Each summer I paint one side of my house. When I was young and strong I’d do the whole thing at one go. But as time went on, I slowed down. I’m doing the back side this year, and seeing the ladder up against the side of the house reminded me that one of the earliest entries in Bookman’s Log was about housepainting. It was dated July 11, 2010. I wrote,
There are bookfairs in July, but I eschew them in favor of the Tour de France and housepainting. Here’s the drill…
Every morning I paint for half an hour or so, then come back inside for five minutes of air conditioned comfort while I check on the progress of the latest breakaway, and see whether the peloton has yet pulled them back, or if Lance can conquer Contador in the Alps. Then I go back out and paint for another half an hour. OK, maybe my TV break lasts more than five minutes, but each year, by the time those road warriors peddle into Paris, another side of my house has been painted. And I still have the rest of the afternoon to tend to bookwork.
Seven years. 350 entries. About 270,000 words. So much has changed, and so much has not changed. My TV breaks have gotten a lot longer than the original five minutes. Now I’m more likely to paint for five and sit for thirty. No more Lance, that’s for sure. And where are those July bookfairs of yore? Stockbridge and Brunswick? Gone, baby. Gone.
July 11, 2010
July 3, 2017
And while I’m up there, happily scraping and painting, wondering if Froomie will pull off his fourth victory in the Tour, I wonder also what all those words have meant? Will Bookman’s Log prove to be a useful record? A log of my voyage though the sea of manuscripts and books? Or will it turn out to be mere fluff, a sales tool, as ephemeral as my pitch for whatever I’m selling? I keep thinking I should go back and select my best entries and assemble them as a sort of “Greatest Hits,” but there never seems to be time. What with painting the house, and watching the Tour de France, and buying and selling books (I was working on Maritime List 193 in July 2010. Today I’m putting the finishing touches on List 250.) and writing my own (used books of the future!), there’s not a great deal of time. And in the little spare time I can find for myself… Well, I’d rather go for a bike ride.
Bookman’s Log was originally conceived as a sales tool. I figured I’d compose a brief, interesting, “sticky” entry, illustrate it well, and end it with a sales pitch for whatever I was trying to sell that week. The idea of the blog as a historical record was secondary – accidental, really. And, as a vehicle for selling my wares, the blog has worked out pretty well. The “statistics” tab in WordPress
tells me I get over 3000 “visitors” – whatever they are – a week, some of whom have trained themselves to cut right down to the new offering at the bottom of the page. Usually it’ll be something fresh to the market, a preview item from the next catalog.
Here’s this week’s bait:
Manuscript. Two Log Books Documenting Voyages of the Ship Thomas Perkins, from Mobile to Liverpool, 1838, and New York, Manila, Amoy, Hong Kong and Foochou, 1844 – 1845. William Graves, Master. Two folio log books, about 300 pages of manuscript entries. Thomas Perkins was a pioneering China trader. His namesake vessel was a 595 ton ship built in Portsmouth, NH in 1837 and owned by the Salem trading consortium of Silsbee, Stone, Pickman, Sanders, and Allen. Her master was William Graves, and one of Graves’s officers was Charles Endicott, who would later become a noted captain himself. This lot consists of a log of the “Thomas Perkins’s” maiden Atlantic crossing – from Mobile to Liverpool in 1837, and a log of her 1844 – 1845 trading voyage from New York to Manila, Amoy, Hong Kong, Foochou, Manila, and New York. It also includes a note from William Glen who, judging by the handwriting, may have kept this log, a note mentioning Charles Endicott, and a fine, partially colored, portrait of the “Thomas Perkins.”
This was a busy trading voyage involving a total of eight stops over the course of seventeen months, and the log is rich in information, particularly its port logs, in which cargoes taken aboard and discharged are meticulously noted (items included buffalo hides, beef, pork, rice, tea, slab and mill stones “some firniture for Manila,” molasses, hemp and “Japan Wood”), as are the laborers (sometimes “cooleys”) hired to do the work. Also events onboard, including deaths, storms, vessels spoken and visited in port, and such incidental details as smoking the ship (When the hatches were opened they found “20 mice & one large rat.”) See Fairburn and Putnam’s “Salem Vessels” for details. The log is disbound, and last portion, covering the voyage from Manila to New York, is damaged – some corrosive substance appears to have eaten a hole at the bottom of the final twenty-five leaves. The first journal is a pre-printed logbook filled out in manuscript, securely bound in half calf over marbled boards. Both books are contained in a nifty double-decker clamshell box. $2000