Bright Young Things: Andrew Gaub

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

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.