Bright Young Things: Kara McLaughlin

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.

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.