THE WRITE STUFF FB&C welcomes your comments, kudos, complaints, counsel, and silly photos. Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or write us at Letters, FB&C, PO Box 106, Eureka, CA 95502. Sending us a letter constitutes permission to publish it. Letters may be edited for reasons of space and clarity.
A youthful Doug O’Dell bounded into my bookshop on a sunny afternoon twenty-six years ago, announcing “We’d like to see your best books!” He was accompanied by Lin Respess, himself a tyro bookseller at the time. The two had driven north from Chapel Hill, scouting books along the way, and they figured that my shop in upper Bucks County was rural enough that it might give up a hidden treasure or two. After all, Bucks County had a long literary tradition, tracing from early Quaker settlers up through Nathaniel West, Dorothy Parker, Moss Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, S. J. Perelman, Jean Toomer, James Michener, and many more. Doug and Lin scouted the shop, book by book and pamphlet by pamphlet.
I watched them take down and open books without spine titles, hoping to awaken a sleeper. A small pile grew on the old counter of the general store that had become my bookshop. The “best books” were in my house across the street, so I took the two book scouts there, and Doug commenced to triple the size of his original pile. It was a good day for both of us. Doug and I seldom met in the years since then. When we did, the talk was amicable, and he always remembered that day in Bucks County by favoring me with generous discounts in return. When Doug, owner of Chapel Hill Rare Books, died suddenly in March, we lost a nice guy and a good bookseller. Rest in peace, Doug.
R&A Petrilla, Booksellers
Roosevelt, New Jersey
As a reader of Fine Books & Collections for about a year now, I was startled to see the op-ed piece by Richard Ring (“American Idyll: Thoughts on Jamestown’s Quadricentennial”) in the May/June issue (#27). After a superficial and biased manipulation of history, Ring ends his commentary with the smug question, “Sound familiar?” Yes, Mr. Ring, it sounds all too familiar. I hear this kind of manipulation daily on the cable news channels and see it in the newspapers as well. When I read articles in Fine Books & Collections, I don’t want a political rehash.
Craig V. Showalter
I am a current high school student greatly interested in a career in archival science. However, my hometown of Derby, Kansas, has hardly anything to offer on the subject. The local public library serves the town’s usual reference needs well but doesn’t have a special-collections department. Because of this, your magazine is a true asset. There is no greater inspiration for my less-than-usual passion than reading about other bibliophiles and their book-filled lives.
Throughout my life, literature and writing have been a great interest. The Christmas of my seventh-grade year, my whole family pooled their funds to purchase a first edition, first printing of Catcher in the Rye, one of my all time favorite books and now one of my most valued possessions. Ever since then, I have harbored an insatiable love of book collecting.
I currently have a small yet diverse collection, but I am always looking for ways to branch out. If you have any suggestions for a collector of a limited budget or a way someone could expand the knowledge of this field, I would be most appreciative.
Thank you and Karen Edwards for the excellent and informative article “Teaching the Book Arts” in the March/April 2007 (#26) issue of Fine Books & Collections. The Ohio State Libraries are very pleased to sponsor the Logan Elm Press. We are fortunate to have Bob Tauber, a talented book printer and artist, in our community as well as community support for fine printing. I appreciate your highlighting the Logan Elm Press and our efforts to keep fine printing at the collegiate level vital. Your journal is a wonderful boon to the field of fine printing. I now have a personal subscription to it and look forward to each issue. The writing, layout, and graphics are well done.
Joseph J. Branin, Director
The Ohio State University Libraries Columbus, Ohio
I enjoyed Scott Brown’s article on the craft of dust-jacket restoration, and I have no doubt that a careful conservator can make an original jacket look good without undue interference to the artifact. The reality is, however, that a careless craftsman can make a dust jacket look worse by bad drawing, incorrect color matching, and a sloppy job on the lettering. Once a bad job has been made on an original, it becomes costly and much more difficult to correct.
The advantage of digital restoration—creating a facsimile jacket using digital imaging tools such as Photoshop—is that the original remains original, not harmed in any way. Digital restoration is able to bring out much more of the beauty of the art in the smallest detail. I put many, many hours into my restorations and am able to match the original colors and textures of the printed piece. Typography and lettering can be approached at a level of detail that is almost impossible using a magnifier and a brush. Faded spine art can be corrected and brought up using digital techniques that cannot be matched by hand.
I believe there is a bias against digital restoration simply because digital technology (a computer) is involved. The assumption seems to be that such a restoration can’t have the same quality as handwork with traditional tools. It is true that many facsimile dust jackets are sold which have had nothing more done to them than the simplest Photoshop work. However, craftsmen like me do everything we can to create a pristine jacket and utilize a range of sophisticated techniques to accomplish that end. Archival inks and a wide variety of media make the old problems with “inkjet facsimiles” a thing of the past.
Repairs to cracks, torn folds, chips, etc. are certainly worth first-rate conservation work, but the replacement of portions of art and typography and the revitalization of sun- and age-faded jackets is much better served by digital restoration.
I am so envious of your trip to New York for the April book fairs. I have been reading reports from some of the ABAA dealers, and it appears that most were happy with the weekend. Someday we are going to make it to that fair.
I haven’t talked lately with Kathy Lindeman, coordinator for the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, but it seems as if the seminar is rebounding. When my husband Don was there in 1995, there were about eighty-five students, and when I was there in 1998, there were about seventy. Over the years the attendance went down, but last year it was up, so that is a good sign. I have helped Kathy with the seminar for the last ten years and have watched the evolution. It seems to me that the book business may be realizing that this isn’t something that gets you gobs of money once you buy a computer, go to a garage sale, and buy some books.
More and more of our customers are coming to us because we are members of the ABAA, and they want some comfort that they aren’t going to get dreck. Lots of people, including us, have been burned with the old “first edition” description, only to find that the book is the fifth printing of the first edition. And packaging books in Wheaties boxes with a self-congratulatory note about “saving the environment” doesn’t cut it. Interestingly, last year’s book-seminar class wasn’t as gray haired as some have been in the past.
We continue to get thank-yous for the gift subscription to Fine Books that we gave to some of our best customers. This has proved to be a good investment for us. It seems to keep customers coming back while providing them with lots of good stuff (education) in return. A small price to pay for that.
Gallagher Collection Books
I am intrigued by the pricing policy of 21st Editions, described in your May/June issue. [The price of 21st Editions’s books increases as the edition sells out.] I have always thought the published price of a book was fixed, but marketing books more like shares of stock, as 21st Editions does, makes good financial sense. I suggest forming the National Association of Book Dealers and Brokers (NABDAB). We could emulate Wall Street by having IPOs where new books could be snatched up at entry-level prices and would increase in price as more buyers competed. A website could match buy and sell orders, short sales, and options, while, of course, providing daily price quotations. This would revolutionize the world of small presses. How come we didn’t think of this before?
Bird & Bull Press
A magazine as admirable as Fine Books & Collections should always reflect best practices. Best practices are more than just informed bidding on antiquarian books. It also includes book handling. Some of your May/June issue photographs do not convey the spirit of your magazine.
The cover photo of two hands opening a miniature manuscript is a case in point. Where are the white gloves? Where is the respect that should be shown for a very old and fragile book that will absorb the oils from the skin? In the future I would to see the photographs in your magazine portray the reality of book handling more accurately.
Peter William Brown