Looking toward New Bedford from my Fairhaven motel
I’ve written occasionally about how much I enjoy nudging my way outside the box – visiting and exhibiting in shows that feature items other than books and manuscripts. It’s good for the imagination, and seeing how such material is displayed, priced, and described provides a broader context for the material I handle.
Somewhere in my 2009 talk at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar I discussed expanding one’s horizons in such a manner. Of course, in the pre-21st Century days of which I spoke, there seemed to be more options available. I exhibited at the Wooden Boat Show (in several locations), the Nantucket Antiques Show, those antique and dec. arts shows Bernice Bornstein used to run in the nasty old building in Woburn, Mass., the Folk Life Festival here in Gloucester, and similar rinky-dink antique, crafts, and junque shows, just this side of flea markets, scattered all around New England. These days there are still opportunities available, though I admit to being too old and weary to approach them with the same enthusiasm and vigor I might have brought twenty years ago.
One of the best of these extant opportunities is the New Bedford Whaling Museum Nautical Antiques Show. This event kicks off the museum’s famed Scrimshaw Weekend, and attracts a cadre of top-notch dealers in maritime goods (Ten Pound Island Book Co. among them). Better still, visitors to our little show are mostly people attending the Scrim Weekend event and, I don’t need to tell you (or maybe I do), many of them sport thick wallets.
So, aside from the opportunity to dine and drink in Melvillian splendor,
The sign identifies the joint as Whaler’s Tavern – way too yupped up to have existed in Melville’s day
to see different kinds of stuff,
Only African American figurehead I’ve ever seen
Figurehead for a ship named, yes, “The Alligator”
I will say no more
and to buy variations on the sort of stuff I usually buy,
Dime novel whaling adventure, complete with pretty girl
Log of a whaling voyage to Davis Strait. They woke up one morning with five feet of water in the hold. When they went below they could see the sun shining through the hole that had rotted in their ancient hull.
Letter sheet of an 1854 San Francisco lynching and a lengthy letter describing the event
And my favorite, a sort of map or schematic of the plot of “Moby Dick” published the same year, 1956, as the John Houston movie
I get to talk with people who occupy a niche right next door to mine, but who may not know any more about me and what I sell than I do about them and what they collect. It’s an excellent opportunity for both of us, and it usually works out quite well.
All this wonderful stuff, and more, will be appearing shortly in my next catalog. I think I’ll call it “Mixed Media.”