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.

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.

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......