Oct 112016

Boston approaches! And it is Halloween, for all you muggles, Samhain, rather.  In lieu of this, Lux Mentis, Booksellers is offering a twee short list of occult, witchcraft, other spiritual beliefs, mythology, and magick-related items for preview [there’s more too].  We will have another more comprehensive list featuring fine press, artist’s books, and new acquisitions shortly.

If you would like to contact about any of the items in advance of the fair, please do so: ian@luxmentis.com, kim@luxmentis.com

See you at the Fair!


Oct 042016
What we do is secret

What we do is secret

YABS is really well-timed, so after 3 days of instruction and dialogue, you can put your study to practice at the York National Book Fair. I’ve done a few fairs already, but it’s always something new to see and find.  I helped out Jonathan Kearns this year, but we were able after the initial opening to scout around ourselves.

Jonathan Kearns Rare Books & Curiousities

Jonathan Kearns Rare Books & Curiosities

A special find for me, in my opinion, was a 1810 “family” herbal from Sir John Hill, another one of these folk herbalists who despite their university training, found herbal remedies compelling for the layman.  The text block was re-cased splendidly, with hand-colored illustrations at the end.  Lux Mentis will bring this and many other good finds from York to the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair 2016 at the end of October! Halloween weekend, in fact! Here are just a few more images of delicious items we found and more to feature in a Boston pre-list soon:


Oct 042016

The last day of YABS was something more than I expected. While we dispersed at the end of the day, I hope somethings stuck with people. Not sure how often, other than exclusive or private conversations, booksellers have frank discussions.  I won’t belabor the negatives here, rather that the discussions trigger some action. Before the end summary, we started off the day actually handling materials, one of my favourite things. Sophie facilitated a hands-on session discussing printing techniques and showing examples. It is definitely worth knowing the difference between lithography, engraving, etching, woodcut, photo polymer, etc.

Our after break speaker lead us through a fascinating narrative regarding the extremely real issues around fakes and forgeries. I’ve always known the book world is like detective work, in a sense (not even ironically if you are a mystery specialist). There are people that would spend a lifetime faking antiquarian books, as presented by Adam Douglas of Peter Harrington.  No big surprise in our fraudulent and suspect world. Ian even pointed out, it might be interesting to collect faked books, as a theatre of the absurd aspect in a black library. We ended out the rest of the seminar with personal narratives and expertise in the trade from Nigel Burwood, Ed Maggs, and ended the day with gems of wisdom from Jonathan, once again.

I think for me, the important bit was the discussion afterwards, sparked by Jonathan and continued by several of the participants in the class. Gender and race should always be on the table, especially in a profession where the representation is not there. The book trade, much like the rare book librarianship, is desolate with representations of diverse communities and has had a history of marginalizing women. The difference with the profession is the library field has actively tried to cultivate relationships with marginalized communities through mentoring programs, scholarships, and encouraging women, people of color, people who are differently-abled, and gender diverse communities to seek professions in the library. The book trade, well, not so much. Part of that is there isn’t an incentive or action to do so, partially due to the fact that the trade has little to no accountability. I’ve already experienced some form of harassment, and it is almost up to individuals or a few concerned minds to address the issues, there is no Ombudsman Office in the trade.  Conflicts begrudgingly get worked out over drinks and sometimes produce piss poor attitudes from people. No one is asking everyone to be at the front of the protest or the march, but more recognition of privilege and some forthright decency and respect would be amazing.

As I suggested, in order to challenge or at least instigate change, even if a small part, YABS might consider supporting a diversity scholarship for individuals from underrepresented communities, with an emphasis on ethnic background. Rare Book School has had great success with their scholarship initiatives with demographics, but it will take some active follow-up and target communication to encourage people to apply without tokenizing communities. It takes thought and work. I think the trade is and should be up for it.  However, I don’t think participants ended the seminar feeling threatened or irritated. Rather, prodded consciously to perhaps recognize issues more soundly or even thoughtfully in the future.

So, if you are still reading [blather]… Again, without the support I wouldn’t have been able to attend YABS, ironically what I am talking about here. I could rant on about issues, but would rather end on a note of productivity and inspiration from the collegial nature and accumulated knowledge from YABS. Now, let’s put all this to good use. 🙂



Sep 292016

The ghosts in the Abbey were quiet the night before, so that I could get a good night’s sleep before the continued bibliographic analysis with the knights of the roundtable.  The great thing about doing a seminar with people bringing different facets of knowledge is the possibility to be surprised.  If not surprised, then satisfied. I’m satisfied with the fact there was a tea kettle and packets of tea in my room in the nunnery.


So the morning was started like avocado on toast, bibliographic brain food and fairness. Fairness, I say, happens when you tell an honest story. Cataloging, as I know it in the library world, needs to be fair because it follows a standard and an institution. Cataloging in the book trade needs to be fair because it reflects the person, your ability as a human to tell a narrative that is honest. That record reflect you.

During the cataloging workshop, I found working collaboratively was the most helpful. Typically a library cataloger works alone and consults standards when necessary. Your ability reflects your decision making and that comes into question frequently. I suppose the same rings true in the trade, but I would like to think that cataloging in the trade is composing a narrative that genuinely reflects how you relate and gravitate to the material in the first place and honestly how you would like others to share in that spectral place. [I’m pretty sure by now, I know the difference between ‘uncut’ ‘untrimmed’ ‘unopened’ and boy, that sounds dirty.]  Do you dwell on the crappy parts of the book? Yeah, the spine is cracked, say so, but move on.

It was especially great to hear from Jenny Allsworth and the challenges and benefits to becoming a specialty dealer. I think more than anything for me, personal narrative is so critical and I love that she shared her personal story to illuminate her experience working in the trade. If we were robots, sure things would get done, but to have a visceral experience while often difficult, makes the nervous ambition and twitch seem worth. Makes it human.

Speaking of more great humans, we finished the afternoon off with Tim Pye, Libraries Curator at the National Trust, speaking frankly, as a librarian and the relationship to booksellers. As Simon points out, it is very dynamic relationship, and speaking from experience, one that requires devotion and efforts. I learned a thing! I didn’t know this existed: Special Collections and Social Media.  Super helpful thing.  Incidentally, Jonathan, also spent a good amount of time talking about the benefits of social media and how cohesive, satisfying?, and arguably, the breadth and depth of a splendid online presence proves. You put yourself out there and yes, you are vulnerable. It also shows a commitment to transparency about your business practices, interests, and accounts for your willing to the fluidity of change with the communication age. Seriously, the brilliance of a hashtag is sometimes astounding. Again, ironically, finishing out the day talking with Anthony about ‘brick and mortar’ shops is well-rounded. I don’t think we can rely on the physical institution of the book store to stay the same, as the notion was echoed here. We don’t have to necessarily like Facebook, or Twitter, etc. but they are tools. Not tool, as in annoying guy in the supermarket on the phone talking about his spiritual awakening, but a device to create a symbiotic identity between a face and a function.

To come…the last bit of Day 3, and the York Antiquarian Brown Book Fair. I mean, the York Antiquarian Book Fair.

[Addendum: I almost forgot the Book Shop tour of York! Walking tours of various generous shops with open doors, we skirted around the cobblestones streets into crannies of low hanging ceilings and sweated a lot. It was unseasonably warm]





Sep 272016

“It is hard to be so old, and harder still to be so blind. I miss the sun. And books. I miss the books most of all.”- A Storm of Swordsgame-of-thrones-wall

We traveled far beyond the sea, far beyond the wall. As dramatic as it sounds, given the choice between spending a week or two in the United Kingdom or not, well, the story speaks for itself.

The York Antiquarian Book Seminar takes place in September nestled between the languishing summer months, almost every bookseller dreads and the first major book fair of the Fall in Europe, York Antiquarian Book Fair. It took a quick minute to take realize how lucky I was to be able to attend YABS this year, due to the generosity of Between the Covers Rare Books and the fiendishly fabulous Jonathan Kearns. With that support, I spent three solid days immersed in a comprehensive lathering of many years of book trade wisdom.  It was as if a bunch of owls got together, got drunk, and talked about their favourite hunting grounds for three days. The collective knowledge at YABS was cumulatively longer than the Hundred Years’ War [without the bloodshed]* well, maybe a little. (will get to that later).

Micklegate Bar, heads will roll

YABS is situated at the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre [and nunnery, shhhhhh] smack dab in the front of this amazing Bar. Not bar like booze, but bar like gate [You are awesome, Norse.]  Micklegate Bar, in fact.  So, not only do I wake up in a 17th century nunnery (and I didn’t burst into flames), I look out the window at a 14th century gate. My A Knight’s Tale fantasies are real, kids.  Apparently, a bunch of important white dudes’ heads were severed and left there on display.  Aside my personal anachronistic glee, the location was perfect for the seminar. It was close to the train station (thank you Virgin), pubs, shops, points of interest, and even the racetrack for the book fair. The first night we were there, we happened upon a pub with decent food, drinks, and a server with a 12″ spiked mohawk. Am I dreaming?

THE WALL, where’s Jon Snow?


Day One:

I did, I really did review my binder full of preliminary notes. Perhaps it is the librarian in me, but I like to be prepared. In good fashion, the seminar opened with warm welcomes and introductions from Anthony Smithson of Keel Row Books and a chance to out myself as a ‘recovering librarian.’ It’s funny, but true. Looking forward to the keynote from Heather O’Donnell of Honey & Wax Booksellers speaking not just of the epigram: “use books as bees use flowers,” but “The Signal and the Noise.” I listened intently on the ‘meta’ of bookselling about boosting the signal and filtering out noise and picked up a quote that stuck with me, “Can one place a value in being surprised?” Short answer is yes, to me, the intrinsic nature of the trade rests on the value of response. For me, sometimes that noise is a beacon.

After Heather’s illuminating talk, we dived right into to fundamental financials and business structures, firstly with Alice Laverty, also of Keel Row Books and Sophie Schneideman, Rare Books & Prints. Admittedly, not my favourite subject, but absolutely critical to be able to wade through the process. As someone who skates by most of the time, I realize structure is important, and I resonated with Sophie’s astute sensibility towards administrative time vs. everything else fun in the book trade time. The book trade is a rabbit hole at times, we are Alice in Wonderland, however dedicating chunks of daily time to administrative, bookkeeping, and follow-up is sound. It’s ok to be a lion and a lamb. Good practice, also, to get in the habit of “quoting something everyday.”

I was able to chat with some nice chaps, fellow classmates, generally everyone attending was charming and friendly. After the breaks and food, grateful for the veg selections and liquid gold tea, we forged on with Anthony and Justin Croft speaking about buying books, aka getting your grubby paws on something cool, something spectacular, something achingly amazing, that something you might just sleep with under your pillow. Does that make the estimate value go up? Literally, how do you come upon such stuff. Well, I’ve never done a *real* auction, other than when I was a kid in Indiana and I stared at the cows with a “I will free you” face. From their stories, I can imagine it can be tense and often shady. Auctioneers have techniques that are seemingly dodgy. Ultimately, as mentioned, like in the States with the ABAA, if you are a member, you want to try and have a sliver of ethics.  Really, as Jonathan Kearns eloquently mentioned shortly after, ‘best practice’ is your friend. You can operate with a sense of passion, but do so with a spine and a conscience.  The rest can be sorted.

York Antiquarian Book Seminar - Jonathan Kearns speaking in poetic tongues

York Antiquarian Book Seminar – Jonathan Kearns speaking in poetic tongues

We ended the session with charged brains to tackle bibliographical description aka Kim’s ‘only authority I listen to’ bit with Simon Beattie and Justin Croft. Coming from the land of AACR2, RDA, NACO and other fascist acronyms, I quite like bib standards.  Both Simon and Justin are like the NASA astrophysicists of books, not surprisingly could catalog an unpaginated book on Medieval methods of flaying turnips printed on mammoth skin while underwater and make it interesting.  While bookseller descriptions are quite fluid compared to library standards, I appreciate the moth-to-flame mentality to be consistent. Collation exists for a reason. It can be useful, not just as a check and balance formula, but a practice that makes you well aware of the material you are handling. How could you not resist becoming intimate with your books?

Stay tuned for Day 2.

Sep 272016

Scott Brown of Eureka Books fame has posted a cogent analysis of the recent CA bill aimed at signature mills, but dragging down the book trade and others in its over-wide net…

Aug 012016

If you didn’t catch the catalog releases in June for RBMS, we are listed for July’s latest rare book catalog releases [Scroll down to Lux Mentis]: http://www.abaa.org/blog/post/rare-book-catalogs-July-2016

Show some love to ABAA and the New Antiquarian blog!

The New Antiquarian blog logo

Jul 262016

Throughout July, we celebrate and advocate for LGBTQ Pride and action, as many cities around the world geared up for parades, events, and solid signs of support. It’s a time for solidarity, remembrance, love, and critical forms of radical expression.

We are remembering one individual in the queer community, Samuel Morris Steward, who literally decorated the world with vibrancy of character, but also teased and taunted sexual standards; already challenged in the gay community. Sam Steward was a stud; an artistic charmer, a handsome wordsmith, a beguiling back room Casanova. His sex appeal was so provocative he kept a catalog called the “Stud File” with basically card catalog classification and rubrics for his multiple lovers.  Mostly due to his training as a librarian.

Born in 1909 in Woodsfield, Ohio, Samuel M. Steward had gone to Ohio State University, then became a professor at Loyola, and later DePaul University in Chicago. In 1936, he published a well-received novel Angels on the Bough, about his family’s life back home during the Great Depression. Armed with letters of introduction by well-connected friends, Steward went to Paris and met Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, with whom he became lifelong friends. He visited with them often at Bilignin, their country house, and wrote a memoir of that friendship and published a collection of their letters, Dear Sammy (1977).

Despite his connections, Steward failed to live up to his early potential. It was not until he penned his explicit Phil Andros stories (basically as a lark) that he achieved any real recognition. Later in life, he published a pair of amusing mystery novels, incorporating Stein and Toklas as sleuths, including the witty Murder is Murder is Murder (1985). These are feather-light entertainments, poorly plotted and implausible, but they provide a rare and invaluable hands-on insight into the private lives of these two titanic figures. (Huffington Press, “Lover Man: The Samuel Steward Story”)

He also published poetry, loving and emotional, in “Love Poems: Homage to Housman,” he emulates the classicist style of A.E. Housman and an unremitting love between two individuals.

Unsurprisingly, Steward had a relationship with overwhelmingly recognizable artist and illustrator Tom of Finland.  Tom illustrated many of Steward’s book covers under his (Steward) pen name Phil Andros.  The narratives were not unlike Finland’s drawings, hunky manifestations of lusty deviations, situational to Steward’s own kinky lifestyle.  In addition to his own inclination to BDSM communities, he also quite fittingly was a successful tattoo artist in San Francisco in the 1960s.   However, despite a generous community of lovers and artistic aptitude, Steward died in the 1980s, most likely due to addiction issues and pulmonary disease. His life is a message, however controversial for some, that your body and mind is your interpretation and your own. The forms and identity you take is yours alone.

Signed letterpress poetry and selection of original photographs

Signed letterpress poetry and selection of original photographs

Jul 082016

Many individual people in the book trade have expressed their thoughts and anger about the deaths of people of color (and others) over the last few hours, days, nights, years. Yes, how long? Decades long. While words will almost never substitute actions (which is critical NOW), as a unit, as Lux Mentis, we are expressing our words against neutrality and silence on the issue of obvious oppression and racism against black communities by the police, the justice system, and for that matter, the law makers of the United States. What we do in the trade is important to facilitate knowledge, liberties, and freedom of information, we also have the ability to deconstruct these systems that oppress people that clearly do not have the privilege or the position right now to do so because of their race. We take a position because it is critical and encourage others in the book community to speak out and demand to dismantle this inhuman brutality immediately. Too many guns. Too many deaths. It must stop.

Speaking out is a first step, but here are many tangible ways to start the motion:

From Black Girl Dangerous blog:

We Can Help Each Other Cope: One Simple Way to Be With Each Other Through Pain Right Now

from Ravishly blog, “What You Can Do Right Now About Police Brutality.”

Serious and outraged,
Lux Mentis, Booksellers

 Posted by at 8:59 pm
Jun 212016

We are pleased to announce the second of two RBMS 2016 exclusive catalogs. We made an extremely small print edition to distribute at RBMS [inquire!!!] There will be a pdf. available on the Lux Mentis website, but are excited to debut it as a flip catalog [N.B. there is a FullScreen button in the navbar and a .pdf download option].


Contact us with questions or find us at RBMS at the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables. #rbms16