Member Blogs > Read'Em Again BooksRare Books, Manuscripts, Librarians, and Booksellers at a Mediterranean Masterpiece - 25 June 2016

  • Sat, 25 Jun 2016 07:43:51    Permalink

    We just got back from exhibiting at the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Rare Book and Manuscript Section (ACRL-RBMS) Conference held at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida.  
    The Biltmore, not to be confused with George Vanderbilt’s North Carolina estate, was built in 1924 by the Florida land-developer, George E. Merrick, and the famed hotel magnate, John McEntee Bowman, at the height of the Florida land boom.  Not content with simply building a 400-room grand hotel with impeccable service and magnificent interior details, their project also included a country club, a championship golf course, polo fields, tennis courts,  and an enormous 150 by 225 foot swimming pool (at the time, the largest in the world).  In its heyday during the 1920s and 1930s, the hotel played host to everyone who was anybody: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Al Capone, Ginger Rogers, Babe Ruth, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, and on and on.   In the 1940s, it was used as an Army hospital and afterwards fell on some tough times and was shuttered.

    Today, after extensive renovations, the hotel is once more luxurious albeit with no polo fields but an exceptional array of modern amenities.  What a great place to hold a conference, especially with junior suite room rates at about half their normal cost.View from the balcony of our room.
    To tell the truth, we didn’t expect to sell much at the RBMS Booksellers Showcase, which was held in the Ballroom and began with a short cocktail and hors d'oeuvres reception on Tuesday evening, picked back up on Wednesday, and lasted through mid-afternoon. The RBMS organizers tried hard to make sure attendees made it to the booksellers and even scheduled times to visit specific booths.  It was a good idea, but needs some fine-tuning. We had lots of attendees stop by but just not at the assigned time.There were about 40 booths in the ballroom; ours was one of them.Click on it; lots of things are still for sale
    We had figured that we would chalk our expenses off as advertising. To that end, we decided to sponsor one of the sessions, "Forever Alone: A Roundtable Discussion of How to Make It Alone in Archives and Special Collections," so we could get our name in the conference program and insert a flyer in the goodie bag that all of the attendees received at registration.  We also carted along a stack of our latest catalogs and boxful of combination stylus-pens imprinted with our contact information.  
    The insert worked surprisingly well, as we had a dozen or so visitors tell us they made a point of stopping by because of it.  All told, we gave out about forty catalogs and a hundred of our advertising pens.  Better still, we ended up having serious discussions with nine or ten different special collections librarians and added about twenty-five names to our contact list.  We’d have been happy with that even if we didn’t make a single sale.
    But . . . as Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!" we did sell some stuff.  Between orders from dealers and librarians, our sales reached into the five figures, and we may well end up with several thousand dollars more in follow-ons if the ephemera gods decide to smile upon us.  So, what kind of stuff did we sell?  Here are a few of things:

    The Virtue and Use of Coffee, with Regard to the Plague and Other Infectious Distempers: Containing . . . The First Knowledge of it, Down to the Present Time by Richard Bradley. London: Eman. Matthews and W. Mears, 1721.  First thus. 8vo.  Complete with 34 text pages, folding frontispiece, and five pages of advertisements in the rear.  Soundly bound within a marbled card wrapper.
     Virginia-North Carolina Base Ball League Score Book.  Scoring by Robert Dupree. 1905. Hardcover. Spalding's Official Base Ball Score Book No. 3 was used to score five games from the very short-lived Virginia-North Carolina Base Ball League between 12-16 August 1905.  Complete with scoring instructions by Jacob Charles Morse on the last page.  Soundly bound; the rear hinge is starting to split, and the cover shows some wear and soiling.  The scoring was done in pencil and is legible.


    School Friendship Book kept by Elizabeth "Bessie" Allan while attending the Lux School for the Industrial Training of Girls in San Francisco, 1915-1919.  It  has approximately 150 pages filled with an exceptional collection of photographs, report cards, invitations, programs, a "Yell Book," an ice cream ticket, calling cards, dolls (one stuffed and one wooden), sweater letters, booster  ribbons and much more.  The book and contents are in very nice shape, however a number of leaves have been removed from the overstuffed album, probably by Bessie to make room for all of the items she collected.

    Photograph Album Documenting Hunting and Outdoor Life in the Western United States by an unidentified compiler.  Colorado and California: Circa 1900.  The album contains approximately 110 photographs.  About half are glossy, sepia toned albumen photos and the other half are matte, black and white images, possibly silver, salt, and/or platinum prints.  Many are numbered and dated, "1904" in the negative.  The extremely well-done pictures are impressive and include mountain terrain and rushing waters in the Rockies, hunting parties, campsites, tent-living, log cabins, horseback hunting, dead game (bear, deer, elk, antelope, big horn sheep), cleaning a bear skin, bundles of pelts, naked men in a stream, and views of Pike's Peak, what is now called the Garden of the Gods, Yosemite Valley, and giant Sequoias.
    This is a big restaurant with lots of room, but parking is tough.
    On top of having a good show, we were able to enjoy great meals at several excellent restaurants including the Versailles, one of the premier Cuban restaurants in the United States.  If you're ever in town, be sure to stop in.  It's very casual, very inexpensive, and very good.  The Versailles, which bills itself as "the world's most famous Cuban restaurant," got its start around 1970 as the favorite gathering spot for Miami's Cuban exile community.  It still has a predominately local clientele, but  tourists drop in too.  If you've never tried Cuban food, order one of the appetizer or dinner combos with assorted empanadas, croquettes, yucca fries, ropa vieja, picadillo, roast pork, sweet plantains, black beans, and finish it off with a slice of key lime pie and a cafecito or cafe con leche.  You'll be glad you did.  Of course, if that sounds like too much for you; at least stop in to try the Versailles iconic Cuban sandwich.
    To cap things off, on our return trip back up Interstate 95, we picked up one great item that we haven’t yet had time to upload to our website. It's a shadow box with a letter, button, and cdv from Brigadier General Oliver O. Howard.  Howard lost an arm during the Battle of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines during the Civil War and later served as the Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau during Reconstruction, charged with the mission of integrating freed slaves into Southern society and politics.  While assigned to the position he allied himself with the Republican Party in its effort to provide voting rights, equal justice, and schooling for African-Americans. As a resul,t he clashed repeatedly with Democratic President Andrew Johnson who continuously attempted to thwart the will of Congress and ensure White Supremacy was reinstated throughout the South.  Howard was especially interested in promoting higher education for freedmen, and founded Howard University in Washington, DC where he served as the school president from 1867 to 1873.  There is a label affixed to the back of the shadow box that reads, "Photograph and uniform button sent to great grandpa Frank Knight by General Oliver O. Howard in 1872."  Howard's letter, on his Howard University presidential stationery, to Knight reads, "Your kind request is just received and i am pleased to comply."  
    No more shows for us until Boston in late October, so next up is Jan Storm van Leeuwen's History of Bookbinding class for the Rare Books School at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and, by the way, thanks Michael--if you happen to be reading this--for stopping by to chat at the Showcase.

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