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 ...


Anonymous de Lucenay said...

cher collegue,
> I read with great pleasure your description of a "booksman life " in
> your blog.
> As you I started 36 years ago but without the help of a tutor such as
> yours... French province, Avignon to be precise, was not crowded with
> booksellers at that time : this was may been a chance of surviving for
> a beginner but granted solitude.
> Another memory connected with your city : in 1963 I was in the Navy
> and we made a call in Philadelphia. I have a very vivid image of a
> bookseller shop (but wich one was it ?...) so different from ours. No
> 18th century bindings and lot of paperback editions. I bought Ambrose
> Bierce collected works and America for beginners (R. Searle & A.
> Atkinson). I still have them.
> I shall follow your blog faithfully.
> Sincerely
> Georges de Lucenay
> --
> Georges de Lucenay
> 5, place du Commerce
> F-71250 CLUNY.
> -----------------------------------------
> Tél/Fax :33 (0)3 85593333
> Port.: (0)6 77771233
> e-mail :
> ------------------------------------------
> L.I.L.A – I.L.A.B.

6:13 AM  
Blogger BooksRare said...

Thanks for the note Georges.
There were a few shops in Philadelphia down near the river and port in
those years. Hard to tell which one attracted you.
Nice that you still have the books.
USA For Beginners - By Rocking-Chair Across America by Alex Atkinson and Ronald Searle is a fun book.
Thanks again, Ron

6:24 AM  
Blogger Ariel said...

This story is fascinating. Thanks for taking me "back."

1:03 PM  

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