The Rise and Fall of a Rare Book Business
Former book dealer Bill Cotter is bravely detailing the bankruptcy of his rare book and restoration business, Milou Rare Books, over on the McSweeney's website:
And so begins a harrowing and cautionary tale. All seven dispatches (to date) are available here.
Business started out with some promise. My first customers were dealers and collectors of early printed books (generally pre-1700). Such books are often worth a dealer's investing a few hundred bucks to mend and prettify. I reattached boards and re-sewed headbands and subtracted antique mildew or the occasional antique food- or bloodstain. Occasionally I'd get to handle some pretty cool books. Once I had a copy of Galileo's Siderius Nuncius. I was sure that Vinnie, our cat, would, as a demonstration of power and enmity, daub the book with tinkle when I had my back turned. But he did not. Meanwhile, business steadily got better.
Within a couple of years I had worked on enough early books where it seemed like a good idea, and a logical business assay, to try dealing rare books myself, angling for damaged or weathered ? but restorable ? books, then restoring and selling them. To finance this venture, I accepted a few of the five hundred thousand low-interest credit-card offers that came in the mail every day. With these cards I bought rare books.