Bright Young Things: Seth Glick

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Seth Glick of Caliban Books in Pittsburgh.

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NP: How did you get started in rare books?

SG: I found my job through craigslist. Instead of sending a resume, I wrote a smart-ass paragraph about myself, and included the last 3 books I had read. John Schulman, the owner of Caliban, apparently thought I was an endearing smart-ass, and after an interview he offered me a job as cataloger.

NP: What is your role at Caliban?

SG: Currently, I’m the manager of our online department, which operates out of The Warehouse. My average day includes cataloging, answering customer inquiries over email and phone, scanning and photographing books. I oversee sales on our website and the mega-sites we list on. I also schlep plenty of books - boxes and boxes of books.

NP: What is your favorite rare book that you’ve handled?

SG: A few years ago we sold a photo of F. Scott Fitzgerald in drag from a Triangle Club production. It was inscribed by Fitzgerald, “Lovingly, Geraldine.” Currently for sale we have a 1759 bound volume of The Scots Magazine that has the first published map of Pittsburgh so-called; it’s basically 5 lines showing the rivers and a few forts, but it’s pretty cool.

NP: What do you love about the book trade?

SG: My favorite part is just handling the books. Feeling the different bindings, looking at the type, flipping through the pages. I also love the spell that books cast on people, and how discernable this trance can be. Without fail, whenever someone walks in The Warehouse for the first time they stand in the doorway, look at the stacks of books and gasp like they’re looking at the Grand Canyon. It’s nice to be a part of that.

NP: What do you personally collect?

SG: I always keep an eye out for a few things: books by Aldous Huxley, especially his writings on psychedelic drugs, and Lenny Bruce material. Also, a few years ago a coworker turned me on to the dust jackets of Alvin Lustig, specifically his designs for New Directions’ New Classics series - I have about a third of those. Looking for books and ephemera on 80’s-90’s hip-hop is going to be my next project.

NP: Do you want to open your own shop someday?

SG: That’s a tough one. I certainly hope to be active in the bookselling community for a long time, but I don’t think that a brick and mortar is in my future. Caliban has a storefront where I work occasionally and I enjoy the rhythm of working behind a counter, watching customers come in and browse. But operating an open shop is a challenge these days. Pittsburgh is a relatively large city, and we can barely sustain five physical bookstores. If I go on my own, it would be solely online.

NP: Thoughts on the future of the book trade?

SG: I think we have no option but to keep on finding better, rarer, more interesting material, and finding new and exciting ways to promote and package it. Outstanding books will sell themselves; we may just have to try harder at convincing the public on why they would want to start collecting antiquarian books. It’s an exciting time to be an online business. We’ve mailed books to people a mile away, and to people in over 100 countries. We have an enormous base of potential customers, we just need them to notice us.

NP: Any upcoming fairs / catalogues for Caliban?

SG: We’re still working on getting a catalog out there. In the last few months I’ve seen a lot of exciting catalogs, both in print and .pdfs -- they’re starting to look like works of art. We do three fairs a year: NY, Boston and San Francisco/LA. We’re looking into trying out some of the smaller, regional ones as well.
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