Sorry, the website’s been down for three or four days… Don’t ask!
As I mentioned last week I’ve begun the process of downsizing my operation, moving from our generous old white clapboard Queen Anne to an efficient, tight, modern space across the street – about half the size of our old digs, with an additional few hundred square feet in the basement into which I intend to shoehorn my book business. At the moment, that basement space is mostly walls and empty shelves.
Empty shelves and piles of junk. And boxes full of stuff culled from those piles of junk, with magic marker writing on them, identifying them as not-junk. “Old Gloucester Books,” or “Fisheries,” or “Art Books.” I have to trust that I’m making progress, but at this stage it feels more like I’m making chaos. And the physical mess feeds into the chaos of my thoughts and doubts – Am I doing the right thing? Is there a better way?
Meanwhile, all kinds of wonderful stuff is floating up from the bottom of the swamp. Here’s something I found when I was sorting and re-boxing old company records.
It’s from December 1976 – forty one years ago. It seems to be a note I wrote myself for future reference (No better future than this one to refer to it!), and I think it is the earliest surviving document generated by Ten Pound Island Book Co. My partner Jean and I had worked all fall setting up the art gallery/book shop at the Stagecoach House in West Gloucester, and in December we rolled into action.
$38.35 for my first week in business! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, the dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 3.66% per year. Prices in 2016 were 321.8% higher than prices in 1976. So that measly $38.35 would be worth about $125 in today’s money – which doesn’t sound so bad. More than what I made on Biblio this week.
More importantly, that sheet of yellow lined paper took me back to those first days, and all the chaos and mess and uncertainty that attended that exciting time. I’d already figured out that I loved the book business, but I wondered if I was doing right by my family, and if there were a better way to do what I was doing. I still love the business, and I’m still chewing on the same questions.
When I was packing up books about local history, this slip of paper fell out.
Fishermen insuring themselves in 1847. I think it’s a cool piece of history, don’t you? I’ve got a couple more boxes full of stuff like that right over… well, I can’t remember exactly where I stashed them, but they’ll turn up.
In fact, they’d better turn up soon because Papermania is next weekend, and I need some paper to sell!
And finally, here’s what databases looked like in 1987 BC (before computers).
Boxes of file cards. This one came from a window ledge behind a bunch of charts that hadn’t been unrolled in a decade. Someone would send me a postcard in response to an ad in AB Weekly, or Wooden Boat, or Sea History, or American Neptune, or Nautical Research Journal,
Trimmed to fit the box of filing cards
and I’d trim it down to fit into the file box.
The verso. Note the manuscript address correction and ordering history.
The most recent card in the box dated from 1987. That was the year I bought a Macintosh computer and put the card file box on the window ledge.
It’s not the sorting and packing that takes so long. You’ve really got to look at every piece, and sometimes you look, and get to remembering, and the next thing you know half an hour has passed and you’re still holding the piece of whatever you were holding when you started down memory lane, and now you’re back, and you’re wondering where did all the time go?