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:

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.

And so begins a harrowing and cautionary tale. All seven dispatches (to date) are available here.
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