In our earliest years at the farm books started accumulating at a startling rate.
We soon realized that just quoting through AB would not move enough stock. We had to start sending out LISTS. To call them CATALOGS was a presumption that we did not assume until they started to contain 500 books, and more.
The first step was to begin a card file of the books we then had for sale - mostly Americana (mainly priced under $ 20.00, and often under $ 5.00). The lists would then be created from the card file.
At a local auction we bought a very old A.B. Dick mimeograph machine, that used paper stencils which had to be cut with a typewriter. The process was something like this.
(1.) Typing out the list one page at a time, on a special coated paper stencil; using a manual or electric typewriter (or writing by hand). [In the beginning, Belle's ancient portable typewriter, that was sometimes used for quoting, was our only way to cut the stencils].
(2.) Covering the mistakes with a special correction fluid, which had a noxious odor.
(3.) Waiting for the correction fluid on the stencil to dry.
(4.) Carefully aligning the stencil in the typewriter to correct the typos.
(5.) Placing the stencil in the mimeograph machine.
(6.) Clamping the stencil into place without creases or tears.
(7.) Placing the special paper to be copied onto, into the feed-bin
(8.) Fill the machine with a thick-ish black ink, that tended to get into unwanted places.
(9.) Find a good place to run the machine and neatly stack the copies.
(10.) Cranking the machine (usually by hand - over and over and over and over) .
(11). Repeat the process when you screwed something up.
It was a labor intensive task that tested ones patience.
The whole thing came out a bit of a mess... but we sent the first list out anyway, to be joined by about a dozen brothers and sisters of different lengths and qualities.
Lo and behold, we sold quite a few books.
In those days there were a lot of mimeographed lists that were avidly read. Those from the original Whitlock Farm Booksellers were especially valued, but there were many other excellent booksellers that issued lists using this cheap technology.