Recently in Bright Young Booksellers Category

Our dormant Bright Young Things series returns to life this week with an interview with Amy Candiotti of Pistil Books in Seattle.

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How did you get started in rare books?

I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Comparative Literature and one of my first jobs was in a used bookstore.

When did you open Pistil and what does the shop specialize in?

My partner, Sean Carlson, and I opened Pistil Books & News, a retail store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle in 1993. As a brick and mortar store, we carried used and new books, periodicals, and zines. We also hosted readings and art shows. We were a general used and new bookstore with books in all subjects, but with specialties in alternative culture, such as politics, gay & lesbian, sex, and drugs/consciousness.

In 2001 we lost our lease and became an online-only store, Pistil Books Online, selling on our own website as well as many other bookselling sites. We still carry used books in all categories, with an emphasis on scholarly non-fiction and books on how to do things: homesteading, crafts, building, do-it-yourself.

What is your role at Pistil?

I am co-owner of Pistil Books, and do everything from buying, cataloguing, supervising our two part-time employees, to the fun stuff like bookkeeping and taxes. I've also been making recycled blank books from discarded library books for years, and am recently delving into other formats of handmade books, and printmaking. My books and cards are for sale on our website.

What do you love about the book trade?

I love being surrounded by books and being constantly exposed to the different ideas and subjects they contain. I love being self-employed and having the freedom of a flexible schedule, and since we've been online only, of working at home, which means I can do things like cook lunch while I'm working, or take a break and go for a walk. My work life and home life are integrated in a pleasing way. And I never run out of things to read.

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you've handled?

A couple of years ago I attended Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, and my class visited the Rare Book Division at the Library of Congress where I got to see and handle an Alice in Wonderland with original pencil drawings by John Tenniel.

As for ephemera, a favorite zine from the nineties is called Crap Hound, created by Sean Tejaratchi. It's entirely made up of black and white images very skillfully compiled (cut and pasted by hand, no computers) from vintage advertisements and the like, based on juxtapozed themes, such as "Clowns, Devils, Bait", "Hearts, Hands, Eyes" or "Death, Telephone, Scissors." Some of the issues were reprinted in the last few years, but the originals are collectible and hard-to-find.

What do you personally collect?

I collect authors I like - Paul Bowles, Alan Watts, Alice Munro. But I also have a lot of books that I keep just because I like the book as an object - for instance, a beautiful accordion book from the sixties, with removable colored cards, printed in Japan, that is a "Test for Colour Blindness" - I recently had an eye exam, and the doctor used the same book! I'm also very fond of The Golden Book Encyclopedia and Golden Books in general for their wonderful illustrations and depiction of a specific world view of knowledge and science. I have a collection of children's text books from the turn of the century to the sixties for the same reason.

Thoughts on the present state and future of the rare book trade?

The business has changed so much during the time that I've been involved, it's hard to predict what will happen. But I am confident that there will always be people who love physical books and who will want to read, handle, and collect them.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

Nothing scheduled, but we will have our annual outdoor book sale this summer. It's a chance to see old customers from our brick and mortar store, neighbors, and have a party.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Jason Rovito, proprietor of Paper Books in Toronto.


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How did you get started in rare books?


Nausea. I was working on my dissertation and not feeling particularly pleasant about academic life. And medieval Bologna charmed me. Especially the scenery of the early university--with professors and students conducting their business in rented brothel rooms, while the Papacy plotted to build some spectacular academic palace, at the centre of which was an anatomy theatre, with its lecturer's chair supported by two flayed statues. Within all this, I started paying attention to the booksellers, and to the ways in which they supplied the material that allowed this academic drama to play out. (Rather than sell full manuscripts, they tended to rent out individual quires; an early form of the packet-switching model that built the Internet). Blah blah. When Atticus Books announced that it was retiring its bricks-and-mortar, and there were bookcases and shop-stock to be had, I applied for academic leave and opened up an upper-floor scholarly shop and seminar space. As a business, the project was totally unsustainable (to be kind). But it got me handling books to pay rent. And I was able to stay afloat long enough to find my way to CABS (thanks to a scholarship from Foreseeing Solutions). CABS was a total revelation and I started to appreciate that a rare book is much more than just an expensive (non-rare) book. Since then, I've been trying to figure out my way into the trade.

 

When did you open Paper Books and what do you specialize in?


The "Paper Books" shtick started last Spring, while being evicted (more or less) from my first open shop. To raise money for the move, I needed to launch a crowd-funding campaign, but I didn't want to play the charity card. Since I was in the process of developing a new website, I figured I'd link the two projects together by hijacking the language of subscription: i.e. "subscribe to paper books, to add depth to your screen." I still think that this hybrid style of retail can work (inbox as foyer). But I realized after CABS that my skill-set isn't suited for retail, and that my time would be better spent working on quotes, catalogs, and fairs. It's been almost a year of fumbling around in transition. But I think I'm almost ready to confess as "Jason Rovito, Bookseller." It'll be my third name and hopefully the hardest one to shake off.


As for specialization--it's something I'm still rather anxious about. I've known for a while that I'm interested in the nineteenth-century, especially as something that almost happened. But every time I try to further narrow the focus, something from the periphery catches my attention (likely because the cost-of-entry at the periphery is much lower). My latest intuition is that I should just embrace this anxiety as a bibliographic tool, and become known as "that guy who's really anxious about the nineteenth-century." For starters, that's got me trying to catalog nineteenth-century myth, with keywords like [Commercials], [Hygiene], [Weekend], [White Collar], and [Wireless].


What do you love about the book trade?


Its ethics. It doesn't always happen (by a long stretch), but it's possible that a single deal in the book trade can bring value to everyone involved: the creators, the created, the sellers, the buyers, and the dealers. And I don't mean that in a high-horse kind of way; ethics can be really pleasurable. The friendships that emerge at CABS are great examples of what's possible from a trade that (at its best) doesn't involve zero sum games; where a part of the profits can be shared, especially through meals, drinks, and conversations. In 2013, I'm not sure that many other jobs can offer the same health benefits.


Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you've handled?


Deutsche Menschen by Detlef Holz (one of the pseudonyms of Walter Benjamin). It was my first year in the trade and I was fortunate to be brought-in on an impressive estate; the reconstituted library of a Jewish exile from Nazi Europe. As the junior dealer, I was supposed to box-up and haul-off the hundred-plus boxes of common books. But I was also invited to pull aside a handful of rare books before other dealers arrived. I'd selected eight books that I could afford to make offers on, including this pseudonymous work of Benjamin's, which was published in Switzerland and specifically designed to be smuggled into Germany (which it was, successfully, until the censors got wise to the second printing). As I was packing haul-off boxes into the rental van, an employee for an institutional library arrived in the driveway, said hello, and asked whether I was the grandson. I said no, I'm a local bookseller. He quickly darted into the house. When I got back inside, my pile of books had been reduced from eight to two; one of the two being the Holz (smuggled once again).


What do you personally collect?


Booksellers' catalogs, IOUs, road trips. Stories, mostly injury-related; really tall fish.


On your website, you mention that collecting is a "social activity." Could you elaborate on this idea?


I guess the basic idea is that, unless you collect dust, you never just collect as a solitary individual. But that's probably an all-too-obvious point for collectors themselves, since they primarily interact with society whilst collecting. And so, by definition, the activities that build their collections are necessarily social. But probably even more social are the abstract decisions that inform what (or whether or how) to collect in the first place. An iTunes library is still a library, and an e-reader is nothing more than a digital collection of texts; it's just that the collecting is being filtered through the social parameters of the screen, rather than through paper-based media.


Which is maybe why the bookseller--rather than the collector or the librarian--is often the only actor within this system without a salary. I.e. when money starts to dry up in the trade, it's the bookseller who's motivated (by survival) to stress the social nature of collection and the social consequences of any changes to how we collect as a society. Paper-based collections are built through curiosity, conviviality, and travel (amongst other social things). And the bookseller is the first to suffer when these values can no longer pay rent. Blah blah (chirps this canary).


All that aside: I've never been much of a reader. As a kid, I used to withdraw bags of dinosaur books from the library, shut them up in my closet, and return them three months overdue. So this "collection" angle helps me sleep at night.


Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?


I think it's fair to say that this is a period of adaptation. But I'm sure the trade will remain familiar enough. Private collectors will continue to be fascinated by their particular fascinations, even if they work with auction houses and search engines in a more direct fashion than before. And libraries will continue to collect what they don't have, as long as they continue to be granted budgets with which to do so. (And maybe, in that sense, the politics of austerity will have more of an impact on the book trade than digital technologies.) Urban landlording, through rent inflation, seems to have shrunk the cashflow-margins that most bookshops relied upon; so I'm skeptical that any one city can support more than a handful of open shops at a time. And that makes the pop-up model--whether through fairs or markets or bars or sidewalks--potentially more relevant to those who might not have considered it before. (Although the schlepping is a barrier to entry; says the one with bad shoulders.) It'll be interesting to see how this change in retail models will effect browsing traditions, especially in terms of sections and depth of stock; when you don't have an affordable ten-year lease in your back pocket, it's harder to develop a German History or Theatre section.


But it's also likely that the trade will expand into rather unfamiliar territory--perhaps in search of some of the dollars that have been diverted elsewhere (to rents and cell-phone contracts). By now, on the everyday level, the screen has supplanted paper as popular medium, so that--strangely--non-rare books have themselves acquired some degree of rarity. I.e. when you happen to come across someone who's reading a book, and you compare her to someone who's palming a screen, it's now obvious that the book isn't only providing her with information, but it's also producing a particular posture in her, and a certain mode of attention. A number of booksellers--in their own styles--seem to be hunting for the value within this strangeness (i.e. Heather O'Donnell's bees or D. Anthem's zombie-vaccine). But this probably isn't all that different from Rosenbach hyper-linking the steamship with the auction house; the tradition of the trade is entrepreneurial, which is a source of real (and non-sentimental) inspiration.


Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?


For this summer, I'm working with colleagues to carve out a weekend curiosity shop from the front of our shared office space. I thought I'd already sworn off retail (twice), but it's a good group of people involved, and the location has promise. If I can settle into a rhythm, I'm also hoping to issue a digital catalog on Charles H. Kerr & Company. It'll be the fourth--and likely last--catalog that I design with the subscription service Mailchimp. Past examples (like Withdrawn) have generated great feedback. But it's just pure windmills trying to compete for screen-attention with (free) gossip & pornography. For the autumn I'm working to publish my first print catalog, on those nineteenth-century myths I'd mentioned before. But the material never seems to want to sit still long enough.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Lizz Young of lizzyoungbookseller in West Dover, Vermont:

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How did you get started in rare books?

I have always been in love with cookbooks. When I was an assistant editor at Gourmet Magazine my desk was in the middle of their library. Part of my job was to answer questions that the loyal subscribers would ask, either by phone or by letter (before computers). I was in heaven. Imagine a job where they pay you to be surrounded by cookbooks. So, as luck would have it, when my father Roy Young, who has been an Antiquarian Bookseller for over 30 years, suggested I join him, there was little hesitation on my end. 

When did you open lizzyoungbookseller? Also, tell us a bit about why you format the name the way you do?

I officially started lizzyoungbookseller in January 2012. After working with my father for over a year, I realized that I could specialize in the world I know best while still continuing to work with RoYoung and the beautiful books he surrounds himself with. As for the name, lizzyoungbookseller, I have to admit it's a bit of an inside joke. As I mentioned, my father has been in the business for over 30 years which means that when I was in High School he was always looking for people to work (haul boxes) for him.  Many of my male friends ended up working for him at one time or another, and always referred to him as RO-young. After that, my good friend Peter Callahan started calling me lizzyoung, and it stuck. 

What do you love about the book trade?

I would have to say the thing I love most about the book business is the fact that I learn something new every single day. Whether I'm researching a Cuban manuscript from the 1800's or a psychedelic inspired cookbook from the 1960's, I always find something fascinating about the history of the piece or the people who were involved in the production of the item. Another wonderful thing about the trade is the people. Last summer I attended CABS (Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar). This seminar is taught by some of the best and brightest booksellers in this country. Besides gaining an amazing amount of knowledge, I met some fantastic people that I hopefully will be in touch with for a very long time. 

What do you love about rare culinary books in particular?

Culinary books give you a window into the cultural narrative of the specific time and place in which the book was composed. For instance, I have learned a lot about prohibition by studying the tracts and broadsides that the temperance movement published. Another example would be an English manuscript from the late 1600's I purchased at auction. After cataloging this manuscript I realized more than half the "recipes" were more what we would now refer to as "remedies." It was a remarkable insight into the way in which people at the time nurtured one another with what they had at hand. I have always been captivated by the human condition. Culinary books show us how much we have changed but also how much we have stayed the same. 

Any vintage/rare/old recipe to share with us from one of your books?

From: THE COMPLETE COOK, Plain and Practical Directions for Cooking and Housekeeping; with upwards of Seven Hundred Receipts, By James M. Sanderson. Philadelphia, Lea and Blanchard, 1843.

Walnut Catsup
Take three half sieves of walnut shells, put them into a tub, mix them up well with common salt, about a pound and a half. Let them stand six days, frequently beating and washing them; by this time the shells become soft and pulpy; then by banking them up on one side of the tub, raising the tub on the same side, the liquor will run clear off to the other; then take that liquor out. The mashing and banking my be repeated as long any liquor runs. The quantity with be about three quarts. Simmer it in an iron pot as long as any scum rises; then add two ounces of allspice, two ounces of ginger, bruised, one ounce of long pepper, one ounce of clove, with the above articles; let it boil slowly for half an hour; when bottled, take care that an equal quantity of spice goes into each bottle; let the bottles be quite filled up, cork them tight, and seal them over. Put them into a cool and dry place, for one year before they are used. 

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you have handled?

As much as I would like to say my favorite book is some old and crusty manuscript, I have to admit I loved (and have sold it twice) Son of the Martini Cookbook, by Jane Trahey & Daren Pierce. This comical book, illustrated by Edward Gorey, is broken up into categories according to how many martinis one has had. The recipes are ridiculous and the illustrations are more than entertaining.

What do you collect personally?

I have been collecting cookbooks for over 30 years, it is a bit of an obsession. I'm a bit of a Jello nut too. I love the idea of jello and jello molds. At Thanksgiving I always make a jello mold; everyone make a face at first, but guess what, it is the first thing to go? My favorite food writers are Laurie Colwin and M.F.K. Fisher. Fisher was the grand dame of food writing; a real trail blazer. The way she wrote about the experience of eating is unrivaled. Colwin wrote novels and short stories but she had an incredible knack for food writing that made you feel as if you were sitting in the kitchen with her while she cooked. 

Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

I love to tell the story of the porter who helped us move into our booth at the Boston Book Fair last year. In a very heavy Boston accent, this large, jolly man says to me, "You know, you got a lot of nice books here but what do you think of the Kindle?" I replied, "I love the kindle, gets people to read, maybe makes them appreciate books more...and in my opinion it increases the odds that these books will be all the more valuable in the future." That said, I think there are a lot of different things going on in the rare book trade as we speak. Personally, I have an optimistic impression of the state of business. I have attended CABS and The Rare Book school at the University of Virginia in the past couple of years and have found incredible enthusiasm emanating from everyone I encounter. Of course this is like preaching to the choir, but it does give me hope that there is a whole new generation of people out there that treasure the world of rare books. I attended an art book fair at the MOMA in Queens, NY last fall and it was crawling with a younger audience that were highly energetic about books. I tend to believe the Internet and the access of information has given reading and writing a whole new audience that has an appetite for knowledge. 

Any upcoming fairs or catalogs?

lizzyoungbookseller will be showing at the Vermont Book Fair, Sunday August 11th, in Brattleboro at the Living Memorial Park Skating Rink. I will also be sharing a booth with RoYoung Bookseller at the Baltimore Summer Antique Show, August 22-25 at the Baltimore Convention Center. As for a catalog, I have been thinking about putting together a manuscript catalog, but thinking and doing are two very different things!

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Lesley Rains of East End Book Exchange (EEBX) in Pittsburgh:

DSCN1947.jpegHow did you get started in rare books? 

In a lot of ways I feel like I'm still in the process of getting started in this business.  But the story has to start somewhere, and for me it was in 2011.   I had just moved back to Pittsburgh a few months earlier.  I was in the midst of making a dramatic career change, leaving behind a doctoral program in history, with little sense of what I would do next.  Around the same time, I noticed that there were hardly any bookstores in the city.  It seemed like an opportunity to do something fun and meaningful, to do something that would resonate with the community.  I started with a small collection of trade paperbacks, mostly classic and contemporary literature. My first substantive and deliberate introduction to the rare book trade was at the 2012 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS).  

When did you open East End Book Exchange and what do you specialize in? 

I opened East End Book Exchange in July 2011.  EEBX was conceived to be a general interest used bookstore.  We feature books in a number of genres, but we emphasize classic, modern, and contemporary literature, poetry, history, and philosophy.  I want our shop to appeal as much to the avid reader as to the avid collector.  

I know that East End began as a "pop-up bookstore" - could you define that term and tell us some more about that phase of your existence?  

A "pop-up bookstore" or business, is a nomadic business that opens in a location 
temporarily - a day, a month, several months, then closes and reappears at another location at a later date.  It's not unlike booksellers who follow the book fair circuit, except instead of selling at fairs, I was setting up the shop at coffee shops and art galleries around Pittsburgh.  After three months of "popping up",  I settled into a bookstall at the Pittsburgh Public Market, a weekend indoor vendor market.  It's a permanent market, so I didn't have to schlep books in and out every weekend. The bookstall was in operation from October 2011 - October 2012 and I regard it as a self-made internship in bookselling and running my own business.  It was a low-financial risk way of gaining experience in the bookselling business.  I learned so much about building and managing an inventory and maintaining a budget (or attempting to).  During this time we also developed a bit of a following, so when we moved to a storefront, we had an established audience and did not have to start from square one. 

But you've recently opened a brick-and-mortar shop, right? How's that going? Do you prefer having a stationary shop?

Yes, the response to the bookstall had been so positive, coupled with a common lament about the dearth of bookshops in Pittsburgh, that in November 2012, we moved to a storefront in the city's Bloomfield neighborhood (which, together with a number of other neighborhoods comprises the city's East End, hence the name).  It has been going really well so far.  The response from the community, and the local literary community in particular, has been universally positive.  The shop has its slow days, to be sure, but there have been plenty of very good days as well.  Nothing offends me more as when someone states that they don't believe another bricks-and-mortar bookstore could survive in Pittsburgh.  There are so many good readers and booklovers in our town.  This isn't to say that the success of a bookstore is a given, but I do believe that a wellcurated bookshop that engages its community has to have more than a fighting chance.  

I do prefer having a stationary shop.  It has been the most fun growing our inventory and cultivating our identity as a bookshop.  We moved from an 80 square foot stall to a 1600 sq. ft. shop (and we opened within three weeks of that move), so we had to get big quickly.  It's been a rewarding challenge balancing the need for more books while staying true to our identity as a bookshop.  I enjoy the hustle and bustle that comes with running an open shop.  I like creating the space, setting the hours, and working with local writers and artists to host public readings.  Being a fixed place has allowed us to become more of a community bookstore.  In addition to the hosting literary events, we also host local artists for monthly (or so) art shows and  we work with a local vintage furniture dealer to outfit the shop with comfortable and attractive furniture.  Works by local authors, as well as the art and furniture, are all sold on consignment, so it gives people a lot of different reasons to come to our shop, and ultimately buy books.   Retail businesses have to be multifaceted, but never to the point where the furniture and art crowds out the books.  I like managing all of these dimensions of our shop in the service of bookselling.   To put all of this another way, I like being my own boss and exhilarating/terrifying/just plain fun roller-coaster ride that comes with that.  

What do you love about the book trade?

I love how this business is so incessantly stimulating.  Whether book-scouting and the sense being on a treasure hunt, or the writing catalogue descriptions and crafting narratives, there is rarely a mundane moment.  There is always something to learn, always ways to improve.  I have also found that I have been able to utilize a lot of the research, writing, and analytical thinking skills that I developed while in grad school, which is satisfying and helps me to feel like less of a novice.  

The sense of community among booksellers is astonishing and deeply moving.  
Everyone is so incredibly helpful and kind.  Living in Pittsburgh, I've been fortunate to get to know two mentor-friends: John Schulman of Caliban Books and Luke Lozier of Bibliopolis, as well as assorted local writers, who have been crucial to the growth of EEBX.  I can state emphatically that EEBX would not be where it is without John and Luke.  Luke, in fact, was the one who told me about CABS and encouraged me to attend.  CABS 2012 blew me away.  David Anthem and Gabe Konrad (two recent BYTs) thoroughly and colorfully described the experience.  I knew going into the week that I was going to learn a lot about books; I had no idea that I was going to make lifelong friendships.  I'm still in awe of that week and the people that I met.    

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you've handled?

Two items come to mind.  First is the Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping (Buckeye Publishing Company: 1877).  I found it at an estate sale and assumed it was just another old cookbook, but I like cookbooks, so I picked it up.  When I got researching it, I found it had a much richer history, namely that it is one of the original church-lady cookbooks.  It was such a sensation when it was published that the second edition includes recipes submitted by Lucy Webb Hayes, then the First Lady of the United States.  The second is Fontainebleau: En Relief par les Anaglphyes, which contains a pair of 3D glasses from 1941.   Both of these books are memorable for the work that went into figuring out what they were. 

What do you personally collect?

I don't personally collect, although down the road I would like to.  For now, all of my collecting time, energy, and money are focused on the needs of the shop, my customers, and clients.  

Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

I am really excited about the current state of the rare book trade.  There are a lot of booksellers meeting the challenges of bookselling head on and doing really interesting and exciting work.  At CABS I met Adam Davis of Division Leap and Heather O'Donnell of Honey and Wax Books, both of whom who have successfully created niches for themselves in the rare book trade and are also finding new audiences in their larger communities.  I think that going forward, new booksellers will have to pursue both of those avenues.  While I rely heavily on social media to promote the shop, I know that it is also necessary to study the book trade's history and traditions, issue catalogues, and attend fairs.  All should be utilized in order to create new booksellers and new book collectors. 

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

I just completed my first short list and I am working on the follow-up.  I don't have any fairs planned for this year, but my goal to attend the Ann Arbor Book Fair and other regional fairs next year.  I am also working on my IOBA membership.
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Heather Pisani of Glenn Horowitz in New York:

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How did you get started in rare books?

I began thinking about books as objects early. The elementary school I attended often had author readings, so as a kid I had this wonderful little collection of inscribed children's books from people like Stephen Kellogg and Bernard Waber. It wasn't until later though, during a trip to England as an undergrad at Vassar, that I bought my first "rare" book. It was a nineteenth-century edition of Middlemarch - not actually rare, it turned out... just old. Before I graduated, I was also lucky enough to take a very small, irregularly offered senior seminar on Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts that was co-taught by a Dante scholar and the curator of Special Collections. I wasn't quite sure at that point where I was headed but knew I liked old books and manuscripts. After graduation, I spent two years in the Rare Book Room at the Strand. Then I attended grad school, during which time I interned in the Rare Book Division at the 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue branch of NYPL. For a little while, I was torn about whether I wanted to be in the trade or in a library - both have always had a certain allure for me.


What is your role at Glenn Horowitz?

I'm the firm's full-time literary archivist. I work with individual rare books and manuscripts but my main job is cataloging complete archives. In a nutshell, I'm dispatched to homes, offices, storage spaces, attics, barns, and - my personal favorite - "work sheds," where I usually get to spend a few days with an author, cataloging drafts, letters, notebooks, diaries, etc. We usually end up sharing a meal or two and discussing their creative process. 

I understand that you've done a lot of traveling on behalf of the firm. Any favorite bookish places you've visited?

I joke that I peaked early! Within my first year I went to Australia to work with John Coetzee. The room where he writes definitely qualifies as a favorite place. 


What do you love about the book trade?

Probably most things. I think a wonderful aspect of the field is that there's always more to learn, whether about the history of the book itself or the life and work of a particular author. I also appreciate that it's an evolving field right now, not least because of the internet and rise of born digital materials. I'm not sure whether the latter is for better or worse - I struggle to find email printouts as compelling as holograph manuscripts or autograph letters - but at least it's an interesting issue. 


Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you've handled?

The answer to this changes constantly. Right now I'd say that Samuel Beckett's undergrad text books rank very high on my list. We had three volumes of French literature from his freshman year, each with his ownership signature - Samuel B. Beckett / Trinity College / Dublin / Michaelmas Term - 1923 - and each copiously annotated. His English translations filled the margins and there were endearing notes to self - like "Learn by heart" - as well as words defined repeatedly, suggesting he had trouble remembering them. I came in to the office on a Saturday to catalogue those. 


What do you personally collect?

I have a nice group of inscribed books from authors I've worked with. I was collecting 19th-century publishers' bindings for a time. At one point when I was living in Prague I became set on finding the first Czech edition of Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being. It was brought out by a Canadian publishing house and is hard to come by, so whenever I see one I buy it. I have two. 


Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

I don't think print books are going to vanish. I do think that in a survival-of-the-fittest kind of way the market will only support the best, most desirable copies. Manuscripts and correspondence are a bit trickier. Archives will be comprised of an increasing amount of electronic material, so instead of notebooks and letters we have hard drives, stacks of obsolete discs, email accounts, etc. Born digital material is a quagmire of technological, practical, and intellectual issues that are now being dealt with formally by creators, dealers, and repositories in terms of preservation guidelines and collection policies. 

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We recently published Write a Madder Letter if You Can: the Letters of Jack Kerouac to Ed White - the catalogue is available for $25 and the collection of letters themselves for $1.25 million. We've also been circulating a PDF list of Seamus Heaney Books from the collection of James O'Halloran that will be available as a print catalogue this summer. My colleague Lauren Walsh is putting the finishing touches on a very cool catalogue of the archive of dust-jacket designer Philip Grushkin, also coming out this summer. No fairs, but at the end of June we're moving to a new location that will include a street-level gallery space on 54th Street to open in the fall. 

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Gabe Konrad, proprietor of Bay Leaf Used & Rare Books in Sand Lake, Michigan.

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How did you get started in rare books? 

I don't think my story is unique among booksellers.  I started collecting when I was a boy - buying used from a shop a couple of blocks from my childhood home. Over the years collecting evolved into scouting, and then selling.  I used to publish a 'zine, Æoleus Butterefly (named after a brand of bike pedal from the turn of the last century), that focused on vintage bicycles, touring and racing. The 'zine evolved into a magazine of similar content, On The Wheel, and a couple of books.  All the while I was selling scarce bicycle books to my subscribers.  It was my first attempt at a specialty.  The thought of opening a used bookshop, however, was always in the back of my mind.  I was in the Army during the Gulf War and I kept a notebook with my plans for opening a shop.  It was very detailed, right down to the design of the store's sign.  Unfortunately, that notebook was lost to the sands of Saudi Arabia or Iraq, but my passion for fine books never faded. 

When did you open Bay Leaf Books? 

My wife, Melanie, and I opened our shop in early 2007.  The jump from thinking about a shop and actually opening one was actually pretty quick.  I had seen an old friend of mine at a library book sale, John Rau of Mecosta Book Gallery in Mecosta, Michigan, who has been one of my mentors in the trade.  Talking about the old days really brought those old feelings rushing back, and Melanie and I sat down to plan the opening of a shop in a year or two.  But books just began appearing, boxes of them filling every spare inch of our house.  Then an affordable storefront became available and five months later we were open.  It was a real crash course in retail sales.  Kind of like diving in head first - head first into a brick wall.  It really was all John's fault - I mean inspiration... 

What do you specialize in? 

Specialize is a strong word - I would say that I have a special interest in several areas.  One of the things I love about this business is that it allows me to follow my whims - to a certain extent.  If bookplates are piquing my interest, I'll pursue it.  African art and ritual, punk rock, art, poetry, martial arts, radical politics.  I have a special interest in all of these. The day will come when I settle down with one or two of these and truly carve out a niche for myself, but at the moment I'm having too much fun with the variety. 

I understand that you maintain an open brick-and-mortar shop in a small Michigan town of about 500 people. What's your secret? 

The secret is I'm an idiot.  So, you can scratch the "bright" off the "Bright Young Things."  In fact, you should get rid of "young" as well.  Just call this installment "Thing."  Yes, we're in a tiny village with a minuscule year-round population.  There are several little lakes around here, so the summer crowd is decent.  Unfortunately, Michigan summers only last about two-and-a-half months.  I wouldn't suggest it to anyone.  At the end of each winter I seriously consider moving to a more populated location, yet we're still here.  Idiot. 

We really are running two separate businesses here.  One is the open shop with general stock.  We're heavy on the non-fiction side, but stock a lot of popular fiction, classics, and a massive section for kids and young adults.  And then there is the "antiquarian" side of the business which we traffic via catalogues, shows and the internet.  We have some pricier, oddball material in display cases, but this is really for the museum effect that so many people are after when they visit a used book store.  They ooh and ahh, but rarely buy that material.  It's all part of the experience. 

Both facets of the business take a tremendous amount of time and it's a constant push and pull between the two. 

What do you love about the book trade? 

The holy trinity - books, buyers, and the trade itself!  Buying and handling books, the hunt for books, is the most exciting part of the experience.  It's why most booksellers do what they do - the thrill of the conquest, teasing out a book's importance, and passing it on.  I love my customers... for the most part.  Bookshops, like bars, tend to draw in the nuts, and I do tire of hearing about how little green men are living at the center of the earth or how this or that politician is, literally, a demon sent from hell, but most customers are great.  I love talking with artists and architects, professors, train engineers, gardeners - everyone has a great story to tell and we all have a love of books in common.  And then there's the trade itself.  Booksellers are remarkably generous with their knowledge and it never ceases to amaze me that a relatively low-level dealer like me can pick up the phone and have the ear of some of the best booksellers in the country.  It's true that we give each other little discounts, send books on spec, etc., but the collegiality, the advice, and the understanding that we're all in this together is priceless. 

Last year I attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar in Colorado Springs.  This is a seminar where some truly talented and successful booksellers gather to teach up-and-coming dealers every aspect of buying, researching and selling antiquarian books.  Trade secrets were shared, every question was thoroughly answered, and lifelong friends were made.  While I had been in business for years prior to going to CABS, the week I spent in Colorado was transformative, and I was able to do this because I received a scholarship from the Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA), a trade organization to which I belong and, now, serve on the board.  How great is that!  Who wouldn't love a trade where everyone wants everyone else to succeed? 

Favorite rare book that you've handled? 

Yeah, my favorite books are the ones I've been able to sell!  I have a lot of interesting titles, but once they've sat on the shelves for a while they begin to lose their luster.  But the books that clients are excited about, that move quickly, those are a lot of fun! 

I do like books that have been altered in some way - Grangerized, accessorized, whatever.  I recently sold a copy of Fluxus Codex by Jon Hendricks.  Not a particularly scarce or expensive book - you can still get a fine copy for a few hundred dollars - but this copy had an original (unsigned), Fluxus-style collage on the rear pastedown with spray-painted stencil letters, Shakespeare postage stamps, a bus pass, etc.  I laid in an archival tissue guard, and "poof" it was gone.  Wonderful stuff. 

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What do you personally collect? 

When we opened Bay Leaf Books, pretty much everything I owned went into the shop, but that rectified itself pretty quickly.  I collect books published by The Legacy Press in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who specialize in titles related to the history of bookbinding and papermaking, and books on Goju-Ryu karate.  I have an interest in provenance and tracking books through private and professional hands, so I collect bookplates from a select group of American designers and bookseller labels from around the world - and I created a poorly maintained website.  I'm also gathering books that include any history of bookseller labels and binders' tickets. 

Thoughts on the present state and future of the rare book trade? 

The changes in the book world speak directly to the two-pronged approach of our business.  On the one hand, the advent of megalisters, penny sellers, e-books, big box stores, and online retailers have devalued the printed book dramatically and made it incredibly difficult for used bookshops to keep their doors open.  At the same time, publishers are printing fewer paper books and there is a lot of competition for popular titles on the second-hand market.  As far as popular fiction and non-scholarly non-fiction, I only see this getting worse and I can envision a clash between the lack of inexpensive books and a demand for them.  Supply and demand will, I think, eventually raise prices, and when e-books have cornered the market, those prices will increase as well.  Not everyone can afford, or wants, an e-reader, and when people can no longer afford to read books, we've truly got problems. 

The rare book trade, on the other hand, seems to be in pretty good shape.  While the number of open shops is diminishing, there's an increased interest in fine books and ephemera and a new wave of booksellers coming along to keep the traditions alive.  I can point again to CABS, which is helping develop some exceptional young booksellers, as well as the IOBA striving to improve the online selling experience for buyers and sellers alike, and the ABAA, America's bastion of fine bookselling.  All of these facets are coming together to create a wonderful pool of sellers and dedicated collectors. 

Any upcoming catalogues or fairs? 

I've found that I like experimenting with catalogue formats - and our next catalogue will be no exception.  I like to keep the content and format pretty close to the vest, so I'll just say it will cover modern art and be out sometime in July.  Our upcoming eLists will include poetry, bookplates and radical literature.  Folks can email us at bayleafbooks@sbcglobal.net to be added to our mailing list. 

I just returned from the Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair, which is a fantastic event.  People complain about the decline of regional shows, but Ann Arbor is thriving with great attendance, community support, and a top-notch lineup of booksellers - including many ABAA and IOBA dealers.  This fall we'll be sticking with mainly regional shows including Chicago, the Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show in Lansing, and back to Ann Arbor for the Kerrytown Book Festival.  A schedule will be available on our website


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with David Anthem of The Andalusia Bookman in Philadelphia.

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How did you get started in rare books?

I think it all started as a drooling infant surrounded by my theologian father's library; continued as a high schooler skipping school and heading to the public library; and culminated in adulthood via the typical channels: collecting; librarianship; scholarship (in the loosest most dilettantish sense of the word). My break came during my second buying trip to Andalusia Books, the best unknown book house in the Philadelphia area, when I insidiously strong-armed my way into a job. I convinced veteran and redoubtable bookman, Dave Miller, that people were still indeed buying books and we set to work dusting off the 60,000+ tomes ensconced in every room in his house. That was nearly two and a half years ago and I've been living and breathing rare books ever since. I attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar last summer, which further solidified my love for the trade and my determination to make a go of this bookselling thing. 
 
Do you still work for The Andalusia Bookman? Or have you branched off on your own?

I imagine myself always working for Andalusia Books in one way or another. Dave has become a trusted friend and an invaluable mentor and even though I'm slowly concentrating more on building up my own stock, I'll hopefully always have a hand in Andalusia. That said, I have begun to take my dream of metamorphosing into D. Anthem, Bookseller (or whatever pretentious moniker I choose to employ), more seriously. But, right now I'm a full-time librarian, I co-own a vegan coffee house, and I'm moonlighting for Andalusia, so I'm usually cataloging books for myself at work or when I'm supposed to be sleeping. I have been selling books online for the last couple of years, engaged in that whole passive bookselling model, but I'm slowly learning and trying to implement what's made others successful.     

What is your role at Andalusia?  What do you specialize in with your own bookselling?

It's a two man operation, so I do a little bit of everything, although cataloging is where I shine. But institutional quotes, auction and house calls, packaging and shipping, online selling, forgetting to call customers back, eating Dave's Grape Nuts, semi-maintaining a blog and Tumblr, I'm down for the whole game. Andalusia is a generalist shop, but we have robust collections of occult, erotica, modern lit., poetry, art, etc. I personally specialize in radical social movements ala Lorne Bair and Bolerium, although I concentrate mainly on anarchism. I also go in for a bit of fine press and have begun dabbling in finely cultivated miscellany ala Garrett Scott. I've got future plans for building some very specialized collections, but I'll keep those under wraps for now. 

What do you love about the book trade?

You know what I love about the book trade? Everything. The history, the mythology, the mysteries to solve, the forlorn volumes to save, the ineffable transcendence of delving into the past of a book that's not in OCLC. I love everything about the rare book trade. I want Walter Goldwater and Leon Kramer's stock, E.P. Goldschmidt's scholarly precision (and work schedule), and Rosenbach's nerve (I unfortunately have his hair, or lack of it). If I can wax personal and maudlin for a moment, I've gone through some pretty tough personal crises lately and when suicide seems like a dramatic yet welcome escape, I only have to walk around Oak Knoll for an hour, sit down with a cup of tea and a Lorne Bair catalog, scout some forgotten shop, finger the books in my own collection, or sneeze into a box of ephemera to realize that this beats the hell out of the mundaneness of death. So what do I love about the rare book trade? I love it for saving my life. 

The collegiality is tear-inducing. CABS blew me away. The dealers who gave so freely of their time, experience and knowledge to foster the development of youngish booksellers like myself. And when Kevin Johnson of Royal Books got choked up at the final dinner... That's real, man. I love all of these vessels of knowledge that find themselves cherished by someone and then passed on through our hands to be cherished by someone else. Touching a leaf printed by William Morris, a piece of handmade paper by Dard Hunter, a Grolier binding, the bookplate of some rich guy who possessed the mania. It stirs my soul.

Favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you've handled?

I have a few answers to this question. Back in March when I walked into the Washington fair, Lorne grabbed me and said, "I've got something to show you." He took me over to a dealer I wasn't familiar with, White Fox Rare Books, and I believe it was the proprietor Peter Blackman who placed a copy of an early Joseph Ishill publication, Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol in my hand. I had never encountered this particular title before. It was the first book that Ishill printed and included an introduction by the ribald Frank Harris, author of the Casanovaesque memoir, My Life and Loves. It was his copy, signed by him, and although it was the most money I'd ever paid for a book, I certainly wasn't driving back to Philadelphia without it. It's now the high spot of my own collection. I can't fail to mention browsing the shelves of Rosenbach's study at the Rosenbach Museum here in Philadelphia and touching the Bay Psalm book, a Shakespeare First Folio, the Eliot Bible, etc. For me those experiences personify what Virginia Woolf called the "perfection of the moment" in Orlando, and I try to experience as many singular moments of perfection with individual books as I can. I remember perusing the shelves of Barbara Farnsworth's beautiful shop in CT last summer and coming across a book on William Morris with private press operator and chronicler Will Ransom's library ticket in the back and a note that said it had been given to him by the typographer Frederick Goudy. Who in their right mind saw that before me and left it on the shelf for me to buy?? God bless 'em. Likewise, I recently purchased a book from the inestimable Eugene Povirk of Southpaw Books on anarchism with the bookplate of Leon Malmed. Leon who? Leon Malmed! An Albany delicatessen owner who had an affair with Emma Goldman. Gold, man. This trade offers up pure gold.

What do you personally collect?

I'm an unapologetic and inveterate collector, which means I'll probably never be a great dealer. I have what is probably the largest private collection of Oriole Press titles, the imprint of the anarchist and indefatigable printer, Joseph Ishill. I'm currently working on a biography of the man and I get to pretend like I'm buying all of his work for "research" not for the intoxicating fetishistic qualities they possess. I collect books by and about William Morris (although I only have one Kelmscott), and a little Ruskin too; books by and about back-to-the-land pioneers Scott and Helen Nearing; I have a large collection of 19th and 20th century books on anarchism; I have nearly every book published by graphic designers and publisher, Fuel Publishing. I think I can personally blame you, Nate, for my growing collection of Scarlet Imprint and Three Hands Press titles; I collect books that have to do with the straight edge subculture; and of course books on books.

I hear that you have many tattoos.  Any bookish ones?

My tattoos are diaristic and represent certain time periods, ideologies, or artistic interests. I have just begun a bibliophilic tattoo phase, which I imagine will probably last for the next couple of years. I've started documenting the Philadelphia-area authors who I love the most with their portraits on my thigh: right now I have Poe, Whitman, and a third little known writer named George Lippard is in the works.

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Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book trade?

Maybe it's my relative youth (read naivete) or my lack of years in the trade, but I've never bought into the doomsday predictions of other dealers or pundits. The physical book is not going away; our history and culture will never be solely represented by 1s and 0s. As an anarchist and a wanna be bookseller I have to be an optimist. As a semi-Luddite I have the luxury of despising much of the technological advances that have unfortunately enabled the trade to move forward (this goes for my beloved libraries too), and I accept its role in our world. But I'll never take a PDF of the latest Philip Pirages catalog to the bathroom or enjoy the sublimity of a grassy field with a Kindle, and I'd venture to guess that there's a lot of other folks who feel the same. We're selling more books at Andalusia than we've ever sold. I'm not saying that the trade hasn't had to subscribe to some kind of Darwinian adaptability, but so what? We are the purveyors of history, culture and art, and there will always be a role for us. I sat at CABS and felt the palpable excitement that pervaded the classes, the field trips, and the interactions. The CABS '12 Picnic Table Crew is crushing it: Heather O'Donnell; Philipp Penka; Jason Rovito; Travis Low; Seth Glick; Lesley Rains; Erin Barry-Dutro. Come on.  

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

We're not presenting at any upcoming fairs, but Dave and I are hard at work on an erotica catalog and I'm working on one of my own material called "White Power, Black Power, and Power to the People." And look for a specially-designed catalog on Satan later this year. Hit me up at david@thenadalusiabookman.com if you want to receive any of these catalogs when they're out. 

Shout outs to The Church of the Brotherhood of the Paradise Children, Lorne Bair, mentor and colleague, Dave Miller, CABS crew, god (Odin), the ALF, Nicholas Basbanes, who I've never met but who writes so inspiringly about books, Voltairine de Cleyre, and you for the interview on this wonderful, invaluable blog.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Joe Fay, manager of the rare books department for Heritage Auctions in Texas.

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How did you get started in rare books?

I've visited a bookstore at least once a week since I was 11 years old. There is a chain of used bookstores founded in the Dallas area called Half Price Books. There were two in my childhood hometown of Arlington, Texas. Between HPB, the little paperback shop down the street from my house, and the school library, my interest in books started young. My interest in rare books and manuscripts, however, began while in college in Austin, specifically the day when I learned that I could go to the Harry Ransom Center and hold in my hands the original manuscript for a Sherlock Holmes story ("A Scandal in Bohemia"). I couldn't believe that I could just walk in the building, show them an ID, and get to read what, to me, is a priceless artifact of literary history. Later, while working at Half Price Books just after college, I ran into the Nicholas Basbanes books, the books about rare books by the Goldstones, the Rosenbach biography, and many other books-about-books in that vein. These tales of the rare book trade, the landmark auctions, and the people who inhabited this world further stoked an interest in working in the field of rare books. Then, after working a "real job" for awhile in medical informatics (yeah, it's as exciting as it sounds), an opportunity came open at Heritage for an entry-level position in the Americana department. I jumped at the chance to work with objects of all types that ran the gamut of American history. Six or eight months later, my current boss, James Gannon migrated to Heritage Auctions from the recently-closed (and now revamped) Heritage Book Shop in Los Angeles. I volunteered to be his lieutenant, and the rare books department at Heritage Auctions was born.

What is your role at Heritage? Do you have a particular specialty?

I currently serve as the manager of, and one of the consignment directors for, the rare books department. I solicit consignments of rare books for our catalogs and also our weekly Internet auctions. On top of that, I manage our catalog production, serve as the main customer service contact for our department, and generally do whatever is necessary, including cataloging books for the main sales once the deadline has passed. I also handle appraisals, purchase the occasional collection for re-sell at auction, and travel all over the country securing consignments, and attending book fairs and appraisal fairs.

As an auctioneer, it really doesn't pay to specialize. We see such a broad spectrum of material in printed books and manuscripts of all eras, maps, prints, original art, and more that we have to be generalists. I especially enjoy handling handpress period books and early American imprints, and have been able to learn more deeply about each from classes at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. My particular personal interests are in genre fiction from the Romantic period to the present, including science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and most importantly, horror: Polidori and Shelley; the Sherlock Holmes books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Arkham House imprints; H. P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. And then all of the side roads, back alleys and dark, deserted streets that fork off from those subjects.

What do you love about book auction events, or more broadly, the book auction business?
 
There are many things to love about the book auction business. First, I'm lucky enough to work with books each day. I get to travel quite a bit, too. Also, as some of the other book dealers who've appeared in this series have said (and it holds true for the auction business), I just never know what I'm going to see next, what's going to come across my desk each day, what kind of collection will be revealed in the next phone call, or what that Excel file attached to the next email will contain. No two days are remotely alike. Further, I generally just love talking about books with collectors and dealers, finding out what someone collects and trying to fill vacancies for them in their holdings. I often get to do this once the catalog is completed, and we start "selling the sale." Lastly, there's an excitement to auction day that is almost electric, at times. Sitting in the room last week in New York when the Francis Crick Nobel Prize medal sold for over $2 million, my hands were shaking as the increments climbed. Then, when the hammer fell, I felt my heart start again as the applause rolled through the crowd. We also set two world records at auction last week, one for an unsigned first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and one for an inscribed copy of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (inscribed to W. W. Jacobs, author of "The Monkey's Paw"). Those are the kinds of results I'll remember fondly even decades from now.

Favorite rare book that you've handled?

On a personal level, my single favorite book that I've handled at Heritage was the first book Stephen King ever signed, an advance proof copy of Carrie that King inscribed to his former college roommate, Phil "Flip" Thompson. It sold last year at our New York auction for $11,250. The inscription reads, "For Flip and Karen - two of the best there are - and I mean that - by the way, this is the first book I've signed in my life - it's kind of fun. All the best, no matter what. Stephen King February 4, 1974." Are you kidding me!? I'm a nostalgic fool, and sometimes it seems like Stephen King WAS my childhood. His books, and the films made from them, permeated the culture when I was growing up, and to hold the first book he ever signed was a religious moment for me.
 
What do you personally collect?

It's changed over the years. At some point in the past, I've collected baseball cards, comic books, bookmarks, Star Wars toys, foam fingers from sporting events, chess sets, craft beer, movies, movie posters, silk-screened music posters, and Mr. Potato Heads. I still collect movie posters (generally genre movies and anything printed in the early days for the original Alamo Drafthouse), art made by my kids (which all but wallpapers the house and I LOVE it!), and a friend of mine recently introduced me to the wonderful world of mid-century furniture. I think I've finally settled on a few areas of book collecting, namely books about books, Lovecraft, Bradbury and King, scholarly works regarding the Sherlock Holmes stories, McSweeney's publications, and any imprints, posters or ephemera published by the Harry Ransom Center (or the Humanities Research Center as it was once known).

I have a grand dream that someday I'll have the time and wherewithal to collect together in one place every single printed and recorded expression of horror from the 1980s: novels, story collections, periodicals, posters, videos, ephemera, you name it. But I probably won't live that long, make nearly enough money, or be able to stretch my wife's patience that far.

Thoughts on the present and future of book auctions?

First of all, the "book" is here to stay. Period. And I'll stand up and fight (with words, of course) anyone who says differently. Every generation sounds the death knell of the book, and it ain't happened yet. Book auctions are only going to get better, I think. With the Internet and tools like the Heritage online bidding platform, Heritage Live!, anyone, anywhere, at any time of day or night can bid from his or her home, office, or wherever he or she can catch a wireless signal. As technology like this helps more people grow comfortable with bidding at auction, I think you'll see it become an even bigger and more muscular vehicle for transmitting books directly to collectors and institutions.

Any upcoming auctions you're particularly excited about?

I'm always excited about our next sale, which is October 10-11 in Beverly Hills. You can see it develop at www.ha.com/6100. It is early yet, but we're working on some fantastic single items and collections for that catalog. Personally, I'm also always interested in the Illustration Art auctions (next one in July) and Movie Posters (also July, but I pay most attention to their weekly Internet auctions). Needless to say, there's always something afoot at Heritage.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Zoltan Földvári, proprietor of Földvári Antikvárium in Budapest.

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?

ZF: I was always interested in avant-garde art and I started to collect Hungarian avant-garde books when I was 14.

NP: When did you open Földvári Antikarium and what do you specialize in?

ZF: Beside collecting I was also trading and for that reason I founded Földvári Books in 2007. First I was specialized in avant-garde, literature and philosophy, later the fields has been broadened so now I also trade with books and manuscripts from the 16th to the 20th century in various fields.

NP: Could you tell us about the rare book trade in Hungary? What's it like?

ZF: In Hungary most of the antiquarian book stores are not specialized in any field and they are both trading with rare and used books.

NP: Do you source most of your books within Hungary or do you travel abroad to find books?

ZF: I buy books in Hungary from collectors, and I also travel in Europe, America, and Asia to find books.

NP: What's your favorite rare book that you've handled?

ZF: Always the recent acquisition is my favorite.

NP: What do you personally collect?

ZF: It is not easy to create the harmony between collecting and trading, but I'm working on this and continued to collect rare avant-garde editions.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

ZF: There will only be market for scarce and important books.

NP: Any catalogues / fairs coming up?

ZF: I have participated at the California Antiquarian Book Fair in February. The next fairs in 2013 are Paris and London.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Alex Obercian of James Cummins Bookseller in New York City.  

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?

AO: To pay the rent, I took a job in the rare book department at the Strand in New York. I had been an electrician and had some plan to study architecture. I quickly changed course. The Strand was a wonderful place to learn about the trade - every day I was faced with an onslaught of books to catalogue and price. About this time, I had a friend who worked for a big shot bookman, and it was through this dealer's catalogues that I first learned something of what was possible at the upper end of the trade. It was time to move on, so I petitioned Jim Cummins (also a big shot) for a job, and he found some room for me.  

NP: What is your role at James Cummins?

AO: I share the basic bookselling duties of buying, cataloging, pricing, and selling with the other fellows in the shop - Tim Johns, Henry Wessells, and Jim himself. We all pitch in and pack books and mind the shop, as well. I also work with Jim's son, James, on website design and other projects peripheral to the books themselves. As for the books, I tend to handle the fine bindings, photography, and gastronomy, but I'm in no way limited to those areas. Much of my time is taken up with the production of print catalogues. We put out about 6 full-color, fully-illustrated catalogues a year, and I do all the photography and layout and design. The catalogues look sharp and they sell books - I think of them as my particular contribution to James Cummins Bookseller.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

AO: Well the easy answer is, I love the books, and I love, or at least like, the people who sell them. I imagine every community bound by a trade learns to muster a bit of congratulatory self-love for its members. But I doubt that people who sell tractor parts feel the same way about what they're pushing.    

NP: Favorite rare book that you've handled?

AO: This is a fairly well-known book that we were fortunate to own for a time -- a copy of a 17th century ferrier manual, The Complete Horse-Man, owned by Nathaniel Hawthorne since a child and later presented to Herman Melville as a birthday present. Hawthorne met Melville on the road in Massachusetts one summer day in 1851 (the year Melville was writing Moby-Dick) and the two went back to Hawthorne's farm to spend the night smoking cigars and talking. They exchanged books that evening -- Hawthorne must have thought a book on the care of horses would be useful to Melville on his farm. The dedication leaf contains both authors' signatures, probably the only extant piece of paper so distinguished. 

NP: What do you personally collect?

AO: Cocktail manuals, books and photographs on butchery and meat, wanted posters and rap sheets with real photographs, Agnes Repplier first editions, Alvin Lustig dust-jackets. This list sounds willfully eclectic, but everything on it is rooted in some personal interest. 

NP: Thoughts on the future of the rare book trade?

AO: I'm optimistic that there will be enough new collectors in the coming decades to sustain the trade. So what if everyone is reading Dan Brown on a Kindle? Rare books have never had mass appeal. A lot of the gripes I hear are variations on the "good-old-days" argument --- that there was a lost golden age of extraordinary books and easy money. I see plenty of younger people interested in rare books, printing, typography, binding, book arts, and so on. It only takes a relatively small number of intelligent, modestly wealthy individuals who would rather develop a taste for rare books than waste their time speculating on contemporary art for the trade to continue to thrive. That said, there has been a definite shift in the trade towards the high-end and the unique object. Internet listing sites have created transparency in the market and the designation of rarity, and have made it harder for the dealer of general used stock to survive. Something Bill Reese said in a talk at the Grolier Club a few years ago has stuck with me -- when he puts a book online, he wants it to be "the best copy, the only copy, or the cheapest copy." When a collector is faced with 20 mediocre copies of the same book online, what's the rush in buying one today? But a copy of a book given by Hawthorne to Melville? Go find me another one. 

NP: Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

AO: In April we'll be at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, which is the highlight of the bookselling season. I'm currently working on a catalogue of new arrivals and a catalogue of sporting books for the the spring. They'll be available to all on our website.
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Travis Low of Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City.  (We also profiled Kent Tschanz of the same shop earlier in the series).

BYT_travislow_kensandersrarebooks_web-res.jpgNP: What is your role at Ken Sanders?

TL: I get to wear a few different hats here: I manage online orders and inventory, I create and upload book images, I order new books and process special orders for customers, I catalogue some books, I'm beginning to venture into buying used books. Also, we run an open shop, so I help customers find books, answer phones, and work the cash wrap.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

TL: In 2008-2009 I was directing a film called "The Sonosopher: Alex Caldiero in Life...in Sound" which is an experimental documentary on the writer/performance poet, Alex Caldiero, who happens to be a good friend of Ken Sanders. Ken appears in that film, so I got to know him a little bit that way. I had also been a regular store customer for some time, but didn't know very much about the rare book world. One day I was shopping here and casually asked if there were any open positions. As luck would have it, a spot had opened up just a few days earlier and I immediately began working as a part-time shipping clerk. I always had a love for books and printed material, so the wealth of experience and stock that circulates here had my undivided attention. As I learned more about the trade, I began taking on more responsibilities as they came up. I have also continued to work on documentary films. I am currently working on a series of short documentary films called the Lost & Found Series. Someday I'll do a documentary on a story from the rare book world, I'm just not sure which one to follow yet (ideas welcome).

NP: What's your favorite rare book that you've handled?

TL: This is a difficult question because I see interesting material on a daily basis. A recent favorite of mine is a signed first edition copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, rebound by Stikeman in two beautiful volumes. I'm a sucker for nicely designed copies of modern first editions and fine illustrated editions of the classics. The items that we deal with from local history are always fascinating as well. My current favorite thing that I've personally purchased for my own collection is a six volume reprint set of William Blake's Complete Illuminated Books (Princeton University Press)...for what I can personally afford, the reproductions are excellent -- and it is a great way to read William Blake!

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

TL: Handling and researching the books. More than anything, I love it when an exciting new collection comes in. Maybe it is something that you already know and love, maybe it is something that you know almost nothing about. Either way, it is an exciting learning opportunity. We recently received a great Lafcadio Hearn collection. I had previously known of Hearn's work only by way of a brilliant Japanese film adaptation of Hearn's book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (Masaki Kobayashi's 1964 film, Kwaidan). What I discovered in that collection is an incredibly rich, diverse, and beautiful body of work from a unique genius of the late 19th century.

NP: What do you personally collect?

TL: I am a generalist, so I read and collect anything that I find curious or interesting that fits into my budget. My interests are pretty broad and integrated. I am particularly interested in Film, Philosophy, Literature, Poetry, Illustrated Books, Art, and Photography. I'm becoming increasingly interested in Utah and The West as I interact with that material on a daily basis here at Ken Sanders Rare Books.

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?

TL: It is a hard question to answer. I do plan on working in the trade long-term, and I love working in Ken's shop. There are very few things that I enjoy as much as browsing in an open shop, and I love the kind of culture that can form around open shops, but I don't know if I would have the guts to open a shop myself. If I were ever to do my own thing, it would probably be out of an office with sufficient space to organize and conduct trade online, by phone, by mail, and on the road (book scouting, book fairs, etc.).

NP: Thoughts on the future of the trade?

TL: Excited. I think there are many interesting new opportunities for booksellers in 'the information age'. Having said that, I also believe it is becoming increasingly important for young booksellers to understand the history of the trade and to engage with experienced individuals and institutions. I have been fortunate enough to benefit from the mentorship of Ken Sanders, a seasoned veteran who has been at this for 40+ years. I was also fortunate to have attended the 2012 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar where I benefitted from a diverse and immensely knowledgeable group of professionals that are actively engaged in the antiquarian book trade. Personally, I love the printed and bound word and image. For me, digital technology is great in that it provides new ways of researching and circulating that physical material. I know a lot of folks my age and younger who seem to understand and share that perspective, so I am very optimistic.

NP: Any upcoming fairs / catalogues for Ken Sanders?

TL: Yes:

Catalogues

We have recently released the following catalogues:

Ken Sanders Rare Books Catalogue #45 (PDF file)

The Collective Returns (The Collective Catalogue #2) (PDF file)
(A cooperative effort by 6 ABAA booksellers, The Collective Returns features highlights of each firm's offerings at the coming February San Francisco International Antiquarian Bookfair.)

We are also working on Ken Sanders Rare Books Catalogue #46 which will likely contain new acquisitions of books, maps, art, photographs, and prints in our favorite categories of Utah & The Mormons, Western Americana, and Literature. I am working on another catalogue of approximately fifty items comprised of a handful of old gems as well as some new acquisitions which I am personally fond of. In addition to these catalogues, we often issue smaller lists of new and noteworthy items or collections.

Fairs

We will be exhibiting at the following upcoming book fairs:

-The Santa Monica Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo and Paper Fair: February 9-10, 2012 (Santa Monica, CA)

-The California International Antiquarian Book Fair: February 15-17 (San Francisco, CA)

-The New York Antiquarian Book Fair: April 12-14, 2012 (New York City, NY)

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Joseph Mandelbaum, proprietor of The Royal Mandelbaums in New York City.

Joseph_Headshot (1).jpgNP: How did you get started in rare books?

JM: I was first made aware of the significance of First Editions when I was a student at Antioch University in Seattle. I was very close to the Director at the Center for Teaching and Learning, Anne Maxham, and I would be in her office on a near-constant basis telling her about this and that amazing sentence I found. One day, out of the clear blue sky, she told me that whenever I buy a book, I should always buy a First Edition. I believe her friend had just lost her job and had sold her collection of First Editions to get back on her feet. That was the first time I equated books with monetary value. When I moved back to New York City, I got a job at Left Bank Books in the West Village. It goes without saying that I learned what it takes to run a book business there. I loved the experience; I catalogued their stock, learned about condition, and picked the brains of the different book collectors and scouts that made up the clientele. The owner of the shop, Kim Herzinger, is a collector himself, as well as a literary professor and book dealer, so in one conversation with him, I was able to get all three perspectives. 

NP: When did you open The Royal Mandelbaums and what do you specialize in?

JM: I have been personally selling books through ABE for just over a year now. We launched The Royal Mandelbaums website two months ago. We specialize in Modern Literature, with a focus on Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Signed Books. We will and do reach outside of our specialty genre's for specific clients and their requests, but we do not keep a stock or actively buy anything that isn't Literature. 

NP: The name is a nod to the Royal Tenenbaums, right?  What is your favorite Wes Anderson movie?

JM: I have to admit that we didn't come up with the name, or the nod, for that matter. Our good friend Olivia Wolfe - she is one of two owners of the Manhattan boutique, American Two Shot - came up with it on a whim. American Two Shot is our only brick-and-mortar retailer, and we kicked off the summer with a book fair. Olivia was making limited-edition bookmarks and realized we were without a name for the fair. Olivia was like, "I'll just write The Royal Mandelbaums." In short, the name simply stuck. We have to admit one more thing - we have never actually seen The Royal Tenenbaums! My favorite Wes Anderson movie, though, is "The Darjeeling Limited." I love the look of the hotel room that Jason Schwartzman's character lives in.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

JM: I really love everything about the book trade, and most of all, I enjoy being in this business. I love explaining the importance of books and collecting - at any price point, I might add - because it is often the first time someone realizes that something they love also has, in some instances, enormous monetary value. I love the process of scouting for books. There is this few-second rush of spotting a title I desire, flipping through to the Copyright page, seeing that it's a First, turning to the Title Page, and seeing if there is a Signature or Inscription, and finally seeing who blurbed this book in my hands. Putting the purchase into the context of my collection is just a joyous experience. 

NP: What is your favorite rare book (or ephemera) that you've handled?  

JM: Personally, I am a huge James Baldwin fan. I was reading Sol Stein and James Baldwin's co-written book "Native Sons" and, in that memoir, Sol Stein writes about being on the student writing staff of his High School journal, along with - this still amazes me - his classmates James Baldwin and Richard Avedon. They all attended DeWitt-Clinton High School in the Bronx, at the same time, no less. I was so intrigued by the anecdotes he was recounting about those days. I went in to work the next day, and was talking about the stories I had just read. I was told that (my now dear friend) Eric had just dropped off an original copy of the exact High School journal I was referring to. I ran to see it, and there it was, the journal called Magpie Review. In its Table of Contents was writing by Richard Avedon and a short story and poem written by James Baldwin. I purchased it right away for my own personal collection! I think it was Baldwin's first published story. As a side note, I learned then that Ralph Lauren and Burt Lancaster were also graduates of DeWitt-Clinton High School.

NP: What do you personally collect?

JM: I collect books by Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin. My Fiance and I also have an extensive magazine collection.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

JM: The future of the book trade - I hesitate to say "the future" as I only think in the present - is fundamentally about added value and curation. By added value, I am really talking about education; educating young collectors on the importance of the library and the importance of First Editions. When I say added value, I am also implying that people are done with basic descriptions and publication information and condition, although all of those things are critical to the business, and always will be. People now want to know the context and provenance of books. What was the environment of the world that the author was in when he wrote this book? Who was the author? What were his biases, and who were his fans? The future is in Association Copies, Inscriptions; we will likely see a new found importance regarding Advance Reader's Copies. Books that include press materials and issue points play a huge roll in my sales, absolutely. 

NP: Any upcoming book fairs or catalogues?

JM: We are planning another book fair at American Two Shot. We are also working with an excellent creative team on a BookLook, a twist, so to speak, on a fashion brand's LookBook. It will be our version of a catalogue; heavy on editorial, the books photographed in a new context. For this project, we will be staying away from books-on-shelves or the traditional still-life-on-white-background. We love both of those for their individual purposes but it isn't the story we are interested in telling. 


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Simon Patterson, proprietor of Hyraxia Books in Leeds, England.

simonpatterson.jpgNP: When did you open Hyraxia and what do you specialize in?

SP: Hyraxia, as a bookshop, officially opened in 2010. I'd been buying and selling for about a decade prior to this but more as a collector as our stock (or collection as it was then) was in storage which made it tricky to sell. My wife and I moved house in 2010 partly to have a room for our books and she started working on the business too pretty much straight away. She does most of the marketing and admin work, and I do most of the client contact and buying. We have a two-year-old and three-year-old, so it's been a pretty hectic couple of years.

We sell modern first edition fiction primarily, specialising in speculative fiction. We're gradually increasing our stock of science fiction, fantasy, horror and weird fiction. It's what I'm most familiar with. Saying that, a good portion of our stock is in regular fiction, and it's just as exciting getting a rare Evelyn Waugh in stock as it is getting a Tolkien - well not as exciting, but exciting still! We're also buying and selling fine press books and photobooks, though that's something we're just branching out into and the dynamics are slightly different, so it's pretty slow.
 
NP: You also are a partner in a children's bookshop, is that right?

SP: Yep, though that's really just in the embryonic stage at the moment. We've got the site, a small stock and a handful of ideas. Building the Hyraxia brand takes enough time at the moment, never mind building a secondary brand. But we do keep on top of it and do intend to progress it over the next five or ten years.
 
NP: How did you get started in rare books?

SP: I used to read a lot of fiction as a young child, but as I grew up I was encouraged more towards educational books. I read very little fiction between the ages of seven and 21. I remember clearly the first day of my first job as a computer programmer after I'd finished university. I was on the bus with a textbook and realised that I didn't need to read them any more. That lunch I went out and bought Salem's Lot by Stephen King in paperback. I was immediately pulled back into the world of fiction and haven't read a textbook since. A short while later I was looking for a copy of The Regulators again by Stephen King, I found a US first edition and bought it for a couple of quid. I barely knew what a first edition was at this point. When it arrived I thought it was a lovely object to hold, the cover was striking and the reading experience was quite different. I read it and sold it for twice what I'd paid for it. I used that money to buy a couple of other books, reading them and selling them on for more. Eventually, I found myself buying more than I could read but not spending any more. Moving forward a decade I found myself with a sizeable collection which formed the basis of our stock. The majority of that collection has since sold, and those that haven't are annoying me a little. I'm not sure how I made the transition to a dealer from a collector, I feel possessed.
 
NP: What is your favorite rare book (or etc) that you've handled?

SP: It has to be Ringworld by Larry Niven, it's not the scarcest or most-valuable book we've had but it is quite important to me. At the first book fair I attended (A PBFA fair in York, UK) I found a copy of Ringworld in the lovely yellow Gollancz wrapper. I had little idea of value at the time but saw it had a price tag of something like £2000. Along with Neuromancer, another yellow Gollancz book with a similar price tag, it just stood out as something very important and desirable. It was far too expensive for me, but stood out as a book I would want more than any other. As a dealer though, it was a feasible purchase and when my own copy arrived I had it on display in the book room for a good six months before reluctantly listing it. It was like a rite of passage. It sold a couple of months ago and I was a little sad - I put three return address labels on it.
 
NP: What do you personally collect?
 
SP: Haruki Murakami - signed books, limited editions and ephemera. As a collector I couldn't justify spending too much on a single book, and bought plenty of books that were only worth say £10 or so. When it came to making the transition to a dealer I found it easy to sell books that I found highly desirable, simply because I treated them as stock and they were very common. Murakami was different though as I had some uncommon items that I bought around the publication date, so the attachment was already there and there was the thought of appreciation in value. I still haven't made them available for sale but will this year - probably at prices that will stop them from selling too soon! Ask me the same question next year, and if I've been brave, I'll say that I collect nothing. I still think I collect Philip K. Dick too, but my wife reminds me that I don't and puts them on sale.
 
NP: What do you love about the book trade?

SP: The books. Sounds obvious, but I've come in from the collector angle, so getting lovely, scarce and often expensive books in stock is still a buzz. I admit that they're not as special as when I would buy for my collection but as my business has grown I find books in my possession that I would never have dreamt of. I'm very picky when it comes to stock. I mean, I won't turn down a bargain just because it has a chip in the jacket or fading to the spine but there's a good chance I'll dislike it and make it sit on the naughty shelf. There are a handful of books that I need to own before I can be satisfied with the business. Those books keep changing as I get them in stock, so I know I'll never get that closure, but I guess that's part of the fun. 

It's also a fairly trusting trade. I like the way that dealers will send you a book to have a look at, and you can be comfortable with what you receive knowing that it's not going to be a problem to return it. I actually like it when I have a book at £100 and a dealer hands me a cheque for less than that. It sounds ridiculous, but I like the implicit trade discount - it gives the deal a much friendlier feel to it. It's an honourable trade, and a reputation for honesty is everything. I'm getting to know people in the trade a lot better, other dealers and collectors. I don't know that many people yet, but pretty much everyone I'm getting to know I've found very approachable and friendly. They're more like colleagues than anything else.

I love telling people I'm a rare bookseller, it's something I'm proud of. It's something I'll be happy to look back on a life of.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

SP: Coming into the trade within the last few years means that I haven't seen things change. All the doom I hear of the Internet ruining the trade doesn't ring true with me. The way I see it is that the supply of rare books stays pretty much the same with minor fluctuations (authors go out of fashion, authors come into fashion) and the demand stays pretty much the same (the number of collectors and their combined buying power is pretty flat). What needs to be flexible is a seller's business model, constant reinvention.

I can see the number of printed books dropping dramatically over the coming decades, but to me this implies that the supply of new collectables will be lower. I'd like to see small presses having an increasingly important role to play. Publishers like the Tartarus Press, Subterranean Press and PS Publishing are producing books that are not only for reading, but are for collecting.

What I think we need to do as sellers is focus on bringing new collectors into the marketplace and this means being accessible and responsive, pulling them away from sites like eBay and offering them a preferable and more reliable alternative. I'm 100% certain though that the trade will persist. 
 
NP: Any upcoming fairs / catalogues?

SP: We intend on doing our first catalogue this year, it will be an electronic version though I imagine. We're also doing a number of PBFA fairs in the UK, the York fairs, Harrogate, A couple in London and hopefully some others as the year progresses (and if we can get a babysitter!)

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Seth Glick of Caliban Books in Pittsburgh.

sethglick.jpg
NP: How did you get started in rare books?

SG: I found my job through craigslist. Instead of sending a resume, I wrote a smart-ass paragraph about myself, and included the last 3 books I had read. John Schulman, the owner of Caliban, apparently thought I was an endearing smart-ass, and after an interview he offered me a job as cataloger.

NP: What is your role at Caliban?

SG: Currently, I'm the manager of our online department, which operates out of The Warehouse. My average day includes cataloging, answering customer inquiries over email and phone, scanning and photographing books. I oversee sales on our website and the mega-sites we list on. I also schlep plenty of books - boxes and boxes of books.

NP: What is your favorite rare book that you've handled?

SG: A few years ago we sold a photo of F. Scott Fitzgerald in drag from a Triangle Club production. It was inscribed by Fitzgerald, "Lovingly, Geraldine." Currently for sale we have a 1759 bound volume of The Scots Magazine that has the first published map of Pittsburgh so-called; it's basically 5 lines showing the rivers and a few forts, but it's pretty cool.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

SG: My favorite part is just handling the books. Feeling the different bindings, looking at the type, flipping through the pages. I also love the spell that books cast on people, and how discernable this trance can be. Without fail, whenever someone walks in The Warehouse for the first time they stand in the doorway, look at the stacks of books and gasp like they're looking at the Grand Canyon. It's nice to be a part of that.

NP: What do you personally collect?

SG: I always keep an eye out for a few things: books by Aldous Huxley, especially his writings on psychedelic drugs, and Lenny Bruce material. Also, a few years ago a coworker turned me on to the dust jackets of Alvin Lustig, specifically his designs for New Directions' New Classics series - I have about a third of those. Looking for books and ephemera on 80's-90's hip-hop is going to be my next project.

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?

SG: That's a tough one. I certainly hope to be active in the bookselling community for a long time, but I don't think that a brick and mortar is in my future. Caliban has a storefront where I work occasionally and I enjoy the rhythm of working behind a counter, watching customers come in and browse. But operating an open shop is a challenge these days. Pittsburgh is a relatively large city, and we can barely sustain five physical bookstores. If I go on my own, it would be solely online.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

SG: I think we have no option but to keep on finding better, rarer, more interesting material, and finding new and exciting ways to promote and package it. Outstanding books will sell themselves; we may just have to try harder at convincing the public on why they would want to start collecting antiquarian books. It's an exciting time to be an online business. We've mailed books to people a mile away, and to people in over 100 countries. We have an enormous base of potential customers, we just need them to notice us.

NP: Any upcoming fairs / catalogues for Caliban?

SG: We're still working on getting a catalog out there. In the last few months I've seen a lot of exciting catalogs, both in print and .pdfs -- they're starting to look like works of art. We do three fairs a year: NY, Boston and San Francisco/LA. We're looking into trying out some of the smaller, regional ones as well.
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Stefania Pandakovic, a junior specialist in the books and manuscripts department at Christie's in London.

Stefaniac Pandakovic.jpgNP: What is your role at Christie's?

SP: I am a Junior Specialist in the Books and Manuscripts department; my speciality is printed books, with a particular eye on Italian pieces, as well as Italian clients. I often organize Valuation Days in Milan and Rome where collectors bring their books to be valued. One of the things I enjoy the most about my job is the chance to combine the study of the books with the opportunity to meet interesting collectors from different backgrounds and visit amazing places and libraries.
 
NP: How did you get started in rare books?

SP: As I always tell people it was the books that called me, not the other way around. I had just started my MA in Venice on Italian XVI century paintings when I received a call from Sotheby's Milan asking me to do an internship in their Books, Drawings and Prints department. I will always remember my first day of work: everyone was called into a meeting and I was left in the office with a pile of what I remember calling dusty books to collate. At that time I was even unaware of the meaning of the word collating, but I was keen to make a first move into the business. I got home that evening and decided I never wanted to work with books again. A few years later I was working full time in the London Books and Manuscript department of Christie's.... something must have changed my mind!
 
NP: What is your favourite rare book that you've handled?

SP: Difficult to say; I love XVI century Italian books, especially the ones with engravings of architecture, science and technology. I also enjoy the books that had a huge impact in the history of the world: Dante, Galileo, Darwin, Kafka, Freud - just to mention a few coming up for sale in the next few days.
I did fall in love with a collection of fantastic books from the Pillone Library in Belluno last year. Seeing the fore-edges painted by Cesare Vecellio, cousin of my favourite artist Tiziano, was special: it created a bridge between my passion for Italian paintings and my knowledge of books.
 
NP: What do you personally collect?

SP: I personally collect contemporary art, mainly prints: it all started with a Chinese sculpture I bought in Shanghai some years ago. I am now a very proud owner of a Michelangelo Pistoletto and a [very] small Gerhard Richter. I have some first editions too and I recently bought three lovely XVIII century maps of Venice and Corfu. As you may well know apartments in London are very small and I will soon have to find another hobby, or a larger place.
 
NP: What do you love about working for an auction house?

SP: The main thing I love about Christie's is that you get to see the best art objects in the world. In my case, I feel proud to handle and study so many nice books every day. I also love the thrill of the auction and the various different tasks I get to work on during the year: business getting, researching, cataloguing, selling etc.
 
NP: Any thoughts to share on the future of rare books and auction houses?

SP: Things change very rapidly in current times and the main auction houses have to move quickly to follow the trends. During the last 4 years, since I joined Christie's, the strategies have changed, the market is different and the clients are looking for new things. It is very important to keep up with the fashions and the new technologies, I believe Christie's is doing it very well by offering a number of new tools such as the online auctions and the Ipad applications. If we manage to balance well between being innovative and maintaining the traditions (client service and competence) I think there will be successful times ahead besides the general crisis the world's facing right now.

The same could be said for the rare books market: collectors are probably some of the most conservative in the art market, but the ability to involve new potential buyers is what will eventually determine those who will succeed and those who won't. One of our personal most innovative achievements here in the Books Department was selling an Apple 1 in 2010! There is a lot of space for new ideas, we just have to find them and be the first to do so.
 
NP: Any upcoming auctions you're particularly excited about?

SP: Of course, there are two in particular: an amazing auction at Christie's King Street on November 21 where you can find some fantastic illuminated manuscripts and leaves, an amazing group of autograph letters and documents including a musical manuscript by Beethoven and an original typescript by Kafka. Among the printed books I catalogued there is a first edition of the Hypnerotomachia Polipjhili by Francesco Colonna (lot 101), a beautiful Dante from 1502 in a contemporary Venetian binding (lot 104), a great book on perspective that was only ever offered twice at auction (lot 112) and a Cellarius/Doppelmayer with fantastic contemporary hand-colouring (lot 139).

If you want an advice I would also suggest keeping an eye on our South Kensington auction. On offer there are some amazing London maps (lots 201-205), various Kirchers (lots 153-155, 197-199 and 238) and a collection of European avant-garde together with Catalan and South American literature (lots 308-384). And as I always say at the end of my emails: don't hesitate to contact me for any further assistance!


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Jonathan Kearns of Adrian Harrington in London. Jonathan also runs the Bibliodeviancy blog.

me1.jpg NP: How did you get started in rare books?

JK: I ended up in London as a vagrant after a stint in Eastern Europe as The Worst English Teacher on The Planet™ and got an emergency job in a bar frequented by drunken book-dealers in London's Chinatown. They decided I was overworked and underpaid as a barman and invited me to experience the same conditions in the book trade. I started out at Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross Road back when collectors used to queue round the block to get their hands on our latest stock and I was eagerly hanging on the coat-tails of some of the best, brightest and strangest in the British book trade. I knew nothing.

It was just before the internet really made an impact on books, much faster and more reckless than it is now, loads of deals done in pubs, half of what you bought might be sold before you got back to the shop in the van and people used to run down the aisles at book fairs as soon as they opened in search of treasure.
It was more Fear and Loathing road trip than Antiques Road Show. I fell in love with all of it and knew pretty quickly that it was something I could do, and probably the only thing I was ever going to do at all well.

I loved the adventure of crawling around in someone's basement rooting through tea-chests and at the end of it being able to stand in front of them and say "Now this, this is exceptionally rare and wonderful. This is a beautiful thing." To me it felt very much like I'd come home to a place I belonged. That sounds very cheesy I know, but I love the rare book trade and many of the people in it to distraction. It has given me opportunities I would never otherwise have had, and it has done so just because it could. It's a generous business.

After Any Amount of Books I went on to work for other firms including the late, much lamented Nigel Williams who was a wonderful man to be employed by, and eventually turned up on the doorstep of Adrian Harrington Rare Books. In a fit of probably misguided optimism they employed me.



NP: What is your role at Adrian Harrington?

JK: I buy, sell and catalogue as many books as I can get my hands on, I assemble and create our print catalogues, deal with customers, answer telephones and email queries and try and keep the website content up to date. In addition I run the Bibliodeviancy blog and other social networking, attend domestic and international book-fairs and I occasionally impress people by knowing something useful; very occasionally.

That probably sounds like a lot, but like many small firms we're more like a family than anything else, we all overlap and we all have our individual qualities and we all pick up the slack for each other. I have a personal specialty in weird and supernatural fiction, my colleague Jon Gilbert is probably the world's leading authority on Ian Fleming and Blair Cowl is happiest when immersed in alchemical treatises, Aleister Crowley and assorted grimoires. Pierre Lombardini is our shop manager and front of house with a personal predilection for travel books and antiquarian decorative colour plate volumes. We all do a lot. 



NP: What is your favorite rare book (or etc) that you've handled?

JK: So many favourites. Working for Adrian means I get to handle a lot of stuff I'm personally enthusiastic about, as well as things that are drop dead gorgeous or historically significant. There have been rare Galileo items and hand coloured treatises on comets and literary milestones in perfect dust-wrappers and those things are all awe-inspiring and wonderful. I read William Hope Hodgson's own annotated first edition of "The Boats of The Glen Carrig" on my lunch hour once; there was a previously unknown inscribed copy of Oscar Wilde's "Duchess of Padua" I got to work on; I bought the first ever appearance of John William Polidori's "The Vampyre." and recently ended up with Vanessa Bell's copy of Virginia Woolf's "Two Stories"; the first Hogarth Press publication. I won't forget any of those in a hurry.

In the first few months of being a book dealer I was sent to a tiny auction house in the middle of nowhere and, after I'd bid on the things I was instructed to, on a whim I put forty quid on a box of books I hadn't even looked through. Hidden at the bottom it contained a signed and annotated volume of poetry that had somehow made its way from T.S. Eliot's bookshelves to me. That's one of my favourites because it was more magic and luck than anything else, it's like the book chose me to go home with.

One day I'll get my hands on my own Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, oh yes I will.



NP: What do you personally collect?

JK: I accumulate books on gypsies, pirates and highwaymen and everything written by Mervyn Peake. In addition I'll grab anything on 15th century printers, early Gothic or John William Polidori. I also really like Georgette Heyer's Regency romances, histories of the Indian Mutiny, Angela Carter and various copies of Katherine Dunn's "Geek Love". So clearly I am to considered and intellectual book collecting what hyaenas are to picky eating.



NP: Do you hope to open your own shop someday?

JK: I'll be in the book trade for the rest of my life in one way or another. As I've said before Adrian Harrington is a very family based business. When I get told not to darken its door again, or not to come home until I've learned some manners then we'll see what happens.



NP: Any thoughts to share on the future of the book trade?

JK: Shameless, brazen, lustful optimism. As a trade the rare book field had to change. The change hasn't come as an accident of passing time, it has arrived because for the last decade or so certain levels of this business had turned into that joke about 3 antique dealers on a desert island with one chair and they're all doing very well thank-you. Some of the best booksellers I've ever encountered are just starting out and already making their presence felt; B&B Rare Books, Simon Beattie, Brooke Palmieri of Sokol. (Interviewer's note: Brooke is a regular contributor to this blog. All the names mentioned in this section have been profiled for this same series). They all have knowledge and commitment and boundless enthusiasm for their stock and customers. Ashley Wildes of BTC for example is actually made of pure enthusiasm...and possibly glitter.

As an example I just received Honey and Wax Books catalogue no.1 in the mail and it's lovely. Really beautifully presented and full of commitment to both books and customers. It's rare that it's actually exciting to receive a book catalogue; but you have a business that has been up and running for just over a year and is managed from someone's living room and it can produce something as nice as this? I think new dealers like these are the backbone of the modern rare book trade, they're the people who will be attracting new collectors and enthusiasts and putting rare books back on the mainstream cultural map.



NP: Any upcoming fairs / catalogues for Adrian Harrington?

JK: Loads; the more the merrier. We've got Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair on the 3rd-4th November, that's a really old school, wood panelling and tweed kind of fair, one of our favourites. Then I'll be in Boston later in the same month working hard. West Coast US fairs in February, followed by the always fabulous New York antiquarian fair in April. With any luck I'll get to go to Seattle later in the year, it's one of my favourite US fairs. I'm aiming for four catalogues next year, I usually end up with three because I have the organisational skills of a goldfish.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Heather O'Donnell, proprietor of Honey and Wax Booksellers in Brooklyn:

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?

 

HO: Growing up, I had a strong feeling for books, and poked around secondhand shops and used book sales whenever I could. One of the books on the Honey & Wax website dates from those days: I bought it when I was fifteen. (You'll have to guess which one.) As an English major at Columbia, I held lots of bookish jobs, including a formative summer at the Strand. In grad school, I worked as a curatorial assistant at the Beinecke Library. There I had my formal introduction to rare books and manuscripts: what they are, how they trade, how to handle and describe them properly. After Yale, I taught for several years at Princeton, but found that the academy and I were drifting quietly apart. In 2004, David Bauman offered me a position with Bauman Rare Books in New York. It was a great opportunity, and I took it.

NP: When did you open Honey & Wax and what do you specialize in?

HO: I started Honey & Wax in the fall of 2011, and launched the website, the following February. The first print catalogue mails this fall. I specialize in rare and unique copies of literary classics, with occasional forays into the arts. My favorite books are association copies: books presented by one writer to another, books from the libraries of interesting readers, books with a secret past.

NP: What is the origin of the name?

HO: A few years ago, at a book fair, I was leafing through a nineteenth-century English grammar, and came across the phrase "use books as bees use flowers." I was so taken with the line and all it suggested that I wrote it down. Later, when I was thinking of starting my own company, I came back to the idea of the social life of the printed book: the way that books bring writers and readers together, of course, but also the way that a special copy can forge a bond between giver and recipient, or connect generations of readers over time. How do bees use flowers? Together, they make honey and wax.

 

On a more prosaic note, the apostrophe in my name screws everything up online, so O'Donnell Rare Books was out.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book that you've handled?

HO: It's hard to choose just one. Two of my favorite books, recently sold, were an 1809 anthology of dramatic verse inscribed by the Shakespearean actress Sarah Siddons, who defined many of those speeches for English audiences, and a copy of Nightwood annotated and revised after publication by Djuna Barnes. In the fall catalog, I'm particularly fond of Walker Evans's copy of The Waste Land and George Gershwin's copy of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

NP: What do you personally collect?


HO: At this point, the only rare books I own are those that have been given to me as gifts, or inscribed to me personally: I try to channel my acquisitive impulses into my customers' collections. That said, some books I'll always buy. I love quirky editions of Henry James. Last year in Prague, I picked up a Communist-era Czech translation of Washington Square full of sexy expressionistic woodcuts: so wrong, and yet irresistible. I have two shelves of paperbacks designed by Edward Gorey when he was art editor at Anchor in the 1950s, and a small collection of vintage books on charm (theory and practice).

NP: You've worked in a variety of bookish and academic professions.  What do you love about working as a rare book dealer and how does it compare to the other fields you've worked in?

 

HO: For me, the revelation of working in the rare book trade has been how many people, in all walks of life, at every level of collecting, are pursuing a passionate reading life. In the academy, the unspoken assumption (and sometimes, the spoken one) is that the really serious reader writes about literature for a living. The book trade has given me a much broader and truer sense of what the well-read life can be.

NP: Any other thoughts to share on the book trade and its future?

 

HO: This is an exciting time for the trade, because the explosion of digital text has made everyone newly aware of the unique qualities of the printed book. Some people don't miss those qualities, but others do, and seek out printed books by choice. They don't necessarily call themselves collectors, but that's what they are, and they ask more from their books than just the presence of the text. Sometimes they want a classic first printing, or a copy inscribed by the author, but they might also be drawn to a striking vintage edition, or a copy with curious early marginalia, or an innovative artist's book. The truth is, when readers buy any printed books today - new or old, commonplace or rare - they're making a choice to collect in a way that was not true even five years ago. I think there's a real opportunity for dealers to meet those new collectors where they are and show them books they haven't seen.

 

NP: Tell us about the production of your first catalogue and how to obtain a copy.

 

HO: Because Honey & Wax is devoted to the social life of the book, I wanted to feature the books in the context of a real home, not floating in space. We shot the catalogue on a sweltering August day in Brooklyn, borrowing my friends' house and much of their stuff. My one regret is that I had intended to get a Kindle or Nook into one of the shots, to show the printed book and the e-reader coexisting in peace. I'd love to do that in future Honey & Wax catalogues, so that when readers page back through them, they can date each catalogue by the comparative obsolescence of the gadgetry. Books age better.

 

Eventually, the catalogue will be posted on the website, and available as a PDF. Readers who prefer a hard copy can write info@honeyandwaxbooks.com.



Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Laura Massey, an American working for Peter Harrington in London:

Laura4.jpgNP: What is your role at Peter Harrington?

LM: I started as the general cataloguer in 2009, and my job quickly expanded to include a variety of other responsibilities. I'm particularly interested in using the internet to make rare materials accessible and interesting to those who aren't specialists, which is why I started our blog and Twitter feed. I also love science, and my main goal is to specialise in that direction. I'm in the process of compiling my first catalogue, a selection of important 20th-century science books with a strong focus on a favourite subject-nuclear physics. I've always been interested in the ways that science and medicine are presented to the public, and I think that there's room in the book world for us to improve the ways that science books are catalogued.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

LM: It really began with my parents. Both of them love books, especially my mom, who started reading to me as soon as I was born. My dad trained as a ceramic artist and was inspired by the Arts & Crafts movement and the Japanese philosophy of making everyday objects both beautiful and functional. So I grew up with not only an appreciation for literature, but for the book as a material object. I always loved the idea of working with rare books but, growing up in a small town, that world seemed so distant that I never considered it a serious career choice. After finishing my undergraduate degree I was living in Atlanta and having trouble finding a fulfilling career. I spent a lot of lazy summer afternoons in my local used and rare book shop, A Cappella, and it dawned on me one day that this was something I could really do. So I made a long-term plan: I read everything I could about book history and rare books, began volunteering at the shop (thanks Frank!), and started a blog so that I could connect with other rare book people. A few years later I entered the book history MA programme at the Institute of English Studies in London. I knew that, in addition to the amazing faculty and all the libraries I would have access to, I would also be in one of the world centres of the book trade, and hoped I might get my foot in the door with an internship or part-time job. As my course wound down I sent out a few CVs and was lucky enough to approach Peter Harrington just as the firm was looking for a full-time cataloguer.

NP: What do you love about the working in the trade?

LM: Having access to so much wonderful material and getting to work on something different every day. I also love writing and doing research, which is a huge component of my job.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book you've handled?

LM: At the moment I have two. The first is our Ars Moriendi block book leaf, which I've written about for the blog. I became fascinated by these during my master's degree because they're a sort of proto-printing technology, but they're rare and I never thought I would run across one outside of a special collections setting. The second is my first major book fair find, a copy of Alexander Fleming's Penicillin: Its Practical Application. It's not a scarce book, and this copy didn't look unusually inviting, but I picked it up because bacteriology is of particular interest to me. And it turned out to contain an uncommon presentation inscription to one of the contributors. A good lesson in rare book buying!

NP: So, this copy of Frankenstein is pretty awesome.  Tell us about your thoughts on it:

LM: It is! Mary Shelley and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft have long been feminist heroes of mine, and the relationship between the Shelleys and Byron is fascinating. But the book's sudden appearance is the most exciting part. I've worked with a lot of amazing objects since I joined the firm, but most of them already had an extensive provenance. It's truly rare for an item of this significance to appear out of the blue, and I feel privileged to be present at its reappearance.

[Note: This question was in reference to the copy of Frankenstein inscribed by Mary Shelley to Lord Byron which was recently acquired by Peter Harrington.  The book will be on display and viewable to the general public at the shop, 100 Fulham Road in Chelsea, London, from September 26 to October 3].

NP: What do you personally collect?

LM: Unfortunately, I'm more of an accumulator than a collector. I tend to buy objects that interest me personally, but without feeling the urge for comprehensive acquisition in any one field. What catches my eye could be a book one day, then a natural history specimen, bicycle poster, or piece of jewellery the next. That being said, I do have a wonderful collection of antique jelly moulds, all of them gifts from a friend.

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?

LM: Probably not. I'm really happy working in a large shop because of the opportunities it provides to learn from colleagues and to work on material that I would probably not see on my own. I'm also not keen on admin and bookkeeping, so consider it a reasonable trade-off not to be my own boss if I don't have to deal with any of that.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the trade?

LM: I feel very positive about it, and think that the e-book revolution will be beneficial to rare books in general. Instead of the massive, low-quality print runs of the last few decades we'll see small runs made to higher standards-books that look better, last longer, and are more collectible. Digital may be more convenient, but people still want the human touch a physical object provides. This is already apparent with other formats such as vinyl and film photography, which are seeing a renewal of interest.  At the same time, overall access to literature will increase. There's evidence that people with electronic readers consume more books because of the ease of access, and more book lovers means more collectors. Additionally, greater access to out-of-copyright works from Project Gutenberg and the like will encourage people to explore books they would not have been exposed to in the age of the chain store. It's a very exciting change to live through!

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Elizabeth Svendsen, proprietor of Walkabout Books, in Xenia, Ohio.

eks5.jpgNP: How did you get started in rare books?

ES: Like a number of other booksellers of my generation, I got started in rare books largely as a result of attending the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. I had been running a general-interest brick and mortar bookstore for three years before I went to CABS in 2009. The more I handled older and scarcer books, the more interested I had become in the antiquarian end of the trade, but I didn't know a whole lot about it. Within two months of returning from CABS, I had produced my first print catalog, and a few months after that I did my first book fair. I haven't looked back.

NP: When did you open Walkabout Books and what do you specialize in?

ES: I sold my brick-and-mortar business (which I am happy to report remains alive and well under new ownership) last fall. I loved the shop, but I was finding it impossible run the everyday business and still make time to seek out and catalog the books I really wanted to work with.  I'm still re-building my inventory, but Walkabout Books has formally been open for business since October 2011. I now specialize in mountaineering, travel, Alaska, polar and other nineteenth century exploration, national parks, and some western Americana--pretty much anything outdoorsy and adventurous. I also carry a fair amount of modern literature just because I like it and always have customers for it.

NP: You formerly owned a brick-and-mortar store, but now only sell online.  Could you tell us a bit about that?  Do you miss having a brick-and-mortar store?  What are your thoughts on brick-and-mortar vs online?

ES: Actually, that's not quite accurate. I operate Walkabout Books from second floor downtown office space, where I have books on display in two rooms that are open to the public whenever I'm here--which is most of the time. I don't get a lot of walk-in traffic, but I do get some, and it provides a place for people to come sell books to me. I also do book fairs (six this year), so it's not all online. I think the ability to interact with and meet new customers--as well as other dealers--is critical to developing a successful antiquarian book business. That said, I am the kind of bookish person who's happy to work quietly and not talk to anyone all day, so I don't miss having a full-fledged brick and mortar store.
 
NP: Favorite or most interesting book (or etc) that you've handled?

ES: That's tough. I'm going to cheat and give you two--one book and one non-book. The book was a signed association copy of John Muir's Our National Parks. I loved it for many reasons--it was visually lovely, it had subject matter that appeals to me, and most of all, researching the association--which turned out to be between Muir and the Merrill family of Bobbs-Merrill fame--was fascinating. The non-book item was an ipod filled with hundreds of audio files of Warren Jeffs (disgraced leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) teaching classes to his followers. That was a whole different kind of fascinating.

NP: What do you personally collect?

ES: Actually, I don't--at least not in the traditional sense. Maybe I shouldn't admit this---especially in this venue--but I'm one of those people who just wants the content and isn't much concerned with edition or condition. Of course, in my business I cater to people who do care about those things and I respect those concerns, but what you'll find on my personal shelves are literary fiction, mysteries, and a whole lot of mountaineering and solo sailing books narratives. I can never seem to get enough of tales of people toughing it out against the elements in remote places. I have a lot of books about Mt. Everest.

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, which would it be?

ES: Theodore Roosevelt's Through the Brazilian Wilderness. That would give me the chance to meet TR and explore the Amazon jungle at the same time!

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

ES: The opportunity to learn new things and explore new worlds every day. There's nothing better.
 
NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

ES: I think it's in good hands. You just have to look at the archives of this blog to see that. The way we do business continues to evolve and adapt to new technology, but that's okay. There are smart, creative, and energetic young dealers seeking out new material and cultivating new collectors, and I really believe--and see evidence--that people will continue to love and value physical books even in the electronic age.


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Katharina Koch, daughter of Joachim Koch, the proprietor of Books Tell You Why in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina:

BYT Interview Picture.jpgNP: As your father is Joachim Koch, you must've grown up around rare books.  Did you develop an interest in them early in life? Or did it come to you later?

KK: While I always read books as a child and my bookshelf was always full, I would say that my interest in collecting rare books came later.  Then came Christmas 2002: In my stocking I found a scroll of papers packaged in a tube that tennis balls would usually come in. This package contained the beginnings of Books Tell You Why, which was at that point the smallest bookstore in the world.  Little did I know that this Christmas present, a bookstore, would change the rest of our lives.

NP: What is your role at Books Tell You Why?

KK: I coordinate all of the marketing efforts at Books Tell You Why (although, sometimes they coordinate me). This includes designing and updating print advertisements, helping with newsletters, supporting social media activities on Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as organizing six book fairs we currently attend each year. 



NP: What do you love about the book trade?

KK: What I love most about the book trade is that there is so much to discover.  Whether traveling to book fairs and seeing new places, or cataloguing a pile of books, I am always learning something new and I am constantly exposed to interesting literature.  Oh, and interesting people.  There are so many great people in the trade; I have seen exciting collections, and the people who built these are fascinating.

NP: 
Favorite or most interesting book that you've handled?

KK: After being introduced to Walt Whitman in my AP Language & Composition/American Literature class, I became truly interested in Walt Whitman, his life, and his career. After learning about how Whitman was inspired by human interactions and the magnificence of nature, my classmates and I deeply considered his work and created written analyses on his life. We explored how Leaves of Grass is designed to show the world sensations of humanity through poetry. To write our analyses, we received a packet of documents to reference in our paper, and the first document was a print-out of an Abebooks search showing first editions of Leaves of Grass. I recognized some of the booksellers on the print-out and knowing that I would soon be going to the ABAA California Book Fair, anticipated that a particular bookseller would bring his copy. It was amazing to see a first edition of this book, published in 1854, in an original print run of only 795 copies, being kept in such good condition. With the class experience, I was able to much better understand and see first-hand the cultural significance of such an important piece of American literature.

NP: What do you personally collect?

KK: I personally collect The Night before Christmas titles and Charles van Sandwyk books. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year by far.  When I started collecting books and wanted to collect something I actually enjoyed, I knew it would have to be The Night before Christmas books! Of course, as collecting doesn't come without having the right bibliography, Nancy Marshall's The Night before Christmas: A Descriptive Bibliography is sitting on my shelf.

I also collect Charles van Sandwyk books, which I started after visiting the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair one year. Van Sandwyk, an author and illustrator who divides his time between Canada and Fiji, adorns his hand-sewn works with whimsical fairies and woodland scenes that are reminiscent of Arthur Rackham's work. I fell in love with his works and enjoy collecting them, since they are so charming and magical!  He has a great publisher whom I enjoy working with.

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, which would it be?

KK: Living within five minutes of the ocean for most of my life, I have become dependent on the sensation of sand between my toes and life on the seashore. Like Santiago in The Old Man and Sea, I love feeling the warm sun beating down on my head and the salty breeze whipping the hair around my face.  I would love to live inside the pages of this book by Hemingway, watching and learning from the old fisherman who struggles to bring home the giant marlin he has caught out in the middle of the Gulf Stream.

NP: Do you plan to continue in the family business?

KK: My current plans are to attend the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and study Biology; then we'll see what happens. As many things at Books Tell You Why can be done remotely, I am most definitely going continue working on my marketing and collecting endeavors. As part of that, I am looking forward to doing some book hunting in Scotland and the United Kingdom as well!



NP: How do you feel about the future of the book trade, being the youngest member of the ABAA?

KK: 

I feel positive about the future of the book trade and do not think that anyone considering starting in the book trade or collecting should be discouraged in any way. While technology such as the Kindle or iPad will constantly be developing and improving, I think that people will always enjoy curating their collections. I think that there is definitely something alluring and satisfying about holding a rare book in your hands, and admiring how well it was made and the work and art that went into its creation.


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Doug Flamm of Ursus Books in New York City.  Doug's father, Eugene, a prominent book collector and president of the Grolier Club, was profiled recently in our magazine. In addition to selling books, Doug brews beer and recently won a brewing award in Brooklyn for his Oyster Stout.

Douglas Flamm photo3.jpgNP: Since your father is a major book collector, you must have grown up around rare books.  Did you develop a resulting interest in rare books early in life?

DF: It is true, I did grow up around books and have always been interested in them. My father's love of books did manage to somehow seep through to me because here I am dealing with books. While my father's collection is focused primarily on 16th Century medical books along with a strong concentration on bibliography, I have been quite interested in art and illustrated books. This focus on art books stems directly from my background in photography and my strong interest in art history.

NP: How did you come to work for Ursus and what is your role there?

DF: In the late 1990's, after having worked for an art gallery for years, I developed my own art book business. I handled a lot of conceptual artist books of the 1960s (a personal interest of mine) which included such artists as Sol LeWitt, John Baldessari and of course, Ed Ruscha. While the business was still quite young, the catastrophe of 9/11 occurred and business completely fell off. With a young baby girl at home I felt the need to have something a bit more stable and began to talk to Peter Kraus, the owner of Ursus Book, for advice. He offered me a position where I could continue to work with artist books/livres d'artistes of the 20th century through today. I also do all of the purchasing of the out-of-print art reference books for the shop. In addition I work with clients directly to help them find specific books or to help them develop their own collections - something I greatly enjoy.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book you've handled?

DF: Between my own shop and working for Ursus books I've had the amazing opportunity to handle a diverse group of many very exciting books. These include anything from Bruce Nauman's LAAIR and CLEARSKY to Matisse's Jazz.  And as I think about it, my mind begins thinking of Hans Bellmer's La Poupe, Ansel Adam's Taos and Ollafur Elliason's Your House. There are really so many great books out there.

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, which would it be?

DF: Such a difficult question - and I suppose it is an evolving list depending on my interests at that time. And while that may seem like a big cop out, I think it stems from always being surprised by the unexpected in unknown and/or new books.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

DF: I very much like being able to see and handle a vast array of books and interact with collectors and customers - all of which make this field so exciting. It does feel like a very small world - where book dealers and collectors all seem to have connections - this is a very nice aspect of the business.

NP: What do you personally collect?

DF: While I still have many of the books from my original enterprise of Flamm Books, I no longer actively search or buy these books for myself. My collecting these days seems to be limited to helping my son develop his baseball card collection, and I suppose I would also have to say that my increasing interest in beer brewing has led to my buying books on beer and brewing as well as brewing equipment in a never ending fury.

NP: You recently won a brewing award. Tell us about that and your brewing hobby:

DF: Most of my free time in the last couple of years has been devoted to learning how to make beer. It has been exciting to learn the process, technique and science behind the brew - and then you get to drink your creation. What could be better? It has been an amazing undertaking. In April I was lucky enough to win the Judges Choice at the Brooklyn Wort homebrew competition. I brewed an Oyster Stout that my son named 'Moyster'. It was a somewhat chocolately stout with nice roasted flavors complemented by a dry mineral finish. The oysters in the beer help add to that quality - they do not make the beer taste "fishy" but really add an extra layer of complexity to the taste. Winning the contest was extremely rewarding. I put a lot of time and effort into this and it feels great to recieve such praise. If anything, it certainly fuels the fire!

NP: Do you want to open a micro-brewery/rare book shop someday? Because I'd be one of your regular customers.

DF: Although in theory the idea of brewpub and rare bookshop sounds fun, I don't think it's practical in the real world.  Spilled beer and rare books do not make a good combination!  

NP: Thoughts on the future of the trade?  

DF: The book trade is vastly different in this age of the internet - but there is still something very solid about a book in your hands.


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with John O'Mara of Maggs Brothers in London. This entry concludes our brief sojourn across the Atlantic in celebration of the Olympia Book Fair last weekend.  Look for the series to return to British shores this fall in the weeks leading up to the Chelsea Book Fair.

omara small.jpg
NP: What is your role at Maggs?

JO: Maggs has five departments - Travel, Early British, Modern British, Continental, and Autographs. I'm one of four members of the Early British Department. We handle books and manuscripts up to about 1800 that have some connection to the British Isles. More specifically we are interested in British culture and its dissemination which means that we are able to cast a wide net. Doing so means that we have the freedom and flexibility to discover some remarkable (and often very rare) non-English language items printed outside the British Isles that have some bearing on British history. Within our department each of us function with a fair degree of autonomy. I'm charged with buying books, writing descriptions of the items I buy, selling my purchases and, when required, applying for export licenses for my sales.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

JO: My grandmother was an antique dealer in the Midwest and from an early age my mom dragged me to antique shows and auctions so an interest in 'old things' is probably to some degree genetic! As a child growing up in rural Massachusetts, I collected stamps, coins and baseball cards and I also liked to wheel and deal. My mom likes to tell the story of when, as a six year old, I wanted to buy a rock from a local antique shop. I brought my prospective purchase to the dealer and asked how much it was. The elderly proprietor thought I was the cutest thing until she quoted me a price for my prize and I replied: "Is that the best you can do?". I discovered that I wanted to work with early printed books after an internship in the Collectibles department at Sotheby's in New York. Books captured my historical imagination and also embodied many of the subjects I was pursuing academically at the time. Once I realized that I wanted to work with books and manuscripts, it was a small step into the trade. Dealing is also a good fit for my temperament - I enjoy taking risk given the prospect of the right return.  Dealing books and manuscripts provides me with the opportunity to buy a book or manuscript and to use my knowledge to add value and realize a profit.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book you've handled?

JO: One of the privileges of working at Maggs is that we get to see so many incredible items so it's hard to identify just one. That being said, the two Caxtons that our department handled were really special!

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

JO: Working for one of the old established London firms is like stepping back a century. We have a tea room and traditionally staff members have met at 11 and 4 for tea. I have always been very struck by this tradition and while fewer people meet for tea twice a day these days, the fact that this practice existed at all suggests to me that the firm is deeply grounded by humane values. I think this is generally true for the trade as well. Especially in the UK dealers are very collegial. I've developed great friendships with other dealers, travelled with them and stayed in their homes. The trade is also predicated on trust. In what other business could you borrow an item valued at tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds from another dealer to show to one of your clients without contracts or lawyers? You can do that as a book dealer provided that you are respectable..

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?

JO: Who knows what the future holds. However with the demise of H.P Kraus and with Heritage no longer functioning at the level it once did, I see an opportunity in the US for a larger firm that could handle a broad range of books and manuscripts focusing not only on private collectors but also on institutions.

NP: What do you personally collect?

JO: I love the Renaissance and particularly its manifestation in England. I've assembled a small collection of books and manuscripts related to Renaissance Humanism in England. I also am interested in the history of collecting, and the Grand Tour.

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, which would it be?

JO: I'd probably choose the original manuscript of Samuel Pepys's Diary ... oh the fun he had!

NP: As an American working in the British trade, what do you notice about the difference between British and American antiquarian bookselling?

JO: I've been in the trade for about a decade. I worked in the US for three years, first for a bookseller in Cambridge, Massachusetts and then for myself when I opened my own business. I've been in London for the last seven years working first for Quaritch for about six months and the remainder of the time at Maggs. I think that European dealers generally view bookselling as the means to have a life immersed in culture. The focus isn't so much on how much money one earns but rather on experiences that the trade provides i.e. eating well, drinking good wine and sharing those things with others.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the trade?

JO: It's certainly a time of transition for the trade. Some of the old models that worked for decades (if not centuries) are no longer viable. The internet has something to do with this as does broad cultural change i.e. collecting books isn't as fashionable as it was 50 to 75 years ago. We as booksellers are subject to these changes but we can influence them as well. We need to really believe in what we do and sell the broader public on the idea of collecting books. We need to be missionaries.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues its trip across the pond today with Pom Harrington, the proprietor of Peter Harrington, in London.  Peter Harrington will be exhibiting at the Olympia Book Fair in London, which began today and continues through Saturday.

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NP: Considering you grew up in one of Britain's most prominent antiquarian bookselling families, did you develop an interest in rare books early in life?  Or did you come to it later? (On a related note, did you always plan to work in the family business, or did you consider other options first?)

PH: I have been surrounded by books all my life, so I actually was quite blasé about rare books. I am not a strong reader so I had little reason to show much interest in them or the shop until I needed a summer job. I spent most of my teenage summers working in the shop for pocket money, but had no real plans to work in the family business. I had a quick fling with University and when that didn't work out I started to look at the shop more seriously. I eventually asked my Dad for a job when I was 19. He actually said no! It took a bit of persuading for him to change his mind. He felt that I should do an apprenticeship elsewhere first. But to cut the long story short, at 19 I began to work full time for Harrington Brothers as it was then for my father and Uncle Adrian.

NP: When did you take over Peter Harrington and under what circumstances?

PH: Adrian and my Father went their separate ways after selling the business property. My father, I think might have retired at this point, but with me now 22 and chomping at the bit to do business, we set up Peter Harrington on the Fulham Road. Initially my father had control, but he was fairly good at letting me get on with it. We were already exhibiting at the American shows and I was starting to do these on my own with an assistant. In February 2001, my father was diagnosed with throat cancer which forced the situation and I took over the day to day running of the shop.



NP: What does Peter Harrington currently specialize in?

PH: Our strength is in English books. Particularly Literature and high spot collecting. We try and make sure we always have something special to show, be it a 1/100 signed Ulysses or a Shakespeare folio.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

PH: It is still for the most part an honourable business, your word, trust and reputation mean everything. I can walk into virtually any ILAB bookshop in the world, one I have never been to or done business with before and leave with a valuable book on invoice. This is done on trust and honour. I have also developed many great friendships over the years with booksellers all over the world.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book you've handled?

PH: There have been a few. I have bought Mark Twain's copy of Huck Finn, Shakespeare's first folio, Presentation Galileo, Newton Principia Mathematica. All amazing and brilliant books.

NP: What do you personally collect?

PH: In 1994, I started collecting Roald Dahl. He's about the only author I read as a child. He was inexpensive then and I always thought he would become more collectable. The collection has become more serious in recent times and I have all his books.

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, which would it be?

PH: A Walter Scott novel. I'd be left alone and not disturbed.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

PH: It's changing fast. The internet is continually having a strong effect on our business. Those who adapt best will thrive. On this basis, there are some young talented booksellers starting up and using this to make up for small stock and tight funds.

NP: Tell us about your exhibit at the Olympia Book Fair and any upcoming catalogues you have in the works:

PH: We have taken two stands this year. [71 and 83] One for books and the other is for our gallery. [Here is Peter Harrington's catalogue for the fair]. I have been putting together a large amount of book related art and wanted a way of displaying them properly. So we have the usual Rackham and Shepard artwork, but also a recently acquired collection of watercolours of the Brock illustrated Pride and Prejudice and Emma. We are always working on catalogues. In the summer, we will produce two new ones. A specialist 75 Great Books and then a larger but more regular catalogue.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Ed Lake of Jarndyce Booksellers in London.  Ed's father, Brian, is the proprietor of Jarndyce Booksellers, which was founded in 1969.  Our Bright Young Things series is migrating across the pond for a few weeks in celebration of the upcoming Olympia Antiquarian Book Fair, from May 24th - May 26th in London.

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NP: What is your role at Jarndyce?

EL: The privilege of working at Jarndyce is that no one day is ever the same as the next.  I do everything from cataloguing to packing books, designing our website, and organizing our first forays into the world of American book fairs.  I have designed catalogues and calendars, overseen photography, created a greeting card business, cleaned drains, cooked lunches, and occasionally sold a few books .

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

EL: Jarndyce is a family business and, although there was no pressure to join, I started work in 2007 having previously been a chef for 4 years.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book you've handled?

EL: Items stick in my memory for different reasons - mainly for beauty, scarcity or historical importance.   For sheer beauty I remember a stunning folio Baskerville Bible; a scarce regional Newspaper, Creswell's Nottingham Journal, has stayed in my mind because of its elaborate masthead. We currently have Dickens's own reading copy of Mrs Gamp, annotated by Dickens, signed and presented to his Boston publisher - the copy from which Dickens read on his final American reading tour.  To think of where that book was, what it was a part of, and whose hands it passed through is incredible.  

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

EL: Having studied history at University I love the academic aspect of bookselling, the challenge that you face when opening a book or looking at a manuscript, of making every item into a story, whatever it is worth.

Where my dad loves the thrill of buying - I am slowly gaining the confidence to follow my instincts in that department - I enjoy selling; building relationships with our customers, learning from them and developing a greater understanding of what it is they are searching for.  It sounds corny to say but seeing someone walk away delighted with the book they have just bought, whether it costs £10 or £10,000 is why we do what we do.  Or at least it should be.

NP: What do you personally collect?

EL: I am running out of wall space but I collect original posters - I've thought of just buying food related designs and original artwork but I'm failing miserably and just buy what my eyes like.  

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, which would it be?

EL: Rather than being inside the pages of any book I'd like to be the pages on which letters and documents were written; to see Thomas Clarkson pen his letters to Wilberforce or Dickens writing to his mistress Ellen Ternen or settling down at his desk to write another chapter of Great Expectations.

NP: Do you plan to take over the family business one day?

EL: Who knows what the future holds but at this point in time, yes, I see myself working here for a long time to come.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the trade?

EL: There are a lot of talented booksellers doing things their own way and with a great deal of style in their presentation.  For those setting out on their own, a small stock of scarce and unusual books seems to be the way things are heading.  In general, manuscript material and one-off items are certainly where the interest is; universities and collectors who have everything are now searching for background material to supplement existing collections.  I recently attended an excellent seminar on bookselling and the internet.  Although it has altered the way in which we can sell books and to whom, the fundamental relationship between collector and bookseller remains the most important part of our business.

NP: I understand your father will be chairman of the Olympia Book Fair in May.  Could you tell us about the fair and what you will be exhibiting there?

EL: Brian and his Committee - and ABA Events Organizer, Marianne Harwood - have worked hard to attract a record number of exhibitors in this time of financial austerity.  We look set for an exciting fair with a lecture programme, live demonstrations and activities including bookbinding and calligraphy, guided tours of the fair (for new collectors) and an ABA Roadshow valuing the hidden treasures among visitors' books.  In the year of Charles Dickens's bicentenary, we will be exhibiting items from our catalogue, The Library of a Dickensian, including the reading copy mentioned above and numerous other presentation copies and manuscripts.  We try to bring a wide variety of items to reflect our 18th and 19th c. stock - anything from Penny Dreadfuls to fine three-decker novels, political pamphlets to satirical prints.

[Be sure to check out the website for the Olympia Book Fair for further details on the programmes and events mentioned by Ed].

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Amir Naghib, proprietor of Captain Ahab's Rare Books in Miami.

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?


AN: I think the first time I realized that books were special and had value was in my grandfather's study as a child.  There were floor-to-ceiling shelves, all of them filled with books on every imaginable subject, and my grandfather was very specific about how important those books were.  I made my first rare book purchase while in college (an early jacketed set of The Lord of the Rings trilogy), and I was more or less hooked after that.  Regardless of where I lived around the country, I'd haunt bookshops, library sales, and just about anywhere else I could scout for books.  I became a collector and a periodic seller of books, selling off books I scouted up in order to purchase volumes I really cared about.  Most of my education took place in large open shops, the types of places you could easily spend a day getting lost in.  Thankfully I was fortunate enough to establish good relationships with several dealers who offered sound advice regarding condition, scarcity and the like, and a number of these people had a hand in shaping the bookseller I am today.

NP: When did you open Captain Ahab's and what do you specialize in?

AN: Between 2009 and 2010 I was working at a job I absolutely hated, and decided that working 60-70 hours a week and being miserable wasn't for me.  I left my job, and a few months later I found myself at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, courtesy of a scholarship by Bibliopolis.  I figured setting up shop as "Amir Naghib Rare Books" would sound too self-involved, so in September of 2010 I started Captain Ahab's Rare Books.  My first year was successful in many ways, and this year has exceeded my expectations thus far.  I focus on offering the things that interest me: literature, the Beats and counterculture material, crime fiction, important pulps, and science fiction.  I find myself buying more and more literature in Spanish and French.  Mostly, an item has to interest me for me to buy it, so I will often purchase material outside my focus area if I find it engaging or significant in some way.   

NP: Favorite or most interesting book (or etc) that you've handled?

AN: Lately it's been a lot more 'etc.' that I've been handling.  Over the last six months I've handled some wonderful pieces of illustration art related to important books.  The cover paintings for Charles Willeford's Honey Gal and High Priest of California were both stunning, and it was a real treat to have those pass through my hands.  I recently purchased the original dustjacket artwork for the U.K. edition of Calvino's The Path to the Nest of Spiders, and a recent consignment has brought us the painting for James Avati's very first paperback cover (Worth Tuttle Hedden's The Other Room).  In addition to being a stunning painting, it's historically significant, as it's also the first interracial cover painting in American publishing history.

NP: What do you personally collect?

AN: I stopped collecting when I decided to do this full-force.  There are certain books I keep for myself that were given to me as gifts, or that I have a strong emotional attachment to.  Since I largely purchase the sort of material I would want to collect anyway, I don't really feel the need to hang on to things anymore.  I've also learned to be content with nice jacketed reprints of titles I want to keep; they're a fraction of the price a First would cost me, and I'm able to justify keeping it.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

AN: I love that on a daily basis I am able to handle some of the coolest stuff on earth.  I'm interested in nearly everything that passes through my hands, and the research that goes into cataloging is always intellectually stimulating.  There's something gratifying about connecting with a customer who has overlapping interests, and being able to place something significant in proper and appreciative hands.  Mostly though, I'd say that my colleagues are the best part of the book trade.  Unlike nearly every other field I've worked in, I've found members of the trade to be a pleasant lot.  I'm constantly amazed at their willingness to lend a hand, whether it's sharing knowledge or their experiences, or connecting you with a particular item or customer.  

NP: I see on your "About" page that you are also an avid reader.  What are some of your favorite texts?

AN: Since the first time I read it, I've always felt that The Count of Monte Cristo is more or less the most perfect novel ever written.  Some of my more contemporary favorites are Bukowski's Post Office and Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.  I recently finished Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo, and am currently working through Mickey Spillane's early novels.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the rare book trade?

AN: Generally optimistic.  Judging by the growing number of younger dealers, I'd say the trade is steadily solidifying it's future.  I've also been surprised by the growing number of younger collectors, and by what they choose to collect.  I think developing relationships with customers of all ages and being able to engage them and connect them with material they care about is a large part of what will continue to help our trade thrive.

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, which would you choose?

AN: Either The Hobbit by Tolkien or Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.  I've always love the epic sense of adventure in Tolkien's books, and since I have a three year old wild thing at home, I've developed a new-found appreciation for the wild rumpus.

NP: Do you have a catalogue coming up soon?  How does one get on your mailing list?  (Will you be exhibiting at any upcoming book fairs?)

AN: The St. Petersburg Antiquarian Book Fair this past March was the first fair I exhibited at, and while we don't have any other fair appearances planned for this year (wrapping up a Masters program and baby #2 on the way) we hope to exhibit more in the future.  I hope to have our first print catalogue out before the end of this year.  We do issue an E-List periodically, and anyone interested in receiving communication from us can contact us directly at captainahabsrarebooks@hotmail.com.  For anyone interested in specific subject areas, we have a Topic Notifier they can use through our website.


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Erin Barry-Dutro of Royal Books in Baltimore.

erinbarrydutro.JPGNP: What is your role at Royal?

EBD: Kevin calls me his shortstop. I was hired to do cataloging and book fair administration, but, as Royal Books has a pretty small crew, I also fill in for all the other positions as needed: running the front desk, shipping packages, and on special occasions helping out in the bindery.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

EBD: My dad tells a mostly-apocryphal story about me growing up in which, while driving across country together in an RV, my parents had to continually tell me to stop reading and look around. I was one of those kids. I later received my BFA in Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University, where as a student I worked repairing books in their Library Preservation department. I moved to Baltimore and found similar work at Johns Hopkins, until a particularly lucky Craigslist ad brought me to Royal Books.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book you've handled?

EBD: I was especially excited to have had the opportunity to handle Peter Harrington's first edition copy of The Great Gatsby in an exceptional example of that iconic jacket, but there are lots of things from our own stock that I love as well. We had a copy of Rita Hayworth's calling card from when she was married to Orson Welles, and we currently have a particularly gorgeous copy of the paperback true first of One Hundred Years Of SolitudeA Computer Perspective signed by Charles and Ray Eames, and a handful of really awesome concert posters.

NP: What do you personally collect?

EBD: My dirty little secret is that I like to collect crummy paperbacks, including books that I term very loosely "Magical Realist," cheesy Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Fairy Tales, and Young Adult fiction (which as a genre I think becomes increasingly exciting). I can't help it, I think paperbacks look really good on a shelf together. I also collect vintage sewing patterns, earrings, blue and white china, feathers, and by default my own artwork.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

EBD: I like the freedom existent in the rare book world that encourages a bookseller to dig deeply, do research on things, and collect what you love. I like the moment when you sell something you're excited about to somebody who's at least as excited about it as you are. I like that it doesn't often require dressing fancy. I like that it feels like a big global community.

NP: Do you want to open up your own shop someday?  (And if so what would you like to specialize in?)

EBD: Who knows? The appeal of my own bookshop is certainly a siren call, but I have yet a lot of things to do in this world, many of which (I know this is blasphemous) probably have nothing to do with books at all. Were I to do so, it would probably include artist's books, limited editions, and modern fiction both for adults and otherwise.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

EBD: I think that in some respects it's inevitable that the economy will shift and degrade further, however I don't think that this should be considered wholly negative. I think that there will always be a place for books and other works on paper; human beings love to use their sense of touch. I also believe that multiples and works on paper are especially culturally relevant right now. What remains for booksellers (and honestly, everyone) to figure out is how to navigate this territory. How I feel we best do this is what rare bookselling seems to me to always have had as its essence: sharing enthusiasm and knowledge of beautiful things with others who feel similarly.

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, what would it be?

EBD: The slightly absurdist nature of this question seriously appeals to me, but as a result it's the one I've had to think hardest about. The fattest? You'd have lots of space to move around. One with lots and lots of pictures? Also a good choice. I think probably a collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales, or Calvino's Italian Folktales, would work nicely to keep things exciting, though.


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Andrea Tomberg, proprietor of Tomberg Rare Books in Greenwich, Connecticut:

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?

AT: My first job after graduating from the University of Michigan was in a New York literary agency.  Although I loved the idea of the job, I couldn't get accustomed to sitting behind a desk all day.  After a year, I returned to school to study for my masters in education. I taught elementary school and also received my post-masters degree in literacy so I could focus on teaching reading and writing.   After my son was born, I "retired," and focused on book collecting and studying the trade.  I frequented estate sales and volunteered as a "pricer" for my local library's book sales, which allowed me to handle a wide variety of books in varying conditions.  

NP: When did you open Tomberg Rare Books and what do you specialize in?

AT: I established my business in August 2011 after attending the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar on scholarship.  I had been selling a variety of books that I picked up at sales and was in need of a more formal education in the trade and some camaraderie among fellow booksellers.  After a compact week full of knowledge, I returned home and established Tomberg Rare Books.  I have a particular interest in the mimeo revolution, the Beats, The New York School, poetry and the 20th century avant-garde.  I am also interested in the art and music scenes from the 70s, 80s, 90s, especially in New York.  My goal is to become more curatorial in nature with the idea of putting together specific collections to offer for sale.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book (or etc) that you've handled?

AT: I had the opportunity to buy a small archive of The Kitchen, an alternative artist space started in the early 1970's.  With an assortment of fliers, photos, announcements and press releases relating to different artists and various mediums, I have a great opportunity for research in an area and time period that I am interested in. 

NP: How did you first big fair go?

AT: I had the opportunity to work for Bill Schaberg of Athena Books during this year's New York ABAA fair. He is a true master of the trade.  I watched Bill connect with customers and colleagues with a rare grace.  His level of professionalism and expertise is something I hope to achieve one day.  The book fair was a truly unbelievable experience.  The range and variety of materials demonstrates how wonderfully diverse the book trade is - and that there is always room to find your niche.

NP: What do you personally collect?

AT: I have a small Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe collection but the majority of books in my personal library are books on books, bookseller memoirs and books on the history of bookselling.  I also have many reference materials, bibliographies and enjoy collecting other booksellers' catalogues.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

AT: What I love about the book trade is that it allows me to follow my own interests and curiosities in a professional way.  I continue to learn about the trade and best practices through my relationships with other dealers.  There is such a luxury and freedom in being able to follow my own path. There are no dull moments.  I have met so many generous and supportive dealers whom have selflessly offered advice, wisdom and knowledge.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

AT: The book trade has a very definite future.  As our idea of the book evolves with today's technology, collecting habits will change with it.  New book dealers will have the opportunity to discover new areas of collecting and possibly different types of items that better represent the current culture. In studying the decades of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, it is obvious what an important role ephemera has taken - punk rock flyers, zines, and artist catalogues became the main sources for primary information.

NP: Tell us about the contents of your first catalogue and how to obtain a copy:

AT: My first catalog is now available to download as a PDF from my website. Readers interested in obtaining a printed copy can email me at info@tombergrarebooks.com or call (203) 223-5412.  Some highlights include: Ted Berrigan's Living with Chris, William Burrough"s Valentine's Day Reading, a complete set of Locus Solus, a Bob Dylan artists' book, John Sinclair's 1974 Michigan Marijuana Initiative, a few signed Ed Sanders, FY: A magazine of the arts, some small press ephemera, and the uncorrected page proof of the first edition of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.  Also included are signed women's poetry and artists' magazines.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Zoe Mindell of The Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company in Pennsylvania:

zoe mindell photo.JPGNP: What is your role at PRBM?

ZM: Cataloguer, but at shops like ours everyone does a bit of everything -- invoicing, inventory, shelving, answering phones and email, cleaning, arranging gourmet cheese platters, and setting up party tents for summer soirees at the Arsenal.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

ZM: I grew up surrounded by enticing clutter: my mom's textiles and books, my dad's photographs and sheet music, antiques and tag sale stuff accumulated from weekend rummaging. When I was ten or eleven, I bought my first "old" book  -- one I easily remember because it was in French, and I couldn't read it --  at a small shop in rural Vermont. But the real start of my career was in the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College. I had decided to double major in Art History and Italian, and enrolled in an advanced literature survey spring semester of my first year. One bright Monday morning, our class met in the library for a presentation by Martin Antonetti, Smith's Curator of Rare Books, on early editions of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. After class I asked Martin if he hired students, and worked as his assistant until graduation. During my junior year abroad in Florence, Italy, Martin needed eyes at the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid to investigate a manuscript for his research, and suddenly I was on a plane to Spain.  More great opportunities followed, thanks again to Smith and Martin's tutelage: a summer fellowship in Italy, an art history prize for research after college, and an internship in the Book Department at Christie's London. I'm proud to say Smith College now has a Book Studies Concentration! When I came home from London, I worked part-time at Bloomsbury Auctions in New York, then landed a young cataloguer's dream job with an antiquarian book dealer and moved from my rent-stabilized apartment on New York's Lower East Side two hours south to Philadelphia.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book (or etc) you've handled?

ZM: Last summer when I was planning a visit to Ireland, David Szewczyk suggested I call on someone he knew, the Keeper of Early Printed Books at Trinity College, Dublin. We spent two hours touring Trinity's special collections, then sat at Dr. Charles Benson's desk overlooking the bustling exhibition hall and talked. As our visit drew to a close, Dr. Benson disappeared behind a large case nearby and emerged holding a small stack of books for me to see, including a copy of Arrighi's Coryciana (1524), the book that had been the very focal point of my research for Martin at Smith. And this copy was in a Grolier binding, with De Thou's ownership signature. I'll never forget that book. More recently, I catalogued a Kallierges Pindar (1515), the "editio romana" of Pindar's epinician odes, a.k.a., "a very sexy book for very many reasons". It was the first book printed in Greek at Rome, by a Greek expatriate at the palace press of the Pope's banker.  Weeks later I was doing erotica (cataloguing), and stumbled onto Fanny Hill for the first time. That was a very sexy book for very different reasons.

NP: What do you personally collect?

ZM: Right now, everything affordable that appeals to me, including but not limited to booksellers' catalogs, auction catalogs, exhibition catalogs, books on Italy and travels, books in Italian, old family photographs, romantic postcards, inscribed items, and other antiques that have some sign of a former life (vintage clothes, glassware...). Last summer I stopped by an outdoor flea market in Center City, Philadelphia, and spotted a Sotheby's catalog with a familiar image on the cover: a poster on my apartment wall that my dad had picked up hitchhiking in France in 1970. An unremarkable volume in a dusty pile, that slim catalog suddenly meant everything to me and I bought it immediately. It was serendipity, like so much of the book business.

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?  If so, what would you like to specialize in?

ZM: Yes! But I'm very happy where I am right now. David Szewczyk and Cynthy Buffington are incredibly supportive, encouraging me to seek out books, book people, and educational opportunities. Thanks to their generosity, I have been attending a paleography workshop at the University of Pennsylvania; Philobiblon Club meetings; academic lectures; and will have completed three Rare Book School courses by the end of this year. Then, too, there's learning about books and bookseller lore from David every day in the cataloguing office. We specialize in "Early books of Europe & the Americas" and "Other Rarities as Chance May Supply," but my favorites to catalog and read are those that remind me of places and literature I've studied. Someday I'd like to specialize in books and manuscripts from the 15th-18th centuries that shed light on contemporary regional life, like cookbooks, day books, local histories, manuals, and small town presses. For now, I'm more than satisfied with the variety I see at PRB&M, and grateful to be working for a company that cares so much about books and "finding good homes" for them.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

ZM: The ways in which we buy, sell, and read books are changing, but I'm not threatened by technology per se. Digital "books," while useful and practical as data repositories, can't compare with the sensual experience of reading as we've known it for centuries. It's far less exciting to inherit a digital book, or see an image of an early ownership inscription, or cradle your Kindle fireside. And then there's the matter of preservation. We have a responsibility to safeguard books like we do art. You wouldn't just junk everything in the Louvre because you are able find images -- even very high quality images -- on the museum website, would you? As technology advances, I can only imagine and hope that books will become more valuable as vestiges of human experience, and pleasing tactile objects. That said, the future of the trade depends on collectors as much as booksellers, and our generation is already very much online. Our task now is to anticipate and prepare. Did I mention PRBM has a great website?


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Andrew Gaub of Bruce McKittrick Rare Books in Narberth, Pennsylvania:

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NP: What is your role at Bruce McKittrick Rare Books?

AG: Like most small book businesses, I do a lot of everything: I catalog books, build the reference library, wrap packages, pay invoices, prepare for books fairs, visit clients, do research at local institutions, select beers to chill outside for a late night at the office... What I enjoy most is looking at books and buying books, and in that regard Bruce gives me considerable autonomy.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

AG: After living in France for a year, I moved to Bloomington, Indiana in 2003 so my wife Lisa could begin her graduate work. I kept myself busy with a job at Borders, and there I met someone in the Master of Library Science program at Indiana University. He told me about his coursework and said that one of the M.L.S. tracks was rare books, which piqued my interest. I met with the director of the program Joel Silver, who told me that if I was serious about old books, I should study Latin and take all his courses; so I took all Joel's courses and studied intensive Latin for four semesters. As I was closing in on my degree, I saw an Exlibris posting for a bookseller's assistant in a firm outside of Philadelphia. I asked Joel if he knew anything the bookseller. He told me he knew Bruce McKittrick well and that if I wanted to continue to learn about old books, there was no one better to learn from in the trade. I applied in June, interviewed in July and began working with Bruce in August 2005.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book that you've handled?

AG: That's tough, so might I mention a few? I am very interested in fifteenth-century books, and we have handled a few unrecorded incunables. It's exciting to do the typographic work and date the book and assign it to a press. My first purchase at auction was a German folio of a Boccaccio tale printed in Metz in 1500 with 96 half-page woodcuts, in its original calf-backed wooden board binding. I will never forget that book. A few years ago I bought a short treatise on making paper with common milkweed. In it the author promises to send seeds to those who write him. Our copy had the original seeds that the author sent to an amateur scientist. Very cool. I suppose one of the books I am most pleased to have bought and sold was William Turner's The names of herbes (1548): the first modern botanical dictionary in English, John Evelyn's copy in seventeenth-century calf. A true rarity, and a hell of a book.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

AG: Books are very intimate objects and are always telling us something. I find it amazing to see the number of ways the same book can be interpreted and reinterpreted by different dealers, curators, collectors, scholars. I am humbled to be a part of that chain that in many cases is centuries old.

NP: What do you collect personally?

AG: I love to buy books by and about booksellers, but I wouldn't call it a collection. As an undergrad I studied James Joyce extensively, even spending a month in Dublin at James Joyce Summer School in 2001. My university's library was quite good on Joyce, so I had nearly all the books about him charged to me. I began buying these titles so I didn't have to renew them or return them when recalled, and I still haven't stopped buying them. My Joyce collection continues to grow and now includes, besides all the criticism, early editions of his works, comic books, movie posters and LPs.

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?

AG: I don't think so. This is my seventh year with the firm, and I cannot imagine doing anything else. Bruce believes in books, and that is evident in the stock as well as in the reference library. It's an inspiring work environment.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

AG: I'm a believer. One of the pleasures I have had in this business was lunch with great bookman Barney Rosenthal. He told me that when he started in the trade, all his seniors would lament about the good ol' days (I think his father even told him that all the great books had already been sold). But then he said, "These are the good ol' days". I believe it. The enthusiasm and abilities of our young colleagues are inspiring. Great books are still available, if now more dear. Barney got it right: These are the good ol' days.

 
Andrew will be at Booth D-8 during the 52nd Annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair. A catalog of the books he and Bruce will exhibit is available here.
 

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Simon Beattie of Chesham, England.

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 NP: How did you get started in rare books?


SB: Although I had always wanted to do something with books, I became an antiquarian bookseller quite by accident.  I read German and Russian at Exeter University, graduating in 1997, after which I decided to stay on for another year and study for an MA in Lexicography.  As part of my course, I had a placement at Oxford University Press working on The Oxford Russian Dictionary, but come the summer of 1998, as there were no jobs going at OUP, I began to look for something else.  I didn't look far.  There was a tiny advertisement in The Times: 'leading antiquarian bookseller seeks good graduate to help catalogue books'.  I didn't know what cataloguing meant, but I called the otherwise anonymous phone number (e-mail was still in its infancy) and got the address for my résumé: Bernard Quaritch Ltd, 5-8 Lower John Street, Golden Square, London.  I had an interview with Lord Parmoor, the then owner, and started work about a week later, all this being only about two weeks after leaving Exeter.
 
NP: When did you open Simon Beattie?  And what do you specialize in?

SB: At the beginning of 2010, and so far, so good.  I tell people European cultural history, which is a suitably broad category, but I suppose my real interest is cross-cultural material: translations of English and American literature, say, or things relating to musical performances abroad, anything which documents the spread of one culture into another.  What I really like to find is an original foreign literary work with links to the Anglophone world, or musical responses to events.  So I've had things like contemporary German poetry written following the execution of Charles I in 1649; a Russian song composed after the defeat of Napoleon in 1812; a German novel set among the Iroquois from 1799.  I don't like to be bound by date, and am equally interested in the twentieth century as the sixteenth.  My goal is always to try to offer material which is interesting, perhaps curious, and hopefully something you've never seen before.
 
NP: Favorite or most interesting book you've handled?

SB: I suppose it's got to be the most popular book from my first catalogue (I had seven orders): the cover told you it was a little pocket French-German dictionary, but open it up and you found it to be a saboteur's manual, produced by the French Resistance c.1943.  It was a fascinating document, and a great object.  What was even more amazing was that I then found three more copies of the book, textually identical but all with different covers, which showed just how sophisticated the Resistance's book production was in wartime France.  You can read about the book on my blog.
 
NP: 
What do you love about the book trade?

SB: I've always enjoyed the process of matching books to people, helping to improve collections, both private and institutional, and I'd like to think that people are always pleased with the books they buy from me.  The book trade itself is very international, which I like; traveling round Europe in search of books, visiting customers in America, it's all very enjoyable.
 
NP: You are known for your innovative catalogue design.  What are your thoughts on catalogues in general and what is your design process?

SB: Right from the start I wanted to do printed catalogues.  I could have just sold books by e-mail, sending out PDF lists of what I have, but book collectors like a book, a physical object that they can carry around, read on the bus, write comments on, or mark by turning over the corner of a page.  Because it is so easy now (and, of course, much cheaper) to create one's own catalogues, in Word or whatever with a few scans dropped in, that is what many booksellers do, but the final product often looks homemade, with widows and orphans left dangling all over the place.  As booksellers we really ought to know better, about what constitutes good book design.  Producing a catalogue which jars the eye really doesn't reflect well on what a bookseller knows about books.
 
For my catalogues, I wanted to do something different, a fresh approach.  Booksellers' catalogues haven't really changed very much in the last 100 years.  But book design has.  Just look at some of the wonderful things produced for library exhibitions.  It's true, my catalogues take a little more time to produce, but I've had an overwhelmingly positive response to what I'm doing, from collectors, librarians and fellow booksellers (and six design awards to date, from both sides of the Atlantic).  They're commercially successful, too: each of my four catalogues so far has sold over 90%.

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NP: On that note, your minimalist approach to book fair booth exhibition was praised at the California Book Fair.  Any particular philosophy on booth design?


SB: Book fairs are a great leveler.  Everyone is given the same things to work with (cases, book shelves etc.).  How, in a fair of 200 booths, do you try and stand out?  I have a small stock, so I only brought 35 books.  Exhibiting fewer books leads, I think, to a cleaner stand; it lets you display the books properly, and gives them all a chance to be seen by potential buyers.  I suppose I really saw the fair as a public relations exercise, somewhere to meet new customers, show them the kind of thing I get in, and catch up with existing ones.  You can't measure the success or otherwise of a fair by how many books you sell.  A good fair is really about people, not books.
 
NP: What do you personally collect?

SB: Books about Exeter Cathedral, as I sang in the Cathedral Choir there.  Fortunately, there are a finite number of books about it!
 
NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

SB: I think the trade looks pretty healthy.  Every year sees new booksellers setting up on their own and, as this series has already pointed out, young booksellers starting out with established members of the trade.  There will always be doom-mongers bemoaning the lack of buyers, but I think that, if you have the right material, you can sell it.
 
NP: Do you have a new catalogue in the works?
 
SB: The next printed catalogue, which I'm working on at the moment, will be out later in the year.  If anyone would like to receive it, just let me know!  My next fair will probably be California in February.  You can follow what I'm up to before then on both Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to my blog.
 
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Josh Niesse, proprietor of Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia. Underground Books will be celebrating its one year anniversary this weekend.

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?

JN: Funnily, I feel like I could almost answer that question "I'm still getting ready to start."  My collection of rare, collectible, genuinely antiquarian books is paltry, certainly by most ABAA member standards.  I probably have less than 150 books in the $50-$500 range, and none above that.  Really I'm trying to build a bookstore right now that is a reflection of my own interests and that seems to fill a gap in my community, and the development of the rare book portion of that store will be ongoing.  Underground Books has, as I see it, three split identities: a general purpose used bookshop with broad appeal; a radical bookstore with an emphasis on outsider politics, bohemianism, art, psychology, philosophy, etc.; and a rare/out-of-print/antiquarian bookshop.  It's a little schizophrenic from the perspective of bookstore-identity, but it's what I enjoy and the response has been positive. 

Until I attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, I'd been operating "in the wilderness".  I had no idea there was a whole world of scouts using hand scanners, nor did I have a connection to the world of serious booksellers.  A couple months before I opened, a friend connected me to Ken Mallory an ABAA dealer in Atlanta. Ken told me about CABS, and I promptly applied for a scholarship. I was offered several of the scholarships I applied for and ended up taking the ABE Books scholarship and headed out to Colorado Springs to have my eyes peeled open to see how incredibly little I knew about what I had just decided to do with my life.  Now I'm about a year in to having the open shop and am continually learning what an incredible novice I still am.

NP: When did you open Underground Books?  What do you specialize in?

JN: I opened the store on March 20th, 2011, with a big grand opening celebration. So many people had helped contribute to getting the space ready; it really was a community effort.  As for a specialty, I'm still very much working this out.  The strongest sections of my store are the philosophy and psychology sections.  The University of West Georgia here has one of the oldest and largest humanistic psychology programs in the country, and it brings a delightful collection of weirdos and intellectuals to our small town rural area. Lots of these folks end up sticking around and making this area their permanent home, and it's given the town a bohemian and hippie undercurrent that's unique for a small town in rural west Georgia. So this makes philosophy and psychology a natural specialization because of access to both supply and demand for these kinds of books.  My varied personal interests drive dreams of all sorts of unusual specializations, but really I've been so preoccupied with the day-to-day of managing the open shop, I've barely scratched the surface of exploring specializations. I'm inspired by ABE Books' "Weird Book Room" and hope to work a lot more with "weird" books.



NP: Did you start off selling online, then open the brick-and-mortar store later?  How do you like having an open shop?

JN: Yes, I started online, but I wouldn't want to go back to just web-based again.  Even though the storefront is far from a cash cow, it really does fill a vital community niche, and is tremendously rewarding.  If I'm going to be fool enough to sell books, I might as well be able to share the space I'm in with others who appreciate them as much as I do!



NP: From my understanding, you are part of an intentional community. Could you tell us a bit about that and how it plays into your bookselling life?

JN: To avoid a long discussion of what an intentional community is for those that may not know, I'll just direct people to the website www.ic.org.  Our group basically has a huge 100 year old house a couple blocks from Carrollton's downtown square where Underground Books and the Alley Cat are located.  It has the flavor of a student housing cooperative meeting an artist colony. We garden, have shared meals, perform private backyard "underground" theatre in our marble paved courtyard (including in-house adaptations of The Princess Bride and Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume), make many household related decisions cooperatively, etc. We also have a sister property that is a small permaculture, off-the-grid eco-farm. 

Part of intentional community is creating spaces where something different from the mainstream norm can take place safely. I see my bookstore as an extension of that.  It's become a local cultural community center, with lectures, author events, documentary screenings, and so on. I also helped spearhead a local movement this past fall when our small town conservative mayor banned the Rocky Horror Show from being performed at the community theatre. This made national news in Time magazine and is up for a DC watchdog group's best 10 censorship stories of 2011.  I think bookstores should be outspoken advocates for free thought and expression.  Being interested in building intentional community informs all of this.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book (or etc) you've handled?

JN: I've developed a soft spot for scarce occult books and secret society ephemera since opening the store, because they are both beautiful and mysterious.  I sold a gorgeous, huge, 2 volume set of The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus by Arthur Edward Waite.  It was a 1909 New York edition pirated from the 1890 London first. Just a couple weeks ago, I got a true first of Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls that I also consider a treasure in my store collection.

NP: What do you personally collect?

JN: 
I'm starting to collect Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins, just because I'm a huge fan of their zany literary strand.  I also really like what I call "fascist kitsch" - old red scare pamphlets, early 1900's women's marriage guides, stuff that seems crazy to us now but was in the mainstream of political acceptability in its time.  I like these because they're such reminders of how fragile our liberties are, how it's really not that long ago that what seems now like extreme right wing domination and control over women, minorities, gays, etc. was the norm. 

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

JN: There's so much.  Though I tend to find it annoying the way the bookseller old timers gripe about the industry dying off, I must also admit that I'm kind of attracted to the way that situates me in a kind of Don Quixote story.  Amazon and e-books are the windmills.  When I was first telling people that I was opening a bookstore, someone asked me, "Why don't you just open a Blockbuster video?"  Nonetheless, there's a certain romance and charm to the seeming futility of it all.

I also just love booksellers. I made some friends for life at CABS.  It's not like booksellers aren't looking to make a living - they are - but there's also a genuine spirit of generosity that seems to permeate the field. And they're crazy! Every last one of them I've met; you have to be, at least a little.  And they know how to party. As a bartender I didn't expect a bunch of book nerds at CABS to be able to out-drink me, but man, book people can go all night. There's such an aesthetic quality to books, their smell, their feel in your hands, it makes sense that book people would be such epicureans, drink too much, love rich foods, talk into the wee hours - they're my people!

NP: Any thoughts to share on the future of the book trade?

JN: There's this great quote I've seen floating around Facebook from the master of trashy B-movies, John Waters: "We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books, don't (sleep with) them."  I love that sentiment.  I think we might be missing a great moment here as the old guard booksellers gripe about the death of collecting.  Honestly, being nerdy and smart is cooler and more hip than it's ever been.  And those people love real, tangible books as much as ever, it's just that tastes are changing. I think bookseller specializations just haven't caught up with these seemingly fickle shifts. I want to see more exploration of the weirdo iconoclast edge of the book trade. There's so much out there still to explore -we just have to get creative!

NP: What do you have in store for your one year anniversary?

JN: I have a live musical act from local phenoms and folk-country-hippie-punk-chicks The Opposite of Hee-Haw, snacks and refreshments from local watering hole and music venue the Alley Cat, kids art activities from my neighbor Blue Heron Art Studio, and a big sidewalk sale to try to move some inventory as well. We'll hang out in the sweet little charming space, chat, eat food, drink coffee, talk about books and life, and enjoy some good music.  Then we'll head to the Alley Cat for the grown-up late-night part of the celebration!
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Ashley Wildes at Between the Covers Rare Books in Gloucester City, New Jersey.

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NP: What is your role at Between the Covers?

AW: The fairest cog in the machine. My official title is cataloger, but I do a little of everything around here from blogging to packing books. It's good to have a grasp on how the whole system operates, ya know, for future coups and diabolical plans.



NP: How did you get started in rare books?

AW: It's a long tragic tale involving recession, auto parts delivery, and waitressing before answering a call from elder cataloger Matt Histand about an opening at Between the Covers. I honestly hadn't a clue that people bought rare books on this scale before entering into the trade a little over a year ago. I went to school for creative writing and classical guitar which meant that for two years after college I was taking on any job I could find. Then one day I found myself interviewing at BTC. The past year has been nothing if not life changing.




NP: Favorite or most interesting book that you've handled?


AW: Recently we've acquired punk rock flyers from some really awesome shows, Social D playing with Black Flag and X; an early Bags gig. After being a novelist my dream job was being a rock journalist a la Cameron Crowe in Almost Famous. The punk flyers were my first big archive and I have been enamored with the process ever since. Holding those felt almost as awesome as seeing the Book of Kells at Trinity College.  



NP: What do you love about the book trade?

AW: I love that I can dye my hair purple. I've never had another job where I feel like I'm constantly learning and in such a relaxed environment. For better or worse I can work while being completely myself, as unfortunate as that may be for the poor souls I work with. The community I've found myself surrounded by is also pretty rad. It's the only business I've been involved with where people who are supposed to be competitors actually help and encourage one other. They genuinely want to see their colleagues succeed. I've been privileged to have made amazing friends in the trade outside of BTC including Jonathan Kearns of Adrian Harrington Rare Books and most recently, Teri Osborn of William Reese and Co.




NP: What do you personally collect?

AW: My last blog was actually about collecting and I mentioned the top three categories in my assortment of oddities: Princess Leia action figures, Clash vinyl first pressings, and Sylvia Plath first editions. So if any adoring fans want to send me gifts, those are safe bets.

NP: 


I hear you play in a punk band called Dear Althea -- could you tell us about that?

AW: Sure. Ever since discovering Nirvana when I was 8 I've been infatuated with music and when guitarist Dean DiCampli and I hit it off after an open mic that I hosted we knew we had to form something. We've been a Lennon/McCartney punk rock song-writing team ever since. Tom even takes guitar lessons from me now, so overwhelmed was he after witnessing the awe that is Dear Althea in concert. We've even enlisted fellow bookseller Andrew Gaub's wife Lisa to join as our bassist.

NP: 

Do you want to open your own bookshop someday?

AW: No. I'm sure people expect some grandiose idea of a shop full of amazing finds and clientele, but I already work in my dream store. I can't imagine it gets better than this. 

NP: 


Any thoughts to share on the future of the book trade?

AW: In the immortal words of The Doors, "The future's unwritten and the end is always near." I'm too new to all of this to speculate much about what might happen in the future. One observation is that maybe sellers need to start thinking a little beyond books and I've already seen that happening. Concept pieces, such as archives and ephemera, are fantastic. That's not to say there isn't something to be said for the traditional rare book, but other forms of paper shouldn't be disregarded.



Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Kara McLaughlin, proprietor of Little Sages in Cooper City, Florida. Little Sages will be exhibiting at its first book fair this weekend at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Petersburg.

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?

KM: I've always had stacks of the darn things like little skylines... with a babe in arms, I found and sold an early Ian Fleming and something just lit.  I read everything about bookselling I could get my hands on, then after an inspiring trip to my first ABAA fair I high-tailed it to CABS. Cliche but true - they (the books) found me.

NP: When did you open Little Sages? And what is the significance of the name?

KM: Little Sages shipped it's first title out in 2007. As to the name, I'd had it in mind before books materialized. The sage, as a Jungian or literary archetype, a kind and wise figure, waxing philosophical, sometimes magical, and often stepping aside (whether by choice or force) within a plot, allowing the hero to develop and actualize. The emphasis here on the diminutive adjective - not quite there yet - only 'Little' Sages are we, but I like the idea of revealing and guiding a seeker to the tools he may use in his journey.  

NP: What do you specialize in?

KM: Quite a generalist, but might I be a serial specialist as well? As of this moment: Esoterica. Bold, fearless women. Men who loved them. Revelations, books that will not be quiet. Illustrated books, book arts and pamphlets/ephemera or as I like to call it: weird, skinny crap.

NP: Any particular benefit or challenge to share about selling books in Florida?

KM: Confession time! Jealous: of attics and forgotten barns; secret nooks and an extra century or two that homesteaders and humidity would begrudge me. Geographically challenged unless I start deep sea diving for /really/ old crusty things. Bright side: there's grass underfoot year round.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book (or etc) you've handled?

KM: Perhaps not as interesting to me as the book is the seeker of the book, or more optimistically the finder - my favorite tales all have the common theme of 'book-in-arms-of-rightful-keeper', like the young woman in a small town, awaiting the book signed by her Great Aunt, Princess Atalie. She's likely never purchased a 'collectible' book before, and perhaps won't again,  but this book belongs to her -  it's a piece of her family legacy, soon to come home.

NP: What do you personally collect?

KM: Hmm... lots of  titles end up with a small, penciled 'pl' (for personal library) - but they are not collected, just set aside for reading and exploration. In total candor - not too long ago I was so excited to break century barriers, I would keep tucking away the early 1800's,  just chomping at the bit to hit 1799 (which I did) and then in one fell swoop, straight back to 1544. I can't get enough pre-1850 frontispieces, the evocative etchings as if done in oil.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

KM: I get to hunt, gather, research and play archivist/curator - then release it back into the wild. Books and their relatives totally activate and enamor me - but the icing on the cake is the trade itself - like a tribe of brilliant, curious, intellectuals - that's who you want at your dinner party, I'm telling you.  They are some dynamic, wonderful humans.

NP: Any thoughts to share on the future of the book trade?

KM: What will change I think are the trophies themselves, as well as the way they are sought. Seekers of the book will surely continue to need a little nudge in the right direction - I'm happy to oblige.  

NP: Do you have a catalogue / e-list in the works?

KM: I do! As soon as I notch this 'first fair thing' onto my belt I'll be settling in at home and honing the 'first catalog' skills.


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Jesse Rossa, proprietor of Triolet Rare Books in Glendale, California:

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?

JR: My path through the book world has been circuitous. While in retrospect it seems inevitable that I'd wind up on my own as a dealer that was not always the plan. As a kid I was a reader but more importantly a book lover, fussing with the arrangement of the books on my shelf. In college I studied printmaking, and did a tutorial with Leonard Baskin, but he and I talked about crows and intaglio and anatomy, not books. It wasn't until 1996, when I met the bookbinder David Bourbeau, that I became fully immersed in the rare books world. During my two-year apprenticeship with David I learned binding and preservation techniques, and absorbed everything I could about hand-made books, letterpress printing, book people and bookmaking. My experience at the bindery led me to pursue a career as a special collections librarian, and I went on to get an MLIS at UCLA. While in graduate school I worked at Heritage Book Shop, which gave me the chance to handle and sell some of the highest-end books on the market. After working in several libraries in Los Angeles, I landed a job in the Special Collections Department at the University of Delaware Library in 2004. In addition to acquisitions and reference, I curated exhibits, including one on Ezra Pound for which I wrote a catalogue. A long-distance relationship led me to return to Los Angeles in 2010, where I worked for a photo-book dealer for a year before going out on my own.

NP: When did you open Triolet?

JR: Triolet was set up in the summer of 2011. My focus is nineteenth and twentieth century literature, but I also deal in photography, film, fine press, and art books, and I am open to anything interesting that comes along.

NP: As someone who has worked on both sides of the rare book spectrum, (librarian and dealer), do you have any thoughts to share on the divide?

JR: In 2005 I was asked to be on a panel at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the American Library Association pre-conference called "Going Over to the Dark Side," which brought together current dealers with librarians who had worked in the trade. The joke was that each side thought the other was the "dark side." There has long been suspicion on both sides. I think the most important thing is that the dealer and the librarian, once established as colleagues (because that's what they are), can mutually benefit from their association. Once collecting areas are defined the dealer can provide what you could call curatorial outsourcing--helping librarians build on existing collections or develop new ones. I am very interested in bridging the divide. I'm at the point in my career where I want to cultivate relationships. I'm thrilled to scout for certain things and work on building collections. It's not just about making a sale. Budget cuts have arisen in the past several years, of course, and the days of the 1950s and 1960s when Larry Powell and others were building huge and magnificent collections in American institutions are over. With smaller budgets, and so much material being held already, collecting interests will expand and diversify in creative and unexpected ways. And as more and more information is available digitally, primary source material will be all the more special, and libraries will continue to serve as repositories and destinations for the rare and unique.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book (or etc) you've handled?

JR: I'm always most excited by whatever it is I just found, but a couple of recent acquisitions stand out. More and more I find myself gravitating towards what I would call literary ephemera. I have a copy of Vicente Huidobro's "Moulin," which was printed as a laid-in supplement to an invitation to an exhibition of his work in Paris in 1922. Huidobro was active in the Dada and Surrealist movements and the poem is a calligram, shaped like a windmill, with the text in normal lines on the verso. I love that something this fragile and ephemeral has survived. Along those lines I recently acquired a flier announcing the publication of City Lights magazine in 1952, which preceded the bookshop and publisher and even Ferlinghetti's involvement. It's a Beat incunable, as it were.

NP: What do you personally collect?

JR: I've been collecting twentieth-century poetry for a while, but as I've made a full transition to the trade I find that I don't really feel the need to own anything forever anymore--it's enough to enjoy it while I have it and move it along. As the artist/bookseller Ben Kinmont said, "sometimes a nicer sculpture is to be able to provide a living for your family."

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

JR: I love the daily sense of possibility--what am I going to find today? Who might call with a question or request today? What's in this dusty box of paper? I love the pursuit of knowledge and the fact that knowledge is cumulative in the trade--every new book or item I handle is now something I know about. I like the collegiality and friendship of dealers and librarians, the chance to handle amazing objects and share them with people who feel the same way, and to be able to do it all on my own terms, for the most part.

NP: Any thoughts to share on the future of the book trade?

JR: I think there will be always be a market for unique and beautiful items. In the library world there is often talk of special collections departments having more in common with museums than with the rest of the library, and the book trade reflects a similar focus. Modern publishing is being drastically transformed, and newspapers and scientific journals will certainly almost fully transition to digital or online presentations. But who wants to look at a photo book, or poetry, on a device? And that's not to mention the untold number of books that already exist in the world. Book collecting has always appealed to a narrow segment of the population and will continue to do so; younger people who grew up in the Internet age who have that certain inclination will still be enthralled by beautifully crafted books. But the nature of the trade has certainly changed, and I like Brian Cassidy's thoughts on the curatorial role of the dealer. It's something I'm trying to do as well. And as for younger dealers, this series of interviews is proof positive of the continuance of the trade.

NP: 
Are you currently producing a catalogue or an e-list?

JR: I put together an e-list for the San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair, at which I exhibited in early February 2012. It can be viewed on my website here. I don't have a printed catalogue currently in the works but eventually I'd like to do the occasional one. Plenty of my books remain unlisted and I encourage people to contact me at info [at] trioletrarebooks [dot] com if they're looking for specific things.


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Brooke Palmieri, a young American working in London for Sokol Books.

brooke.jpgNP: What is your role at Sokol Books?

BP: The ends of the job are to catalogue our stock in pre-1640 English and Continental books, but the means are paved with e-mails, InDesign, VAT returns, auction catalogues, etc. etc. I do whatever is necessary to keep day to day business running. It's great to learn how to run a business, and the added bonus is, I'm serving my time in Admin in order to play with the old books later on in the day.



NP: How did you get started in rare books?

BP: I was an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, and I had this idea that dealing with original materials would give me a better sense of why Literature is sometimes written with a capital "L". So before the start of the year I went to the Rare Book Library and asked for a job. John Pollack gave me one, and I've been gratefully losing sleep at night and waking up in the morning for this stuff ever since. From day one, John told me that the cardinal rule was that if you saw a book that interested you, you should stop what you were doing and spend time with it. You don't often find that kind of generosity with 400 year old books at age 19, and it's an experience I value more as time goes on. So now I'm a little closer to unlocking the mystery behind that capital "L" for Literature, and when I go back home to Philly now, visiting the library is as essential as visiting my parents.

NP: 
Favorite or most interesting book (or etc) you've handled?

BP: I try to keep a blog about the things that interest me most: http://eightvo.wordpress.com.  But I'm very impressionable and so it's usually the book I'm cataloguing at the moment. There is a copy of one of Jean Bodin's (many) works on witchcraft: Le Feau des Demons et Sorciers on my desk at the moment. It's the latest of several books on witchcraft and magic we've acquired, including Reginald Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, a book that argues with Bodin. The 16th century has always been a draw for me because the disciplinary boundaries are very supple.  Bodin draws together everything from folk songs to medical recipes, psychological studies, astronomy and theology to make his point about the evils of magic, and in this case, with serious legal consequences he a hand in determining. It's just goes to prove that in the 16th Century, you've got to be a Jack-of-all-trades, an ambition of mine which I think resonates with anyone in the book trade. Plus if all else fails I can make some money moonlighting as a palm reader.


NP: What do you personally collect?

BP: I don't think I am rigorous or wealthy enough to call it collecting so much as "giving stuff a home".  In addition to the clutter of books on books and poetry, the latest things under my roof are: 1) in-house newsletters by a Bristol stationary company, E. S. A. Robinson, about type and design and marketing paper bags (printing paper bags with logos is apparently "their idea" and it made them a fortune), and 2) After reading a book Television Horror Movie Hosts I have been on the lookout for any ephemera related to the regional American phenomenon that often found news anchors and weatherman pretending to be vampires on TV at night, especially John Zacherle. Finally, I have been trying with minor success to keep up with the Occupy movement. It's the most exciting and important thing to happen to politics, and aside from the vitality of its message and the dialogue it's created, much of the forcefulness comes from striking design. When content and form are unified in such bold ways as that, it's important to start paying attention as well as to start archiving.

NP: 

What do you love / hate about the book trade?

BP: Love: the sprawling community of experts in very diverse & strange fields. Hate: that the community is so sprawling, I only see some of my top 100 favorite people in the world once a year!!



NP: As an American living in London, what do you notice about the difference between bookselling in Britain and bookselling in America?

BP: The book trade here has a very rich dynastic history. Maggs, Quaritch, Sotheran, Pickering & Chatto all originate in the 18th and 19th centuries, and all have killer reference libraries and the benefit of accumulated wisdom, which gives quite a magnetism to the city when combined with the British Library and the major auction houses. In America the trade really smacks of Manifest Destiny: I have met many booksellers striking their own path from very diverse backgrounds. We all have a story of how we stumbled upon the book trade, and it's usually stumbling that does it, but the influence of London makes for very distinct common ground (& work experience) between booksellers here, as opposed to in the States.

NP: Any expatriate American bookseller stories to share? 

BP: Rule Number One: Your Visa is Precious. Thanksgiving Day 2010: I'm all grown up & on the Eurostar to Paris to pick up a book we'd acquired. Having done an MA at Oxford the year before, I was traveling on the (now defunct) Tier 1 Post-Study Visa. It was otherwise a great day wandering around Pere Lachaise, the Gustav Moreau museum, Christmas shopping, and picking up the book. What could feel like more of an arrival into the glamorous world of antique bookdealing than this? Imagine my shock-horror later, when I was detained & interviewed for 4 hours at the Gare du Nord. In official terms I was 'refused re-entry into the UK', a serious catch-all term for many kinds of transgressions, some criminal, although in my case it was a bureaucratic mix-up.
 
Did I mention the book was a second edition of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili? So I was stuck in Paris with a hundred thousand dollar book in my bag. Two things kept me from total meltdown that night: collating the book (I will never forget: *4 a-y8 z10 A-E8 F4) and trying to figure out the plot of a French-dubbed episode of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman with special guest star Johnny Cash. It was very dramatic. By the end of the weekend my partner had rescued me (actually maybe that's what kept me from meltdown) and was headed back to London to deliver the book to Sokol. I was headed back to Philly to sort though piles of paper to send to the Border Agency. It took three months and lots of legal advice to fix things. Who would have thought the pursuit of one of the beauties of early Italian printing would have taught me so much about immigration law?

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?

BP: Yes, but the gestation period for my ambition in that area has years to go, so there's no knowing when or where it'll happen. I have a lot of ideas, one is pairing artists' books and fine press with older books. Mother books and daughter books. I am frequently struck by contemporary works that make me think: cite your sources! So that's what I'll do: I'll take issues in intellectual history and render them visual.  I'll be very heavy-handed and persnickity in the way I curate, using the order of the books to add new context and value to each of the individual titles across many time periods. Marc Jacobs does it with handbags and fashion books, I'll do it with new books and old books. That'll be Brooke's Books. Or whatever I'll call it. Community is important, so there will also be very many worthwhile parties, as often as possible.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

BP: The quality and quantity of other young booksellers you've interviewed on this blog answers this question much better than I.
 

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Rob Fleck of Oak Knoll Books in New Castle, Delaware. Rob's father, Bob, founded Oak Knoll Books in 1976.

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NP: Considering your father owns Oak Knoll, you must've grown up around old and rare books.  Did you develop an interest in rare books early in life?  Or did you come to it later?

RF: I actually wasn't a big reader when I was a child. However, my interest for antiquarian books came with the subject matter. My grandfather was a war veteran from World War II (navigator on a B-24 based out of southern Italy) and I was lucky enough to have my grandparents move from Chicago to New Castle, DE when I was born. I was always around them as they only lived two blocks down the street. Anyway, because of him and his experience in WWII, I became fascinated with the history of the war. I started to read personal memoirs, historical accounts, and interviews which helped me build my (extremely small) library of books concerning WWII. I even have all 18 missions of my grandfather's navigation logs, including a few training missions, which caused me to visit a few flea markets to see if any WWII memorabilia was for sale. Even though the official date of the war was from 1939 - 1945, not many books survived from that time period, making it that much more exciting!



NP: On a related note, did you always plan to go to work at Oak Knoll or did you consider other options / fields first?

RF: Well, I graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Psychology because I was interested in the way people formed relationships and how those relationships affect them throughout life (my favorite psychologist to study was Erik Erikson). I always viewed myself as a 'people-person', so why not make a profession of it?

NP: 

What do you personally collect?  And did you start collecting at a young age?

RF: Going back to my Grandfather, I love collecting WWII memorabilia. However, I am definitely interested in 17th and 18th century art, particularly portraits. I also enjoy Howard Pyle and John Schoonover, however who doesn't like those talented Delaware artists?



NP: Favorite book (or etc) you've handled?

We had a lovely copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer in pig-skin and boards. I always found Kelmscott titles to be beautiful not just because of the extravagant woodcuts, but wanting to make the book more than just a reading object affected the book trade entirely. However, if you were to ask my father, I feel that he may say his page of the Gutenberg Bible that he had over 20 years ago would be pretty high up there as well.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

RF: For me the one thing that I love more about the book trade more than anything else is simple: the people. Going to book fairs is one of my favorite tasks to do for Oak Knoll. Many members of the ABAA/ILAB are extremely caring, nice, interesting individuals that all share the same interests. Very few of them don't go out of their way to help you if you have a problem. Not to mention the countless amazing stories about bookselling and book collecting that are told around a shared bottle of wine.

NP: Do you plan to take over Oak Knoll Books one day, or to start your own venture?

RF: Absolutely! I feel that Oak Knoll will always have a place in antiquarian bookselling because of the subject matter in which we deal in. However, I have always been an avid home chef, and while some booksellers think that antiquarian books and food don't mix very well, I think that it would create the ultimate 'comfort food' to have an antiquarian book store and a restaurant in the same establishment. However, this could just be some crazy idea from a young bookseller!

NP: Any thoughts to share on the future of the book trade?

RF: It will get tougher, that's for sure. I can see many of our bibliography titles migrating to free online databases, but many of our books aren't necessarily about the content, it's about the collectability. However, we have very good customers of ours whose collecting interests are strictly bibliography. Other subjects including bookbinding, printing, and typography, are collectible on their own. Books like these could have illustrations of bookbinding and printing tools, or big bold woodblock lettering that gives them that sex appeal.



NP: Tell us about your new catalogue, your involvement with it, and how to obtain a copy:

RF: Our newest general catalogue 298 actually came out in late January, 2012. We had some large (and very exciting) collections that came in during 2011 that we had to split up into multiple catalogues. Our newest special catalogue, #18, features a lovely collection of private press material that we got from a retired, but still practicing, lawyer from Washington, D.C. However, catalogue 299 will be completely designed by myself, typography and all, as I am somewhat familiar with typesetting programs such as Adobe InDesign. You can actually write an email to us at oakknoll@oakknoll.com requesting a physical copy of a catalogue, or you may visit the catalogue section of our website.


Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Brad and Jen Johnson, proprietors of The Bookshop in Covina, California.

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NP: How did you both get started in rare books?

BJ: At the tender age of fifteen ­ before I knew any better ­ I answered an ad for an "apprentice bookseller" in my high school bulletin. This past December, I celebrated my 19th years in the trade. Jen, a former newspaper reporter and public relations executive, dove in headfirst when we purchased the shop. She was recently accepted as an Associate Member of the ABAA.

NP: When did you take over The Book Shop?

BJ: We purchased The Book Shop in October 2006 from Brad¹s mentor Roger Gozdecki, who now operates Anthology Rare Books in Pasadena, California.

NP: What roles do each of you play within the company?

BJ: We make an excellent team, and collaborate in many aspects of the business. Jen manages the finances and public relations, while I am responsible for the lion¹s share of the buying and cataloguing books.

NP: Tell us about your shop in Covina:

Established in 1981, The Book Shop is located in the heart of downtown Covina, about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. Our shop is open six days a week and houses an inventory of some 30,000 titles, ranging from the general second-hand to the truly antiquarian.

NP: Have you found it challenging to maintain a brick-and-mortar store in the age of online bookselling?

BJ: Like any small business, it can be challenging. However, we have found that as bookstores are closing around us, The Book Shop has become more of a destination for those who hunger for the opportunity to browse the stacks and let serendipity lead the way.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

BJ: First and foremost, the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge. We also love the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of placing a book in the right hands.

NP: Favorite book (or etc) you've handled?

BJ: A few years ago, we acquired an early 17th century English law text with a chained binding complete with the iron chain. More recently, we handled a great Edgar Allan Poe collection that included the February 1845 issue of The American Review containing the first appearance of The Raven.

NP: What do you personally collect?

BJ: We have a small collection of books either personally inscribed to us or handed down through generations. Brad tends toward ancient history and European noir, while Jen likes quirky books, such as "Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods" (1910), a fantasy field guide to the mythical creatures of North America.

NP: Any thoughts to share on the future of the book trade?

BJ: Early in my bookselling career, I spent countless hours combing the pages of AB Bookman¹s Weekly. Now my days are web based. The trade is constantly evolving, but much remains the same. As booksellers, we are locating materials and constructing narratives around them that reflect their significance and scarcity. I feel as though my generations of booksellers are telling original and dynamic narratives that are inspiring new collectors while also respecting the traditions of the trade. As such, I am
bullish on the future of the trade.

NP: Tell us about your new collective catalogue and how to get a copy:

BJ: Our friends in the trade are like family to us, and we really look forward to every opportunity to come together and share our experiences, knowledge, and passion for what we do. It is in that spirit that The Collective came together.

As I recall, the idea was formed during a conversation I had with my brother Josh Mann of B&B Rare Books in New York during the 2011 Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair. The concept was to feature a small selection of books representative of each firms¹ inventory, while also generating excitement for the California book fairs this February. It was a lot fun working collaboratively and thanks to Jen¹s design skills, the final product looks fantastic.

You can obtain a copy of the collective by emailing brad@bookshopllc.com and let him know if you would like to be mailed a hard copy or would like a PDF.

(Photo Credit: Teri Osborn)
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Brian Cassidy, proprietor of Brian Cassidy, Bookseller in Silver Spring, Maryland:

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 NP: How did you get started in rare books?

BC: Like a surprising number of rare book dealers, I started out as a poet. I earned an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in 1996. After graduating, I planned on teaching and writing. But as teaching positions were often part-time, I began supplementing my income by working in bookstores, the longest (almost five years) at Denver's Tattered Cover. And it was while at the Tattered Cover that I began some amateur book scouting around Denver and Boulder in order to support my book buying habit. I became reasonably proficient at being able to trade books I could find cheaply for more expensive books I actually wanted. After my daughter was born, the idea of that scouting project writ large began to percolate in my mind.

NP: How did you transition from poetry to bookselling?

BC: I've had this conversation with other poet-booksellers, that poetry -- the serious writing and study of it -- is in many ways an excellent preparation for being a book dealer. In my case, I utilized my background in specializing to some extent in poetry and little magazines. But there is also something of the poetic mindset that I think is well-suited for bookselling. The creativity, the curiosity, the focus and attention I learned as a poet have all served me well as a dealer.

NP: When did you open Brian Cassidy, Bookseller?


BC: I established my business in May 2004, and worked out of my house while I stayed at home with my then three-year-old daughter. I sold mostly the books I accumulated while working in bookstores, along with a handful of better finds from my scouting days, and a few gems from my personal collection. It was largely a part-time venture until 2006 when I attended the Colorado Antiquarian Seminar and finally admitted to myself that this -- and not so much poetry or teaching -- was what I wanted to do with my life. Later that year, after a move to the west coast, I bought an existing bookshop in Monterey, CA and went full-time. I was accepted into the ABAA in 2008. In late 2009, my wife, a Naval officer, was transferred to a new job and I closed my shop and moved to the Washington D.C. area where I've worked since. I recently took office space in downtown Silver Spring, MD where I welcome visitors by chance and appointment.

NP: What do you specialize in?

BC: I like to say "the intrinsically interesting, unusual, and unique," which is broad and vague enough to cover almost anything that strikes my fancy. I embrace the curatorial school of bookselling, meaning I see part of my job as sorting through the many books I could handle to find the ones I want to handle. Typically these are books or ephemera about which I feel I have something unique to say or some spin particular to me. Or they are merely items I think are wicked cool or that appeal or speak to me in some way. Which is not to say my own tastes don't tend to coalesce around a few natural areas of focus - poetry, the mimeo revolution, the Beats, The New York School, the 20th century avant garde - or that I don't buy and sell more ordinary books that find their way to me. However, I do attempt to maintain a healthy skepticism around the entire idea of "specialization." I like to think that if I find something interesting, no matter what its particular genre or content, I can make it interesting to someone else as well.

For example, I am currently fascinated with what I term "folk, vernacular, and outsider books." These are unique, typically handmade books - things like scrapbooks, albums, diaries, manuscripts and the like - that to my mind are the rough biblio-equivalent of folk and outsider art or vernacular photography. But these are often items that defy traditional categories of specialization. In large part that is what draws me to them.

NP: Favorite or most interesting book (or etc) you've handled?

I've been fortunate enough to handle some really fantastic Beat items. A few years ago I sold one of Jack Kerouac's personal copies of Ann Charters' bibliography of his work. It had Kerouac's hand corrections throughout, as well as those of Ann and Sam Charters. It was something I scouted up (meaning it had little in the way of provenance) and took almost a year of research before I could authenticate it. It's my favorite not only because of what it was intrinsically, but also because the entire process of researching and verifying its authenticity was both exhilarating and frustrating.

I also was very fond of a collection of original photographs and collages made by William S. Burroughs during the period he was writing NAKED LUNCH that Ken Lopez and I handled together. More recently, I sold two notebooks that belonged to Peter Orlovsky, one of which dated to the beginning of his relationship with Allen Ginsberg during the period Ginsberg was writing HOWL.

NP: What do you personally collect?

BC: I try to keep my own collecting minimal, practical, and as much as possible inexpensive. Otherwise the temptation to hold back material that flows through the business can be too great. To that end, like many booksellers, I collect books on books. Most of these are reference materials, bibliographies and the like. But I also like books on the history of bookselling, and have a special fondness for bookseller memoirs.

My largest personal collection by far, however, is books with compelling or revealing owner alterations. These can be anything from marginalia and inscriptions (non-authorial, non-association) to more outward changes. For example, I have a book that was in the Jonestown Flood. I look for books that physically tell a story about how they were used (or abused) by ordinary people.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

BC: That someone pushing 40 (I'm 39) could for the purposes of this interview be considered "young."

But to take your question more seriously, I love that the business affords me the chance to constantly learn new things and how it allows me to follow and capitalize on my own interests and obsessions.

NP: Any thoughts to share on young collectors and the future of the book trade?

BC: When I hear older dealers lament the demise of the book, or how younger people don't read etc., I honestly feel like we're living in different worlds. People are interacting with the written word more now than at any time in human history - texts, email, blogs, the internet, ebooks, Kindles, etc. - and this can only bode well for the future of the book and collecting. Yes, the book and our concept of it is changing. And yes, collecting habits and interests will evolve with it. But the idea that people will stop collecting is nonsense. They'll just collect different things. It will be up to new generations of dealers to recognize these emerging collecting areas as well as to take them up and promote them further - even to take the lead and make the argument for neglected corners of our cultural heritage.

Because at our core, book dealers have always been purveyors, not of books per se, but of culture. For a very long time, the book was the primary repository of that culture. As the infrastructure of our cultural ecosystem diversifies, however, so must what the book dealer handles. This will continue to mean everything from The King James Bible and the Kelmscott Chaucer to Hemingway and Stephen King. But it will also mean punk rock flyers and old computer manuals, zines and amateur photographs, home movies and video tapes, and maybe someday even Atari cartridges. Or Kindles. Or the archive of original HTML files to a seminal blog like Boing Boing. I think it's only a matter of time before we start seeing "first editions" of landmark video games at bookfairs, for example.

NP: Tell us about your upcoming catalogue and how to obtain a copy:

BC: My sixth catalogue should be going to press shortly after you read this and be available by the second week of February. Some highlights include: a rare complete set of invitations to Andy Warhol's first retrospective (from the estate of the exhibit's curator), several good Beat associations, an original poster from Patti Smith's first reading/performance, a complete set of original and striking silk-screens posters from the debut of John Cage's HPSCHD, and a fascinating archive of notebooks and original art from a British trainspotter. Also poetry, the mimeo revolution, modern literature, the counterculture, and assorted other odds and ends. Readers interested in obtaining a copy and/or in being notified when it is available online can either email me at books@briancassidy.net or join the mailing list by filling out the online form on my website.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with our youngest entry yet: twenty-two year old Ashley Loga of Lorne Bair Rare Books in Winchester, Virginia:

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NP: What is your role at Lorne Bair Rare Books?

AL: Basically Lorne is Obi-Wan Kenobi and I'm his padawan.  I do a little bit of everything, from cataloging books to processing orders.  Lorne is having fun teaching me everything he knows.  Considering I just entered into this business a few months ago, I still have much to learn but I'm loving every minute of it. 

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

AL: All throughout high school, the only thing I ever wanted to do was own a bookstore.  After graduating from college this past spring, I attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, hoping to learn something about running an open shop.  I went to the seminar knowing almost nothing about the antiquarian book trade nor what an antiquarian book truly was.  At the seminar, my world was flipped upside down.  Everything about the antiquarian book trade sounded amazing and exciting to me.  I like to imagine one of those comic strip moments with a little light bulb clicking on above my head.  My dreams of owning a used bookstore and café were quickly replaced by the antiquarian book trade.  After being wrapped up in a whirlwind of an auction for a dinner with the faculty of the seminar, an auction I wasn't even planning on bidding in, Lorne offered me a job.  I jumped at the chance, moving from Jackson, Mississippi to Winchester, Virginia without a second thought.

NP: Favorite book you've handled?

AL: The most interesting book I have ever handled is a hand written journal from the early 1900's. It was written by a young man traveling from Dayton, OH to San Francisco.  Not only is the writing enjoyable but he also included hand drawn maps, a sketch of a train's side door sleeper and detailed budget and expense lists.  It is fascinating for me to be able to connect to someone through reading their own personal thoughts and experiences.  To me, the most interesting books are the ones with ownership history, ones which allow you to glean something about the previous owners.  Being able to share a connection with someone through a book is my favorite thing about this trade.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

AL: I love the sense of community and partnership within the trade.  I find it charming and welcoming.  Being a veracious learner, I also love how I am always learning something new about each book and its contents through research and cataloging. 

NP: What do you personally collect?

AL: Personally, I have a slight fetish for antique trunks and boxes but in regards to my book collection there is no overall theme or genre linking them all.  I usually just pick up books that interest me or nice copies of my favorite books. 

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday? (And if so, what would you like to specialize in?)

AL: For now, I'm just learning everything I can about the trade. I haven't given much thought to owning my own shop someday but I do know I will be in the book trade for life.  It is definitely the career for me.  As for specialization, I'm currently learning everything I can about prison and prostitution literature. 

NP: I believe you are the youngest bookseller we've interviewed to date.  Any thoughts to share on the future of the book trade from your vantage point?

AL: Being only 22, I am perhaps one of the youngest ones currently in the trade.  Personally, I am tired of this defeatist attitude.  I frequently come across people bemoaning the death of the business on the list-serves.  This frustrates me greatly.   Having a defeatist attitude only hinders the business and does not help it grow at all.  Everyone says that people my age do not collect but this is untrue.  I know quite a few people under the age of 30 who collect books and take pride in their collections.  I think this view partially comes from a disconnect with the older age group and the younger age group.  And partially from the fact that people my age do not have the funds to buy books on the higher end of prices.  Book fair advertisements need to not only target the older crowd through newspaper advertisements but also find new ways to target people in their 20s and 30s.  The customers' desires are merely shifting: the business is not dying.

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with David Eilenberger, our first southern bookseller, and the proprietor of Eilenberger Rare Books in Durham, North Carolina.

davideilenberger.jpg NP: How did you get started in rare books?

DE: I was tending bar during the late 1990's, near the end of my ill-fated graduate school career in European history. Doug O'Dell of Chapel Hill Rare Books was one of my regulars. Knowing of my interest in history and writing, he hired me as a cataloger. It was a wonderful experience. The shop was a treasure trove of manuscripts, photographs, maps, and ephemera as well as rare books, and I was quickly hooked. Doug was a shrewd businessman, but saw our mission as one of scholarship as well as profit. As a result, I had free reign to research the historical context of our most important items, sometimes above and beyond what might have been strictly necessary to sell the materials. For me, the work was not just a job, but a continuation of my education. And, I hope, this intellectual curiosity made for some interesting catalogs and helped sell a few books.
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Dan Whitmore, proprietor of Whitmore Rare Books in Pasadena, California:

danny.jpg NP: How did you get started in rare books?

DW: I am a reader. I loved reading literature from an early age and realized during college, that I didn't have the time to read all the books that I wanted to. As a result, I focused on the classics, although from several different genres: Russian, Victorian, Modern, Children's, etc. While attending law school in Philadelphia, I stumbled upon a first edition of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and I was hooked. My pursuit of modern firsts quickly outgrew the shops in Philadelphia and I had to venture further afield. I found Royal Books in Baltimore and was very impressed. The owner, Kevin Johnson, took the time to guide me in collecting and, later, would act as a mentor for me when I launched my own company.

NP: When did you open Whitmore Rare Books?

DW: My transition from collector into dealer was relatively rapid. I sold my first book in April of 2009 and then proceeded to sell on consignment for the remainder of the year. With much encouragement and support from my lovely wife, I gave notice about six months from my first book sale and was ready to sell under our own banner in early 2010.
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Jonathan Smalter, proprietor of Yesterday's Muse, in Webster, New York.  Jonathan just released his first catalogue, which is available to download here.jonathan-smalter.jpgNP: How did you get started as a bookseller?

JS: I began working in a used bookstore when I was 17, but I think my love of books started much earlier than that. The first memory I have is of my grandmother teaching me to properly turn the pages of a book. My first book-related job was all data entry, and I had a chance to handle a lot of interesting books. I was hooked.

NP: When did you open Yesterday's Muse?

JS: Yesterday's Muse has been in operation since 2002, when I literally began selling books out of my closet during college. I've been making a living doing this full-time since college, and opened a brick-and-mortar shop towards the end of 2008.
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Matthew and Adrienne Raptis of Raptis Rare Books in Brattleboro, Vermont. They recently released their first catalogue, which we reviewed last week on the blog.

NP: How did you both get started in rare books?

AR: Matthew started collecting books when he was a young child. He was very interested in history, particularly the American Civil War, and started with a small collection of antiquarian books. His collection grew over the years to encompass many other fields, from literature to photography. The business in rare books was a natural development from his passions.

I came into the business by virtue of being married to Matthew, so it was less of a direct journey. My degrees are in the sciences, but I have always loved books and read voraciously. A funny thing is that I used to pretend when I was a child that I was a bookseller. We actually came across a photo this past year after we returned from the San Francisco book fair that shows me with my books fanned out in a very similar way to how our books our displayed when we are at a fair. It must have been destiny because I love this business and being surrounded by such amazing pieces of history.
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Zhenya Dzhavgova, proprietor of ZH Books in Fremont, California:

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

ZD: My entering the rare books business was a bit accidental. Where I am from people do not generally buy and collect antiquarian books--not because they do not love books, but because they do not have the means to enjoy books as objects of art. Seven years ago, when I came to the US, I was absolutely astonished to find out how easy it is to purchase literary items and build a collection. I have been fascinated with books from a very early age and I have always loved to read, so I had amassed quite a library, including many reference and foreign language books, when I  stumbled upon some very interesting and uncommon books and ephemera at an estate sale. I decided to try to sell them and ZH BOOKS was born.

NP: Where are you from originally and what brought you to the States?

ZD: I am originally from Bulgaria and I came to the US seven years ago. There were many reasons as to why I decided to emigrate. Incidentally, when I was on my way to the airport to get on a plane to San Francisco, I saw a graffiti scrawl on a building, which summed up my reasoning for leaving nicely: "I love my land, but I do not much like the country." In other words, I loved the people and the beauty of Bulgaria and I missed my family and friends, but there were no opportunities for young people there and life was very hard. I have built a new life for me here in the US, but I will always go back to visit and I will always be Bulgarian at heart.
Our series profiling young antiquarian booksellers continues today with Kent Tschanz of Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City:

NP: What is your role within Ken Sanders Rare Books?

KT: I usually tell people I am the left hand. I buy books, price books, catalog books, produce catalogs, house-calls, institutional quotes, pack for fairs, and anything else that Ken would like.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

KT: I spent a good deal of time in bookstores in my late teens and early twenties, and one day I turned in an application at Sam Weller's. I started by shelving the new arrivals and just stuck around for almost ten years, By the time I left I was doing some of the buying, helping with catalogs and manning the desk in the rare book room. I made a decision that I wanted to work for a smaller, more specialized shop. I knew Ken and I asked him for a job, and now six years later....
Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Joshua Mann and Sunday Steinkirchner, the young proprietors of B&B Rare Books in New York City:

NP: How did you both get started in rare books?

SS: It was quite accidental! Josh and I met in college and moved to NYC after we graduated. I was starting a graduate school program and Josh was looking for work, and we were searching for our way to pay our rent and make extra money. We found antiquarian books for sale at a street sale one day, and it just clicked. Josh's father was a book collector, so he had a basic knowledge of the collectible market, and we quickly learned about the value of first editions. We started purchasing books at estate sales in Queens and Long Island, and worked to sell them and meet customers online.
 
NP: When did you open B&B?

SS: We started selling books in 2003, but officially incorporated our business in 2005.

NP: What does B&B specialize in?

SS: 19th and 20th century English and American literature.
Today marks the beginning of a new series at the Fine Books blog profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers. We begin with Teri Osborn of William Reese Company in New Haven:

NP: What is your role within William Reese Co.?

TO: I think technically my title is Americana Cataloguer, but I always tell people that I'm here to do whatever Bill tells me to do. So far that's included--in addition to cataloguing--working book fairs, putting together lists of items for sale, packing up entire libraries, and trying to sell as many books as humanly possible.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

TO: I was a rare book librarian in a former life. I went to library school because it was very practical and I would be employable. A friend said to me, "Hey, you should take this course on rare books with me," to which I replied, "That doesn't sound very practical." But I did take the course and have been smitten ever since. And I've been fortunate enough to work as a rare book professional since I graduated in 2005. I spent three years in libraries before serendipitously landing a job at the Reese Company and have never looked back.

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