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Vintage A.W. Ericson Prints

June 20th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Humboldt County

Pardon my Internet slang, but OMG!

We just acquired four vintage A.W. Ericson albumen photographs dating from the 1890s, each with a handwritten caption. Two of the image are iconic Humboldt County pictures, which have been reproduced endlessly, but very few originals survive. These are behind the desk – they just arrived on Friday afternoon and I didn’t have time to get them ready for display – and are priced from $400 to $750.

Here’s a sampling (click
for a slightly larger view):

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Book Expo

May 31st, 2008  |  by  |  published in Bookselling

I'm in Los Angeles today, getting ready to head out for my second day at BEA (Book Expo America), the annual convention that brings together publishers, bookstore owners, and everyone else interested in the new-book trade. It fills the LA convention center. The coolest thing for me was seeing Fine Books among the two-dozen or so sample titles that our distributor brought to the fair. Perhaps most interesting to collectors was the dramatic reduction in the number of Advance Reading Copies in evidence, compared to past years. In past years, it was not uncommon to see dozens of people staggering under the weight of the free ARCs they picked up. I only saw one yesterday. I've written about publishers' concerns about the collector's market for advance copies here.

I stopped by Amazon's large Kindle booth, and there was a bit of excitement, but not nearly as much as I expected. And they only seemed to have six sample machines, which made it hard for gawkers to get a look at it. I've tried one before – it was pretty good, but hard to hold without accidentally turning the page.


Rare Alcohol Novel – 1907

May 7th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Uncategorized

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Caine, Hall. Drink: A Love Story On A Great Question.

New York: D. Appleton, 1907. First edition (?). 91 pages.

Good in irregularly faded wrappers and a chipped spine. Discard stamp on title page. No other library markings. Fragile condition. A rare novel about alcoholism. OCLC records fewer than 10 copies of this edition. COPAC records one copy of a 1907 London edition and two entries for a 1908 London edition, each with one holding.

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This moralistic tale of the evils of drink is followed by a report on the depravity of "underground London," "sinful New York" (with a subsection on white women in Chinatown), a temperance lecture by Rev. T. DeWitt Talmidge, and a list of Keeley Institutes. Keeley Institutes were a predecessor to the AA movement and sought to treat alcoholics with the Keeley Cure, injections of a substance of unknown composition.

Caine was one of the best-selling authors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was also Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s secretary for a time. The Library of Congress records a microfilm copy of an 1895 edition (a date given on the copyright page of this copy, along with the 1907 date), but no physical copies are recorded. A 1901 biography of Caine (Hall Caine by Charles Kenyon) states, "Mr. Caine has the intention of dealing with the drink question in a novel…yet he has been unable to see his way to treat it in a work of fiction." It’s possible that the 1895 copyright refers to the section on New York vice, which was prepared for a newspaper.

We believe this to be the first edition of the book or the first American edition, assuming the lone 1907 COPAC record for a London edition is correct.

$125


Lighthouse Photo Post Card

May 5th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Ephemera, Humboldt County, Photographs

Lighthouse

We just acquired a great real photo post card of a California lighthouse. The lighthouse is New Point Loma, in San Diego. The note on the back mentions "the new fog signal under construction." This refers to the small cinder-block building in the foreground, where a loud horn was being installed. The picture above of the front of the card accidentally cuts off the
top of the lighthouse. The condition of the card is very good, with a
few creases at the corners.

There’s a local hook, too. This 1913 post card is addressed to a Mrs. M. Cady, care of the Lighthouse at Capetown (Cape Mendocino). The card refers to "Alice & Babe," presumably an Alice Cady and her mother Mrs. M "Babe" Cady, but we haven’t positively identified them. There are still many Cadys living in the area.

The price is $40.


McMurtry on Bookselling

April 28th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Bookselling

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Larry McMurtry will receive the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award this week. In an interview posted online, he talks mostly about being a bookseller. "I just don’t think about my work at all. I think about being a bookseller. I don’t think about being a writer," he said.


Collecting Newspapers

April 25th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Book Collecting

A recent email from one of our readers who collects historic newspapers, lead me to a small cache of YouTube videos about two leading newspaper dealers, Timothy Hughes and the Mitchell Archive. Hughes is definitely the leading dealer in his field and has a great many newspapers in inventory. His business turns out to be a family affair that has taken over what used to be his father's machine shop. This video shows it to be ephemera dealing on fork-lift and heavy-lift scale.

The Mitchell Archive video is a nice presentation about collecting newspapers. Mark Mitchell specializes more in highspots:

More videos are also available:

 

Timothy Hughes on Newspaper Collecting

About Mark Mitchell

Behind the Scenes at the Mitchell Archives

Guy Heilenman, President of Timothy Hughes Rare Newspapers

More Hughes Videos on Their YouTube Channel

 


The Most Illustrated Bible

April 15th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Book Collecting

This from "Bible Editions & Versions," the Journal of the International Society of Bible Collectors (April – June 2008):

Brickark"The Brick Testament. Constructed and photographed entirely by the Rev. Brendan Powell Smith. The largest, most comprehensive illustrated Bible in the world, with over 3,600 illustrations (the scenes are made from Lego blocks) that retell more than 300 stories from the Bible. First launched as a website in 2001, then as a published book series in 2003."

I love how deadpan the description is. The "Reverend" Smith is hardly reverent. He is, however, obsessive, and pretty good with Legos.

Image of Noah's Ark.


So You Want to Own a Bookstore II

March 15th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Bookselling

Yesterday I posted Chuck Rozanski's seven questions to be asked before getting into the comics business. Here are a few of his choice observations, which apply equally to the used book business:

"I remember reading a Small Business Administration (SBA) pamphlet 30 years ago which laid out the hard facts that 70% of new businesses started in America fail within three years, and that 85% fail within five years….For the specialized area of comics retailing, those percentages were actually a bit optimistic. Very few of the stores that were opened from 1988-1999 are still in business, and I'll bet that 75% of those that are still open could be purchased for net asset value, with no consideration given for the enterprise as an ongoing business."

"What most comics retailers never figure out (until it's too late…) is that they are losing money every day that they are open for business. They accumulate lots of inventory, and come to believe that owning lots of stuff is the same thing as making a profit. Well, that's only true if you have a cost-effective mechanism for turning your stuff into cash. If you don't own such a mechanism, you're not generating a profit, you're simply adding to your storage cost burden. Eventually that burden, combined with a lack of cash flow, will kill your business."

"Comics retailers are notorious for seldom liquidating slow product, and as a result, what you see in a store is not what their customers are seeking, but rather what they got stuck with."

And finally, in a much later column, Mr. Rozanski asks a question that I think all book collectors should ask. It's one that I've been giving a lot of thought to of late as I have been working with one of our regular contributors, Richard Goodman, on a story about what the book world can learn from the art world. A lot of people are concerned about an apparent waning of interest in books. The same is true about comics. I am reminded of the last lines of that famous Dylan Thomas poem: "Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light." What Mr. Rozanski asks here is worth asking of everyone who loves books.

"To get to the nub of my question for today, I would ask you to consider what you are personally doing to try to save the comics world. I realize that there is not a single one of us who can have any measure of a significant impact solving this kind of dilemma alone, but I do fervently believe that great numbers of people working toward a common goal can create an astonishing level of positive change. To be a bit more specific, I would ask what kind of outreach you have done of late to try to bring new readers into comics? All of us have favorite stories that particularly resonate with us as an individual. Have you tried passing that book and/or comic on to a friend? How about giving comics to kids?…How about speaking about comics before groups of young people? I've been to numerous elementary, middle, and high schools during my career, speaking to young people about the merits of graphic storytelling, and passing out free samples. These are just a few of the ways that all of us can help encourage new readers."


So You Want to Own a Bookstore

March 14th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Bookselling

Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics is one of the most interesting retailers of collectables. I have basically zero interest in comics, but I subscribe to his email list and read every one. He basically breaks every rule in the book, and doing so has made him the leading comics dealer in the world (he started out living in his car along with his inventory). Instead of keeping his emails short and to the point, he tells stories about his latest buying trips, what's going on at home, his adventures collecting Native American pottery, and whatever else happens to be on his mind. He also runs crazy promotions, like giving $10 gift certificates to everyone on his email list. The gift certificate had no minimum. Order $10 in comics and they were completely free except for the shipping, charged at the actual cost (no markup). In December, Mile High customers redeemed $50,000 in gift certificates.

Mr. Rozanski wrote a column for a comics publication, and then posted them on his store's website. It's very good reading, and although it is about selling comics, a lot of what he writes applies to books as well. His columns are particularly honest about being in business, too. He describes the downside of rapid success and how the sudden growth of his business to $10,000 per week in 1980 nearly bankrupted him—the cost of hiring lots of new employees, renting warehouse space, investing in desks and equipment, and acquiring enough new inventory to keep the sales going ate up all the cash and then some.

One series of columns addressed the desire of collectors to enter the business of selling comics. Mr. Rozanski offers seven questions every potential dealer should ask. Change comics to books, and the list works for bookselling, too.

About the motivations for entering the business, he writes, "If your answer is that you want to sell comics for a living because you have have a passion for comics, I'm unimpressed. Alcoholics have a passion for liquor, but that's certainly not a good reason for them to be operating a liquor store. In fact, I've seen a large number of comics stores fail because the owners were so wrapped up in their love of comics, that they forgot that they were running a business."

Here are the seven key questions. They aren't the usual ones people ask when starting a business, which is why they are so illuminating:

1) Do I have the ability to self-motivate myself?

2) Am I willing to forego all other activities in my life to be a comics dealer?

3) Can I make it my foremost goal to serve other comics fans?

4) Do I have the ability to ignore my own personal tastes?

5) Do I have the desire and intellectual curiosity to endlessly educate myself about new areas of collecting?

6) Do I have the mental toughness that will enable me to persevere, even when the odds seem hopelessly stacked against me?

7) Do I communicate well with others?

Read the first part of Mr. Rozanski's advice here. Don't forget to hit the "Next" link at the bottom of the page for the continuation of his comments.


Help Identifying Children’s Book Artist

February 18th, 2008  |  by  |  published in Book Collecting

Does anyone know who made these illustrations? I just bought seven original paintings and drawings from an unknown children's book that appears to have depicted scenes from countries around the world. The artist signs his or her paintings with a capital T (shown below):
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Here are two typical examples. These fish are labeled "page 24 Islands – Java – Ceylon." The caption, typed and pasted on the bottom edge of the illustration, reads "Watching so many funny things, / Bright colored fish and fish with wings."
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A couple of the illustrations are monochromatic. I assume that some pages in the final book were in color and some were printed just in black. The example below is "page 50 Spain." It is captioned, "An orange-laden donkey spied / Burdened with fruit on either side."

I've tried googling the text of the captions and tried Amazon.com's "Search Inside" feature, with no luck. Anyone recognize the style?

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