Bright Young Things: Erin Barry-Dutro

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.