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Category Archives: The Book Biz

Field of Booksellers

This time in 2006, I had been a book dealer for only two years. I had come to bookselling, not exactly by accident (I had been worked in bookstores off and on for the better part of ten years), but rather as a way to fill some time while I stayed at home with my […]

RIP: John McWhinnie

I did not know John McWhinnie well, really even at all. Aside from the business we transacted, regularly but by no means frequently (and almost always him buying from me), I don’t think we ever uttered a personal word to each other, let alone had a personal conversation. I did not know if he was […]

First Efforts: Yet More Mistakes

My first catalogue had only forty items in it, but was still two years in the making. Most of that time was used gathering the material. But a sizable portion, perhaps six months, was spent in the writing, research, and design of the catalogue itself. First catalogues are intimidating things, as you are introducing yourself […]

Taking a Gamble: On Being Wrong III

Here’s something that has hung on the wall of every office I’ve had for the past five years (that four offices, in case you’re counting). It’s a single sheet; text and image on one side, text alone on the other. I have two more much like it. But I don’t keep them up because I […]

Blinded: On Being Wrong Part II

He was a dealer I didn’t know. His stock – a melange of subjects, dates, and conditions – suggested that he was something of a picker, a bookscout at heart. His stock lacked both focus and discrimination. Disbound 19th century religious tracts sat beside modern firsts piled next to old copies of LIFE magazine. But […]

Often In Error, Never In Doubt: On Making Mistakes

My mother often says about me, whenever I make a mistake: “Often in error, never in doubt.” And she’s right. Like some blundering, clueless military officer straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan, when I make an error I usually do so with the utmost confidence (“PRECISELY!”). I’ve been thinking about mistakes lately. As I mentioned […]

Baltimore Book Fair (Belatedly [Very])

Finally got around to uploading a small group of photos from last September’s Baltimore Book Fair, where I exhibited and which takes place in conjunction with the Summer Antiques Fair. You can see the photos on Flickr with my annotations.

It’s a great fair. Set-up (as you can see in the photos) was a snap. Load-out was a bit of a cluster-f$&%, with long lines to both get into the Convention Center and (once there) to unload. Ian and I agreed that next year we’ll just pack up and go straight to dinner, waiting to load-out once the back-log has cleared. Much more civilized.

The fair draws about 60 dealers, with a good mix of established dealers (Ken Lopez, Between the Covers, Royal Books) and smaller, more regional dealers. And because so much of the fair is dedicated to antiques and fine art, the crowds were strong despite the economy. That said, sales at least for me – and most dealers I spoke to – were soft. Since I don’t have to travel far, this is a relatively cheap fair for me to do, so I did okay. I also bought some great material at the fair, and had at least two good collections come my way via a couple of civilians who sauntered into the booth asking if I might be interested in their books. So on the whole, a good fair. I’ve already put down my deposit for next year.

Getting There…

Evaluating an Archive: Or Why I’m Glad I Have a Huge Dining Room Table

Feeling like crap today. Bad cold. Fortunately I have this to keep me occupied: It’s newly-arrived archive I’m evaluating. I love going through, digging into, and organizing an archive, trying to piece together the story it tells. Especially useful in these situations is an over-sized dining room table (and an understanding wife). Can’t say much […]

Over-Pursuing: On Paying Too Much For Books

It happens. You miscalculate scarcity or demand. Or a widow asks you, tears in her eyes, “Is that all?” A dealer charms you with a book’s virtues. Or assures you “The only one on the internet right now.” You get overexcited at an auction. Or you drool over some choice item at a book fair. […]