No, it’s not the New York Public Library.
It’s Searles Castle,
setting of the 18th annual Book Fair at Searles Castle, promoted by Bernice Bornstein of Bornstein Shows. It’s Friday afternoon, setup time for the forty or so dealers who are exhibiting here. As usual, Bernice has overbooked the show by two or three slots.
She’s running around in a panic while the rest of us load in, trying to stay out of the way of the two or three very pissed off dealers who have arrived to find that their booths have been moved to a basement hallway.
And, as usual, stalwarts Gary and Hutch – dealers Garry Austin and Bill Hutchison - take over for frazzled Bernice and figure out a win-win solution for the challenging Rubik Cube bookfair floor layout problem. Bernice is lucky to have them as a resource at her shows. Garry is a veteran promoter and Hutch is one of those guys who does the NY Times crossword puzzle in pen in 10 minutes. By the end of the day everyone’s happy.
Everyone, that is, except me. After five hours of scouting the floor, I’ve found exactly two things to buy, and they were items that had been offered to me two weeks before, which I was unable to pick up because of my shoulder surgery.
This reminds me once again what an important factor luck is in our business. You can be prepared, diligent and hard working, but without a bit of luck, all the diligence in the world won’t help.
In general, the material on offer at this show seems high quality and well chosen. Dealers who do this show – set at the highpoint of Berkshire/Tanglewood vacation season - know they are dealing with a sophisticated crowd with disposable income, and they try to bring their most attractive offerings. It just so happened, this year, that none of these offerings pertained to maritime history. There was nothing to do but take my lumps and hope for better luck next week, scouting the Vermont Antiquarian Book Fair up in Brattleborough.
While I was moping around the floor trying not to be too surly to my colleagues, I remembered that I had purchased a wonderful piece of folk art here last year. And this recollection inspired a rather surprising realization.
I’d done a blog entry about that piece of folk art last year on August 4th. (HAND PAINTED POLITICAL CARTOON CONDEMNING JAMES MADISON AND HIS TAX POLICY DURING THE WAR OF 1812.)
That meant I’d been doing this blog for more than a year – fifty three posts, to be exact - which meant my blog was starting to get traction as a historical record of the antiquarian book trade.
Now I’m reporting on events that I covered a year ago and, along with noting the particulars of each year’s events, I can compare all sorts of factors that might affect our trade. The digital blogging format is so clean, so simple to use and access – much easier, actually, than pencil and paper. Unless the Internet blows up, the information in my blog will be more efficiently preserved and more universally accessible than any hard copy journal (with pictures pasted in?) that I might otherwise have used to keep a record of my adventures in the trade.
In effect, I’m using a digital medium (my web based blog) for an analog task (keeping a bookselling journal.) There’s a certain postmodern irony to this that tickles me.
Anyway, for the record, the crowd (left to right - Peter Stern, Natalie Bauman, and Bernice)
was well heeled, in a buying mood, and steady all day. Also, for the record, here’s what I bought.
(Print) US SLOOP OF WAR JAMESTOWN. CAPTAIN R.B. FORBES (with) AN INTERESTING MEMOIR OF THE JAMESTOWN VOYAGE TO IRELAND OF THE LATE R.B. FORBES. (Bos.) 1890. 15 pp. b/w frontis. Robert Bennett Forbes is one of the great characters in American maritime history. He made his first trip to China at age 13; at 20 he received command of his own ship for a 3 year voyage around the world; by age 30 he had made a fortune; by age 34 lost nearly all of it, and then by age 36 regained it. In later years he became a ship owner and builder and was responsible for improvements in lifesaving devices and ships’ rigs. He also wrote his autobiography, which is a rich source of information on the China Trade, and a terrific read. In 1847, on the heels of the Irish famine, Congress authorized two warships, the Jamestown and the Macedonian, to carry supplies to Ireland to help relieve the distress of the Irish people. Forbes volunteered to captain the Jamestown. This lot consists of a rare colored lithograph by Atkinson and Scruggs dated 1847 of the Jamestown arriving at the port of Cobh in Ireland. Image size is 20 x 16 inches. Matted and framed, under glass. The pamphlet is also scarce. It was published by, James B. Cullen as the first in a series of pamphlets devoted to historical oddities, and in honor of Forbes who had died in 1889. It is bound in half morocco over marbled boards, with wraps bound in. $1250
(Print) THE GROSVENOR, EAST INDIAMAN. This print commemorates a famous shipwreck which took place off the African coast in 1782. 132 passengers made it ashore, but only 18 survived starvation, thirst, exposure and harassment by natives. This 1784 aquatint by Pollard and Wilson measures approximately 21 x 17 inches. It is in brilliant condition. Matted and framed, under glass. $750
Next week… The Vermont Antiquarian Book Fair or, What Am I Doing Here?