Sunday, September 28, 2014

Last Walk

Headed to the farm on Cape Breton to lay the foundation for my Thoreau-not writer's shack, and to finish writing up the last of the Ledyard walk. And yes, you're right. Walking it was a snap compared to writing it...


Ledyard bleeding out upon the sands of Egypt. A quick flashback montage of Dartmouth College, Captain Cook, John Paul Jones, Jefferson in Paris, those seductive ladies of the night, Joseph Banks, the Nile (“Do you know the river Connecticut? Of all the rivers I have seen it most resembles it in size.”) The sand.

But I’m finished with Ledyard, long before his final, fatal African adventure. Now it feels as if the man had only been an excuse – a typically preposterous one – for dragging myself out of the house into the … what?

Well, maybe not “into” or “out of,” either. All I did was climb up on my hobby horse - as I had seen Ledyard do, as he had learned to do from his writing teacher Laurence Sterne - and clop down the road following the American Traveler and his dream of becoming “the Man” (his words, 1786), who was on the heels of Sterne, who was following his wry vision of the “sentimental man” through Europe, discovering new modes of seeing, feeling, being. I trudged through small towns and shopping malls, imagining the lines linking Ledyard and his dream of crossing the American continent to China Trade fortunes, to the railroads, to the telephone, to the computer, to precisely those shopping malls in their clownish iterations - as hot on the trail of a fantasy as Ledyard or Sterne - all this while, I say, doing nothing more than, or nothing so much as, tracking my own life. Not to see what got me here, but to understand, to the extent I could, what “here” was.

Thus the river in her many guises, my beautiful highway, and the kingdom of my departed loved ones, culminating in an improvised and heartfelt post ribeye whiskey and cigar ceremony behind a crummy Days Inn, landing me in the post wilderness wilderness America had become, as savvy and tough, I hoped, as Daniel Boone ever was in the forests of his day. Thanks, Mister Ledyard. I feel better now.

I am not speaking in any figurative, metaphorical, or poetic way. I believe in my beautiful highway and the wilderness it traverses as much as I believe in the chair in which I am sitting, or the computer upon which I am typing – it has gigs and ram and megahertz whatever. I believe in it and can use it. I do not understand it.

Which brings us to the problem confronting me as I begin this essay. I might be done with John Ledyard, the American Traveler, 1751 – 1789, but I have by not yet completed my walk along the Connecticut River, tracing his famous escape from Dartmouth College to his family in Hartford in 1773 (and meditating, as I walk, upon America in his day and America in my own, etc., etc.). I still have about thirty miles to go from West Springfield, Massachusetts to Hartford, Connecticut. But it's really more like forty because, as I have already suggested, crows do not fly as the crow flies. Nor do I.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Paper Town

It was a beautiful morning, one of the last fine days of the summer, with trees just beginning to turn the corner toward the explosion of colors that precede winter's monotone. But instead of going into the woods, where I know the swamp maples along the brook are already flashing their pinks and deeper reds, I got in my car and drove to Paper Town 

That's what promoters John and Tina Bruno call it, anyway. 

Actually, it's nothing more than a large conference room in a former Radisson (I think)  Hotel, now repurposed as a slightly seedy, past-its-prime Holiday Inn. Which is, of course, a perfect setting for the paper dealers within.
The Brunos claim this is "The Only Show of it's kind in New England, featuring everything and anything On or Of Paper!" That claim conveniently fails to consider the Papermania shows held twice a year in Hartford, CT, or the Ephemera Society's annual show, which they themselves promote. But, to give them their due, there is nothing quite like the Paper Town experience.

The close aisles and the low lit overhead give this venue a feeling of concentration lacking in Hartford, and this makes the vast range of material on display – from junky paper to rare manuscripts and documents – much more evident. 

Not that I am denigrating any of it. That range is necessary for a healthy show, for it is from those heaps of "junky paper" that the "rare manuscripts" are sometimes plucked. Indeed, what could be more fun, on an Indian Summer morning, than sorting through mounds of paper in search of rare finds?

Walking in the woods, that's what.

I shouldn't be complaining, though; I found a few neat things in Paper Town (see below). And it's always fun jawing with my colleagues. Shopping these shows is an excercise in intense scouting combined with social interaction of the "How's the wife and kids?" variety. It is, for me, a pleasant mix.

So hats off to the Brunos. Despite some recent misadventures (see my Bookman's Log entry of June 16 for an account of the Philly fiasco) and their continued inability to spell Flamingo Eventz correctly, they have managed to survive in a business that has become increasingly difficult. They've kept Paper Town from going the way of the New Hampshire Book Fair (another event that used to take place about this time of year – cancelled for lack of interest) by offering $50 tables, and by getting the word out. The fellow in line ahead of me told John Bruno that he clipped his ticket for the show from their ad in the Lowell Sun.

Paper Town may never be more than a sleepy little village, but it's just about perfect for this time of year.
Anon. Francis and Mary. The dangers of the deep; or, Interesting narratives of shipwrecks & disasters at sea. With large coloured plates. Isleworth: O. Hodgson, (1825). 16mo. 16 pp. Folding hand colored plate. This is the sort of thing that makes a bookseller's heart sing. It is a rare pamphlet containing accounts of the shipwrecks of the "Francis and Mary" of St. Johns, New Brunswick, and the Dutch East Indiaman "Vryheid" off the English coast. Here's what Huntress, writing about another version of the account, has to say about the"Francis and Mary" after she was wrecked. "The people on board were able to get some provisions and water from below decks, but still suffered greatly from hunger and thirst... On February 22 John Wilson, a seaman, died; he was cut up and eaten by the survivors, and the same horrid pattern was followed with a half-dozen others. James Frier, cook, was engaged to Ann Saunders, a passenger. When he died his fiancee, who was among the strongest of those who lived, 'shrieked a loud yell, then snatching a cup from Clerk, the mate, cut her late intended husband's throat and drank his blood! insisting that she had the greatest right to it.'" - Huntress 234C. The folding color plate shows Ann Saunders, knife in hand and flashing generous cleavage, slitting her fiancee's throat. Great stuff! Rare. Not in Huntress. Worldcat shows only one library holding a copy of this pamphlet. Original printed wrappers bound in half polished calf over marbled boards. With the bookplate of Eugene Field and his dated signature on the front blank. $750

Manuscript. "A Journal of a Voyage from Boston to Batavia (Island of Java and Indias) Latitude 6' 10"S and Longitude 106' 51" west, in the shipo Juno, Steven Williams Master. Kept by William L. Forbes." December, 1815 - March 1817. Folio, unpaginated. About 100 pages of manuscript entries. In an unusually legible and correct hand, Forbes keeps track of sail handling, weather, vessels spoken, land marks sighted, and events on board. The "Juno" rounded the Horn without too much difficulty about 60 days out then had a good run through the central Pacific. Such notations as, "all possible sails set" are frequent. They arrived at Batavia April 20, 1816, after 113 days at sea. The delicate navigatgion into port is recorded in detail. There they took on food and water, discharged ballast, and tended to sails and rigging. A number of the crew got sick from an unspecified disease, and some were sent to a hospital onshore where at least one man, Peter Thompson, died. On May 13, "John Brown put in irons for mutiny." On June 26, "Perkins departed this life at midnight in the hospital." They took on a varied cargo of hides, cordage, tin, arrack, coffee, and sugar. Periodically they sent money ashore, as noted on May 25, "sent on shore 5 Boxes of Dollars." Finally, on July 18, "Capt Williams came on board to proceed to sea." On the return to Holland they developed a serious leak but again were favored by good weather. On November 5th, after another death at sea, they reached Texel, Holland. They got underway for New Orleans on January 28, 1817 and arrived March 18. I cannot find a William L. in the familes trees of Robert Bennet and John Murray Forbes, but he seems to have been an educated man. Lloyds "Register of Shipping" shows a 220 American ship of this name operating in 1815. Clean and legible, bound in handsome sailcloth covers. $1250

Monday, September 15, 2014

Marvin's Daughter

In the 1980s a buddy of mine who worked for a union in Manhattan got to know some people who knew some people who made it possible for him to purchase a three family tenement in Greenpoint. This deal required some social engineering because Greenpoint was a very tight neighborhood. I used to hang out there when I had business in New York, and I remember it as tidy but bleak, sporting long rows of asbestos clad tenements under gunmetal skies. When I parked my car and walked to by buddy's place, eyes followed me every step of the way. There were no people of color, just gray hair and white flesh. All the shop signs were in Polish. My car was safe but the streets were cold.
I am here to tell you, friends, that Greenpoint has unfrozen. Now it teems with energy and diversity in that curious kind of vertical integration that characterizes recently colonized neighborhoods like the Lower East Side. Junkies and homeless people are still there, but they exist side by side with Euro babes walking teeny dogs, trendy hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and jogger moms pushing three wheeled carriages that cost more than my used Toyota. And those mind-bendingly spectacular views of The City! Where were they in the 1980s?

This was the setting for the Brooklyn Antiques & Book Fair held in the brand new Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint. 
 The site had recently been purchased and turned into a giant cube of glass by a band of real estate operators - descendants, perhaps, of the guys who hooked my buddy up with his tenement.

Marvin Getman treats with under assistant operators
A small flotilla of them were cruising the floor Sunday afternoon, inspecting the proceedings. They seemed pleased with what they saw. Which is where Marvin's daughter comes in.

Marvin Getman is the new kid on the block among book fair promoters. He's come on the scene like a breath of fresh air, experimenting with new locations, and finding innovative ways to publicize his events. It was his daughter, a Brooklyn resident, who called his attention to the shiny new building going up on the site formerly occupied by Sturdy Store Displays, Inc. Marvin looked into the property – which was still under construction – polled some of the book trade (the general consensus was, "Brooklyn? Hell Yes!") and cobbled together the first ever Greenpoint book fair.

Although, for a while there, it almost wasn't.

Marvin got a deal on the venue because his show was the first to be held in that space. When I arrived on Thursday afternoon to check things out, only the first aisle of the antiques section had been completed. The book fair section was nothing but half built plywood walls.

Workers on lifts were still wrapping pipes and installing air conditioning. The sweat was beading around Marvin's temples but, walking around with his ever present clip board and toothy smile, he radiated confidence. “You should have seen this place yesterday,” he said.

Sure enough, by some miracle, the work had been completed and the booths set up by the time the show opened Friday night. The real estate guys were probably holding the families of the construction guys hostage, but hey... whatever it takes. Right, Marvin?

And in they came. A tidal wave of dealers and regulars “Every 'usual suspect' ever seen,” in the words of colleague Ed Pollack, followed by aftershocks of (to quote Ed again) “prominent non-exhibiting dealers... and, importantly, a large number of younger people who appeared to reflect the new Brooklyn demographic: couples w/ and w/o kids, artists, gays, foreign-born, etc.”

Everyone seemed pleased with the venue, particularly those who brought lower end and visual material. Predictably, I saw a lot of bags filled with children's books and popular culture stuff. Richard Mori, whose booth is a cornucopia of this sort of material, reported excellent sales. One fellow told me he sold a $1000 book to a civilian who'd never bought an old book in his life – God only knows what went on in that transaction!

Security for this event was supplied by the Blues Brothers
The book dealers I spoke to said they'd at least consider doing this show again, and a few were ecstatic. However, things weren't quite as rosy on the antique side.

I talked to three dealers who hadn't made expenses, and I suspect there were many more. Some decorator items and paintings left the hall, but most of the action seemed to be on the book side.

Yes, there were glitches. It was a bit of a walk from the subways, and street parking was difficult (although a cab ride from Manhattan was only in the $25 range). Marvin, in a brilliant promotional move, somehow talked the Brooklyn Brewery into providing endless free beer on opening night. The fact that no toilets had yet been installed in the venue dawned on people slowly, then all at once. Happily there were only a few porta-potty traffic jams and the parking lot remained dry.

Speaking of leaks, the roof leaked.

And speaking of the parking lot, it was crammed with exhibitor vehicles on Sunday afternoon, presenting the potential for snarled traffic and frayed tempers at move-out. But from what I heard, things went smoothly and tempers didn't fray until people got on the highways and discovered most of the western world out there with them. I spent a delightful hour approaching the Whitestone Bridge, listening to the lame-ass Jets and watching gangsta cars cut into non-existent holes in the not-moving traffic. Ah, New York... And nobody realized until it was too late that the book dealers' booths were set up with their backsides to the plate glass windows, which presented an unwelcoming view to the street.

Marvin says this is one of the first things he'll fix for the next show... but will there be a next show? No one knows. No one knows how this new venue will fare commercially, or how the operators plan to structure rates in the future. We might have two shows here next year, or we might be priced out. Fewer antique dealers are likely to return, and Marvin isn't sure he can find 140 book dealers to fill this space. So, unlike most book fairs, anchored in time and place, the future of the Brooklyn Book Fair is riddled with uncertainty.

But don't you worry. Marvin's working on it
Most of my colleagues are hoping these problems can be resolved and that there will be more shows in this lively neighborhood. It may have been just the terrific venue that made this show feel like a success, but it was that feeling of success, and the improvisational seat-of-the-pants manner in which it was accomplished, that has inspired more than a little “In Marvin We Trust.”

So thank you, Marvin's daughter. The Brooklyn Expo Center was a good call.

Monday, September 8, 2014


The traditional day of rest was a busy one for me. I spent most of it fooling around with the first blog entry for my new e-commerce site, Unexpected! - Hope you'll check it out. I think I've tapped into a booming business with a great future.

Then I finished wrapping orders from Maritime List 225,
then I went across the street to Flatrocks Gallery where Anne Marie and Cynthia have curated a wonderful end-of-the-summer show called “Afloat.”
A lovely mixture of painting, collage, and sculpture that evoke the sea.
Today's highlight was another splendid garden party (guess who the gardener is) 

followed by a talk by local novelist JoeAnn Hart
She told us about her award winning novel titled, fittingly enough, Float, “... a wry tale of financial desperation, conceptual art, insanity, infertility, seagulls, marital crisis, jellyfish, organized crime, and the plight of a plastic-filled ocean. JoeAnn Hart’s novel takes a smart, satirical look at family, the environment, and life in a hardscrabble seaside town in Maine.” 
and how the themes of her fiction related to what we saw on the walls around us.

A splendid afternoon, ruined only by the sorry-assed performance of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. But hey, I should be enjoying these lovely Indian Summer days while I can. Winter will be here soon enough.

Here's a charming little item I picked up last week. It will be accompanying a load of more high-powered fresh stock down to the much-anticipated BrooklynAntiques & Book Fair - the scene of next week's blog entry. Tune in then for a full report.
The Life, Voyages and Sea Battles of That Celebrated Seaman, Commodore Paul Jones. Derby: Thomas Richardson, n.d. (ca. 1830). Fldg. color frontis. 24 pp. Scarce English pamphlet portraying our national hero as a smuggler and an ambitious turncoat, only to finally give him his due as a brave and tireless officer. Seitz, p. 222, citing the “brilliantly colored frontispiece” which is entitled “Paul Jones Shooting Lieutenant Grub.” There are several different versions of this famous moment in naval history, in which Jones shoots Grub for attempting to surrender the "Bon Homme Richard" during a battle. The best part of the legend is that the event never took place. It was invented by an earlier pamphleteer. The advertisement on the back cover offers other publications of Thomas Richardson of Derby. Bound in original wrappers, with wrappers and folding plate laid down. Text clean and untrimmed. $750.00

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor in Vain

Here's how the mind wanders on a Labor Day weekend... 

While leafing through a 19th century manuscript on naval ordnance 
I became captivated by two superbly rendered pages of ink drawings illustrating the “Parts of a Rifle.” This got me to thinking about what guns were like two hundred years ago and then, of course, what they are like now, and all the trouble we're having, socially and politically, trying to figure out what to do about them.

Everyone has something to say about the matter, and that's part of the problem. We are passionate, polarized, and utterly paralyzed when it comes to actually DOING anything legislatively about the 86 gun deaths that happen every day.

According to the Open Secrets website, the NRA spent nearly $3.5 million in 2013 in its effort to influence Congress on gun issues - $1.9 directly for lobbying, and $2.4 million on something called "outside spending." In April of that year, as you may recall, the Senate failed to round up the necessary votes to pass a mild gun control measure that 90% of Americans are supposed to have supported.

There are 535 members of Congress. Assuming that the 200 liberals who scored C, D, or F on the NRA report card aren't worth wasting any lobbying money on, that leaves about 335 pols in line for the NRA's $3.5 million.

Which works out to a little more than $10,000 per Congressperson... probably more like $8000 after expenses and leakage.

These politicians need to raise somewhere between $2500 and $14,000 per day to finance their campaigns. Could a measly $8000 possibly have persuaded any of them to vote against the gun bill last April?

On a broader scale the Washington Post reports that the NRA spent $25 million in 2012 on what it refers to as “positive advocacy” - support of gun friendly candidates, and “negative advocacy” – the biggest target that year being Barack Obama, on whom they lavished $15 million worth of negativity. This sounds like a lot of money until you consider that $25 million would buy the NRA an hour or two of national prime time television advertising per year. To look at it another way, President Obama is said to have spent $700 million publicizing his health care program... for all the good that did him.

It's not the NRA's lobbying power that accounts for the persistence of guns and gun violence in our society. Nor is money the deciding factor in the ongoing failure of Congress to do anything meaningful in the wake of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Sandy Hook, etc., ad nauseam.

Our politicians aren't doing anything about gun violence because We the People do not want them to do anything about gun violence... not really.

Sure, we'll say the right things when the pollsters come around; we'll flood Newtown with teddy bears, sign email petitions, and forward heartrending gun murder images and stories on Facebook. But as a nation, our core attitudes about guns are so deeply embedded that effecting meaningful legislation will require – and cause - serious social upheaval. More like Civil Rights than the Bottle Bill.

Change will only come about when we do all the things it takes to bring about major social change - picketing a Senator's office for example, or attending and speaking out at a hearing, or even writing a letter on real paper and attempting to hand deliver it.

So rock on, Gabby Gifford and Mayor Bloomberg. We need you to keep doing what you're doing. But you will labor in vain until we get off our behinds.

And I'm afraid that's not going to happen any time soon, because deep down, we're satisfied with things just the way they are.

Manuscript. Naval Ordnance, circa 1860. 4to. 65 leaves of manuscript. 15 pages of b/w illustrations, 13 pages of watercolor illustrations. Primarily concerned with cannons, carronades, mortars, rifle-muskets, and Congreve rockets, featuring detailed instructions for fabrication and use, accompanied by beautifully rendered illustrations of - cannons, carronades, and their carriages, parts of a rifle, steps in making flannel cartridge bags and making and filling rifle cartridges, detonators, and rockets and all their components. Also, canister shot, grape shot, gun platforms, and mortars. These pages are followed by a series of "Gunnery Problems," ricochet tables, instructions for fitting night sights, for fabrication of and specifications for shells of various kinds, sixteen pages of a "Viva Voce Examination" - an oral question and answer catechism on gunnery and, finally, an illustrated treatise on "A Method of Floating Guns Ashore by Means of Water Tanks." The illustrations, especially those in watercolor and ink wash are beautifully rendered. The section on fabricating Congreve rockets is particularly detailed, occupying thirty pages of the manuscript and containing some of the most delicate and visually pleasing color illustrations in the book. The dating of this manuscript is based on one of the drawings of "Parts of a Rifle" which bears the marking, "1858 Enfield." The rifles pictured are typical of the rifle-muskets of that period. Bound in half leather over marbled boards. Backstrip chipped. Sewing broken but text and illustrations in an excellent state of preservation. This manuscript is of artistic value as well as historical importance. Housed in blue cloth clamshell box with leather label. $12,500

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Wife and Me

Ernest Wessen's letters are a must for aspiring Americana dealers
In his memoir, The Adventures of a Treasure Hunter my idol, Charlie Everitt, refers to his wife as “Mrs. Everitt.” I like the old fashioned formality of that address. Same with Ernest Wessen, the great Midwestern Americanist and author of the legendary series of catalogs called Midland Notes: “Mrs. Wessen and I were returning from a visit to the folks in Maine...” etc.

I would very much like to tell you about the trip Mrs. Gibson and I took recently, but when we married she kept her (Irish) family name – Crotty – and I just don't think “Ms. Crotty and I” comes across with the same archaic charm.

So anyway, the wife and me, we went down to Baltimore last week.

Papermania had been canceled. 
We had a little time on our hands, so we visited friends in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, and drove down Thursday for the opening of the Baltimore Summer Antique Show.
The Baltimore Summer Antique Show still packs 'em in
This used to be a sort of funky affair – diverse, rambling, and slapdash. An Irish guy named Frank was the front man. He'd get on the PA just before the show opened and give endless instructional speeches about what was expected of the dealers, unintelligible owing to the poor sound quality and his Irish brogue. Book sellers were included as an afterthought, but the combination worked. We found things to buy from the antiques people, and new customers were exposed to our wares. The show had a good run through the Nineties, and I became very fond of the city, particularly the Locust Point neighborhood, with a saloon on every corner. I fantasized buying a row house across the street from the Chesapeake Box factory (where I would work the night shift while writing detective thrillers by day) with a great view of the harbor for $75,000. Ms. Crotty, unfortunately, did not care for the heat, and I watched helplessly as the price of those fine old buildings along Fort Avenue doubled and then tripled.

Then the show was taken over by an outfit known as the Palm Beach Show group. Booth rents went up and the show reinvented itself as a fancy-schmancy affair with white carpets, soft music, and high end dealers. 
The book ghetto in white carpetland
Their pre and post show publicity reached frenetic levels, and every year a rumor was floated by “unnamed sources” that a painting or a piece of pottery had sold for seven figures. The booksellers, no surprise, were increasingly marginalized.
Marilyn Braiterman and Greg Davis examine rare tomes at the booth of G. Davis Books
I could have put up with all this nonsense – even the fact that high end customers were more interested in fine bindings and childrens books than in rare maritime manuscripts. In the end, however, the lengthy time commitment was too much. I'd spend a week packing, then leave Tuesday for the Wednesday setup, and then sit there amidst white carpeted antique splendor Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday while the fancy schmancies regarded my wares with incomprehension. Leave Sunday night, get as far as Wilmington, and arrive home on Monday. A week of lost time and road expenses for some good buying opportunities and low sales. Then I figured out that I could just visit the show and still buy books, and that's what I started doing. Even if Papermania was scheduled for the same weekend, I could shop the Thursday opening and then scoot back north to Hartford for setup at the paper show on Friday.

So Ms. Crotty and I did some shopping and visiting among the forty or so book dealers at the Baltimore show, adjourned for lunch with friends at the brew pub across the street, went back to the show to conclude our business, then spent a very enjoyable afternoon and evening with an old Ballmer pal on a stoop just off Fort Avenue in Locust Point,

Greg and Fats solve the world's problems from Locust Point
across from what used to be the Chesapeake box factory, and was now colonized by yuppie joggers with the cutest dogs.

Here's what we bought, the wife and me:

Broadside. At the Court at St. James's, The Seventeenth Day of December, 1794... Printed folio sheet, 15 x 19 1/2 inches, with manuscript additions. b/w engraved royal seal at top. In 1794, with the outbreak of Britain's prolonged war with revolutionary France, the number of men required for the fleets rose to 85,000 and then to 120,000 in 1799. The most common methods of increasing manpower was paying a bounty for service and pressing men into service. This rare broadside covers both approaches. Enlistments of experienced seamen were to be rewarded with bounties between five pounds and two pounds ten, depending on experience, and thirty shillings for landsmen between twenty and thirty-five years of age. Furthermore, a reward of twenty shillings was to be paid to "any person who should discover any Seaman or Seamen who might conceal him or themselves..." This policy led directly to the practice of seizing American sailors on the pretext that they were English and pressing them into duty in the Royal Navy. That policy and America's angry reaction to it, was one of the causes of the War of 1812. This broadside has been updated in manuscript to June 20, 1799. The sheet is split along an old central fold at top, with no loss.$750
Manuscript. Signal Book. 12mo. 27 pages of hand colored signal flags and significations. Ten flags in combination with nine others yield dozens of messages spelled out in the text. Pages are sized and cut away so that the combinations can be viewed with their significations. These refer to fighting ships under sail, and date from the early nineteenth century - probably of War of 1812 vintage. Two different systems of combinations are presented. With forty-seven hand colored illustrations of flags and pennants. Very good condition, bound in scuffed half leather over marbled boards. $1500
Mayhew, Experience. Narratives of the Lives of Pious Indian Children, Who Lived on Martha's Vineyard More Than One Hundred Years Since. Boston: James Loring, (1829). 24mo. 108 pp. b/w engraved frontispiece. Mostly records of exemplary piety and great tedium, but some genealogy and local history included. "This is a reprint of the fourth division of Mayhew's "Indian Converts,"or rather of extracts from it for use of Sunday Schools" - Field 1046. See also Sabin 47125. VG in original printed boards, lightly rubbed. Front hinge weak. $200
Wilkes, Charles. Synopsis of the Cruise of the U.S. Exploring Expedition During the Years 1838, '39, '40, '41, & '42. To Which is Added a List of Officers and Scientific Corps Attached to the Expedition. Washington DC: Peter Force, 1842. 56 pp. 37 x 23 3/4 inches. This pamphlet was published three years before the official account was issued. Wilkes addresses the controversy over his appointment and, according to Howes, adds some material was “not in that work." Howes W-415. Haskell 275. This copy is bound in its original printed wrappers which, although they show some chipping along edges and backstrip, are legible and complete. With the ownership signature on the front cover of Caleb Cushing, a Massachusetts Congressman who also served as minister to China and who helped negotiate the treaty of commerce with Japan. Some light tanning to pages. Bookplate of Levi K. Fuller library on inside of front cover. Call number in ink and upper right corner of title page. No other markings. As one might expect, the pamphlet has solid institutional holding both in hard copy and microform, but is rare is the trade. A rebound x-lib copy appeared in 2013; the last one prior to that was offered by John Howell in 1979. $2000

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Classy Move

In what I hope is not a trend going forward from the canceled Philadelphia Book Show, exhibitors received word last week through the grapevine that the summer Papermania show in Hartford CT had been called off.

In a phone conversation with Gary Gipstein, son of the show's originator Paul Gipstein, Gary said that the managers of the XL Center

(the new name for the venue in which the show is traditionally held) were, per their management agreement, making improvements to the building. Gipstein had been notified that this work was coming, and had been assured that it would not conflict with the August Papermania show.

Indeed, in his walkthrough weeks prior to the opening date, everything seemed to be in order.

Then Gary and co-promoter Arlene Shea got a call from the management company. The air conditioning system was not yet functional. The vast dungeon where the show was held - known as the Exhibition Hall - would be uninhabitable. The promoters scrambled to find a new venue, to no avail.

Gary and Arlene worked the phones (they are not the most technologically advanced operation, and do not seem to have bulk email capability to exhibitors) and the afformentioned “grapevine” - I first heard of the cancellation in an email from SNEAB (Southern New England Antiquarian Booksellers) president Peter Masi. Word was also spread on social media and through print and digital journals such as Antiques & the Arts Weekly. So it's likely that all of the 140 exhibitors at this mammoth event have gotten the word.

I asked Gipstein if he'd simply credit my booth fee toward the winter Papermania show and he replied, "Since we've put you exhibitors to so much trouble, we thought it would be better to give you a prompt cash refund." A classy move, in my opinion.

My concern is more with the hundreds of attendees. Americanist Michael Vinson, for example, and his non-refundable airplane tickets from New Mexico. Guess he'll be doing a New England tour next weekend! And what about all those little folks, private collectors, who swarm in from all over the northeast and happily spend the weekend poking through bins of paper. Have they all gotten the word? Do Gipstein and Shea keep an up to date contact list of attendees? Stay tuned.

Just a note of history here. Gary told me that this was the first cancellation in Papermania's 40 year run. That would put its opening in 1974, the year the XL Center – then called the Hartford Civic Center – opened. The roof collapsed in the winter of 1978, but the show dodged that bullet. The summer event started sometime in the 1990s and, though it was always the weaker of the two paper shows (Hartford in August makes Hartford in January look good) it managed to attract a healthy group of exhibitors, and remained an event where great finds might be made. Ah, well.

Here's an item that would've knocked 'em dead at next week's show. Now it's bound for the Brooklyn Book Fair in September - unless you buy it first.

Manuscript. SHIP BUILDER’S REFERENCE BOOK. CA 1840 - 1860. Folio, unpaginated. About 100 pages. This remarkable document is a reference book compiled by English shipbuilder George Munro in the mid-1800s. It contains accounts for various jobs, ephemera and sketches documenting those jobs, lists of materials, rules and formulae for ropemakers, riggers, and sailmakers, lists and tables of various sorts of timber such as English Oak and American Elm, rules for drafting, laws for admeasurement and essays on stability and speed in design of ships. These are supplemented by detailed drawings of blacksmith work, coppering, and construction details of merchant vessels. Finally there are pencil drawings and colored drawings of vessels such as the “Barque Lousia Munro going into Shields.” This was clearly compiled by Munro over a period of years, as a reference work to assist him in his shipbuilding business. As such, it highlights matters of concern to a shipbuilder of that era, and shows practices that were actually used in the shipyards. It is a remarkable collection. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Old boards detached, text and illustrations are clean. $7500