Thursday, November 29, 2012

Picture This!


The best laid plans – get interrupted. I know this to be true because every single day this week I tried to write a post and every day something happened to prevent it. The big something, which should have been a little something, was the demise of my camera. These days you don’t get cameras fixed –you get them replaced. I guess I could live with that if only the replacements WORKED. But in a span of 24 hours I bought two digital cameras – a Fuji and a Nikon – and had to haul both of them back to their respective stores (note that was plural) due to defects. I liked the Nikon Coolpix though because I had one before and liked IT, so I ended up giving that model a second go. Maybe the fact that it was purple had a teeny-tiny something to do with it, but mostly it was because it seemed familiar and therefore friendly. In fact, I would have bet my last memory card that I’d be snapping pictures like Ansel Adams in an hour tops. It didn’t happen.

The problems were myriad, so I will boil them down to a.) the lack of technological talent of  the user and b.) the overabundance of tech-talk by the writers of the annoying manual that accompanied it. I finally got it up and running, found the flash setting and the setting that sizes the pictures – all that important stuff – and zoomed confidently in on books I’d listed the previous day. But did they fly into cyberspace on the wings of angels? No, they did not.

It turned out that my new anti-virus program – the computer geniuses in Brunswick jettisoned Norton due to problems it’s having in its new incarnation – in favor of a product made by a company here in Medina. So far it seems good enough, but it did get a tad overzealous and decided that my new camera was up to nefarious things, hence why no pictures could be uploaded. I called the geniuses and  they fixed it, but  by then the day was over. Which brings me to yesterday.

Yesterday was filled with meetings. I thought I’d pretty much left those behind when I quit my sales and marketing job at the nursing home twenty-some years ago. But it’s time again to start working on the 2013 Akron Antiquarian Book Fair, so I had two meetings in one day. The first one was fun because it was just me and Andrea, but the second one was serious business. Actually I don’t even mind these kind of meetings. It’s just that I desperately needed to make up for lost camera time. As always, I love the book fair, so working on it is normally a great pleasure. Last year we introduced speakers to the itinerary which proved to be a big hit, so this year we’ve lined up four more, plus the possibility of a VERY cool display. I can’t say what this is yet because it’s really a long shot, but if it works out it will be fabulous. If it doesn’t there’s always  back-up plans.

Thinking about the fair though makes me anxious because I have bought very little since the collection I told you about in my last post. I’ve only been to one sale –  that small rural one I’ve mentioned several times that I like because it’s quiet and they don’t allow scanning which also means that I don’t have to fight the crowds. Mostly I don’t get much, but this time I found one humdinger of a book –New York's China Town; An Historical Presentation of  Its People and Places, published by Bohemia Press in 1892. This one’s got it all – photos, drawings, and a lively text which covers, among other things, governance, the Chinese restaurants and laundries, the seclusion of women, family life, music, opium smoking (includes a detailed drawing of the apparatus), playing fan-tan, Chinese lotteries, prostitution, slave girls, Chinese funerals, and Chinese cemeteries.
It just goes to show you -- you can find anything anywhere. Especially when you aren't beleaguered by broken cameras.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life Lesson Relearned

Awhile back – seems like eons – I wrote about the collection which contained a first edition of Florence Nightingale’s nursing book which we bought but were unable to collect due to the fall-out from Hurricane Sandy in Ohio. When last I mentioned it we were supposed to pick up the books on a specific date, but couldn’t due to the fact that the owner’s condo was without power for more than a week. We finally got them a week ago today, but the outcome was not exactly what we expected.

As you may recall, I mentioned that when the offer was accepted a few books were taken off the table, including the glorious Audubon elpephant folio published by Abbeville, as well as a few lesser books. I already have this Audubon, so I wasn’t too disappointed, though I would liked to have had a second one. I also remember writing in another post (at least I think it was another one) that the excessive lag time could possibly change the deal yet again. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happened. The owner had plenty of time to rethink the sale and rethink it he did. A few more books were now off the table, he announced, whereupon my heart thudded to the floor.

Goodbye, Florence. Goodbye, goodbye…..

But no! Florence sat just as prettily on the table as she had before and somehow the Audubon had magically rejoined her. What was taken away now was a two volume natural history set titled Zoonomia, written by Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin. I didn’t realize how much I wanted these books until they were gone, but it was okay. I got a lot of good stuff, I told myself, so there was nothing to whine about. And truly, there wasn’t.  Not only did I get the Audubon back, but I also got to test the veracity of my own conviction about people not selling their books until they’re truly ready to do it. Little did I know then how many more times I would be tested before the evening was over.

The original plan was that we would pay individually for the special books and anything else selected we would combine as a unit. I was pretty jazzed about it because I always need stuff for the mall and there were lots of books from which to choose. Or at least there were for a few minutes. No sooner did we seal the deal on the remaining books I’d made the offer on when the owner announced that he didn’t want to sell anything from the wall of bookcases in the living room after all. Nothing! That left just three partially full cases in the den. These contained the older titles, but most of what was left was either common and/or cheap editions. Book by book I went through them and in the end gathered half a dozen titles plus a sleeper I’d missed the first time around – a large medical book on war injuries replete with full-page  x-rays dating from the infancy of x-ray technology. Of  course I was prepared to offer more for that one, but it bit the dust faster than you can say radiology. An art book did too.

WHAM! Out of nowhere  a tremendous wave of disappointment and frustration slammed over me. It wasn’t just for the x-ray book, or the art book, or all the books in the living room. It was the Zoonomia and everything else we didn’t get. I know, I know. Very, very venal and VERY after the fact. But there you have it. I am not  the Mother Theresa of books after all.And yet, having admitted this, I did manage to get a grip and even ask myself a few questions while I closed the sale of the new additions.  Did I really WANT him to live with empty bookshelves? Did I expect him to urge me to pack up his  lifetime of treasures and bear them away? Of course I didn’t. If some upstart bookseller packed up the books in my living room I’d have a meltdown of such massive proportions it would involve  scratching, screaming, and  men in white coats. So then. Memo to self: GET OVER IT!

I did. Get over it I mean. In a world in which the physical book waves in the air like a white flag of surrender I should be happy – I AM happy  -- to meet someone who shares my love of books and doesn’t want to live with empty shelves any more than I do. Once I hit the cold air, had a glance at the moon, and reconsidered all the good stuff I did get it dissipated. By the time I got home I was glad that he’d kept them.

I may not be the Mother Theresa of books, but I really do believe people should part with their collections only when they’re ready. I guess sometimes I just need to relearn it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Paper Trail

Life has been in hyper-drive for me these days as much as I try to slam on the brakes. One of the things I did last week though was actually book-related – we went to the annual book sale in Dayton. This one comes with considerable expense since we need to book a hotel, but it normally pays off big-time in both fun and profit. It paid off this time too in high hilarity, but in profit? Eh, not so much. Here’s the ugly truth--were it not for the facts that we have an antiques mall booth and a store and I am insanely in love with paper, we would have chalked this sale up as an expensive disaster. Not only were the books in the “specials room” not special, but neither were the silent auction books. I bid desultorily on three and got none of them in spite of the fact that they were the poorest offerings EVER. Two years ago I bid on two and got two and they were OUTSTANDING. Last year I bid on three that were good and got one of them. So what is it saying about the fact that I bid three times on iffy books I almost hoped I wouldn’t win and got none of them? I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if maybe, like me, everyone else was trying to salvage the sale too.

One area I did do well in was children’s books, but they were practically all for a donation to the community center Christmas program. I bought a huge boxful for $50, all like new. Other than that it was a stray book here and a stray book there, none selling at more than $45. I took my time, didn’t panic, looked at everything twice in every genre ( it’s a huge sale too), but ended up buying less books overall than usual. On my second pass through the sale I crawled around on the floor and pulled out a box that was way in the back under the kids’ books, but didn’t seem to be for children. From there came the two art catalogs shown above, one on Korean ceramics and the other on furniture from the Georgia Piedmont pre-1830. Neither went to three figures, but they both bested every book I got. The second I picked up each of them my internal radar screeched like a magpie, loud enough to incite a change in my game plan. Right then and there I decided to give up on the books and follow the paper trail instead.

This actually turned out to be great fun, sort of like a secret game that I was the only one playing. Paper turned up everywhere, but not right out in the open. There’d be a whole box here and there, always requiring much crawling and pulling, but also lots of goodies in between the books, and even IN the books. I bought one book just to get the item inside it! Among my finds were a stand-out fashion catalog from 1961 with awesome color pictures on heavy paper and big in size, plus programs, booklets, and more unusual art catalogs.  In the end, I left the sale reasonably content, if not exactly tap dancing across the parking lot. I even know HOW to tap dance if the occasion called for it, but believe me this wasn’t worthy of a single time step.

Sooooooo – what happens when your favorite book sale disappoints that badly? Do you call it an anomaly and go back next year, or do you regretfully cross it off the list? Right now I can’t say for sure, but what I can say is this. I’m mighty glad that I am not relying on traditional book sales to grow my inventory these days..