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Serendipity Sale Schedule Update

November 4th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

NOVEMBER 15 UPDATE: SALE IS OVER. ALL MERCHANDISE IS SOLD

The schedule of the sale (accurate as of 11/4/13; subject to revision):

For the most up-to-date information, follow the sale on Facebook.

All posts about the sale are here.

ALL SALES ARE FINAL. No returns or refunds.


Breaking the Bad News

November 3rd, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

Anyone who has been a bookseller longer than five minutes has had to find a way to break the bad news that someone’s family heirlooms have no value.

Among Peter Howard’s files at Serendipity Books, I found this priceless letter from Peter to an insurance company. A family in Berkeley had a water leak and claimed $20,000 in damages to their library. Peter was called in to appraise the damaged goods. Since he was working for the insurance company, he could be blunt in the way all booksellers would like to be, but often can’t, out of respect for the feelings of the owner of the books.

Peter writes:

The Smiths [a pseudonym] own a fine and valuable home in a nice part of town. The home is well and expensively furnished (the dining room set alone cost $20,000 or more, apparently). Objects d’art abound, particularly glassware. The Smiths are very nice, agreeable and well-spoken people. They have a daughter at UC Berkeley, entering her sophomore year.

However, their books, basically, are worthless. They may have taste, education, discretion, and character, but they are not bookmen. They did not ever buy fine, valuable or resalable books. Such books as they did buy–almost all from book clubs, subscriptions, or by second-hand acquisition–have insignificant or NO RESALE VALUE (emphasis in the original). In all honesty, I would say they have NO RESALE VALUE AT ALL.

I have attempted to put the kindest interpretation imaginable on this business. Mrs. Smith is very nice and wise and experienced, and her husband, who said nothing, seemed a gentle soul. $1250 would be charity. More would be a distinct disservice to your employers.

Yrs. faithfully,

Peter B. Howard

NOVEMBER 15 UPDATE: SALE IS OVER. ALL MERCHANDISE IS SOLD

Follow the sale on Facebook for the latest information


BRIDE OF FIELD NOTES: Barry Evans will sign his new book at Arts Alive

October 28th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Events, Feature 2

BrideoffieldnotesLocal author and columnist, Barry Evans will celebrate the publication of his new book Bride of Field Notes during the November 2nd Arts Alive at Eureka Books.  The book is the third compendium of essays published in his Field Notes series.  Topics range from science, nature, linguistics, and philosophy.

“I’m often told that what people like about the essays is the surprise factor – they never know what’s coming.  Bride of Field Notes reflects this with lots of variety in 500 word chunks,” Evans said.

Evans has been writing articles and essays on scientific topics since 1986 when he wrote about the return of Hailey’s Comet, resulting in the publication of The Wrong-Way Comet and Other Mysteries of Our Solar System.  His second book, Everyday Wonders:  Encounters with the Astonishing World Around Us netted him a four-year position as a commentator on National Public Radio.

Through his writings, Evans is able to explain complex topics in a manner that is approachable to the general public.  His eclectic topics range from the big bang theory, the periodic table, and the arrival of the first people to the Americas.

Evans, who lives in Eureka, continues to share his admiration and wonder of the world through journal articles and essays.  Evans will be signing and answering questions about his books at Eureka Books on Saturday, November 2nd from 6-9 p.m.


Serendipity Books Sale Schedule

October 26th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Bookselling, Serendipity

NOVEMBER 15 UPDATE: SALE IS OVER. ALL MERCHANDISE IS SOLD

Eureka Books  has acquired the closing inventory of Serendipity Books, in Berkeley. Serendipity was one of the great antiquarian bookstore on the West Coast for 50 years (established in 1963) [read the New York Times’ obit for the store]. Over five weekends in November and December, we will be selling the remaining books – at least 60,000 titles left over from countless great libraries.

Serendipity specialized in modern first editions – twentieth century literature – but bought good books in all fields. The late owner, Peter Howard, was a great supporter of booksellers and frequently gave them better discounts that anyone. While the final closing of this literary landmark is a sad event, we want to continue Peter’s generosity, by offering wonderful books at wonderful prices, starting at $5 per book and dropping from there.

[NOTE: The poetry, drama, and Canadian sections have been sold in their entirety]

Here’s what a professional book scout (someone who makes his living buying books to sell to other booksellers), who we enlisted to help organize the books, has to say about the books included in this sale:

“I’ve been helping out at Serendipity, sorting and offering opinion. I wish [people] would recognize that [Eureka Books] doesn’t have the time or space to cart away all the “good books”… There will be thousands of $100+ books, hundreds of authors’ first books, great bibliography, etc. at (at first) $5 a pop. There are great bargains to be had and anyone thinking that this is something other than an extraordinary buying opportunity is missing the boat.

Follow the sale on Facebook for the latest information

We will also be selling book cases, metal library shelving, desks, book ends, at least 100 pieces of art, prints, broadsides, ephemera (particularly related to printing and poetry), finely bound sets, reference books too numerous to count, rugs and carpets, etc.


Peter B. Howard on Bookselling

October 22nd, 2013  |  by  |  published in Bookselling, Serendipity

Peter Howard was one of the top antiquarian booksellers in the United States, with a heyday in the 1990s, when his firm, Serendipity Books in Berkeley, frequently grossed more than $2 million per year with just four or five employees. As we have been packing up the store, we have come across some of Peter’s observations on bookselling:

“There is no possible, rational prediction that a given used or antiquarian book will sell for a given or specific price in a specific period of time.”

“A large collection of used books is difficult and often impossible to sell at a predictable or desired price.”

“Booksellers are entrepreneurs. The success of their business depends primarily (or entirely?) upon acumen honed over time; their special knowledge (absorbed over years), and their force of will. None of these elements is transferable; none can be bought and sold; occasionally they can be hired. Such entrepreneurs are vulnerable to illness, uncontrollable social or personal vicissitudes, changes in economies of scale, and bad judgment.”

“In a downward, declining or changing market, ownership of one’s building is an absolute guarantee of survival… The book market place is changing utterly, more so than in any time in history, this hour, this day, this month, this year.”


Never Be a Bookseller

October 17th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Bookselling, Serendipity

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Perhaps my favorite book so far, found on the Serendipity shelves. Alfred Knopf published it in an edition of 2000 copies (none for sale) in 1929. This charming pamphlet begins: “Never try to write, but above all never have anything to do with publishing or the book trade”; this is the only parental advice I can remember.

Garnett, remembered perhaps most today for his novel Lady Into Fox, republished by McSweeney’s, also owned a second-hand and antiquarian book shop and was a partner in the Nonesuch Press.

Garnett concludes with advice for his sons, ” ‘Above all, never be a bookseller. That is the worst of all: the hardest work and the worst paid. ‘ Yet sometimes I wish I were back in the shop….”

For the complete Serendipity Chronicles, visit http://eurekabooksellers.com/serendipity/


Every mountain top is within reach

October 17th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

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“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”

― Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

We try to keep this in mind as we pull books from the tops of the 18-foot-tall shelves that line Serendipity Books. There are so many books that when we move the books down and empty all the boxes and bags, all the normal-height shelves are filled again.

For more about Serendipity: http://eurekabooksellers.com/serendipity/

 

 


Fool’s Gold

October 5th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

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My wife calls what’s the process of sifting through the thousands of books at Serendipity mining for gold.

This was the first shiny object we found: an old painting with the hint of a signature in the lower left corner. We took the picture out of its frame and the name was Howard Pyle, one of the great illustrators of the 19th and early 20th century. If real, it would be a five-figure painting.

Hopes rose.

The problem, however, is that it didn’t look like a Howard Pyle. The second factor working against it was that Peter Howard would not have left a Howard Pyle lying around.

Then we cleaned the dust off the painting and discovered that the signature read “from Howard Pyle” and that the artist had signed illegibly on the the right side.

As any gold miner knows, you have move a lot of rock to find a few nuggets. So it’s back to the mines.

See all posts here.


Holy Sh*!#$t

October 5th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

Serendipity Books' Mystery Section

Jack Irvine, Eureka Books’ co-owner, was the first in the building. He picked up the keys one Saturday with his wife. Confronted by scenes like this, she reportedly wandered around Serendipity Books muttering “Holy shit!” over and over.


It Seems the Family Has Gone For Your Bid

October 5th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

The day after my 47th birthday, I received the following email from Bonhams, the auction house hired to disperse the inventory of Serendipity Books, Inc.:

It seems that the family has gone for your bid. I think I can work out all the details next week and give you the ability to start as soon as possible.

Thirty-two words sealed what is by-far the biggest deal in the quarter-century of Eureka Books. The contract requires us to remove all the inventory and includes all the fixtures we want.

Next week in the email turned into next month while the lawyers worked on the contract. We got the keys on September 21, in the midst of a month of vacations at the store, which kept us in Eureka. Since then, we have only spent a few days at Serendipity. On October 7, we start work in earnest.

For all the posts about Serendipity, visit http://eurekabooksellers.com/serendipity/


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