Bright Young Things: Kent Tschanz

Our series profiling young antiquarian booksellers continues today with Kent Tschanz of Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City:

NP: What is your role within Ken Sanders Rare Books?

KT: I usually tell people I am the left hand. I buy books, price books, catalog books, produce catalogs, house-calls, institutional quotes, pack for fairs, and anything else that Ken would like.

NP: How did you get started in rare books?

KT: I spent a good deal of time in bookstores in my late teens and early twenties, and one day I turned in an application at Sam Weller’s. I started by shelving the new arrivals and just stuck around for almost ten years, By the time I left I was doing some of the buying, helping with catalogs and manning the desk in the rare book room. I made a decision that I wanted to work for a smaller, more specialized shop. I knew Ken and I asked him for a job, and now six years later....
NP: Most interesting book you've handled?

KT: Working with Ken I am lucky enough to see an enormous amount of very interesting things. A few of the more interesting items would be: Joseph and Emma Smith's family bible with their genealogy in their own hands. The hand written birth dates of the Smith children is the primary source for this information. Another item that I have handled that I think is interesting was a photo scrapbook by George Wharton James chronicling one of his visits to the Hopi Mesas. It contained a few dozen original photographs with handwritten descriptions. I really enjoyed it at the time, but after visiting the Hopi Mesas I had a new appreciation of the work.

NP: What do you love about rare books and the book trade?

KT: The collegiality among the trade, and that I see something new almost everyday.

NP: What would you criticize about the book trade?

KT: That my friends in the trade live so far away, and that the closest book fair is Denver. The trade off is the wide open spaces of the West.

NP: What do you personally collect?

KT: I do not collect books, but I do collect records. I do have books in the house, and a handful of them have some value, but in theory all of them are for sale. I think as a seller of books it would put me at a disadvantage to collect. Would I pay too much for something because of my personnel attachment to it? Would I price a book too high because maybe I don't want it to go away? The record collection is heavy on Chet Baker, Van Morrison and the Sea & Cake.

NP: Do you want to open your own shop some day?

KT: We'll see what the future brings, but if I did I would specialize in Utah/Mormons and the American West.

NP: There's been a lot of talk recently about the uncertain future of the rare book trade. As a young bookseller, do you have any thoughts on this?

KT: I think that the reading public is a very small corner of the universe, and I think that the collecting public is a smaller corner still. It has always been this way, and probably always will. I am excited about the future of books and book collecting.
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