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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

The Next Generation of Collectors

Jacob Brunkard

Swarthmore College
$500—Third Place
for his collection of Black Sparrow Press

I I just graduated with B.A.s in biology and history. I studied the history of Latin America and plant biology—two totally distinct majors.

Future Plans
Eventually, I will probably be going to grad school, but I want to take some time to think about that. I will probably study biology. It changes every day, but at the moment, it’s biology.

In the Beginning
I got started collecting very accidentally. In high school, I started reading Charles Bukowski, and I liked it, and I started reading more. From there I learned about [Bukowski’s publisher] John Martin and Black Sparrow Press. I learned that Martin published Paul Bowles and John Fante, too, and I realized that a publisher could publish books based on a personal aesthetic. From that point, I started collecting Black Sparrow Press books.

Most Recent Acquisition
A book by Sherril Jaffe, who published for years and years with Black Sparrow Press. It was her first book with Black Sparrow, Scars Make Your Body More Interesting. It’s illustrated by David Bromige, then her husband, who was published by Black Sparrow as well. Jaffe also illustrated one of his books.

The Hunt
For me, every time I find a new Black Sparrow Press book, it’s exciting. A lot of people do eBay, but for me it’s what can I find when I go into a random bookstore. I like having a story to go with each book.

Current Reading
I have been reading the correspondence between Bukowski and Sheri Martinelli. She was a protégé of Anaïs Nin, and also of Ezra Pound. She moved to California, started a small literary magazine, and began corresponding with Bukowski. Both of them were very opinionated and involved in the counterculture. I’m also reading a biography of Alice Waters, the chef of Chez Panisse.

Classmates’ Response
They were impressed that I was doing something completely outside of my academic pursuits. After all, I’m a biology major, and I’m collecting Black Sparrow Press. The part that’s intriguing to people who haven’t thought about it before is that I’m not just interested in the author and the text. I’m also interested in the medium as well. At our library, we increasingly have electronic books, but you have an entirely different relationship to them.

A first edition feels closer to the author. I really like the feel of Black Sparrow Press books.

I don’t want to buy one unless I can feel it in person.

A Favorite Bookseller
There is a really great bookstore here in the Poconos called Carroll and Carroll Booksellers. It’s a high-quality bookstore. That’s where I first started reading Bukowski. Now they buy Black Sparrow Press books because they know when I walk in I’ll probably buy them. I could collect a lot more books if I bought online, but by buying at bookstores, I end up getting exposed to a bigger range of books.

Basie Bales Gitlin

Yale University
$1,000—Second Place
for his collection of canvassing books

I’m a junior now at Yale.

Budding Bookseller?
I do many of the house purchases for Whitlock’s Book Barn [located near New Haven, Connecticut]. Whitlock’s is really a place that runs the gamut, more than most stores. Whitlock’s is a holdover from a different era. One building has 20,000 books for $5 and less. The other building has the over-$5 books. Unofficially, I started working there when I was thirteen, but officially I started at sixteen, when it was legal. I’ve always made my own money and bought all my own?books.

Mr. Whitlock and Elaine Sargeant, who has worked there for more than twenty years, gave me my book education. I’ve been buying for the store for the last three years or so. Buying books is one of my favorite things. I really love the personal interactions. It’s really interesting as a young collector to see how book people amass books and how they develop collections around their interests.

I also just started working part-time for [the Americana dealer] Bill Reese. It’s fun to see two really different ends of the book world. I feel lucky to be twenty years old and to be working for Bill Reese.

Future Plans
I really don’t know. I am still very interested in everything about the book world. I really enjoy the visceral aspect of selling. I got to work in the Beinecke Library [at Yale] for two years, which was wonderful, but it wasn’t the same as bookselling. I’m as curious as anyone else about where it’s all going.

On Getting Started
My dad teaches at Yale and has always been a bookstore person. He’s not a collector, but he’s a huge book buyer. We have 25,000 books, and when we went on trips, we’d plan our vacations based on where the bookstores were. When I was thirteen, we went on a trip and hit fifty bookstores in one week.

Beyond Words
I love primary sources. I love how much you can get from one object—not just the text, but the history of printing and of the book trade, too. I love working with primary sources and understanding the past from objects that are contemporaneous.

Most Recent Acquisition
An offprint about the collector Michael Sadleir. It was a eight-page pamphlet about his collection, inscribed to James T. Babb, who was the director of the Yale Library. It was twenty-five cents at Whitlock’s. I priced it, but it would have been twenty-five cents anyway.

Bedside Reading
I’m reading the Wolf and Fleming biography of [the bookseller] A. S. W. Rosenbach. I’m also reading Harold Nestler’s autobiography of bookselling, Where Did You Find That?

Previous Fifteen Minutes of Fame
My roommates googled me as a freshman and found a C-SPAN show about me [as a young collector]. They played it at a party. It was pretty mortifying.

On the Internet
I hardly buy anything from the online bookselling sites. I like the face-to-face part of collecting.

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