Fall 2006 (Vol.VII, No. 2) Table of Contents
- From the editor
- The Bane of the Online Book World: Mega-Listers
- Plagiarism and Online Bookselling
- Defining Mega-Listers
- Megalisters: Big and Online
- Mega-Lister Questionnaire
- An Interview with Mike Goodenough
- Books, Books Everywhere, But Not a Page to Read, or, a Book Dealer’s Travels in Spain
- Ephemeral Assays: Herbarium Symposium
- Book Reviews The Art of the Book & Beauty and the Book
- Book Review: Books, Friends, and Bibliophilia by Anton Gerits
- How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Teaching at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar
- The Boot Camp for Book Dealers
- Joe Perlman of Mostly Useful Fictions
- Marc Monsarrat of Bookmarc Books, Malahat, British Columbia
- John Hardy of Hardy Books, Nevada City, California
- Ye Old Booksellers: Forty Years Among the Old Booksellers of Philadelphia
In the previous issue, we used “Errata” for the column heading in this space. Errata, of course, is actually a list of writing or printing errors in a given work, usually provided on a small slip of paper and laid in loosely or inserted. I have been taken to task by a British editorial colleague (on the Fourth of July no less, though a bit of a tempest in a teapot as nobody else complained) over my apparently ignorant misuse of the term, as “Addenda” more clearly fits the bill. I pointed out that I was merely stretching the use of the word, as some of the column deals with the errors, misconceptions, and deceits of the modern online book trade, but he counters that I have stretched to the point of “a complete tumble out of the window and a fall to disaster.” Addenda is a bit staid in terms of zingy column headings, and I enjoy the old OED quote, “In whom the dear errata column is the best page in all the volume!,” but we must not forget our mission of education, and if the language is too organic one ends up with literal manure, so Addenda it is. As long as we are qualifying headings, “Happy Hits” means funny little things one runs into when database searching. They aren’t always happy, but I’m sticking with that one.
-One of the search services lists 36 copies of Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time with a publication date of 2030.
-The bibliographical details of genealogical works can be hard to pin down. These are usually published in limited quantity, often by first-time authors who are long on family history but short on publishing information. Take Gaskill Genealogy, by Elizabeth P. Koleda. That’s the gilt title on the blue front cover of this 759 page work. No copies available online, but there are two WorldCat entries. The 1989 original is held by fourteen repositories, and what looks like a 1996 revision by Donald Oreste Caselli is held by four. You usually want the revision with genealogies, but in this case it doesn’t matter. To back up a bit, the printing in this book is from a computer-generated program of the era. Not too hard to read, but you feel like you’re looking at a printout rather than a published page. The author thanks one Mike Pawley in the dedication, “a very understanding computer friend.” It is this cramped and monotonous printing that led the original cataloger to miss the true title, Edward Gascoigne, aka Edward Gaskill and Many of His Descendants, directly across from the table of contents. That tells you more, and it doesn’t get confused with Gaskill Genealogy by Clinton Gaskill Cudaback, a wholly different work published in 1904. In a new half-page foreword stuck or pasted to an endpaper by Donald Oreste Caselli, a New Jersey relative of some sort, he tells a little about author Elizabeth Potts Koleda, and then uses the occasion to provide the history of his own branch not included in the original work. Caselli also applied a label over the title page “Compiled By” note. It gives us five lines about Koleda, so we learn that she died three years after her life work was published, but it obliterates what lies beneath, which is the original date of publication. Caselli did the same thing at the very rear of this work under “Direct Correspondence,” covering over the original place of self-publication (the same WorldCat record cites both Princeville and Prineville, OR, they are both real towns in that state, and you can’t quite make out the original text under the label in order to settle the question) with his own address in Egg Harbor City, NJ, and thus confusing another sloppy cataloger. To summarize, then, Caselli somehow snapped up a handful of Koleda 1989 first edition copies, and three labels later he is the co-author of a 1996 revision published on the opposite coast, though none of those last three things actually happened. At any rate, on the somewhat confusing, busy, and transmogrified title page, under the heading “Serendipity,” we find the following from the original author.
“The British Isles are made up of four nations. The Scots, who keep the Sabbath and anything else they can lay their hands on; the Welsh, who pray on their knees, and on their neighbours; the Irish, who don’t know what the devil they want, but are willing to fight anyone for it; and the English, who consider themselves a race of self-made men, thus relieving the Almighty of a terrible responsibility.”
From the dust jacket of Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon, by Henry Nicholls (London: Macmillan, 2006).
“Lonesome George is on the stamps of the Galapagos Islands. He is a 5ft long, 200lb tortoise aged between 60 and 200. In 1971 he was discovered on the remote island of Pinta, from which tortoises had supposedly been exterminated by whalers and seal hunters in search of a square meal. He was carted off to his current home, the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island. He has been there ever since, on the off chance that scientific ingenuity will conjure up a way of reproducing him, and resurrecting his species. Meanwhile a million tourists and dozens of baffled scientists have looked on as George shows not a jot of interest in the female company provided.
“Henry Nicholls details the efforts of conservationists to preserve the Galapagos’ unique biodiversity and illustrates how their experiences and discoveries are echoed the world over. He explores the controversies raging over which mates are most appropriate for George and the risks of releasing crossbreed offspring into the wild. His story draws together the islands’ geology, evolution, history of human exploitation and imperiled future. It features strong characters, from Charles Darwin, to cloning pioneer Ian Wilmut, to the beautiful Swiss graduate who spent four months trying to persuade George to have sex. Some 100,000 tourists visit the Galapagos Islands each year; all drop in on George.”
“Children’s Bookplates and Meerkats”
Every Friday evening my wife and I watch a television series called Meerkat Manor. One of the things that bonds Meerkat families is grooming and it occurs to me that reading to children before bedtime is much like grooming.
If some of you out there are especially proud of the bookplate(s) you or your child have already designed why don’t you send me a scan? I can be reached atBookplatemaven@hotmail.com
There are a number of children’s bookplates in my own collection and I have scanned a few for your enjoyment. Additional scans and biographical information about the bookplate designers will be added throughout the week.
The bookplate for Harold Chandler Kimball Jr. was designed by Harvey Ellis (1852-1904) who is best known as a furniture designer who worked with Gustav Stickley. I may be mistaken, but it appears that Harold Chandler Kimball Jr. graduated from Harvard in 1912 and was a casualty of world war 1.
I bought the bookplate designed by Winifred Bromhall at the Papermania show in Hartford. The artist was unknown to me so here is what I found in a Google search: “Winifred Bromhall was born in Walsall, Staffordshire, England and was educated at Queen Mary’s School, Walsall Art School and Birmingham University. Her family immigrated to The United States in 1924. She worked for a while at The Children’s Art Center in Boston and in the art department of a New York settlement house before illustrating full time.
She illustrated her first children’s book, Zodiac Town: The Rhymes Of Amos and Ann, by Nancy Byrd Turner in 1921. She continued to illustrate for other authors until 1945, when she began writing and illustrating her own books. Her first self-illustrated book was Johanna Arrives.”
Made in IOBA
Amy Ione of Diatrope Books is the author of Innovation and Visualization: Trajectories, Strategies, and Myths (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005).
There Once Was a Book from Nantucket
Boggy Solitudes of Nantucket. Not only is that an evocative title from 1908, but it is doubtful that those four words were ever strung in succession before then. This humble 118 page work epitomizes everything I love about bookselling, and here’s why. It was purchased sight unseen in a large lot of books at a general auction late in 2004. Once home it jumped out as a relatively important item because of the subject matter, it was signed, the binding was attractive, and the NY publisher (Neale) was not well known to me. If this secretive little wildflower had been choiced out on a long table of gaudy dying roses and dyed mums as they often do with books at this auction house, it would not have been plucked until they got down to the $5 level, if at all. Once you have an eye for it, booksellers enjoy a great advantage over dabblers, greater even than that enjoyed by their brethren (and cistern?) in the antiques and collectibles fields. And how much can an old chair or a Pez dispenser inform you anyway, compared to a book? And how much easier is it to ship a book than a set of china? As we sort through the piles and rows back home, some like this catch our eye and demand our attention. We want to understand what it is we have here, and if we happen to like the subject matter or have an enquiring mind, it’s fun to delve deeper. I enjoyed leafing through this wonderful collection of brief essays and observations on the natural history of the island, complete with poetic and literary quotations. The reddish orange lettering and pink and green floral decoration stands in simple but stunning contrast against the black boards, and a little blue came through for some reason, to marvelous effect.
There was no good way to place a value on this book using existing records like online listings, prices realized at auction, or bookseller catalogs. No copies for sale online is a very good sign, and the subject matter is specialized rather than general, which is always desirable. It would pay to authenticate the author’s signature though, minor as she was, and that was a tall order. Anne Wilson is a common name, and the much later inscription only reads, “For my friend Margaret Dewey. With the love of Anne. July the Eighth, 1933.” I searched many reference books and databases, including CLAMS (Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing), to no avail. I finally sent out a query to the BookFinder Insider list, enquiring about Nantucket bibliographies, and lo and behold the resident genius there uncovered Everett Uberto’s 1946 Nantucket in Print, which I promptly paged up and consulted. Not only did it list this rare title, but it provided the author’s middle name of Washington. This led to another scarce, slim book of verses by Anne Washington Wilson published nearly twenty years later entitled Scrimshaw (Baltimore, MD: Norman, Remington Co., 1925), with an attractive scrimshaw art cover of its own. Paging this up from the same research library on a long shot, it was signed by the author, in full this time! The handwriting is the same, they both end, “with the love of,” and the two Annes are identical.
The sleuthing was fun, it pays to strengthen those types of skills, and I could now honestly claim that this was signed and inscribed by the author. I divined a reasonable asking price of $150. It was listed 1/15/2005, and it sold 8/12/2006, to a buyer in Nantucket. We are both happy. The printer would be proud of how his finished product held up. Above all, Anne Washington Wilson would be delighted that we are talking about her passion and her output nearly a century later.
“The whole island is a veritable garden spot. One has only to go on the moors to appreciate the truth of this statement. Flower succeeds flower, springing up from the sandy soil and moss, in greatest luxuriance and profusion, beginning with the tiny hepatica and blue flash of the violet in the spring to the showy golden-rod and imperial aster of the fall.”
“I sprang out of bed and ran over to the little window from which there was a glorious view of a long stretch of moorland melting into low hills covered with all the different shades of green, from the pale leaves of the bayberry to the blackness of the stunted growth of heath-like little shrubs.”
May the island of Nantucket and the profession of bookselling remain relatively unspoiled.
Postal services. We’ve always needed them, and now more than ever. When I read about booksellers who dread entering their local post office, I count my lucky stars that the two or three I use most are staffed with friendly and efficient workers. Complaints include postal clerks who consider our trade to be a nuisance, sticklers who rule against reinforcing tape on Priority mailers, and various local branch interpretations that defy reason and Post Office policy. If somebody behind the counter really has it in for you, the best options seem to be switching post offices (if practical) or complaining to the postmaster or those above him or her. Whether you are in their good graces or not, however, it isn’t the easiest job in the world, and it pays both parties for the bookseller to bend over backwards in facilitating smooth transactions. In my case, my wife helps out by doing about 75% of the mailings. She goes right by a small PO on the way to work, and the receipt often reads right around 8:03 A.M. She is prettier to look at and more polite than I am, or less likely to be impolite at any rate, so that helps too.
The best thing you can do is to be prepared and follow all the rules. Prepare neat and safe packages, use the correct mailing materials for the job, completely fill out customs forms and the like ahead of time, write neatly, tell clerks what they need to know as you proceed, if you are paying by check have it nearly ready to go by the end (including your driver’s license number where required), and try to pick off-hours when the lines are not long. Don’t bend the rules. I forget if I read this on a list or heard it from a clerk, but one customer actually tried to ship a bowling ball Media Mail! Some of the rules are more apparent than others. I saw one customer pitch a fit because he wasn’t allowed to use an empty liquor box for shipping. In short, do everything you can to help the clerk and speed the process. We’ve all been on lines where everyone suffers because of ill preparation or manners.
I generally try to keep a low profile too. If some directive in your region orders a crackdown on booksellers, I don’t necessarily want to spring to mind as the most ready sacrificial lamb. Loose lips sink ships too. I have heard many conversations about eBay while waiting on Post Office lines with my box of eBay and book shipments, and chatting there is a little like discussing the particulars of your gold mine while at the assay office. In closing, national postal systems are not perfect, but most do a remarkably good job at delivering things. My only significant complaint about the U.S. Postal Service is how they are raising Priority and Media Mail rates in leaps and bounds, while all the general public howls about is regular stamps going up a penny or two at a time. So far my area has dodged the new and unimproved privatization and automation efforts, but complaints waft in on westerly winds. They should get out of the Teddy Bear business too, because I’ve never seen anybody buy one, and I used to be able to stack packages where they now sit.
“Hi. Are you the man who buys books?”
“I do have that ad in the paper.”
“What kind of books do you buy?”
“It might be easier for you to tell me what you have, but in general I am after large amounts of books, usually hardcover, usually older . . .”
“I have hundreds, and they are mostly old. Some are paperbacks, like Harlequins.”
“What about the hardcovers? What kinds of books are those?”
“Oh, I don’t know, all kinds.”
“Are they like best sellers?”
“They probably were back then.”
“Are they spy and romance novels?”
“There might be some of those.”
“Can you give me an idea of some of the titles?”
“You’d really have to come and look.”
“Thanks for calling, but it doesn’t sound like what I am after. You might try donating them to a book sale, or some would probably sell at a garage sale.”
“You’re not interested then?”
“Well it’s a little hard to tell over the phone, but I don’t think so.”
“They are old, but they are like brand new. They probably go back forty years.”
“Did you read them yourself?”
“No. Actually, they were copies sent to the newspaper for review, but they were never even cracked open.”
“Oh. That sounds better. What town do you live in?”
The Standard can always use interesting, well-written articles on subjects of interest to the bookselling trade. Please query first, however, to email@example.com. You will be supplied with submission guidelines, but to summarize, the material should be original, it is subject to editing, you retain copyright, and of course there is no payment other than most everyone’s satisfaction. You do not need to be a member of IOBA, except for the IOBA Bookseller Profiles section, though we would surely like you to join. We are very interested in the book trade outside the U.S. as well.
Currently we are seeking short pieces for the following self-explanatory columns. House Calls; Garage/Estate/Library Sale Tales; Auction Action; Book Show Impressions; and Book Store Lore.
I Drove Mules on the C and O Canal by Wolfe,
claims he used canal water taken from Lock #44
for his signature, color added.
From the Comic Weekly section of the New York Journal American dated 4/26/1942, the final panel of Skippy by Percy Crosby from a strip entitled, “Skippy Meets Another Little Bookworm.”
Check out the Independent Online Booksellers Association Website