Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyVenting and Flogging

  • Sun, 21 Dec 2014 04:26:11    Permalink
    Rant alert. If the pressures of the Holiday Season have left you feeling a mite tetchy, you are advised to skip directly to the interesting offerings at the end of this essay.My annual gift issue of the magazine Sea History arrived this week. They send it free every Christmas to former subscribers, with an advertising supplement attached. This year the supplement was from A.G.A. Correa, a company that sells cute gold stuff to wear around your neck or wrist – lighthouses, seagulls, clam shells, rope knots, sailboats. Prices range from hundreds to mid-thousands. Hey, it's 14K gold.Ten Pound Island Book Co. advertised in Sea History for years, as did Edward J. Lefkowicz, Carola Paine, Caravan, and a few other nautical specialists of high repute. After a while, though, the ads ceased to bring in new customers, so I dropped them. My fellow advertisers died or retired. Now the only book sellers to be found in its pages are Sea Fever Books  (an Internet shop run by my old friend Frank Crohn, who happens to be selling some of my low end stock on consignment), and J. Tuttle, daughter of Caravan, who is retiring, and who keeps offering the same dwindling stock over and over at “bargain” prices, in hopes that it will someday disappear entirely.This melancholy situation coincides with the general decline of interest in American maritime history. Remember Operation Sail and the early Tall Ships parades of the 1960s and 70s? People came out in droves to watch those magnificent ghosts from our maritime past as they strutted their stuff. 
    South Street Seaport was booming, and Mystic Seaport and the Mariner's Museum were virtual money machines - amusement theme parks where the theme was ships and the sea. Now South Street is an event center, trolling for tenants on the Internet. Mystic and Mariners, though they will never admit it, are in decline.In my early days with Sea History I still had a bricks and mortar shop, catering to retail customers. Tourists were a big part of the trade, but during the slow months I was sustained by local collectors. These were men and women of a certain age – civilized people who regarded books as an essential part of life. Some of them were well-to-do, but nearly as many were operating on tight budgets. It was just assumed back then that persons of intelligence would have a shelf of books that dealt with the history of the town in which they lived. Or perhaps a collection of literary high spots, or poetry, or gardening, or motor cars. I even had a fellow who was an avid hunter and collected everything he could find about the natural history and topography of our area. Books were not trophies, they were sources of information, and it was pleasurable to have this information, in book form, at hand. Every Saturday morning half a dozen of these folks would come in to see if I'd gotten anything new. It was fun while it lasted, but by the dawn of the Twenty-first Century, they had stopped coming in. As I leafed through Sea History something made me remember those bygone days. I read the names of the people who organized and attended this year's Maritime Heritage Conference, and the names of the luminaries who attended the conference Awards Dinner. Then, sensing I was onto something, I read through the entire page of names of patrons of the magazine, and then I read the articles, and the names of people who wrote them, and then I read the ads.Of these hundreds of people, only two had ever subscribed to my catalogs. (I took over Ed Lefkowicz's list and combined it with my own, so my mailings had excellent coverage) One fellow made a purchase of $44 in 2012. The other, though he was a bigwig in the National Maritime Historical Society, had never bought a thing.That was when it struck me that these guys don't read books.They're great at having their pictures taken in tuxes,
    and they're pretty good (but never good enough) at raising money to save old hulks – and God bless 'em for that. They might even buy 14K gold gewgaws for their wives. But the intellectual tenor of this gang was indicated by the celebrity author at their dinner and conference. Clive Cussler. Call me a snob. But how effective are they going be at “preserving our maritime history and culture” if their primary experience of it is at a banquet table or on the deck of a New York 40? I think the decline of collectors that I noticed in the 1980s and 1990s paralleled the decline of interest in American maritime history. And both reflected the fact that people pretty much stopped reading – or collecting – in the manner that they used to read and collect. A loss for me, but a greater loss for us all.Having vented my spleen I will now flog my wares.Whistler's First Published Engraving(Coast Survey). Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey... 1854. Washington: GPO. 1855. b/w folding charts. 4to. 288 pp. plus 58 charts. This particular issue contains the first published engraving by James McNeill Whistler, chart #43, “Anacapa and Smith’s Islands” executed while he worked for the Coast Survey. The DAB calls Whistler’s effort “rigidly but ably drawn.” The plate is in good condition, with light tanning at the fold. In addition, you get fifty-seven other charts including harbor charts of Portland, Portsmouth, Gloucester, Plymouth, Monomoy, Nantucket Shoals, Beaufort Harbor, Savannah River, Charleston Harbor, etc., down through Florida and the Keys and up the West Coast. Most show similar tanning at folds. Bound in original government cloth, which is worn. The backstrip is lacking. However the plates are clean and free of foxing, and this is a good copy of the most desirable of the Coast Surveys. You can go online and buy the Whistler map by itself for $975. Or you can buy the whole shebang from us for only $750Rare Yachting HistoryMott, Henry A. (editor). The Yachts & Yachtsmen of America. NY: International Yacht Publishing Co, (1894). Folio. 692 pp. b/w gravure plates, line ills, halftones. Prized especially for its 90 toned photogravure plates of yachts by Frederiksen, Bruce, Bolles, Stebbins, and Johnson, this is a source book for American yachting up to the turn of the century. "Histories of individual American yacht clubs, drawings of important or typical yachts, photographs and brief biographies of American yachtsmen... For each club data is provided on members, boats, regattas and rules"—Toy 102. Morris & Howland p. 97. Because of its massive format, the book is usually found in a broken binding, when it can be found at all. The last complete copy to come up at auction was in 1991. The last copy I offered was in 1996. The most recent copy I've seen in the trade was an incomplete copy offered in a Lefkowicz catalog in 1999. One of the scarcest and most desirable yachting books. This copy is complete, and in excellent condition internally, with no foxing or tanning. It has been rebound in one large volume, in red cloth, with original gilt leather front cover preserved. The front inner hinge is cracked. $3750

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