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Posted By DMB

I have just been happily surprised by the visit of an old acquaintance, in fact a woman I worked with 40 some years ago when she was at the National Library of Canada, and she and I built a beautiful working relationship which resulted in the Nat Lib having the greatest collection of Canadian editions in the world. It was after she left that the huge sordid mess occurred which I recount in my memoir. It is always nice to meet again with people who go that far back in my so-called career, especially now when so many of these contacts are with the families of my old clients, who too often have passed on.

Indeed, by happenstance I have recently bought two lots of books, one from the widow of an old client who died some 20 years ago. So, the books I repurchased were ones I’d sold her husband some 25 years ago. As always, they brought back lots of memories – and considerable surprise at how much some of them had risen in value. I was at her place for 3 hours although my actual work – choosing, assessing, working out an offer – only took 20 minutes. The rest we spent reminiscing about her husband and people we knew in common from those times.

The most memorable book for me was a wonderful Ruskin in a nice binding which had been part of a huge Ruskin collection I’d purchased from Franklin Gilliam, the proprietor of the famous Brick Row Book Shop, on my first visit to San Francisco about 45 years ago.

So, I was reminded of transactions with 2 old friends, her husband, and Franklin who is one of the legendary American booksellers of the 20th century, admired and respected by every dealer who ever met him. Franklin came often to Toronto and I have lots of anecdotes about him I shall one day publish. He loved the Flatiron Building at Wellington and Church and said he would move here if he could have an office there. His friends here would have loved that.

The second lot I bought was from a woman whose father had owned them. I didn’t remember the name but opening books I found my price and codes from 45 years ago. He’s paid $7.50 for For Whom the Bell Tolls and $22.50 (a very obsolete price category) for Tender is the Night. Turns out he was the founder of the Family Health Clinic where my G.P. is and which I attend weekly. His picture is in the offices and I shall go next visit to see if I recognize the face.

So goes book collecting, from one generation to the next. And so will continue bookselling in spite of the laments and whining. 

Posted By DMB

We are surprised at the small attendance we’ve had for our sale, a full room of books now at 80% off the retail prices. This is another melancholy feature of the current electronic revolution that bookstores and other businesses have had to adjust to for the last 10 or 20 years.

With almost no used bookstores left the younger dealers are overloaded with used books and feel no compulsion to buy even at 80% off. In the old days when dealers had a half-price sale every year the first day would be entirely dealers who would buy hundreds of books to enhance their stocks. Now, nobody seems to care and we find ourselves with lots of very good books, which we feel we are giving away at 80% discount. But the world ignores them.

Earlier this week a regular collector bought a $450.00 letter by Bret Harte for $90.00 and a couple of days before we sold a nice set of the 29 volume 11th edition of the Britannica for $100.00, the same price we all sold it for 45 years ago.

Doesn’t anyone want good books?

In another few weeks we will up the discount to 90% which to me is next to free. And these are not used books, this is a carefully weeded stock built up over many years. It’s very depressing for me since I thought enough of these same books to originally pay more than the current selling prices for them. Another of the reasons, I guess, that used booksellers die broke.    




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