Bright Young Things: Ashley Wildes

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.