Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chronicle Book Fair in Glens Falls, New York

It was the second time round for Old Saratoga Books as an exhibitor at the Chronicle Book Fair at the lovely Queensbury Hotel in downtown Glens Falls. Last year I brought way too many books and way too many shelves and this time reined in my inventory, bringing only two folding shelves to put atop my table (since people never look below their navel as I found out last year) and 12 boxes of books. Still, I think this was 3 boxes too many, as I didn't have an ability to flop out all the books I wanted. Indeed, a few boxes never even got unpacked and served as stands beside my table for my ephemera display.

And, as was the case last year, what sold were books that were facing out. That Robert Sabuda pop-up book (with the yellow star on the front cover) sold almost immediately, and my Ernest Hemingway photoessay (top shelf left) caught a bibliophile's eye from across the room. Other interesting titles sold throughout the day included a Puerto Rican cookbook, a Looking Glass edition of George MacDonald's "The Princess and Curdie" (with Edward Gorey typography), biographies of James Thurber, Dashiell Hammett, Mama Cass and Robert Fulton, Roald Dahl juvenile fiction in hardcover, Adirondack history, some old postcards, gardening books, a signed children's book by William Kennedy, a book on Irish pubs, and assorted other music, cooking and literary titles.

My bestsellers, however, as was the case two weeks ago at the Albany Antiquarian Book Fair, were the vintage paperbacks. The more lurid or ridiculous the cover art, the better they sold. One older lady was particularly funny when she pointed to a copy of Erskine Caldwell's "Tobacco Road" and told me this was a "spicy" book that was passed around back in her high school days. Now, even children's programming shows more cleavage (bust and butt) than that paperback cover and surely this novel would seem tame by most readers' standards.

The crowds at the Chronicle Book Fair were nice from 10:30 am (many browsers drifted in early) to about 2 pm and then rather precipitously dropped off. This left a little time to sneak away to chat with Gluten Free cookbook author Amy Rota-Poulin and my fellow bookseller, Victoria Garlandia at her Three Wise Women booth to snag a few local history titles.

I will definitely be partcipating  in next year's fair, as the sales were good and this event gets the word out about our bookshop to a devoted group of bibliophiles. Next year I will bring a big sign though, with our store name, address and slug about buying and selling used and rare books, as people don't seem to notice the bookmarks and brochures I strew about my booth.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Continuing Education at the 37th Annual Albany Antiquarian Book and Ephemera Fair

So many books, so many postcards, so many trade cards and posters, and so little time...That was the vibe at yesterday's Albany Antiquarian Book and Ephemera Fair at the Washington Avenue Armory. Organized this year by Garry Austin

Garry Austin on the left, unidentified but very gracious and  friendly bookseller on the right

of Wilmington, Vermont-based Austin's Antiquarian Books, it was Old Saratoga Books' first appearance as a bookseller and the overall experiment proved successful indeed. I got to see many familiar faces among the exhibitors and browsers and there was steady traffic throughout the six-hour show.

A bibliophile browsing Owl Pen Books' booth

On the Saturday set-up day, I found that other booksellers swooped in even before I could unpack my four wooden folding shelves and eleven boxes of books, so I made a few quick sales to subsidize the exhibitor fee. One sale was a cool Civil War broadside with a map of the shrinking Confederate states, exhorting New York State voters to support Lincoln's mandatory draft and other military strategies which then Governor Horatio Seymour was criticizing. The other nice sale was an 1830s biography of Lemuel Haynes, an African-American minister (the first one to serve a white congregation) and abolitionist who lived in various parts of upstate New York and Vermont.

Two views of the goods at Old Saratoga Books' booth

Most of the books and paper items I brought to the Fair were not as rare as these items, though, and I had a display of  more modestly-priced volumes that I thought would be of interest to a wider range of buyers. I sold some antique children's books, a book about whiskey, a handwritten Victorian-era journal, some Jack London and Charles Lindbergh, a Richard Brautigan first edition and a smattering of other cookbook, music and art titles, but the big sellers were the selection of vintage paperbacks I had strewn about for eye candy. These were particularly appreciated by the 20-somethings in the crowd, who alternately scooped them up because of the campy cover art or because they were oddball titles. I also brought what little ephemera we've accumulated over the years and these little pamphlets, postcards and advertisements were a popular item for us as well.

There were quite a lot of lovely books to peruse at my colleagues' tables. I was tickled by the antique medical calendar offered by Evie Eysenburg which featured elves with giant skull heads mixing up pharmaceutical potions.

Evie Eisenburg's ghoulish druggist elves' calendar

Her booth partner, Patricia Reilly, also had a colorful collection of eye catchers, including a tremendously intricate homemade Valentine. Patricia also very kindly loaned me some cash when I noticed that I had forgotten my stack of  $1s and $5s for making change when I had my first customer. She truly has not one, but two hearts of gold!

Patricia Reilly and her beautiful antique Valentine (center of case)
Both Evie and Patricia seemed to have a nice stream of customers flipping through their binders full of trade cards, advertising posters, folk art and unusual ephemera, and it seemed to be the general consensus among other booksellers that I spoke with that ephemera sells quite well at the Albany Fair.  I will definitely keep my eye out for more papery items when I'm out book hunting, as ephemera only dribbles into the bookshop, most usually retrieved from the pages of our incoming books.

Sometimes retail can be like this.

Rounding out the other ell of our U-shaped booth, was my new biblio-buddy Anne Brockschmidt of Carnegie Hill Books of Manhattan, which specializes in architecture, decorative arts and design. She had some beautiful bindings and interesting titles and ended the day happy with her day's business.

Anne Brockschmidt of Carnegie Hill Books

My neighbor to the north was another first-time exhibitor at the Albany Fair, Mark Brumberg of Boomerang Books.  Mark owned the Globe Bookshop in Northampton, Mass. and then worked at the nearby National Yiddish Book Center before starting his own rare books business. (Read the Book Trout review of Aaron Lansky's "Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books"). He has a great inventory of modern first editions, many of them signed, including this great copy of Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried".  You also gotta love a guy who whoops when he finds an unexpected cache of his wife's cookies stashed in his lunch bag.

Mark Brumberg of Boomerang Books

My New York colleague, Will Monie of Cooperstown, who nudged me to get untethered from the bookstore and exhibit at the Albany Fair, was on hand with an impressive display of unusual books. Will really makes great use of his exhibit space, with shelving lining both sides and ends of his booth and he had a lot of trade back and forth whenever I glanced his way during this event. Will also organizes the annual Cooperstown Antiquarian Book Fair in June, and I am mulling over whether to become untethered again for that one.

Cooperstown's Finest, Bookseller Will Monie
And now to reveal the most interesting bit of conversation overheard at the Albany Fair. There was a snappily-dressed book dealer whose name I never did get, who was chatting behind me right before the line of browsers was unleashed who made me laugh out loud when I heard that he "was really into promiscuous pricing". I never did get the chance to run over and ask him to explain that one to this Book Fair newbie, but to hear more of this kind of lively talk, see huge numbers of gorgeously illustrated and bound volumes, pore over interesting and esoteric titles, and engage in some spectacular people watching (what is it with biblio-folk and their chapeaux?) you'll have to wait around until the 38th Annual Albany Book Fair.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Albany Antiquarian Book Fair - October 23, 10 am to 4 pm

We will be exhibiting some of our books and other papery items at the Albany Antiquarian Book Fair at the Washington Avenue Armory in downtown Albany this Sunday, October 23, from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is $6.00. For directions, information on the 40 or so other participating booksellers and more information about the Fair check out their website.

It's Old Saratoga Books' first time as an exhibitor at the Fair and Rachel will be there with an assortment of titles from our 50,000 volume inventory, including some volumes that we have recently acquired and not yet offered for sale in our shop, including an interesting New York State Civil War broadside, many vintage and antique children's books, and some interesting horse and fly fishing titles.

See you at the Fair!  For a peek at last year's Albany Book Fair, you can investigate the Book Trout's view as a visitor here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Arrivals at Old Saratoga Books

Though our shop is closed during the month of February (and the store thermostat is set low, low, low much to store cat Sam's consternation) Dan and I are back and forth filling Internet orders, cleaning, moving sections around and generally doing all those biblio-maintenance tasks that cant' be done when the shop is open. We are also going through many boxes of books that we have bought over the last year and stashed in the basement, so when we open, there will lots of new (used) titles for our customers to peruse. 

 In the meantime, here's some of the newest and most interesting books we've catalogued: The Irish Beauties, by E. Barrington, [Beck, L. Adams]Garden City, NY Doubleday, Doran 1931 First Edition Hardcover Very Good in Good dust jacket. Decorative black cloth binding. Corners bumped, jacket dampstained and chipped, pages toned. In jacket protector. Historical fiction based on the lives of two penniless Irish sisters, Elizabeth and Maria Gunning, who were the belles of mid-18th century London. Elizabeth married the Duke of Hamilton and became the first Baroness Hamilton of Hameldon, and sister Maria married the 6th Earl of Coventry, though her continued use of arsenic and lead in various cosmetic preparations led to her death at aged 27 in 1760. 310 pages Price: 15.00.


The Wood-Peasant's Grandchild, by Marg. Lenk. Johannes Herrmann 1924 Hardcover Very Good. Green boards. Many illustrations by Ant. Baworowski. A tale about an old man and his orphaned grandson, Fridolin, called Friedel, who are evicted from their Salzburg home by an evil Archbishop. The tale takes place in 1730. Covers lightly worn, else a clean, tight copy. 168 pages. Price: 15.00

Toadstools, Mushrooms, Fungi: Edible and Poisonous; One Thousand American Fungi; How to Select and Cook the Edible; How to Distinguish and Avoid the Poisonous, with Full Botanic Descriptions, by Charles McIlvaine and Robert K. MacAdam, West Glover, VT: Something Else Press 1973 0871100932 / 9780871100931 Reprint Hardcover Very Good in Very Good dust jacket. A facsimile reprint of the 1902 revised edition. White cloth binding. Jacket lightly soiled and price-clipped, fly specks on page tops. In jacket protector. Photos. "How to select and cook the edible. How to distinguish and avoid the poisonous". 729 pages. Price: 25.00


Monday, January 24, 2011

Booking at Yellow House Books in Great Barrington, MA

Last Fall I had my annual Ladies Weekend getaway with my band of girlfriends. We've been vacationing together each November for the last twenty years, and while I haven't been able to attend each jaunt, it's always a treat to get away to a new locale, reconnect with my ladies and have a giant gab fest back at our hotel rooms. And drink copious amounts of wine and sample new varieties of cheese.

This past November we picked Great Barrington, Massachusetts as our destination and while most of our party enjoyed the nearby shopping outlets (blah!), my buddy Linda and I headed for our favorite kind of shopping: bookhunting.

We were both able to while away a pleasant couple of hours at Yellow House Books, a small used and rare bookstore located at 252 Main Street in downtown Great Barrington. The shop is small, but has a carefully selected range of interesting and unusual books. The front room has a nice selection of art and music, while the second room contains a fine array of antique children's books and illustrated volumes.

I spent most of my time in the innermost third room, which contained the history and cookbook sections, picking up some local history titles for the shop and a handful of unusual books for my personal collection. I was psyched to find a signed copy of John Thorne's book of autobiographical food essays "Outlaw Cook", a Sherlock Holmes cookbook and a delightful
"Cookbook for Booksellers", by Craig Claiborne, which was a promotional book handed out by the publisher to booksellers perhaps en masse at a large book fair or individually by a book sales rep to bookseller clients. This bibliophilic treat contains book quotes and recipes for such literary eats as Proust's Madeleines, a Virginia Woolf-inspired Boeuf en Daube, Clifton Fadiman's Yorkshire Buck, Lord Byron's Oyster Stew, Bookbinder's Soup, Tobias Smollett's Vitello
Tonnato and a Madras Curry for William Makepeace Thackeray.

The bookshop also had a nice selection of Modern Library editions (see above photo) which are one of my husband's favorite things to collect, so I will be bringing him back here to visit soon.

Yellow House Books is owned by Bonnie and Bob Benson, who were doing a brisk business on the Saturday morning I was there, so I did not get a chance to chat with them. The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm and on Sundays from noon to 5 pm. The phone number is: 413-528-8227.