Maritime List 311 – a compilation of rare books and manuscripts – was not a great success, selling about 40%. All the librarians were out of the office until Labor Day, and all my customers were at the beach. So, I think what I’m gonna do is back off on “business as usual” for the summer, and try something different.
Well, not that different.
Every five years or so something comes over me and I start buying cheap books again, almost as if Doc Brown’s DeLorean had hurled me back to 1980. (I blogged about my last attack in 2018 The man who sold me those cheap books was so annoyed at the disrespectful way I wrote about them – and in his imagination, him – that I was forced to redact many of my comments.)
By some strange set of similar circumstances (minus the ill-will), I currently find myself proud owner of two separate lots, totaling about 2500 used maritime books, clustering around the low end, value wise.
My goal is to sort through these good old doggies and extract the value – maybe 500-1000 books in the $10-$50 range, turn them into giant catalogs of cheap “Beach Reading” material,
Traditional Cover of TPI “Beach Reading” Catalogs
then upload the items that don’t sell on my website onto Biblio and ABAA, and wait another decade for some small percentage of them to sell. I mean, most of these titles will be competing with listings of 20-150 nearly-identical copies, at prices ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, so my expectations are low.
What’s gotten into me? Simply this:
Cataloging rare manuscripts, documents, and ephemeral items is hard work. Most manuscript items are, by nature, unique. Many ephemeral items are, if not unique, hair-raisingly rare. That means there are rarely earlier descriptions for the weary cataloger to pilfer. I have to read everything, understand what it means, and where it fits into history. I also have to find, if I can, sales of items that are similar in at least a few respects, to bracket the price – if possible. I have to dig out reference books I haven’t opened in months or years – Well, first I have to find them.
Then there’s all the rigamarole of producing images. Rare and interesting objects may need multiple images to reveal their outstanding qualities. Cheap books, by contrast, I simply throw on the scanner.
I love my job, but sometimes I need a break. So, I’m going to spend the rest of the summer brainlessly cataloging cheap books – copying, in many cases, descriptions already in my database, and limiting myself to short condition descriptions of books that I haven’t cataloged before.
Emergency Cataloging Station
It’ll sort of be like a Cheap-Book-Cataloging-Olympics. Or maybe Cataloging as an Extreme Sport. I’ll be shooting for 50 brainless entries per hour.
I’m back on my bike, almost finished with my crime novel, and in the midst of preparing my nightmarish gun novel for publication this fall by Spuyten Duyvil, a respected small press. So, there’ll be plenty for me to do this summer.
And if something interesting should cross my mind, I’ll blog about it here.
Otherwise, see you in September.