Mike is back working in the stacks, freeing me up to get another list of rares out. Unfortunately, he’ll be headed back to Ireland in a month or so, and I’ll be back in the dungeon of cheap books.
A couple of years ago I thought Dave would bail me out. He was a smart fellah. I mean, I thought he wanted to learn the rare book trade. I imagined him interning with me, then earning his salary in sales, then partnering in the business and eventually taking it over. Turned out he just wanted to know how to catalog books so he could sell some dupes from his own collection. That’s how smart he was.
Then Eric. Good at sales, but I couldn’t get him to shut up – even when I was trying to show him how to do something. He waited until I was out of town to quit, which convinced me he probably wouldn’t have been a good fit at Ten Pound Island. I was even paying him! That’s how smart I was…
Pepper is REELY smart and energetic, but I’m not sure I can wait for her.
Are you getting the theme here? It’s one that crops up regularly on various bookseller chat lists – “I’m getting old. What am I gonna do with my business?”
I’m not talking about that other kind of retirement. You see that one all the time… “After 5 wonderful years of selling shit on Amazon, we’ve made the difficult decision to move on (i.e. – we’re getting bored). We’re offering our ENTIRE STOCK of shit books for only $XXX,XXX.xx”
No, I’m talking about the accumulation of decades worth of fine books. A thousand or so scarce and valuable tomes pertaining to my specialty, the sea and its history. That is, all the ones I’ve bought over the years that have failed to sell. In other words, a carefully curated collection of my mistakes. I may not be able to sell them right now, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t! And that’s only a small part of it. Because you’ll be buying my reputation too, and my customer list, and a vast, bespoke, reference library, tailored to my specialty.
Not to mention my relationships with collectors, dealers, and librarians, insofar as relationships are sellable.
The real problem – one rarely discussed in public by graybeards, is this: I could probably sell the whole shebang at once, but what would I do then? Can you imagine feeling full of vim & vigor at age 80 or 85 and not having anything to do?
Too late to start over. And getting back into the trade would put me in direct competition with the person to whom I’d just sold my business, an unacceptable scenario! That’s why we geezers are all looking for the golden glide path, the one that’ll let us down gently, the one in which sell our last book with our last breath. Ahh…
So, if you’re interested in an ownership position at Ten Pound Island Book Company, let me know before I die and my wife throws it all away.
Speaking of rare books (was I speaking of rare books? Yes, I was! See line 1), here’s a preview from List 321, which is chockablock with rare and interesting items, not one of which has yet proved itself to be a mistake:
Belsham, W. Memoirs of the Reign of George III. London: G.G. and J. Robinson, 1795. 23cm. 364; 431 pp. Volumes I and IV only of four volumes published.
Here’s a fascinating relic… “Junius” was the pseudonym of a writer who published a series of influential political letters in London journals of the 1760s and 1770s critical of the government of King George III. These articles stressed the constitutional rights and liberties of Englishmen and highlighted instances where the government had infringed upon them. As such, his writings were a direct influence on political thought in the American colonies. In 1769, Boston newspapers started to reprint letters from “Junius,” and these helped inspire revolutionary fervor. The identity of Junius has never been finally settled, but most authorities agree that an Irish-born British politician and pamphleteer named Philip Francis is the most likely candidate.
The partial set of books offered here – volumes I and IV (of 4 volumes total) – both bear the bookplate of Philip Francis. Both have been annotated by Francis as he plowed through Belsham’s book, adding notes and comments on nearly every page of volume I (less so in volume IV) that summarize, contradict, or add to the printed text. Generally speaking, Belsham was a defender of George III, so his several references to Junius tend to be dismissive. Francis has noted and responded to several of these. In one, author Belsham says that the writings of Junius “consisted of little else than splendid declamation and poignant invective” – a passage noted by Francis, and a preamble to a lengthy section on the Stamp Act and problems of American representation. In another, Francis adds a lengthy note beginning, “This year was remarkable for the energy given of the Proceed(ngs) of the Friends of Constitutional Liberty…” Regarding the meeting of Parliament in November 1770 to consider a reputed act of Piracy, Francis notes, “See a letter of Junius upon this subject.”
I am not competent to form an opinion on the identity of Junius, but I am certain that evidence provided in these two volumes will contribute to the debate. For example, in a lengthy commentary on a section in volume IV, Francis writes, “p, 407. I was in France at the time of the recall of our Ambassador… & can from my own personal knowledge… bear testimony to the truth of this account.” Did Junius every write about this? Such evidence could help establish his identity. This offering consists of two volumes of a four-volume set, bound in half calf over marbled boards. Backstrips perished, boards detached but present, sewing intact. Text and manuscript responses are clean and legible. $750