Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Novel I Never Wrote


Last month I bought three pamphlets about a murder that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1830. It was a sensational affair in its day, a victory for prosecutor Daniel Webster, and an interesting sidelight in the history of American jurisprudence.

But that was not why I bought the pamphlets.

In 1829 William Low of Salem was sent to Canton to manage the affairs of Russell & Co. the great American China Trade firm. He brought his wife along and, to keep her company, his twenty-year-old niece, Harriett Low.
Harriett Low, as painted by George Chinnery
Happily for posterity, Harriett kept a detailed diary of her years in China. The Low household was a center of social life for American traders in Canton, and Harriett saw, and wrote about, everyone of importance in that group. Her diary was excerpted in Emma Liones's classic book China Trade Post-Bag, and reprinted in its entirety about fifteen years ago as Lights and Shadows in Macao Life.

She met Robert Bennet Forbes, AKA “Black Ben,” author of one of the great American autobiographies, 
 his brother John Murray, who would go on to become one of the great commercial minds in American history, and George Chinnery,
Self Portrait
the eccentric and gifted painter (the old lech was sweet on Harriett and painted a lovely portrait of her. I visit it every once in a while at the Peabody Essex Museum), and Robert Morrison, 
Morrison by Chinnery
the great missionary and translator, and William Hunter, a young American who went native and penned one of the liveliest accounts of China Trade life. 
She fell in love and suffered a broken heart. She entertained an endless stream of diplomats, missionaries, navy men, and famous American sea captains (quite a few of whom wrote about her in their diaries and letters).

She met everyone and recorded everything in the tumultuous and exciting years leading up to the First Opium War. But she never talked about what Russell & Co. were actually doing over there.

That question is answered (not that there was ever any doubt!) in the journal of the Salem trading ship Sumatra,
Opium!
which I will be offering for sale in my next catalog (see my blog entry for March 30, 2014). The Americans were importing opium from Turkey and offloading it to Black Ben's receiving ship on Lintin Island. The drug was used as a substitute for specie (in desperately short supply in Britain and America) to obtain Chinese goods.

But back to those pamphlets.

It turns out that the convicted murderers were the brothers of Harriett's aunt. When the news arrived in China the poor woman was devastated, forced to keep her connection to the terrible crime a secret lest her social standing be ruined.

Nothing more than historical trivia, I know. I'll probably never sell those pamphlets, and they'll go into my China Trade reference collection, 
already brimming with books about characters like Ledyard, Morris, Shaw, McGee, Perkins, Cushing, Russell, the Low family, the Forbes brothers, Hunter, Green, and Delano.

Maybe those are just names to you. But to me they are as real and present as people who live in my town. I know them all  - the whole clan - and their quirks, and their families, and the people they knew, and I can see the places and feel the times they moved through as clearly as if I were watching a movie or reading a novel.

In fact, it is a novel – one I've been trying, and failing, to write for twenty years. It's called Opium Lives and it stars Harriet and Black Ben, with a supporting cast of those dozens of remarkable New Englanders who lived and worked in the looming shadow of the First Opium War.

I've got half a dozen outlines and at least three false starts. My problem is that the story is too big, too close. I need to get some distance on it. But how much farther away can I get from events that took place halfway around the world two centuries ago?

More often than not, when I'm out scouting books, I'll come across something like those three pamphlets, and I'll find myself right back in Macao, having a drink in Chinnery's studio, watching him ogle Harriett, or sailing up the Pearl River with Black Ben.
A Report of the Evidence and Points of Law, Arising in the Trial of John Francis Knapp for the Murder of Joseph White, Esquire... Salem, 1830. 74 pp. b/w plates. Half title present, but lacks wrappers. (and) Appendix to the Report of the Trial of John Francis Knapp... on the Second Trial. “Salem Edition”, 1830. 72 pp. In original printed wrappers (and) Biographical Sketch of the Celebrated Salem Murderer... Boston, 1830. 24 pp. Lacks wraps and frontispiece.

John and Francis Knapp had a wealthy uncle named Joseph White, from whom they hoped to inherit a large sum. Impatient for the money, they hired a hit man who did the deed, throwing Salem into a panic. Eventually a fellow criminal ratted out the killer who promptly ratted out then Knapps and committed suicide. Daniel Webster prosecuted a tricky murder trial in which the murderer was dead and the conspirators had not been present to the crime. In a precedent setting argument Webster convinced the jury that the mere proximity of the brother was tantamount to having been present for the murder. The two were found guilty and executed. These three pamphlets are typical of the flurry of publicity generated by the murder. The lot $350

Next week - Bernice!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Actively Engaged in Retirement?

With the commencement of my seventh decade on this planet I occasionally find myself feeling old. I can rarely stay awake past 9 p.m., and I have the sense that my time is growing short, which sometimes makes my temper even shorter. This unfortunate confluence has inspired me to begin compiling a catalog called “Old, Rare, and Short.”
 Then, last Monday, I put the catalog on the shelf for a few days and headed out to Springfield Massachusetts for the last bit of the Ledyard walk - a 40 mile hike to Hartford Connecticut. (For those of you who have not been keeping up with my literary adventures, I have spent the past three years following a journey made by John Ledyard when he ran away from Dartmouth College in 1773. It is written as a series of essays, published each Christmas by Ten Pound Island Book Co.,
about America then, and America now, and about John Ledyard, and about a character called "I." Ledyard sailed down the Connecticut River from Hanover, New Hampshire to his family home in Hartford, Connecticut.

but "I" walks down a road alongside the river because "I" does not own a canoe.)
Fleabag Motel 6 a.m.


I returned home after three days to find an excited email awaiting me. It was from Allison Malecha, my publicist at Grove/Atlantic. She wanted to let me know that my crime novel, The Old Turk's Load, which is now out in paperback,
had just gotten a terrific review in The Bookreporter. It began,
 

I love surprises, and THE OLD TURK’S LOAD is one of them. Gregory Gibson is the highly regarded if non-prolific author of three nonfiction works. At an age when most individuals would be not merely contemplating but actively engaged in retirement, Gibson has published an instantly memorable debut, a complex, occasionally darkly comic novel that exceeds its own promise on all levels... (read the complete review here)

The Bookreporter is, among other things, an influential online book review website, so this was great news.

I wrote to Allison and my publisher, 
 Gee, that's terrific! How do we go about converting this great review into big sales numbers and stampeding demand for the sequel? I will post it on my Facebook page. Twelve people will know. What else should I do?

My publisher replied,  
It’s very nice. Allison—if you know the answer about how to generate a stampede, please be sure to copy me, as I’ve been trying to figure it out for 40 years.

To which I responded,  
A $30K advance on my next book will be a step in the right direction.

He said,  
So would a date with Kate Upton—equally likely.

So I wrote back,  
Who's she, a mystery writer? Maybe I can fix you up...

He had no answer to that one.

So I went back to work on Old, Rare and Short.

Here's one of the featured items: 

Dying declaration of Nicholas Fernandez, who with nine others were executed in front of Cadiz harbour, December 29, 1829... Annexed is a Solemn Warning to Youth (and others) to beware the baneful habit of intemperance. (NY): (George Lambert), 1830. b/w wood engraved frontispiece and title cut. 36 pp.  A wonderful and scarce piracy pamphlet. Not in Gosse or the Driscoll sale catalog. According to the title page and copyright notice the narrative was “translated from a Spanish copy by Ferdinand Bayer” who presumably added the Solemn Warning. Fernandez delivers his death-row confession in the first person. This is followed by a commentary on the sentences - (What brought Fernandez to ruin? Intemperance, that’s what!) Then the twelve page temperance lecture, which is thematically linked to Fernandez's awful fate. Pages clean and evenly tanned. Bound in original blue wrappers. Pages untrimmed. A remarkable survival. $2500

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Collage



Preface

This is a book about a walk down the Connecticut River by a man who finds himself getting old, but not too old to walk. The ostensible purpose of his walk is scholarly, dignified, historical - the deconstruction of the legend of John Ledyard, who made a similar journey in 1773. But the walk might also be the man's final attempt to outdistance the "old" that will soon and forever after precede the "man" in reference to himself.
    Stubbornly, he chooses to walk the river because John Ledyard (who actually sailed down it in a canoe) won fame for his extravagant pedestrian exploits. In the first half of the nineteenth century Ledyard was one of the most famous men in America, seemingly secure in the pantheon of founding fathers, frontiersmen and military heroes. By the end of the Civil War, however, Ledyard had been all but forgotten by the American people.
    Now they seem to be remembering him again. Three new biographies of Ledyard have appeared since 2005, a phenomenon the old man finds strange. He finds Ledyard strange, and he finds the American people strange. There are moments when everything seems strange. This strangeness is exciting, as enticing as the frontier must have seemed to people of Ledyard's time. He reckons a prolonged walking meditation would be a way to plumb the strangeness of Ledyard and the strangeness of the country in which Ledyard found, then lost, then regained fame. He resolves to follow Ledyard's track down the Connecticut River into America.
    His journey is undertaken not as an athletic dash, but in a series of fits, starts, leaps, reiterations, loops, gasps, and grabs over a period of years and a distance of less than one hundred fifty miles as the crow flies. The crow, of course, and the old man who aspires to be its avatar, hop rather than fly, being easily distracted by shining things, new sounds, the smell of meat, etc. 
 Snips from - Iain Sinclair, American Smoke (2013); Citizens Bank (2014); Gregory Gibson, An Old Man's Strange Walk (not yet).

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Not This Time

Where do you start with a place like Vegas? Bally's Hotel and Casino is hosting the 2014 Moose International convention and dealing with a chronic shortage of aquatic plant life, willow shoots, and other forage. Hairy guys with backwards baseball caps. Old men and their leisurewear. Fatties in mobile chairs work away, tethered to slot machines. A Bally's credit card at the other end of the line drips the money in and out. The tether prevents the card from being stolen, lost, or forgotten. Sorry, sir, no photographs. What is the plural of Moose ? Do the International Moose employ it?

There is a convention in noir cinema – someone has slipped the detective a mickey, or the alcoholic is in the middle of a lost weekend, or an innocent party has received a life altering shock. “Sorry, honey. I'm leaving you for a Moose.” The movies represent this state of psychic distress by means of flashing lights, carnival midway noises, and squirming, spinning shapes. Everything is out of focus. 
Voices come in and out, layered with hallucinogenic visuals and shreds of pop songs. Places and times jam together like a freeway pileup.

This is the lobby at Bally's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. The mickey is optional, but the lights, noises, voices, and ghastly visuals surrounding me leave no doubt that I'm in someone's grade B detective flick, or lost weekend, or that the life altering shock is Las Vegas itself. A line in one of my aural hallucinations croons, “It's just too marvelous, too marvelous for words.” A museum of American excess.

There used to be water here. It was The Meadows. But now the place insistently refers to someplace else – Treasure Island, New York,
ancient Egypt
or Rome,
or the Circus.
Or Margaritaville,
a few blocks south of Bally's, eager to remind us that “It's Five O'clock somewhere.” Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Joe Stalin, Heinrich Himmler – all the bad ones. They'll be reborn as busboys in Margaritaville on the 24/7/365 shift, with the soundtrack of Jimmy Buffet's greatest hits – all three of them - playing over and over forever. At least there are no joggers. It's 102 Fahrenheit on the street. Strange flowers come out at night.

Up in the Skyview Room on the 26th floor all is quiet and cool. The 400 attendees at the 55th annual Rare Books and Manuscript Librarian's Preconference drift in between plenary sessions and meetings, for coffee or drinks, and to view the goods on display at the Booksellers Showcase. Forty of the country's best book dealers stand patiently by their booths, hoping to chat, waiting for the inevitable flicker of interest. The Bookseller's Showcase is a cooperative venture between the ABAA and RBMS – a chance for booksellers and librarians to get to know one another. The event is the brainchild of past ABAA president Sarah Baldwin and, in my opinion, it is one of the major benefits of membership in our organization. If institutional sales are a part of your business, doesn't it make sense to meet the people who make the decisions about what to buy? Wouldn't it be helpful to know them by name or even, heaven help us, have a first name relationship with one or two of them?

The event seems to get better every year. Or maybe I'm just getting more comfortable. I used to feel like a pimply kid on the sidelines at a junior high school dance. Now I feel like one of the chaperones. I'm certainly getting older, but the librarians, especially this time around, seem to be getting younger.
Unlike the book trade, most jobs on the library side have a finite span. Turnover is inevitable. And with the younger faces come new ideas about collection development. The Corning Museum of Glass wants information on lighthouse optics. I'd never thought of them as customers before, but why not? And on it goes...

Informed sources tell me this was one of most heavily attended RBMS preconferences in the past fifteen years. Las Vegas? Who would have guessed? Another greybreard floats the story that the ALA held an RBMS preconference in Vegas in the 1970s, but that the librarians spent all their money on the first night and missed meetings the next day. Supposedly they vowed never to return. So much for institutional memory.

Vegas is a safer place now. The credit card is tethered to your lapel, and the “muddy line between/The things you want/And the things you have to do" - (Cheryl Crow, Leaving Las Vegas) has been cleaned up, dried out. In fact the whole place now exudes a Disneyish vibe, ripe with the infantilization of American culture that marks our era. Being "bad" means you can smoke indoors and walk around with a beer wherever you want. Coors Lite. Kinda silly, actually. Right, Cheryl?
I'm leaving Las Vegas
And I won't be back
No I won't be back
Not this time

Here's a rather unusual item that caught the interest of several librarians at the Ten Pound Island Book Co. booth. This British warship was blockading Boston Harbor during the War of 1812, waiting to do battle with the Constitution. She wound up capturing the wrong ship, but didn't complain:
Manuscript. "The Following account explanatory of the encounter with the French frigates Atalante and Terpsichore, of 44 guns each, and of the capture of the latter ship, on the 3rd day of February, 1814, by His Majesty’s Ship Majestic." Folio sheet, approximately 14 x 16 inches. The "Majestic", a razeeed fourth rate frigate, was one of the British ships charged with blockading Boston Harbor in hopes of doing battle with the US frigate "Constitution". This broadside pertains to "Majestic's" capture of the French ship "Terpsichore", which was first thought to be the escaping "Constitution". Printed by “Gardner, Printer, Portsea.” No mention of this event appears in Clowes. Worldcat shows only NYHS holding a copy of this broadside. Laid down on linen. A few spots near the top of the sheet, otherwise in very good condition. $3000

Sunday, June 22, 2014

BI-PARTISAN BRAINCHILD OF LIBERAL SENATORS UNTHINKABLE TODAY


 Another excellent opening last night at Flatrocks Gallery. This one was called "Series" and it presented the work of three artists, each of whom explore a single subject from a single vantage point numerous times.
I'll spare you the art history riff, but will tell you that we had a great party. And we got a nice writeup in the Boston Sunday Globe this morning. The show was particularly meaningful to me because it featured the work of Tim Harney, an artist I'd worked with 37 years ago.

I don't know how many people remember the CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) program. It was launched in 1973 as a bi-partisan brainchild of liberal senators unthinkable today. Although it was intended to provide job training and work experience for young people, like a continuation of the WPA, it was widely considered to be a commie dole, an abuse of the already broken welfare system, and a free handout to hippies and other social undesirables. These timeless sentiments were as powerful then as they are now. CETA only lasted 9 years.

Fortunately for me, the program came to Gloucester in 1977, as “The Gloucester Arts and Humanities Project.” They weren't training fishermen! I applied and, since I was sufficiently poor, had a good proposal, and was friends with the director, I was accepted. My proposal was to update and complete a bibliography of Cape Ann literature. There were about a dozen other artists, writers, and film makers in the Gloucester Arts and Humanities project, mostly novices and wannabes, all involved in similarly "cultural" activities. The fact that we received weekly paychecks did nothing to allay local suspicions that we were a bunch of hippies, social undesirables, and commies, pigging out at the government trough.

We CETA workers, however, took ourselves seriously. I had just started out in the book business, and had read enough to know who Jacob Blank was. I found an old wooden paint box, fitted it out to hold index cards (as I imagined Blanck had done when compiling his monumental Bibliography of American Literature) and started looking for Gloucester books.
My search took me to all the excellent libraries in the area
and my efforts were rewarded. It turned out there were lots of books, maps and pamphlets about Cape Ann – hundreds and hundreds, to be imprecise - and I handled each and every one of them. I recorded on my index cards salient facts about the publication of each item, gave a physical description of it, and composed a brief narrative summary of its contents.
 
The aspiring bibliographer and his box
Then I typed all my index cards in alpha lists arranged topically by the Dewey Decimal System and, several hundred pages and nine months later, out popped the Bibliography of Cape Ann Literature. (only the short title listing is shown in this link).

The instructors at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar 
are always telling their students, “Listen to the book!” And boy, did I ever listen to the book in 1977. In fact, since I didn't have the benefit of an apprenticeship or a learning experience like CABS, the way I learned the rudiments of my trade was by handling hundreds of books, maps and pamphlets about Cape Ann.

The thing about meeting Tim Harney again was that he was one of the artists in the Gloucester Arts and Humanities project back in the day. He was a kid like me, and he'd wanted to be an artist as badly as I'd wanted to be a bookman. And now, here we were, 37 years later. An artist and a bookman.

As we reminisced about that year we'd spent together, we realized that a good percentage – eight or nine out of that gang of wannabe writers, film makers, and artists – did, in fact, turn out to be professionals in their fields. The CETA program, in Gloucester anyway, had been a success. And Gloucester was a better place for it.
 
My old pal Tim Harney
 Next week - Viva Las Vegas!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Just Like Weapons of Mass Destruction

See item #5 in our new catalog
 Before we get down to this week's business, here's some late breaking news.
After setup and opening night at the Philadelphia Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair, participants were informed by the promoter that their exhibit space had been double booked, and that they'd have to be out of there by 10am the next morning. Colleague George Cubanski of Rarities, Etc. wrote a short blog about the screwup. He reported in a subsequent email that "I didn't notice people casting blame; the dominant feeling seemed to be sympathy for Flamingo." The promoters, Flamingo Eventz, posted an apology on their home page, in which it sounded as if they'd been left holding the bag by Sheraton. And, while Dan Miller, a spokesman for Sheraton said, “The decision to cancel was entirely the promoter's, not the hotel's,” Tina Bruno, in a subsequent phone interview, laid out a scenario in which an adjoining space, still under construction, had not been completed in time to accommodate a Saturday wedding party. She said that, when presented with this information, she did in fact opt to cancel, because it would have gotten “very messy” if she had not. She requested that I post the following statement: "The Brunos ran into a logistics problem at the hotel which caused the cancellation of the Sat. portion of the Philly show. They are assuring me they are working to resolve this in an equable fashion." She has filed a request with Sheraton's accounting department concerning prospects for compensation, but at press time she had not heard from them. (Note to self – do blogs have press times? Further note to self – Thank your lucky stars you had a wedding this weekend, boyo. Otherwise you probably would've schlepped down to Philly. Final note to self – Is this sad business symptomatic of the death of the book fair? Have these provincial events become so anemic that venue owners can simply sweep them away if a better offer comes along?... Image of books spread out on blankets and card tables on the sidewalks of NYC.)
Or maybe it's the Internet's fault. Everything else is.

One of the most annoying things about our digitally enhanced lives is the speed with which bad information can be promulgated and take root. This was always a problem in academia, and in those sophisticated backwaters of the book trade where bibliographical information about a book actually meant something. Now any clown with a computer can cut and paste someone else's description, and have it seem to be his own work. I routinely discover descriptions stolen from my catalogs and pasted onto some similar (but NOT identical!) item coming up at auction or on eBay. Then someone copies from them, and someone else from the new copier, and before you know it, that description is all over the Internet. Well, what if there was a mistake in my description? What if it was wrong? Now it's out there, in any number of iterations, where everyone can see it. And if you see it everywhere it must be true, right? Just like Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Something similar happened a few centuries ago with Captain Kidd – or, more accurately, with Captain Kidd's treasure.
Howard Pyle's rendition of Capt Kidd. See item #50 in our new catalog
As pirates go, Kidd was not a huge success, having made only one big grab in his career. His political karma was terrible, however. He got scapegoated for piracy and murder, and was tried and duly hanged. 
Transcript of Kidd's trial. See item, #2 in our new catalog
One of his partners in the privateering enterprise had papers that would have proved Kidd innocent, but he witheld them to save his own hide. This rat was none other than the Earl of Bellomont, who was also serving at the time as governor of the New York and Massachusetts territories. So it would have been very inconvenient for him to have been implicated in a piracy scheme. When Kidd sailed into New York, Bellomont gave a thorough search and relieved him of more the 14,000 pounds of money and goods – probably as much as Kidd could have been expected to have taken from the vessel he plundered.

And yet, for whatever reason (mostly because Kidd himself told Bellomont he hadn't gotten it all), the legend of Kidd's buried treasure flourished after his death. By the 19th century every likely island or point of land on the east coast had been dug up. Even places where Kidd never visited, such as the Hudson River Valley or the South China Sea, have been searched by deluded treasure hunters. Kidd and his treasure inspired writers like Irving and Cooper, and of course Stevenson's immortal Treasure Island is built upon the themes Kidd's story drove into our psyches.

The item below is one of the zaniest results of the Kidd treasure madness. Pirate treasure maps are often found in bottles, at least in novels. But this is the first, and perhaps the only, one to have been found under a rock in central Massachusetts.

For reasons I've never understood, William Kidd was popularly known as Robert Kidd, so the naming in the pamphlet is attuned to the popular imagination. And of course, the specificity of the location must have been irresistible. I'll bet there were guys with rowboats and shovels in Boston Harbor within weeks of the pamphlet's publication. It's ironic that, between the 1701 trial and the 1850 publication date, a good part of the alleged treasure island had been washed away by strong currents in Boston Harbor.

How do I know that? I read it on the Internet.
Anon. The Life, Trial & Execution of the Famous Pirate Capt. Robert Kidd. Palmer, Mass: Gardner Shaw, 1850. 24 pp. I love this pamphlet. It features "the famous Kidd letter, recently found, enclosed in a bottle in a ledge of rocks in the town of Palmer, Mass., this letter discloses the spot where Kidd buried a large portion of his immense treasures, which has never been discovered." Supposedly Gardner Shaw's son was out hunting rabbits in 1849 when he discovered the letter. It was widely believed to be the real thing, and so Shaw published it in this pamphlet. The treasure, says Kidd, is buried on "Conant's Island, about three miles down the Harbor of Boston." Well, it's Logan Airport now, so you'd have a hard time digging it up. And Robert Kidd buried it, not William. Scarce. Worldcat shows only four libraries holding copies of this pamphlet. Text somewhat foxed. Original printed wrapper laid down and bound in - calf over marbled boards with leather spine label. Wonderful stuff! $2500


Monday, June 9, 2014

Let it Bleed!

Back in the Stone Age, which is where I'm from, if you made your living in the used book trade, you had a shop or you worked in one.
Shop #2, 1978
Oh, there were a few people who were smart enough to make their livings as book scouts – selling quality material to dealers and institutions – or organized enough to run mail order search services, which found obscure tomes for customers and quoted books to want ads in places like AB Magazine. Most of us, though, had open shops. These places served as many functions as we owners could contrive - social centers, store rooms, tax writeoffs, financial burdens, places of excape and, of course, the base of operations for whatever book scouting or mail order we might do to supplement our off-the-street incomes.

Shops came in all types and sizes. Back in the days of cheap rent, urban book shops could, and often did, occupy entire buildings. A lot of people in the suburbs operated from their homes, using rooms with street access as retail venues, and many garages found second lives as shops. In the country, all manner of outbuildings were repurposed as "book barns."
The iconic Baldwin's Book Barn, part of everyone's route in the old days
Ah, the memory of book barns! The country drive. The cunning old geezer in overalls. The dust covered box in the corner by the milk cans. The rare find. The celebratory picnic in a sunny field outside of East Jesus. The long drive home. The discovery, that night, of the absence of page 135... It was all part of the romance.

Time rolled on, and things changed in their inexorable, execrable way. For any number of reasons - escalating real estate values and the convenience of the Internet chief among them - open shops became less and less practical. Indeed, if you are of a certain age in this trade, you are probably one of those who suffered through the pangs of closing a retail shop.
Shop #5, 1988 - 1993
(I'm on my sixth shop, and have endured the process five times, so I should know what I'm talking about. On the other hand, repeating the same mistake and expecting different results qualifies me as a madman.)

Three things linger after the trauma of closing:
  1. The sentimentalists who go on and on about how much they, and the entire community, lament the loss of your shop. Of course if they, and the entire community, put their money where their mouths were or, more aptly, where your store used to be, you wouldn't be closing.
  2. The sudden absence of all those tens, twenties, fifties and hundreds that leaked through the door and somehow found themselves in your pocket without stopping at the store ledger first. Goodbye!
  3. The books. Oh, my gawd, the books! Where are we going to get books without a storefront for people to bring them to?
I'm afraid I have nothing to say about smarmy book shop funeral followers. And, since I have never, ever, taken unreported cash I don't have any advice on that score, either. But I am here to assure you that, if you have a sincere desire for books – I mean, if you need them – and if you have money in your checking account or cash in your pocket, the books will find you. Books stopped coming through my shop door in any meaningful way in 1993. And yet, despite my best efforts, after all these years, I still have more books than I can sell.

There is one great secret to all of this. Your money and your word must be good. It may sound obvious, but one of the smartest things I've ever done in my career was to be too stupid to defer payments, ask for terms, kite checks, or resort to any of the other dodges that people employ when they feel they are hemorrhaging money. Let it bleed, I say. And the dealers will find you. The scouts will find you. The auction galleries will find you. The downsizing collectors and institutions will find you. The books will find you.

That's how I got where I am today.

Here, for example, is a book that just came in the mail as a result of an unsolicited offer. 

I have it on my shelves, and now I need to sell it. Perhaps you'd like to buy it.
(Jong, Didrik de). De Walvischvangst, met Veele Byzonderen Daartoe Betrekkelyk. Amsterdam: Peter Conrad, 1784. 15 copperplates (5 fldg) 6 copper engraved maps. 4 vols, 4to. 96, 116, 116, 116 pp. First edition of this history and analysis of Dutch whaling efforts in the Arctic, including Greenland, Spitsbergen, Novaya Zemlya, Jan Mayen Land, and the waters of the Davis Strait, in the 16th -18th centuries. With charts of these areas as well as a folding chart of "de Noord-Pool," and plates of whales and inhabitants of polar regions. The narrative history is accompanied by statistics of expenditures and catches, and by magnificent plates of whales and whaling activities. The third volume deals with the inhabitants of polar regions, with suitable illustrations, and the fourth volume is a history of the Dutch herring fishery, with a folding panorama of herring fishing. Text in Dutch. This first edition of 1784 is rare, Jenkins citing only the 1791 edition in his bibliography (p. 114) and in his history of whaling (p. 169.) Not in Arctic Bibliography. The whaling plate is cited in Ingalls, "Whaling Prints in the Lothrop Collection". Bound in modern full leather, antique style, with blindstamped covers, raised bands and spine label.Backstip lightly sunned, small oval institution stamp on each title page. A very good copy of a rare and important book in the history of whaling. $4000