Mar 182017
 

New York, you were lovely! Now, we will be digging ourselves out from the permafrost, and reflecting on our time at the book fair. We partnered with Brian Cassidy and despite our cave-like space, we managed to see a ton of foot traffic, as well as some attention from CNN (see below), a representative from China on book arts, and a nice article by Erin Schreiner addressing women in the book trade. It was particularly heartening to see just how much younger this year’s attendees skewed… While the hall remained dominated with older collectors, etc…there were a remarkable number of young, interested, engaged attendees. Even more so on the librarian front. We even had a visit by the remarkable Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson! The future, I think, is looking quite good.

SCROTUS gave us both a good and bad bit at the fair. On the downside, CNN wanted to shoot in the booth…as it was a particularly sexy, interesting collection of material across the booth, but then saw the rather brilliant Billy Childish posters we had front and center. To paraphrase: “Oh, we can’t shoot those, we’d get too much pushback”. Personally, I think that is a sad commentary, but there we are. On the upside, we sold *every* single set we had with us (about 10) and there was no other single thing that amused more people. We had exactly one person grumble about it…and several dozen smile/laugh/commiserate/take pictures/generally enjoy them. The culmination came, during break down, when one of the teamsters, walking by, asked (with an impressive NJ accent) “Ya sell my favorite thing?” “What was that?” “Pissing in the mouth of Donald Trump” (he said, laughing). Great finish to the show.

#nyabaa17 #nyabf17

 

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.

teabarconvent

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?

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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…

Apr 212016
 

book-of-eli-quote

Part of the experience of a book fair, and not one overly discussed for a reason, are the partnerships and the collaborative aspects of the book trade. You don’t necessarily have to go at this alone. Your comrades have your back (or your spine, [excruciating pun intended]) which plays out when scouting or acquiring other material to add to the overall inventory.  How many times have you heard, “Oh, X, would love/need this!?” If you are willing and able, then serendipity has its moments, in addition to critical partnerships.

It was excellent for me to work along side Brian Cassidy, veteran bookseller and long-time Lux Mentis booth partner; Michael Laird, newly discovered witchcraft buddy; book goddess, Kara Accettola; the adorable and sharp, Jonathan Kearns; and equally as adorable and bright, Simon Beattie. I would also like to recognize, the entire Pirages team [good lord, ya’ll need a drink], Ken Sanders and Travis Low [horns up], Fuchsia Voremberg [hugs], Tom Congalton, and Ashley Wildes. I think Ashley encompasses the entire fair sentiment in one image:

Ashley diffuses the situation with mermaid-like qualities, as Kim wishes Ian to contract mind fleas.

Ashley diffuses the situation with mermaid-like qualities, as Kim wishes Ian to contract mind fleas. [Note: drinks handled with appropriate care] [Addendum from Ian: This image amuses me in so very, very many ways. Adore you both.]

It would be remiss to not recognize some of the book artists and book binders, very important, as representing strong work is a pleasure and a privilege. Both Colin Urbina and Erin Fletcher make overwhelmingly inspiring work, glad to have them in both physical form and function appearing in New York; Michael Kuch, again mind-blowing work; Peter Bogardus; Russell Maret, exceptional new work; Nancy Loeber, representing both fairs [shadow fair]; Christina Amato; Leslie Gerry; Mindy Belloff; María Verónica San Martín; Peter Koch; newly acquired book artist Alexandra Janezic; and of course, the dynamic duo of Marshall Weber and Felice Tebbe at Booklyn. [Do I sound like a broken record or an Oscar speech? geez.]

So, what’s next? Fortunately, we were able to jump over to the “shadow” shows both uptown and across the street to visit both book artists and snap up some “brutally cool” items for down the road to make appearances in iterations of catalog lists forthcoming.  What did strike our fancy this year? A selection of things that caught our eye:

 

Apr 182016
 

Like my comrade, the illustrious scribe of Bibliodeviant, I will also traipse through a serial recount of *my* first New York ABAA Book Fair in a similar fashion and how the sideshow, that is Lux Mentis, embellishes the landscape of the book trade and book collecting like the carnival we seem to entertain. Inspired, though by the words of Mr. Kearns, I would like to address the idea of bookselling as identity and image briefly.

St. Catherine of Alexandria

Girl, get a grip

After working over 20 years in library land and visual arts culture, I’ve worn several hats. However, not just one will underscore my identity, which to some I apparently wear openly and ripe for criticism. We can model ourselves in such a way that the world might fantasize about librarians in that perverse and/or cryptic and ‘monkish’ kind of way, or we can shine bright like a diamond* with a freak flag of superb owning up to our singular individuality, our own individual prowess to flourish and thrive in this profession.

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Basically, the same perception applies to hungry, curious, and experienced visitors at your book fair booth, in your house, your library, your bookshops. You never know what they might bring to the table. Same goes for your fellow booksellers. So, regardless if you have marked skin, blue hair, fancy tweeds, tortoise shell glasses or honest awkwardness, we corral a fierce sense of advocacy for printed and written matter that gives these manifestations of glory multi-generational lives that are passed through a series of hands, hearts, and minds. We have the opportunity to support and create libraries, research, passions, and histories for people, otherwise drowning in the mediocrity in the world. We will find success in those connections, rather than in a litany of judgment based on gender, appearance, and other personal identities.

I could further throw a tirade of shade*, but rather, let’s tunnel into the rabbit hole of New York. As others have mentioned, New York is on fire with grit and action, unlike any other metropolitan in the US, however like I mentioned in a previous blog, the city is a hotbed for bibliophilic intellectualism and performative ingenuity. The New York Antiquarian Book Fair is a force and now I know compared to the somewhat laissez-faire attitude of California (as least Pasadena), I understand why it operates as such. The Park Armory building is a gorgeous architectural example of late 19th century Gothic revival design suitably fitting to encase a labyrinthine maze of booksellers. I felt sort of enveloped in a skeletal shell, ironically housing the biblio-madness for the next few days.

Before set-up started on Wednesday, I can’t slide by without saluting a few notable events and people. Through a blizzard (ha!), we made our way through the quiet snow of Massachusetts to the insanely talented home of Michael Kuch, artist, to pick up the latest iteration of work debuting at the fair [images to follow]. We also lavished in the presence of Marvin Taylor and Charlotte Priddle at the Fales Library & Special Collections, NYU where I pawed around the stacks a bit, as well. Lastly, I would be lying if I wasn’t fidgeting like a 3 year old needing to pee, because I was able to see the Mystery and Benevolence exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum. Get your secret handshake on.

To be continued…[Next up, witness me!*]

*If any of you get my pop culture references, you are Gucci. Yes, I am a metalhead who listens to Ri-Ri.