Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thanks to everybody for their various postings,
comments, memories, etc.

Because of various idiosyncrasies of Google
I can't get into my own Blog to update it or do ANYTHING.

If you want to discuss anything. Please EMail me at:

Thanks, Ron

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I'm always glad to hear from folks that worked at Leary's and other area booksellers.

Maybe you even have pictures of the: offices; people; shops; etc.

I'd love to see them.

Thanks, Ron

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thanks to all the folks that have made comments about this blog
and have asked me to post more - and more frequently.

Frankly, I don't have time to work on it now... but hope to in the future.

If you have any book related issues that you'd like to discuss with me
please call or EMail.

Thanks, Ron

Ron Lieberman
At the Old Mill
4887 Newport Road
Kinzers, PA 17535
Phone: 717 442 0220
FAX: 717 442 7904
For a picture of our home and shop, please check out:

Antiquarian Book and Manuscript Specialists
For Over Forty-One Years

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Part I - Our First Lists and Catalogs

This is a picture of our farm house on the Rockville Road, Near Glen Rock, PA

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.

A friend of ours had an old IBM Executive Model 41 Typewriter that he no longer used and, as the price was right (free), I tried it for the stencils. The Executive had proportional spacing, with each letter getting a different space according to its width [Mm takes up more space than Ii]. It even had a split spacebar for spacing of two or three "microspaces". It was a great machine, once you learned the tricks. It was a real leap forward for us.

The old Dick mimeograph machine was getting more troublesome and annoying. We replaced it with a Gestetner duplicator, which was a more modern and efficient mimeograph. A great feature was that it could print on a better grade of paper. But it was still hand cranked, and it took forever to complete a list of any length and quantity. Overall, the Gestetner was really no great improvement, but the better type quality began to show us new possibilities.

AMERICA ! Ca: 1975. This was the second or third catalog we produced by offset.

Late in 1974 we learned about a small printer that would produce 8 x 11" catalogs for us, by offset, from camera ready copy, at fair prices. We could use the IBM for the text body and employ press or transfer type (cut-out or rub-off letters printed on clear acetate sheets) to hand set headlines and display details. Later we worked in illustrations and more complex presentations.
The mimeograph machine went to the attic... and was henceforth used only for a few particularly suitable projects.

[To Be Continued]

Friday, August 11, 2006

Part II - Computers Come to Bookselling

Tandy TRS 80 Model 1

The folks that printed our first offset catalogs had just begun using a computer in their business. One night we got a demonstration of their Tandy TRS 80 Model 1. We were impressed.

Previously, we saw homebrew computers as being in the realm of the hobbyist, and neither of us were very much hobbyists of any sort. The first Apples and Commodores and Altairs seemed a bit useless to us. But that night with the Tandy sent us out looking at computers.

Heathkit - Built from a Kit

The Heathkit (which seemed to be one of the best and most powerful of this early crop of computers) was sold in kit form (for around $ 1800.00). Our Erector set days were well long gone and we just could not imagine putting together a computer from a kit. It sure did seem like an expensive hobby to us.

Osborne 1 - "Portable" Computer

It was probably the opportunity to play with the clunky Osborne 1 (the first portable computer) that made us finally decide that we NEEDED a computer.

We tried asking booksellers for recommendations. Virtually no one in the trade had a business computer yet. Dick Weatherford (later the founder of Interloc / Alibris) was the exception. He had already bought a computer !! He, of course, agreed that computers would be a great asset to bookselling. He made some suggestions about what computer to buy (the Osborne among them). We demurred.

In 1982 Dick indicated that he had found a great computer that would be perfect for us.

Morrow Micro Decision I

George Morrow was one of the first engineers to design and market a memory board for the Altair computer, and later he began to design hard disks and computers. With the MD I he produced a machine that was as good as the just introduced IBM, at one-third the price. It was also half the price of a comparable Apple system (Apple III).

It came with: a monochrome monitor; two single sided floppy drives (200 KB each) [There was no hard drive so a lot of floppy swapping was necessary]; total RAM of 64K ! ; plus excellent manuals; phone support (not toll free, but you could talk to George himself); and all the software one could wish for (at the time)...

- CP/M 2.2 operating system
- WordStar word processing from Micropro (we still often use a version of WordStar).
- Microsoft BASIC-80 programming language
- NorthStar compatible BAZIC language from Micro Mike's Inc.
- A spelling checker
- An electronic spreadsheet.
- and Pearl Database Management software

At under $2000.00 in 1982 it was a wonder.

We named her "Miss Morrow".

To Be Continued

Friday, August 04, 2006

Part I
How did you get into the Book Business?

"How did you get into the Book Business?"
Long Story - Medium Length Version

My parents loved going to auctions. There were regular "sales" in the Philadelphia area that we attended, as a family, on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. On most Saturdays we drove out to the Lancaster County Amish country for auctions there. About once a month, in the Summer, we would go to auctions at Point Pleasant, PA, on the Delaware River above New Hope. My brother and I liked this auction best. They had great food for lunch. We could skip stones in the old Delaware Canal. And we could play with local kids along the canal or in the barns of their farms. For city kids these trips were idyllic, and are never to be forgotten. In some future blog I'll write more about those auction days of old.

Well - Aside from the main auction building, there were a few out-buildings at Point Pleasant. One of these was taken over one year (around 1950?) by a bookseller (?). The walls were lined with over-filled bookshelves. As the months passed the floors became covered with books, pamphlets, magazines and printed trash. I can still picture the sight. It was as if he had used a front-end loader to dump the stuff into the building. There was no way not to walk on the scattered mass. Very few people ever went in.

At five years old I went everywhere so the mess on the floor and the tottering shelves held no menace, though I remember some distaste at walking on papers and books. Quite quickly I found something on the floor that I just had to have. I asked the old man there how much it was. Fifty Cents. Oh my! 50 cents for what he treated as trash! I was shocked. I screwed up my courage and asked my dad if I could have fifty cents so that I could buy something from the book man. I was surprised when he gave me two quarters. . . and I'm pretty sure that the book guy was surprised when I held up the quarters in one hand and the pamphlet in the other.
He said, "take good care of that" [Which I thought was rather funny considering its rescue from his trash heap]. I started reading it that very night - and was hooked.

And I did take care of it (sort of).
The picture above is from that very same pamphlet (now lacking the pictorial wraps).
The Philadelphia Record Almanac for 1898.

I was especially enthralled by the advertisements, but every page gave me new insights about the history of the city that I already loved. Looking at it now (after uncountable books have passed through my hands) - I find I'm not quite so impressed. But I do recognize and remember clearly how these couple hundred pages stimulated a love of history and learning that has persisted and grows almost daily.

By the way... after holding on to it for over 55 years my almanac is not worth very much more in the marketplace than I paid for it - but its value as a talisman is beyond calculation.

... To Be Continued ...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Part II
How did you get into the Book Business?

"How did you get into the Book Business?"
Long Story - Medium Length Version

During my youth in Philadelphia I found that I loved going to book stores.
I had been climbing ladders at Leary's since I was seven, seeking out the oldest and dustiest (and frequently cheapest) books. I don't really remember buying anything. I just liked the look and feel and smell of them. The way the words were impressed upon the pages hundreds of years ago - just waiting for me to find them, and learn from them. I frequently found myself standing on a ladder like the iconic bookworm that they used in various forms as a logo.

I often saw myself in that image.

In the Fall of 1980 I wrote a piece inspired by the image for one of our "ECLECTIC" catalogs:


The Book Collector is by nature and practice a confirmed eclectic.

He strains at the topmost step of an old library ladder
in search of a certain book,
when his mind and eye chance to fall upon another.

The look of the spine alone - gilt, or blind, or bare
stimulates a curiosity that requires instant satisfaction.

"Author, Title, Place and Date" are his at first opening.

Before long, a passage or two fascinates the finder
and he chortles to himself with pleasure or thought.

This dulset adventure suggests another volume,
with an argument or tale
that would be satisfactory and interesting to find.

Another hunt is made,
and then another.
With books in each hand,
under arm, and between knees...
he stands poised upon his uneasy perch
and reads.

The hours pass unnoticed.
It is a luxurious and enjoyable time.
A pursuit that fills the mind
with varied knowledge and wisdom.

ec-lec'tic, (Greek: eklektikos, from elegein; to select, pick-out).
Selecting: choosing: not from one model or leader,
but choosing at will from the doctrines, works, philosophies, etc... of others.

"Cicero was of the eclectic sect,
and chose out of each,
such positions as came nearest truth"
- Watts

... To Be Continued ...