Lame Duck Closing

As some of you may know, Lame Duck Books of Cambridge, Mass., is closing its shop in September. So this will be a summer of liquidation for the Harvard Square bookseller, and collectors stand to save between 25-50% off of books, manuscripts, art, and photography. Bittersweet news. The sale is both online and in store. Pictured here is an inscribed photographic portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright from Lame Duck's inventory.

Lame Duck owner John Wronoski graciously agreed to answer some questions about the shop's closure and his experience in the book business. Our Q&A follows.   

RRB: Are you just closing the physical shop, or are you getting out of the business? Why?

JW: The closing of the physical shop is part of a slightly longer-term process in which I'll be assessing the future prospects of the business. I have an art gallery next door to the current bookshop and I'll probably try somehow to consolidate the two businesses for some relatively brief period of time while I decide whether it makes sense to continue on in Cambridge, or at all. Although I have no sense that it will be possible to sell the business as a going concern, I'm very much open to that as an option, and I'd do what I could to make it possible for an interested party to acquire it under congenial terms, including staying on as an unpaid adviser during an interim period. Assuming that that won't happen, I'm intent on liquidating as much of the stock as I can in the relatively near future. It's highly likely that regardless of what might happen with Lame Duck Books I'd remain active in the book trade after some fashion, whether as an agent in the sale of collections and literary archives, an appraiser or even a consultant, or for that matter a private librarian. It's too intimate a part of my life to simply abandon it, much though I've often fantasized just that.

RRB: How long have you been a book dealer?

JW: I began putting the shop together in Philadelphia in 1983, when I was 24 years old. It opened in January 1984.

RRB: Do you have a favorite piece -- book, mss., letter -- that's come through your shop?

JW: A lot of them haven't quite finished coming through it.  My principal focus is literary archives and manuscripts and important association copies of literary works of art, so I've handled quite a lot of really extraordinary things. If I had to specify one that made me feel like the air had left the room and I was in the presence of eternity, it would probably be the only known manuscript version of Borges's Pierre Menard autor del Quixote -- my art gallery is named after it.

RRB: Are you a collector yourself?

JW: Only by virtue of having failed to sell some of my books. I think of myself as more akin to a birdwatcher than to a proper collector. I want to have seen it, maybe even gotten quite close, perhaps even for longer than would seem normal to a lot of people, but I don't need to possess it in the end.  On the other hand, I've sold some astonishing things that I've never even touched.