A. D. Coleman and essay by C. Daniel Dawson. Footnotes. Chronology and bibliography by Sherry Turner DeCarava. Catalogue of the full exhibition at rear. Library of Congress number 82-62795. 84 pp. $75

11) Among the literature describing the French and Indian War and the military beginnings of the Green Berets, this book is one of the best:

Loescher, Burt Garfield. The History of Rogers Rangers Volume I: the Beginnings Jan 1755 - April 6, 1758. 

San Francisco, CA: Self Published 1946, first edition. Illustrated by Helene Loescher.
Boards lightly rubbed, owner name and address stamped on front and rear pastedowns and front flyleaf, else a clean, tight and bright copy. One of 1,500 numbered and autographed copies. Signed by the author on the front flyleaf and further inscribed by the author on the front pastedown. Bibliography, footnotes, three color plates of Rogers Rangers uniforms, three black and white illustrations, three maps by the author of battle areas. Forest green cloth binding with paper spine label. VG. An impressive history of the Rogers Rangers, the forerunners of today's Green Berets, during the various battles of the French and Indian War. The first volume in Loescher's four-volume Rogers Rangers history set.  438 pp. $90

12) Children's book collectors will need some extra shelves to fit in the entire Ted Scott Flying Stories series. Part two of your Christmas gift?

Dixon, Franklin W., The Ted Scott Flying Stories.

NY: Grosset and Dunlap 1943. Very Good in Good dust jackets; The complete 20-volume set of the Ted Scott Flying Stories by Franklin W. Dixon. Each volume had different bindings and editions but all were published between 1927-1943. This vintage juvenile aviation series capitalized on the popularity of Charles Lindbergh and his recent Transatlantic voyages, and were bestsellers among young adults during the 1920s-40s. The set contains a mix of both red and tan pictorial bindings and plain and decorative endpapers. Top staining is different with each volume. $700

13) This sumptuously illustrated look at Russian Impressionism and Postimpressionism would be a great source of inspiration for the artist in your life. The quality of light in these paintings really shimmers in the high-quality plates.

Guerman, Mikhail, The Russian Impressionists and Post Impressionists.

Bournemouth, England: Parkstone Press 1998. Very Good in Very Good dust jacket. Translated into English by Chandra Troescher. 165 illustrations, mostly  color plates. A look at Russian painting from the mid-nineteenth century to the early 1900s, including the works of such artists as Kasimir Malevitch, Vladimir Tatlin, Vasily Kandinsky, Constantin Yuon, Igor Grabar, Stanislav Jukovski, Constantin Korovin, Valentin Serov, Ilya Repin, and Alexander Ivanov. 288 p. $60

14) A signed copy of Roman Vishniac's most important book would be the cornerstone of your loved one's photography collection:

Vishniac, Roman, A Vanished World.

NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984, second printing. Good in Very Good dust jacket. Foreword by Elie Wiesel. Signed "Roman Edith Vishniac" on front flyleaf. Edith was Vishniac's wife. Jacket lightly wrinkled and rubbed. 179 photo reproductions. This book represents but a fraction of the photographs of Jewish village life which Vishniac took on various trips to Ruthenia, Poland, Czecho-slovakia and other parts of Eastern Europe in the 1930s. Vishniac sewed many of the negatives in the lining of his clothes when he came to the US in 1940, and others were safeguarded by his father while in hiding in France during World War II. Vishniac died in 1990. 179 pp. $175

15) A smart vintage binding of this collection of classic Christmas tales would be perfect to place under the Old Tannenbaum:

Irving, Washington, The Old English Christmas

London: T. N. Foulis 1920. Very Good. Many tipped in color illustrations by H. M. Brock. Dark grey cloth binding with gilt lettering and elaborate holly leaf design on front boards. Contains five short Christmas stories: The Old Stage Coach, The Old Christmas, The Old Christmas Eve, The Old Christmas Day, and The Old Christmas Dinner. 124 pp. $25

Thank you for considering these titles from our bookshop. Please note that all of these specially priced books are quoted above with media mail shipping included, but we can also add priority shipping to your total to ensure that your gift arrives in time for the holidays.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Booking at Catamount Books in Arlington, Vermont

I recently had a lovely autumnal book hunting trip with a bookseller friend, Richard Mori of Mori Books, across the New York border to Arlington, Vermont. Home of artist Norman Rockwell, this picture perfect town boasts the classic beauty of a mountainous landscape, lovely older homes and winding streets.

Arlington is also home to Catamount Books, the open shop owned by my book fair buddy John Hess at 198 Pleasant Street.

That's John in the above photo silhouetted on the second floor space of Catamount Books. John used to have a shop along Main Street in downtown Arlington, but recently built this garage/bookshop and moved his 15,000+ tomes upstairs (many more await his ministrations in the first floor storage area).

There's a better picture of John at his Catamount command center, a warren of shelves filled with a terribly interesting selection of books in all subjects. My bookseller buddy went one way, I went another, and we ended up spending three hours combing through the stacks, instead of the hour we had planned for our visit.

John's got a surprising amount of books packed into this well-lit space and there were gems hidden all through the shelves. I kept finding books that I had been searching for myself and for customers, and there were new intriguing titles that were inexpensively priced so that even I, a bookseller fairly low down in the biblio-food web, could purchase them for resale without qualms.

John's got a great eye for unusual subjects, lovely bindings and titles that I've not come across in my years of bookhunting. I picked up three boxes of treasures, including several titles by Gene Stratton-Porter, regional history, illustrated classics, a fun book on spiritualist Eusapia Palladino, children's books, geology titles, and many more for shop stock. Richard found many books in his specialty areas of Scouting and children's literature and we both came away very pleased with our purchases.

Bookshop hours are Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 pm to 5 pm, though John advises that it is best to call ahead (802-282-9769) to make sure of these hours or to set up an alternate appointment since he and his delightful wife Cheryl might be out having fun with their passel of grandchildren (I saw two of them in residence and can verify that they were awfully cute).

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Albany Antiquarian Book Fair - 40th Edition, October 19, 2014

With a new venue, the Albany Institute of History and Art (AIHA) , the 40th annual Albany Antiquarian Book Fair was held yesterday under crisp autumn skies. There were twenty-seven booksellers from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Ontario and Quebec with tables brimming over with displays of books, manuscripts, letters, ephemera and maps strategically nestled among three floors at the museum.

Cameo sculpture by Erastus Dow Palmer at AIHA

Old Saratoga Books was there with a selection of children's books, science, history, art and assorted titles. My hot sellers were local history and art titles, sleazy vintage paperbacks and ephemera, including a bookplate from the Sesame Reading Club of Albany, which went to an AIHA volunteer who is excited to hunt down the history of this private reading group, a Victorian mourning card and some railroad stock certificates. I was pleased to see many of my in-store customers in attendance and there was a pleasant buzz of bookish conversations and purchases throughout the day, especially during the first two hours. 

Old Saratoga Books booth displays
My book booth neighbors, Ann Brockschmidt of Carnegie Hill Books and Richard Mori of Mori Books, had both stayed overnight with Dan and me before the Fair, so we had the benefit of a lot of great book conversation the night before to charge us all up. A new bookseller friend, John Spencer of Riverow Bookshop, completed our corner of museum floor 2A, and while the scary clown poster went back home with him,

 I did witness John making lots of book and postcard sales, as well as the sale of the elaborate wooden bible stand pictured above. Riverow Bookshop wins the distinction of having the book title which most amused me at the Fair, "Practical Dope on the Big Bores".

 Dan Gaeta of John Bale Book Company and Will Monie of Willis Monie Books anchored the adjacent hallway. Dan had brought an eclectic assortment of ephemera, photographs, and oddball language dictionaries, while Will's shelves held notebooks of historical ephemera and books about antiques. I picked up a Thornton Burgess bibliography for myself and an illustrated 19th century blacksmithing book for the bookshop from Will and I know Ann raided Will's shelves for several other decorative arts books, so he was a popular destination for other booksellers.

Dan Gaeta and Will Monie, Bookmen
Montreal bookseller Wilfrid M. de Freitas had a most impressive booth display, crowned with an 1801 land grant document and wax seal granted by King George III.  Both Mr. de Freitas and Susan Ravdin graciously showed me some of the highlights of their booth as they were setting up, and it was a treat to look over their collection of Winston Churchill writings, Booker Prize novels (and to discuss our mutual admiration for Julian Barnes) and unusual books about hat making, mah johngg,  phrenology and finger rings.

Susan Ravdin of Wilfrid de Freitas, Bookseller

Another highlight of the Albany Book Fair was meeting Buffalo book legend Ron Cozzi of Old Editions. He and his compadre Jeffrey Bergman had honored us with their presence at our dinner table a few days before the Fair and it was an privilege and a delight to make their acquaintanceship. Dan and I got the benefit of many years of bookselling advice and booking-on-the-road advice from Ron and Jeff, and their advice is helping us enormously as we plan our transition from used bookstore owners to antiquarian booksellers.

Ron Cozzi of Old Editions Book Shop

The 40th Edition of the Albany Book Fair was great fun and a great education. I made some book sales, I made new bookseller friends and contacts, I bought some good store stock (especially at the AIHA silent auction room), and most importantly, I saw what my colleagues display, buy and do at an impressively appointed regional book fair, so I came away very happy, if very tired, from "Book Fair week" in my neck of the woods. Kudos to Biblio impresario Garry Austin for promoting and organizing another impressive Book Fair and to AIHA Director Tammis Groft and her flotilla of staff and volunteers for hosting us at the Museum. Can't wait until next year....but first, a long and well-deserved nap!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Mighty Rain Dampens the 2014 Brattleboro Book Fair

A jewel box location, glittering book offerings, autumn leaves nearly at peak and a tie-in with a four-day literary festival were a powerful combination, but not enough to overcome torrential rains at the Vermont Fall Book Fair this past Saturday at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.

Jeff Bergman was there with a stellar selection of modern firsts, signed books and photographs and a great collection of books about books and bookseller memoirs, (though he told me the "really great stuff" doesn't go on the road with him. Can only imagine those biblio treasures.) I couldn't resist a shot of "The Bankrupt Bookseller" (the orange jacketed book) and the troika of the Lone Ranger, Roger Maris and Hillary Clinton.

My fellow 2014 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar buddy Charles Schmieg of Black Paw Books came to Fair. He ended up with an interesting inscribed chess book and since we were both still buzzing with book energy from our CABS experience, we talked about the book business and our plans for quite some time. Charles is the taller one.

Patricia McWilliams of Hermit Hill Books in Poultney, Vermont had a terrific display of fine bindings and interesting titles. Her shop is just across the New York border from Granville, the "Slate Capital of the World" and is worth a trip if you are in our neck of the woods. Patricia reported great sales this summer and let's hope the trend continues.  That's Patricia on the right mulling over her final display, with Lizz Young on the left. Lizz is a specialist bookseller who sells books about food, drink and the domestic arts, and her stylish display is shown below. She really utilizes height and unusual shelving accents to punch up her book displays and I will be trying to incorporate these aspects in my own configurations for future book fairs. Lizz also has one of the most interesting and erudite book blogs, so be sure to check that out.

On the subject of effective book fair displays, my book booth neighbor John Hess of Catamount Books in East Arlington, VT, has had great success with his self-constructed shelves that allow for the more attractive bindings and jacket art to be faced out. John reports that since he started using these shelves, he brings fewer boxes of books but sells more! Now that's something any bookseller's back and shoulders can appreciate. I forgot to capture an image of the shelves in all their book-loaded glory during the Fair (and you would have seen the spaces where books had been sold), but here's a fuzzy photo of them just before John packed them up.

New Hampshire bookseller Michael Daum was busy pricing up some of his stock when I strolled by his booth, so I didn't disturb him, but he is one of the most approachable bookseller colleagues I have met at the Vermont and Albany book fairs. Michael also has one of the best bookseller voices in the business: a rumbling, smoky-toned baritone with lots of New England Yankee inflections. And then there's his beautiful books...

My own book wares, a colorful mix of colorful older children's books, New England history, art, antiques and a few of my better books, were designed to appeal more to the walk-in crowd than my fellow book dealers. Unfortunately, the unzippering of the clouds with two months of long overdue rain timed to drench the world directly after the Brattleboro Fair opened took care of those crowds and the book fair attendance was quite thin. I still consider the Fair a success, because I did buy and sell from some of my colleagues, and I learned quite a bit from chatting with them and observing what kinds of books they brought, but here's hoping the Albany Antiquarian Book Fair on Sunday, October 19th at the Albany Institute of History and Art will be a less soggy af-FAIR.

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.

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.