Bright Young Booksellers: Holly Segar

Courtesy of Holly Segar

Our Bright Young Booksellers series continues today with Holly Segar, proprietor of A Fox's Tale / Caroliniana Rare Books (ABAA) in Aiken, South Carolina:

How did you get started in rare books?

My introduction to the trade was as a student at the University of Connecticut, after which I spent a number of years with the ABAA firm Yesterday’s Gallery and was an associate ABAA member for Colebrook Book Barn, before starting my own company. I then moved to London and worked for Peter Harrington as children’s literature specialist.

When did you open Caroliniana Rare Books and what do you specialize in? 

I opened a bookshop in my hometown of Aiken, South Carolina in 2018. Originally the shop was named Caroliniana, but we changed its name to A Fox’s Tale after moving locations in 2019. Caroliniana remains the name of our rare books and manuscripts division, while the open shop contains products geared towards the general public, namely a combination of antiquarian books, primitive antiques and gift items. I like to call it a shop of “whimsy.”

What do you love about the book trade?

I love the camaraderie within the trade and the sense of belonging to a family it creates. We all come from different backgrounds and locations but when we are all together in a room for a fair we are all just one big family getting together! I also like all the different paths one can take in the trade. For example, I started off as children’s literature dealer but now am much more interested in cookery and Americana.

Describe a typical day for you:

Oh wow, where to begin. I get up early, upon the request of my two demanding schnauzers Bert and Izzy; from there I am in the shop pretty early getting everything organized and sorted before opening. Once we are open I am usually in the office either cataloging or organizing books for upcoming fairs or catalogs. I am also active in various downtown development groups in Aiken and so I tend to find myself in meetings or planning for meetings. The end of my day might include a stop at the barn to see the horses.

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

Oh, there are just too many list. I have been very fortunate to have handled a lot of great items. While working for Peter Harrington, I was in constant awe of the material I was surrounded by. I think something more recently l dealt was the first Latino cookbook, published in California in 1898. Also a collection photographic albums belonging to an early pioneer in woman’s rodeo. Looking further back I dealt the letter L Frank Baum wrote to Ruth P. Thompson more or less handing over the reins to the Oz world. That’s another thing I love about this trade—you never know what one will find or see next.

What do you personally collect?

Ha! Again, another long list. Might be easier to state what I don’t collect! 

My very first collection was Baroness Orczy which is a pretty developed collection at this point and I rarely find much new to add to it. 

I also collected the Beginner Book Series in dust jackets and all variants—another collection somewhat complete.

Currently I am fascinated with books covered in 19th century wallpaper, cookery and, of course, Disneyana.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I have an imported Holstein Stallion which I compete in eventing and show jumping as well as breed. I love escaping to the barn to just get away. 

If I am not at the barn I enjoy gardening, traveling, and shopping for antiques and primitives.

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

The trade has changed so much from when I first came into it, for better and for worse. Watching the virtual book fairs take off during Covid was intriguing, and I think will provide a whole avenue to explore for the future. 

We are participating in the first hybrid (virtual and live) book fair in Santa Monica in Oct which I am very excited about. The promoters (Brad and Jen Johnson) do an excellent job at trying to find new ways to introduce new people to the trade. I am really excited about this show because they are allowing us to be as creative with our space as we want. I think that’s going to be important going forward, giving our trade more focused ways to captivate new audiences.

Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?

Yes, we are participating in the New York ABAA fair and the Santa Monica Rare Books LA Fair. We also have a couple of catalogues on deck including a catalogue of war related cookery.