Untitled Document

Reflections on Scouting

Published in Canadian Notes and Queries, Issue No.78, Winter 2010.

By David Mason

A few years ago I had a visit from Justin Schiller at my store and that visit initiated a lengthy period of meditation on an aspect of bookselling which, while largely unknown or of no interest to the public, is so central to bookselling that dealers constantly dwell on it. For anyone who doesn’t know who Justin Schiller is I will briefly explain. Justine Schiller is generally acknowledged to be the greatest authority on children’s books in the book trade. Although he is only in his fifties he has been a bookseller for longer than many other people’s entire career. There are stories of Justin issuing mimeograph lists of books for sale from his bedroom in his parents’ home in his early teens and there is a famous photograph of him in the front of the auction catalogue of his first great L. Frank Baum collection, auctioned in 1978, where he appears to be about 12 years old.
That photograph of Justin shows him with braces on his teeth but also wearing a warm toothy smile. Now Justin wears three piece tweed suits and is exhibiting signs of portliness (aren’t we all) but the toothy smile remains the same. But don’t make the mistake of thinking there isn’t a very determined mind behind that smile.


Not being much of a traveler anymore and seldom participating in foreign bookfairs, I don’t see many of the dealers of whom I once saw a lot. Justin I hadn’t seen in probably ten years and I expected from various reports I had heard over that time, the sort of visit one gets from a highly successful and very specialized bookseller. This is more or less how it works. Dealer enters, passes a few minutes with the amenities and catching up on old mutual friends, praises your store, spends a few minutes, (in this case) in the children’s section, asks if anything not readily visible might pertain to him. And then after a purchase, hopefully – even a token courtesy purchase is usually welcomed by both parties in this trade ritual – the visiting dealer departs. But on this occasion this standard ritual did not occur. Justin instead started in the children’s book area but then proceeded to look at every other subject section in my rather large stock. After a couple of hours he brought a foot high stack of books to my desk for the totting up.

On examination everything became clear. When adding up the total of a dealer’s choices the owner always takes mental note of another dealer’s purchases, both out of curiosity and, if he is smart, as a learning device. This is the time when many a dealer gets that sinking feeling which occurs when he suddenly realizes that he has missed the significance of a book and realizes that a sleeper – an undervalued book – has once again slipped through to someone with more knowledge. Or, in my view, more often because of a more lively imagination on the part of the purchaser. In this case every book in Justin’s pile, extracted from every part of my store, the religious, science, art, literature, travel, even mysteries, among other sections, instantly told me why he was buying them. Every single one had some connection to the world of children. It was a compelling demonstration of the consummate pro in action.

And so, after the goodbyes, Justin left, leaving me musing on how seldom these days one goes through that practiced ritual with one’s colleagues. And in the ensuing days I found myself musing more and more on the significance of this experience. For what Justin was doing was not simply buying a few books from another bookstore, he was scouting, the central preoccupation of bookselling to many dealers – including me – the part most like a game, where dealers hone their skills and test their knowledge and imagination against their colleagues, the prize being profit, a book found worth more than the seller realizes – sometimes a significant profit. And like professional gamblers and sports figures, while the profit is not negligible in import, the real significance is the feeling of winning. A professional athlete may earn or win millions, but the core of his triumph is in the winning, the feeling of being the best. Book scouting is no different.
So unlike some successful booksellers, who expect to be shown the best books in a bookstore, Justin Schiller hadn’t lost either his scouting skills or his love of searching out good books himself. His visit renewed my respect for his justly acknowledged depth of learning and more important it led to the ongoing philosophical meditation which has resulted in this essay.

I have been scribbling notes and meditations ever since, another attempt to make sense of my now lengthy time in the trade.

I officially started in the book trade in 1967 when I consciously decided to be a used bookseller and began buying books for the store I intended to open. A couple of months later I began an apprenticeship at Joseph Patrick Books while I continued to build up my stock and issue catalogues. But I now see that my scouting career really began one afternoon, probably in 1946 or 1947, when two pals and I were walking through the bush adjoining the Rosedale Golf Course, the prime spot for kids in North Toronto in winter for skiing and tobogganing, and in summer for exploration and adventure. On that late summer day my friends and I were stumbling through shrubbery when I suddenly came across a lost golf ball lying at my feet, shiny and white, perfect, glowing up from its hollow, no less beautiful than a diamond would have seemed to an adult. I was awed, then excited. If there was one, there must be more. Our aimless wandering now focused on the search for more of these treasures. We spent the rest of the day searching. I quickly learned the trick of not looking directly, but flicking my eyes over the surface of the rough, glancing from the side of the eye, which allowed that eye to register flashes of white on the brain causing movement to cease while each flash was investigated. Looking without looking, a skill which, when cultivated later, was essential to scouting books. Often the white flash would be nothing more than a discarded scrap of paper or an empty cigarette box, but by the time increasing darkness warned us we were in for trouble at home and we desisted, I had five shining white golf balls. My friends had not a single one between them. I was a scout; I had the eye. I had the gift. A shy, timid kid with not much self-confidence, I had found something I was better at than my companions, perhaps the first such thing. Selling the golf balls later in the caddy shack, my first monetary rewards for scouting, also led to me taking up caddying, which I did until I was around 14 and discovered the pool hall. But during all those years I continued to scout and sell golf balls. A scout was born.

While a good part of the excitement in finding a significant book is the eventual profit, the imaginative scout comes to realize that he has a higher purpose; he is rescuing from obscurity something which has historical or aesthetic value to society as a whole. And having rescued it his next social function is to then place it somewhere where its contribution to the record of civilization will be understood. He is serving the future by saving the past, a noble activity.

There are two basic, but quite different categories of scouts. The first group – in which I include myself – is the one I am most concerned with here. It constitutes either booksellers or serious and very knowledgeable scouts who are often affiliated with a single bookseller in some sort of exclusive, or even partnership arrangement.

The second category of scout is much more common than the dealer / scout and will be found in every major city which contains used and rare bookshops. Most cities have several of these guys trolling daily, who deal in whatever they can turn over for a profit. They usually have a hand to mouth existence, buying in the morning and needing to sell in the afternoon. They are from a variety of backgrounds, although usually they are people who fit in to conventional society even less than most of the dealers they deal with. Often – but not always – bachelors living in weekly rented rooms, they have discovered scouting through scrounging at antique flea markets, the Sally Ann, garage sales, church sales, anywhere, in fact, where a book could be found. Most do not last more then a few years – some because they never learn anything, or because they don’t have the eye, or even an approximation of that essential skill, but mostly because they often alienate the dealers they depend on as their only customers. This sort of scout, even if they last, can be counted on to die broke, often with a room jammed with the detritus of their mistakes.

They are often eccentric and they are almost invariably real characters. They buy as cheaply as they can, a necessity when you don’t know much and since they depend on the goodwill of their dealer customers they generally settle on a few different dealers whom they count on to buy their finds. Some never learn anything even though most work very hard. It’s not easy to start at 7am, hit the Crips and the Sally Ann, read newspaper ads, flyers for church sales, garage sale ads and posters. And run around a huge city trying to find a decent book especially when most of them don’t really know what a decent book is. And many of them cannot even afford to own a car. But the usual reason for their downfall is that their ignorance, and their need to sell quickly, means they are at the mercy of those they sell to. This, in my experience, often causes them to become a bit paranoid, which is a progressive disease, the results of which are too often resentment and anger.

Time after time I have heard scouts lament that such and such a dealer has cheated them, paying little or nothing for what they later came to believe was a valuable book. These accusations usually stem directly from their ignorance and it contradicts what I think smart dealers always do in their dealings with scouts, treat them fairly. Many dealers – and I am one of them – tend to overpay scouts, or to buy things they don’t really want, both practices an attempt to encourage the scout to bring you more.

For the good general scout, it is a balancing act. They need to take some of their better finds to all their main dealer customers so that the dealer will not assume that all the best books are going to his competitor (It is obvious here that dealers suffer the same paranoid view that the scout carries, only in reverse – they also have to use the balancing act.)

The better scouts are quite different. They will generally be as knowledgeable as any dealer, indeed sometimes they are ex-dealers, guys who got sick of the responsibility of running a store and returned to their first love.

In forty years of observing the booktrade I have come to believe that deep in his secret heart of hearts every bookseller who runs a shop believes that he is one of the great scouts just taking a short break. On rainy days in a shop empty of customers and between raising the prices of books to keep his spirits up, his private fantasies are of the day when he will throw up all this boring, respectable crap and revert to his original vision of himself as a fearless scout pillaging the shops of his innocent and ignorant colleagues, exiting in triumph with their unrecognized treasures. No overhead except small rooms somewhere and maybe a car or van – often his hotel for the night – to transport the booty. In reality, the pressures of overhead and responsibility weigh him down more each day and each day his fantasy becomes more delusion, his escape less likely. Just as marriage, mortgage and children capture the young, narrowing their focus, so does success capture an older man with the bigger and more impressive premises, more staff to handle, the increased volume and extended hours to help absorb the escalating costs, and scouting, the freedom and excitement of the chase, is relegated to an occasional indulgence when responsibilities allow.
But no real bookman ever gives up scouting.

The better scouts are trained to see significance where others see only garbage. One night stumbling along Queen Street half-pissed, my drinking companion, another bookseller, stopped to examine some boxes of garbage outside a building we knew was inhabited by a group which was one of the warring factions of the Communist Party of Canada. I was too lazy to stop, continuing on to our destination – a pub of course. But I had second thoughts when my colleague came in soon after with an entire carton he had found in the garbage, which was full of pamphlets in Russian. We started to examine them. I quickly came across an imprint (an imprint denotes the place a book is published, in either a city or a country) which I recognized, which automatically marked the item as Canadiana. Although I knew no Russian I had had occasion earlier to research other such pamphlets so I knew that the city name in the Cyrillic alphabet was the Russian version for Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg had been the final immigration stop of a fairly large contingent of European Jews and Eastern European immigrants generally, in the early part of the 20th century. In fact a surprisingly large percentage of the major social reformers and even many current public figures in Canada came from that Jewish community's offspring. One of my favourite ironies in being a Canadian is knowing that so many of our most important politicians and social activists, business successes and cultural figures have been either United Church ministers or the offspring of European Jews. And sure enough, a couple of pamphlets later I spied one which had the Russian version for Toronto. "I'll give you $50 right now for the whole box, sight unseen," I said. "Sold," replied my drunken colleague, and then had fun for the rest of the evening informing our drinking companions of his cleverness in seeing the possibilities in garbage. He bought us all beer for the rest of the evening, announcing loudly every time he ordered another round to "Drink up. The commies are paying. There’s a lot more where that came from." We spent the rest of a raucous evening praising “the commies” for providing half the pub with an evening’s drunkenness. And, of course, my friend blew the whole $50. Somehow I got my drunken self and my box of pamphlets home safely.

The next day, sober, I examined my carton and found, as I had hoped, quite a few more Canadian imprints. I sold several, all in Russian, right away for $300-400 and eventually realized a fair bit of profit from the rest of the box. But more important, I learned a serious truth, namely that scouts can’t be snobs. I also made it up to my colleague by buying him quite a lot of beer over the next months. “Thank the commies”, I would say when he thanked me for another free round.
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When I started out, as ignorant as any other beginning scout, the obligatory first stop every morning at 8:15 was the tiny bookshop run by the Crippled Civilians on Jarvis Street, familiarly known to the regulars as “The Crips”, but now renamed more politically correctly Goodwill Services. It adjoined their large central headquarters which, like the Sally Ann, solicited free donations of almost anything. In fact most of us scouts and booksellers who frequented it, regularly furnished our homes and dressed ourselves in the cast-offs of people who had died, or just moved.

The tiny bookshop opened at 8:30 but arrival at 8:15 assured being close to the head of the line where one attempted to guess the prices of the new titles in the display windows and hoped the scouts ahead of them in line were ignorant of these titles. The first in would usually point at the four or five decent newly displayed books in the window making a pile which he would then sort through at his leisure, checking price and condition before putting the desirable ones in his pile to buy, and leaving his rejections for his fellow scouts.
Those not close enough to the head of the line when the door opened would dash to the special sections, usually the Canadian section, which most often would contain the sleepers. For this, of course, was what we all sought – the sleeper. The pricing system was as follows: Fiction 15 cents a book or 10 books for a dollar. This meant that if one found five or more fiction titles it was cheaper and certainly better to fill out the number to ten since between six or seven meant all the rest were free. This would be the first opportunity I had to learn how booksellers regularly out-fox themselves into buying unsaleable books by thinking they are saving money, when they are really just loading themselves down with useless crap that no one will ever want and they must give expensive shelf space to, probably forever.

Like everyone else who has read way too many books, I have many useless quotations culled from these thousands of books which pop unsolicited into my mind on almost any pretext. The one that fits here is from William S. Burroughs and I find it always pertinent. It goes, “Hustlers of the world, there’s one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.”

A pointless aside: one book I had read and really liked was “The Ides of March” by Thornton Wilder. One day I found one clearly marked “First Edition” on the verso of the title. It was in a fine dustwrapper, and priced 10 cents. A week later I found another. And then another, and another, one almost every week. It took about 6 months for me to catch on that if an ignorant neophyte like me could buy a dozen copies of a first edition in fine condition, for 10 cents each, in one thrift store, in one city – there must be something wrong. And there was. In fact there were two things wrong. First, they weren’t first editions, they were the Book-of-the-Month Club issue, in spite of the printed notice of “First Edition” (it took me ten years to acquire the true first edition, which in my experience is scarcer than the special limited signed edition, also issued at publication.)

Second, and more significant, nobody wanted that book anyway. No one, it seemed, except me, thought it was a great book. I probably still have ten of those dozen books somewhere forty years later and there is a very important lesson here. What value does anything have if no one wants it? One of the first book jokes I can remember hearing went like this: A book scout offers a book to a dealer, naming his price. The dealer hesitates, the scout gets nervous. After all, this is his dinner at stake, maybe his hotel room for the night too. “That’s a very rare book you know,” he says anxiously to the dealer. (Just in case the dealer doesn’t realize this.) “Yes, I know,” says the dealer. “It certainly is. Almost as rare as customers for it.” There are several lessons here.

Other books at this Crips store were priced 35 cents, or 50 cents, 75 cents or $1, and if really desirable up to $2, $3, or $5. The rarely asked $10 meant a really good book, or one thought to be so by Mr. Fraser, the pricer and head bookman, and a man not to be tampered with. He ran the place like a fiefdom and woe to the one who tried anything shifty which, of course, many did. But seldom twice, because Mr. Fraser would explode at any perceived insult, or any infringement on his unwritten code, and any behaviour which he considered uncivilized was grounds for instant and very loudly conducted banishment. In other words, like a teacher with a lot of unruly schoolboys. Mr. Fraser (I never knew his first name nor would I have ever used it if I had known) was in fact just that, a retired school teacher. He was also a bit of a snob. I think he didn't want anyone to think he was the usual type of Crips employee. And he wasn't. He was there because he was blind, or at least almost blind. He had a degenerative ocular disease which had resulted in his being blind in one eye and with only five percent vision in the other eye. So he could make out a face if it was very close, but mostly he recognized his regulars by their voices. He priced books by the same method putting his one decent eye about an inch from the title page to ascertain what he was confronting. Not too many years later even that eye deteriorated so badly that management supplied him with a helper, usually a not-too-swift young man whose sole task was to bring a box of books to Mr. Fraser's desk, then to read him titles one by one, then hand them to him for pricing. Mr. Fraser had a distinctive writing style which was instantly recognizable by everyone who frequented that shop and I still occasionally open a book to find his price on the endpaper. This always causes a sensation of acute nostalgia.

The Sally Ann and St. Vincent de Paul also had shops but St. Vincent seldom got anything one would want and the Sally Ann was generally very poor because, as was widely known, the fix was in. That is, bribery prevailed. Every so often someone would complain loudly and an investigation ensued with the corrupted manager being fired. Then books would magically appear untouched, sometimes for as long as two to three weeks, until the newly appointed manager, also succumbed to the blandishments of bribery. Then -- no more good books. We all thought we knew who was guilty of the bribing, a local bookseller, but we never had any hard evidence. Curiously, although we were all officially incensed that this dealer was bribing the manager, I always felt that what really bothered the rest of us was that we didn’t actually know how to go about bribing someone. Our friend, of European origins, had centuries of custom to fall back on but the rest of us probably were too naive to even know how to attempt such a corrupt practice.

One day a woman, a friend of mine who had started scouting for an antique business she planned to open, saw that the door to the private back room was open and a man who she knew worked for a local bookseller was rummaging through books. Naturally, she assumed she could too, so in she went, only to be summarily kicked out by the Sally Ann employee. Her sense of justice sorely offended, she went right to the top with her complaint which resulted in the manager being fired, and we enjoyed another short period of economic democracy. But more important, when she told me who the rummager was, a long-time employee of a certain local dealer, we finally had irrefutable evidence as to which dealer was bribing the book manager. In those days the Toronto dealers socialized a lot with each other and at a bookseller’s party soon after I slyly positioned myself in a group which contained the briber (who was, and still is, a dear friend of mine, but the opportunity to place a barb in front of a receptive audience outweighs that.) I waited for a lull, and suddenly interjected, "Hey guys, you'll never guess. We finally have definite proof who's been bribing people at the Sally Ann all these years." I had everybody's attention. We had all suspected this dealer for many years and his innate cunning showed itself again, as he attempted to divert attention by piping up instantly. "Really? Who is it? Tell us?” It couldn’t have been more perfect. Without a pause I struck. I looked him in the eye. "You, that's who." The roar of laughter from the assembled dealers drowned out even my friend's embarrassed spluttering. Finally, even he sheepishly joined the laughter, but he never did respond to the accusation. Nor, come to think of it, was he embarrassed enough to stop the bribery which soon recommenced.

But back to Mr. Fraser. I was always very polite with Mr. Fraser and I never presumed to ask for any considerations. There was an ugly, fat cat in the shop, Mr. Fraser’s special favourite. It was horribly spoiled and cranky. It slept wherever it cared to, almost always, it seemed, stretched out over books you wanted to look at, and if you attempted to move it you could get clawed or badly bitten. Even worse if you riled the cat enough he might just piss on the books to teach you a lesson, ruining some pretty good books over the years. The whole place stunk of cat urine but it would be a fatal error if you had the temerity to complain to Mr. Fraser about the cat’s behaviour. Out you would go, banned for life. I saw this a few times when people unaware of Mr. Fraser’s affection for the cat spoke up about the stink.

As I said, I was always very polite to Mr. Fraser. Of course I had a serious edge because I worked for Gerry Sherlock, whom everybody liked and respected. Gerry was then the major Canadiana specialist in the country and Mr. Fraser acted like the three of us were the only cultured people to be found in that cesspool of hustlers and losers. Sometimes Mr. Fraser would break his own rules for dealers he liked and hold something for them. One day another scout saw Mr. Fraser bring out a couple of books, saying to me “Mr. Mason I put these aside thinking you might like them.” When he did that I always thanked him profusely and bought them, whatever they were, and whatever the price because I didn’t want to discourage him from repeating such gestures. However I heard later, that this unwise scout, seeing this, made the fatal error of asking Mr. Fraser the next day to hold books in a certain area for him. That was the last time we saw him in there. Sometimes a banned scout would attempt to infiltrate himself back in by using the ploy of not speaking, counting on Mr. Fraser’s blindness to protect him. But, someone would eventually call him by name or he would forget and say something and Mr. Fraser would recognize him by his voice, and recognized, he would suffer a second and even more humiliating ejection.

One day Mr. Fraser brought out a book, offering it to me by saying, “Mr. Mason I’ve put a huge price on this because it is the first edition of a Canadian classic and it’s in mint condition.” Even with his bad sight he could see that it was in very fine condition. It was William Kirby’s “The Golden Dog”, dated 1877, which indeed is a Canadian classic, and it was in literally new condition, (proper dealers never use the term “mint condition”, we leave that for the coin dealers.) But it was not the first edition, although the date was right. I could tell this instantly, because on looking at the title page I found a long written tirade, signed by William Kirby, bitterly complaining that this was a piracy stolen by those despicable thieves who were intent on seeing him in the poorhouse. Mr. Fraser had not seen the inscription, nor the signature, and I thought it better not to tell him about it, not wanting to hurt a blind man’s feelings, especially one doing me a favour. He had priced it at ten dollars, a rare price in the Crips, but acceptable, given that I very quickly sold it for $500.00. For many years afterwards I boasted about buying a great sleeper from a blind man. “How disgusting”, the looks on the faces of my colleagues seemed to say, “stealing from a blind man.” But I knew better, I was aware those looks were actually manifestations of envy, the bitter chagrin of the loser. (The reason this was scouting, not stealing, was because of another old protocol of the trade; a priced book is fair game.)

The first edition of “The Golden Dog” was published in New York and Montreal in 1877. It was printed in Rouses’ Point, NY, just across the border, a ploy by the publisher to protect Kirby by securing a U.S. copyright, but which backfired, because Lovell, the publisher, after printing in the States neglected to register it for U.S. copyright. And then, because it was published first in the U.S., he also lost Canadian copyright protection as well, leaving Kirby with no legal rights at all. Many editions were issued for years, both pirated and legal ones, and it continues to be reprinted, but I have never seen any copy of any of those many editions, signed by Kirby. The whole story is fascinating and it can be found in the bibliographical essay published by Dr. Elizabeth Brady in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, #15 for 1976 ( Toronto 1977). In fact I sold that copy to Elizabeth Brady’s then husband, as a gift for her, and as her essay shows it is part of her important Kirby collection which is now at Queen’s University.
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I will say little about the scout as collector because a scout collecting is much the same as a collector collecting although his experiences as a dealer or scout will have taught him a few of the necessary lessons perhaps a bit earlier and perhaps a bit more forcefully because of his experiences in bookstores.
I will, however, reiterate what I concluded many years ago and state at every opportunity – my belief that one can’t really excel at any function which relates to books unless one is a collector and frequents used bookshops. That is, you can’t be a good librarian, a good archivist, or even a good academic if you have no experience amassing a collection on your own for your personal use, by frequenting bookshops. This said, it follows that I also believe neither can one be a good bookseller if one doesn’t collect. This view would be widely disputed in the trade. Indeed I would guess that a very high number of dealers would disagree.
I think many – maybe half – of dealers would claim, that a dealer who collects causes problems with clients, especially a conflict of interest, and that it is generally not proper for someone who is supposedly trying to make a living. This view is often as vehemently held as my contention that the opposite is true.
Having considered all the arguments against the dealer/scout as collector I remain adamant: A dealer who does not collect cannot experience the emotional passion which fuels all collecting, thereby omitting from the equation its very essence. And with that lack of perspective he loses the ability to emotionally connect with his clients – and for that matter, even with the books. We have all experienced the Doctor who is so accustomed to his own omnipotence that he has forgotten that he is also a human being and becomes so emotionally distanced from the suffering and fears of his patients as to get the reputation as “very good perhaps, but cold”.
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When one considers the collector as a scout it is, of course, necessary to drop a major part of the motivation which we ascribed to the dealer / scout – namely the profit motive.
True collectors do not collect with profit in mind. In my experience that doesn’t seem to be even a long term concern with most collectors. Sometimes, in chatting with a collector about their collection, the collector might mention some horrendous price they have paid for a single item, but I can’t really remember ever hearing one speculate what their outlay for a fairly big long term collection may have cost them, even in general terms. And it is only with collectors who are getting quite elderly that one even has conversations about the eventual disposition of their collection.

I believe that profit is not a concern, nor ever was, of all the real collectors I have known. If this assumption is correct we can infer therefore that collectors who are concerned with and constantly stress monetary value are essentially speculators, not real collectors. Maybe that’s why so many of them disappear so quickly.
Collecting is an emotional process, a hobby which seems to so engage the collector and which provides so much pleasure and comfort, that I believe monetary reward is of little interest to them. There are stories of collectors who put their books up at auction, or sell their collection. When this occurs I think the prices or price realized is for the collector only a measure for him – a tribute perhaps to his cleverness and passion – but not really a monetary concern. Some collectors plan to give their collections to institutions on their death – or sometimes before. And some are of the school that believes that they should return them to the open market to give later collectors a chance. Mostly though, a man who has spent many years acquiring books and assembling a coherent collection by imposing his knowledge, experience and passion on a subject will be very proud, and rightfully so, of his accomplishment and will want to have, what in effect is his creation, left intact, both for future scholars but also as a tribute to himself. For that is what a collection is. Whatever other value it might contain a collection is really a monument to the person who builds it.

We have a man in Toronto who obsessively collects all of modern philosophy (this would be from the early 19th century to today.) This man previously formed the greatest collection of the work of Bertrand Russell in the world. A professor of philosophy, unmarried and therefore free of many constraints, he generally spent every summer scouting every bookshop in Britain and would return with 3 or 4 hundred additions to his Russell collection every year, in later years mostly magazine appearances and often books where the index merely cited Russell, sometime only once. Obviously he had the disease badly and incurably by this time, the compulsion for completeness now an obsession.

He once gave an address about collecting where he began by telling his audience that his collecting career started when he collected the printed cards used to separate layers in the old style Shredded Wheat boxes. The roar of laughter which this elicited from the audience indicated that most of the rest of us had done the same thing as kids.

Anyway, this man, when he pretty much ran out of Russell to buy, focused his obsessional habit on the entire field of modern philosophy with the same intensity he had applied to Russell. Both his Russell collection and later, the philosophy collection were gifted to the University of Toronto and every five years or so two appraisers are called in to value the latest addition which is usually so large it generally takes most of a week to appraise. This Professor (his name is John Slater as almost any dealer in the world will have guessed by now) usually drops by when we are about to start on the latest batch to point out things which might escape our notice. This is usually necessary because much of it is so obscure only another philosophy professor might know who some of these people are.

It was very common for John to show us a book, the author completely unknown to us, and inform us what a sleeper it was at £1 or £2, or whatever. This would no doubt be a very scarce book but the real point is, that no one else seeing that book would even know who the author was, nor care. So it was a sleeper only to the man who found it, as in this case.

One year John casually mentioned to me, “You know Dave, my collection will now be the most complete modern Philosophy collection anywhere in the world.”
“Well John, I guess you mean the largest in private hands.”
“No, I mean anywhere in the world. I know that because I’ve checked my collection of American philosophy and it’s better than that of the British Library and my holdings of English philosophy are better than what is in the Library of Congress.”

As I meditated on that later I realized that it indeed would be true. An important point. What that means is that one person, on his own, with imagination and passion can supercede the resources of perhaps the two greatest public repositories in the English speaking world. Think about that before you dismiss the private collector as a befuddled eccentric.
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The first really serious lessons I learned about scouting I absorbed without even being aware that I was learning anything. The young, starting as they do, with empty minds and little experience, begin by filling those empty minds with everything. But until their experience develops to the point where the deluge of data can be arranged into patterns of order – which needs time as its base – they often fail to see the patterns just under the surface. When I was just a year or two in business the University of Toronto hired me for a project which taught me more about scouting, collecting and quite a few ancillary subjects, than perhaps anything else I experienced in my early years. The project was to supply the University with every piece of Canadian Literature they didn’t have. There was only one tool which existed then for such a project: a checklist compiled by a librarian named Reginald Watters (and referred to by everyone ever after simply as Watters – naturally.) Watters and his student assistants had solicited from all the Canadian libraries and such general repositories as the British Museum and the Library of Congress and certain foreign libraries such as Brown University, which had large collections of Canadian literature, all their holdings based on their catalogue cards. This was published in 1950 and updated in 1960. It was, and is, imperfect but for a long time it was the only game in town.

The University of Toronto, like most Canadian libraries in the money-drenched 60s, had bought major works by what were considered the major Canadian authors, but had ignored the minor, the obscure, the self-published vanity productions, the things which, while not individually important, help to reflect the mind of the country.

They hired me to find what was missing. It was a daunting task, especially for a neophyte who hadn’t, then, a clue about how to go about it. I was given a copy of Watters marked up by them with their holdings and carte blanche to supply what was missing from their lists. And also anything Canadian which had not been included in the checklist, which was plenty. Too naïve to realize that I would be profiting by my acquired knowledge long after the project was completed (in fact I continue to profit, regularly, 40 years later) I concentrated only on seeking the needed books. After all, I needed to make a living. It was hard work but very rewarding – it got so every time I found something obscure it felt like it had seemed when I found that beautiful golf ball at seven years of age – a triumph! I became very adept at spotting, and then surmising what should be a Canadian writer, even though neither the book or the author’s name was known to me. With no model to guide me, nor even suggestions from more experienced dealers as to how to go about it, I was forced to invent my own systems for locating things which I couldn’t often identify, people and books which were not even known to be Canadian. The full account of what I did and how I managed it, can be found in an essay called “A Tale of Illusion, Delusion and Mystery: Booksellers and Librarians”, which can be found on my website.

I learned the names, for instance, of several English and American publishers who operated what are called Vanity presses, publishers who were paid by the authors to print the books which conventional publishers reject.

It made sense if one found a small book of poems by one of these publishers in Canada that the author should be Canadian, the logic being that the author’s only audience would be his friends and family, one of the reasons – aside from vanity – that such books often have lengthy presentation inscriptions in them. Such books often don’t stray far from the source, and about 90% of the time this premise would prove to be true. And I was often aided by flashing the pages to find Canadian place names in the text. Charles Everitt in his book “The Adventures of a Treasure Hunter” mentions that after a lifetime flashing books he got very good at spotting the word “America” in unlikely books which then rendered them salable as Americana. I practiced this idea to my great profit as well by flashing pages seeking Canadian place names and I still do.
Many important lessons were learned but for scouting the chief two were: look closely, then look again and never dismiss a book until you are sure you know what you are looking at. And look everywhere. In the usual chaos of a used bookstore, especially those with several employees, anything can be anywhere.
Whatever bitterness older dealers have about the depredations so prevalent on the Internet it does provide great benefits, readily accessible now, the lack of which tortured us when we were young. One can “Google” almost anyone and place their citizenship and importance in context in 30 seconds, instead of spending hours in a library consulting books. And we can check the holdings of every major institution in the world, also in a couple of minutes. On the other hand, while the young dealers have an enormous apparent research edge over those of us who suffered our way to knowledge, these young dealers don’t strike me as any smarter than we were and I now wonder what one retains from any pool of knowledge which is so easy to dip into.

I hope I’m not going to be one of those old grouches who goes around spouting platitudes like “No pain, no gain” and “the younger generations are hopelessly lost”, but I guess I’m guilty because that’s what I have come to believe.

I know many dealers who have made most of their living carrying lists of wants of their institutional clients around the whole continent. If my experience with the Canadian Literature project is any indicator the permanent benefits of the things learned is far more profitable in the long term, than whatever monetary rewards occurred at the time.

Another project, similar in style, if not content, to the Canadian Literature project was conducted with the National Library of Canada, our equivalent of the Library of Congress and the British Library, whose mandate is to acquire all things relating to Canada. But in learning the same sorts of things there was a significant difference. This project was virgin territory, an area which was almost entirely ignored till I happened on it as a very young scout and which, if the truth be admitted, I believe I invented. This is the field known now as Canadian Editions, that is books by foreign authors published in Canada. When I started it was an area almost completely ignored. This is a field which should be fascinating from a bibliographical point of view, but I can only remember one major bibliography which properly attempted to cite Canadian editions and that was James McG. Stewart’s “Rudyard Kipling: A Bibliographical Catalogue” (Toronto: Dalhousie University Press and Toronto University Press, 1959). Stewart was a Canadian, and would have been regularly exposed to the Canadian editions of Kipling’s books of which there were quite a few, demonstrating his importance at the height of the British Empire. Jacob Blanck’s “Bibliography of American Literature”, the major attempt to categorize American literature from its beginnings into the early 20th century, in 10 volumes (generally now referred to as BAL, or sometimes just Blanck) was a major achievement and they note Canadian editions when they located them. The single most interesting section of BAL for Canadian editions is the entry on Mark Twain, who was constantly pirated in Canada and some of whose true first editions were thus published in Canada. The Canadian pirates would steal the text from a periodical or sometimes directly from the English or American text, printing so quickly that they often were offering their cheap productions within a day or two of the American publication. And when they stole from periodical serials they were often out with their piracy before the proper first edition was issued and thereby usurped that position, becoming themselves the true first edition (a phrase loved by booksellers – it makes us appear knowledgeable.) So incensed was Twain by his enormous losses at the hands of the Canadian pirates that he moved to Montreal for six months, the legal statutory period to gain Canadian copyright protection. He did this to protect “Life of the Mississippi” (Montreal, 1881) which is therefore a legitimate publication, although there is an earlier pirated version of part of it called “Old Times on the Mississippi”. A Canadian librarian once compiled from Canadian sources his own checklist of Canadian piracy’s of Twain’s books which is a good 50% larger than BALs. I have specialized in this field for almost 40 years and I have done well supplying foreign institutions, and collectors, with the Canadian editions of their writers. I believe the situation in Australia was similar although I am ignorant as to whether piracy was as prevalent there.
I have made a lot of money over the last forty years with Canadian Editions and so I should have, because, until I started buying them they were pretty much entirely ignored. I will tell the full story of this but the real significance, I believe, is not these variant issues themselves but the obscurity they rested in until I discovered and exploited them. The first one I discovered in a used bookshop was Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tales of the Jazz Age”. Pulling it off the shelf, thinking it was the first edition. I was surprised to find instead, that it bore the imprint of the Canadian publisher Copp Clark although the copyright page information was precisely the same as the Scribner’s U. S. issue. This was because one of the formats used was to simply print the Canadian issue from the plates of the U.S. edition, changing only the imprint on the title, the spine, and the dustjacket.

The second surprise was the price - $10.00. The first edition of that title at that time would have been $100-$150, the significance of the dustwrapper (which this copy lacked) not yet having reached the ludicrous point it occupies today. The dustwrapper is today considered essential, and even the common practice (at least in Canada) of clipping off the U.S. price has rendered a recent first edition pretty much unsaleable to collectors. It didn’t make sense to me that there should be such a discrepancy in price, so I bought it. These books were usually part of the first edition and I assumed, and later research confirmed, where print-run figures could be learned, that there would have been a very small percentage of an entire edition with a Canadian title page. Sometimes evidence shows the Canadian issue could have been as few as fifty copies explaining the great scarcity of some of these editions. After some time I became very proficient at spotting these books on store shelves by spotting the Canadian publisher’s name on the spine. Indeed, I eventually got very proficient at guessing even with no imprint on the spine what foreign titles in a certain period should have been first Canadian editions. Pulling them off the shelf I would be enormously pleased when I was right most of the time; a good example of what I have come to call the “educated instinct.”
My Catalogue No. 2 issued in 1968 contained a section devoted to Canadian editions which I prepared with great trepidation. After much agonizing I priced some of my Canadian Editions right up there with nice copies of the First Editions and I was frankly scared as to what the reception would be. After all, I was exploring a field that had been ignored by everyone and had no established bibliographic foundation. This is why I priced the books with such trepidation. I, a relative newcomer, was setting the prices.
It was through my exploration of Canadian editions that I had a wonderful experience with one of the great 20th Century collectors and bibliographers, Matthew Bruccoli (referred to by some as “Mad Matt” for his passion and uncompromising dedication to the principles of bibliography.)

He had visited my first tiny shop the year before in company with the well-known Faulkner scholar James Meriwether, a real southern gentleman. Both of them were a delight to meet, especially for a neophyte, and I was very impressed by both. After an hour-long visit both men bought a $10.00 book, which even I could see was really just a gesture of courtesy, which made this meeting even more important to me.

Shortly after their arrival Bruccoli took a large cigar out of his pocket and unwrapped it. But he didn’t light it. An incessant smoker myself then, I offered him a light as I lit my own next cigarette.
“Oh, no. I don’t smoke them”, he replied. “My wife doesn’t allow me to light them.”
He then proceeded over the next hour to eat the cigar, chewing it up bit by bit and depositing the refuse in his pocket and all over my floor. When they left it was a mere stub, and I had to vacuum the rug..
I had quoted Bruccoli the two Canadian Fitzgeralds in the catalogue before issuing it but he hadn’t replied. Naturally I took this to mean that not only was he not interested but was so contemptuous of my effrontery in my pricing that he didn’t even bother to reply. However when I issued the catalogue I got a frantic call ordering them; he had actually been out of the country and hadn’t seen the quote.
Shipping the books I included a note, my natural insecurity at the pricing causing me to make an apologetic reference to the prices. (This is a very common syndrome amongst young, or beginning dealers, especially the better ones. It takes many years and much experience to over-come this natural tendency to fear that your prices might appear too high.)

I received a wonderful note in reply from Prof. Bruccoli containing one of the greatest comments from a scholar / collector I have ever seen.

“Don’t ever apologize for the price of one of your books”, he replied. “Any scholar who won’t pay the proper price for a book is neither a true scholar nor a true collector. He’s a phony.”

What a gracious gesture to a neophyte! Thirty years later when I obtained the only known copy of one of those Canadian Fitzgeralds in the dustwrapper I took great pleasure in offering it to him. It was a considerable price I asked for it too, but true to his credo he bought it by return and thanked me profusely.
I was saddened to hear that Matt Bruccoli had died just over a year ago, but now that he has, it allows me to admit that, high as my price was for that still-unique Fitzgerald, I had purposely taken a couple of thousand dollars off the price in grateful homage to that civilized gesture he made towards me all those years ago.
People love rules and systems, as witness all the “isms” which in the 20th century have caused the slaughter of so many millions of people, and book collectors are apparently no different. But I hope that all these anecdotes demonstrate the importance of absorbing the rules and then defying them. The world is changed by people who defy the common view and apply their own experience and intelligence to life’s challenges.
When you are a beginner everything provides a lesson. Some of the ancillary lessons I learned with this Canadian editions project were difficult and in the end painful, although necessary lessons to learn.
The man at the National Library who hired me for the Canadian Editions project had to be convinced of the importance of these editions, both bibliographically and for what they illustrated of Canadian publishing, bookselling, and, more important, the reading habits of Canadians in that period.

I did not learn, until some years later, that neither this man nor his assistants and underlings were librarians – they were civil servants, bureaucrats in fact. So naïve was I then that it never occurred to me that a library could be staffed by other than librarians but such was the case in Ottawa, in one our most important national institutions.

It all began when, after considerable effort, I convinced this man that it was an important project to amass a collection which showed so clearly what was seen as culturally important reading in Canada during the period covered. I sold him a collection of some 700 – 800 titles I had formed but pointed out that this, being only a relatively small percentage of the total output – from, say, the 1820s to the 1940s – that the really important part of our deal was to find some way of adding the missing titles to their holdings. After I managed to convince him that Canadian editions were a legitimate concern of Canada’s National Library, I suggested to him that he hire me to fill out the collection with new acquisitions. I explained that the only way to do such a project was for one person to have an exclusive contract to supply missing books.
It’s obvious why it needed to be exclusive since careful records would need to be kept to avoid buying unneeded duplicates. I knew that though Canadian Editions were ignored and cheap in Toronto stores then, they would not long remain cheap when the other dealers finally caught on to what I was doing. The man agreed, the principle being obvious, but he told me that he couldn’t put such a thing in writing because someone might consider this as fishy, even perhaps a criminal conflict of interest. As a public servant he needed to think of such things.

The way he put it was to say, “I can’t sign anything but I’ll guarantee that we won’t buy anything from any other dealer.” He then gave me authorization to send all books $25 or under without quoting them; I could simply send them with an invoice. Anything over that amount I had to quote. Within a year he had upped my blanket-shipping invoicing limit to $50; obviously I had passed the test.

I worked directly with his assistant, a young woman who had been present at all our discussions, and the project worked very well. It was a couple of years later when the young woman, with whom I had forged a very smooth working relationship, called me one day to tell me she was leaving the National Library. I was upset as she was very clever and our system of communication had worked marvelously. She had also become a collector of Edna O’Brien whose red hair and patrician profile she shared.
“Where are you going?”, I inquired sadly.
“To the Treasury Department”, she replied.
“Treasury? What the hell is a librarian going to do in Treasury?”
“Oh”, she replied, astounding me, “I’m not a librarian, I’m a civil servant. They move us around like this all the time.”
That’s when I learned our national repository of printed material relating to our history is not staffed by librarians.
I kept a careful record of all transactions, compiling a list as I went which effectively became the first written record of the publishing of foreign titles in Canada. Indeed, I am now working on cleaning up bibliographic descriptions because I intend to make a book of it. It will be the first published record of actual foreign influence on the Canadian literary psyche.
But just as my scouting efforts for the University of Toronto were seen as a great success by both parties, the National Library project ended in disaster, based on the usual human failings, namely greed, envy, spite and a few more.
I learned a lot of lessons here too, although not ones I particularly wanted to learn in this manner. I will tell the whole story with all the sordid details in my memoirs.
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Now it’s time to tell you about another form of scouting, one which I expect you will, initially at least, find silly. I refer to scouting my own store. You will say, but how can you buy from yourself and make a profit? Well, I shall explain and when I am done I hope you will see not only the logic and beauty of it but several other things relevant to human behavior.

One of the delights of starting a new collection from a fresh idea is to scout one's own shelves for those books which fit in and it is surprising how much one will usually find in one's own store. I have come to believe that this occurs because an unconscious factor has been, and is, in play here. The idea for a new collection, or catalogue, must have been gestating in the subconscious, maybe for years, causing the dealer to have a more than normal interest in that category of book, causing him to buy that sort of book over the years. When the idea becomes conscious and one pursues likely components which fit into the newly formulated pattern, it is not surprising that one finds one already owns a good selection in the subject. And more important, by imposing an overview on what had been considered unrelated objects, one creates a new perspective. That is what makes book collecting a creative endeavor. The vision of a collection by its very conscious formulation imposes a larger meaning on the individual components. Afterwards, everything is looked at differently.

An example. When I began collecting publishers’ bindings some 35 years ago the first thing I did was to scour my own stock for appropriate components. The binding publishers used, starting in the 1820s, is cloth, sometimes leather. Previously, books were issued in paper covers which the buyer was meant to take to his bookbinder, for binding in leather of his choice. I was initially shocked at how many lovely examples illustrating the evolution of publishers’ trade bindings in very fine condition I found, but on reflection it became apparent that I had been buying such things for years because I liked them. When the idea took coherent form the components were there waiting. This happens whenever one begins a new collection and I think my “subconscious” theory is the only one which adequately explains this phenomenon. More surprising is how frequently on searching one’s own stock that one finds books which one would buy in an instant from another shop. In fact it’s surprising how often one has. Which is why dealers regularly end up with several copies of books they like. Many times, having priced a new acquisition, I file it in its place in the shop only to find I have a copy of that same book already on my shelves and priced less than the price I had just paid a colleague for the second copy. Some people accuse booksellers of systematically pricing up their books but it is quite surprising how seldom dealers actually do this. It’s hard work and time consuming, in spite of the fact that it can eventually be the source of profit, I, for one, find it boring.
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Vanity is the downfall of many scouts. The urge to boast of great finds often causes the scout to reveal his secret triumphs, especially late at night when the alcohol is flowing. And it’s not just scouts and dealers who do themselves in, figuratively – collectors do it too. A smart dealer always has his ears attuned for the verbal slips which mean useful knowledge for the future. But just in case you might think I am revealing these secrets out of some innate superiority, let me admit right now that this syndrome is so familiar to me because I share the character flaws which cause it. I am also guilty. The temptation to tell the story of a great find, especially when you are the brilliant hero of the story can prove overwhelming even when you know that in the telling you will be revealing things which would be better kept secret. An example: many years ago when the Canadian art-collecting market became popular it overflowed into books. The new collectors of art, educating themselves, sought reference and history books on Canadian art causing the field to become very expensive, rising prices reflecting both demand and intrinsic importance. Art collectors began to frequent bookshops. It became a common occurrence that an unknown visitor would casually inquire of a bookseller if he had any issues of a book-collecting magazine called The Colophon. We always knew what that meant.
The Colophon, perhaps the most beautiful and ambitious magazine on book collecting ever done, appeared as a quarterly from 1930 to 1950. It was originally issued in ornate decorated board covers, with a number of different articles in every issue, each one designed and printed by a different fine printer. It was a beautiful piece of work and because of the interest in book illustration it often contained etchings and woodcuts commissioned for articles, or simply on their own. So it was that in 1932 they commissioned a print from David Milne, a drypoint etching which has become very collectable, partly because it is one of very few signed Milnes that is accessible to a Milne admirer who is not rich.

The perhaps apocryphal story about it is that Milne did the etching by running the plate through the wringer of a washing machine which caused wear to the plate which ended up resulting in four states of the plate. This plate extracted from the Colophon readily sold from $1500 - $2000 then and those of us who knew that often would put out feelers to American dealers and friends to supply us that issue. In those days single issues sold for $20-$25.

Some art collectors learned where it had been published which explains the seemingly casual inquiries for the Colophon we started to get. Some dealers would even buy a complete run of the Colophon, expensive even then, due to its importance and beauty – not to mention it’s very interesting content – just to get the Milne print. Even today when one see complete runs of the Colophon offered in the market they are usually described as “missing a plate from issue No. Five.” Once, scouting in a huge used bookstore in San Francisco, I went to the Books on Books section to find that it contained only one issue of The Colophon and it was No. Five! Probably part of a bigger run, it had remained unsold because half of the back-strip was missing. My great good luck, because it was priced at $7 and the Milne plate was still in it. That find paid for the whole trip.

All this was ruined by the vain boasting of Richard Landon, the Director of the Fisher Library at the University of Toronto, a known frequenter of bookstores and a serious private book collector himself. Landon once found in Michael Thompson’s shop in Los Angeles, a copy of No. Five for $10 or $20, and later over drinks couldn’t resist one-upping Thompson by boasting of the sleeper he had just bought from him. This was particularly galling for me because until then I had been buying an average of 2 or 3 copies every trip to Los Angeles from Thompson and other dealers – mostly for $20 each. Thompson being a very smart bookseller continued to offer them to me but rather than $20 I now had to pay $100 (US) and, of course, even that price rose in time. But I still bought them and Thompson and I continued to move them along for a while – a nice lucrative sideline for us both. However, gossip being what it is, that only lasted a couple of years before too many others caught on and another sleeper disappeared, the result of Landon’s loose lips. But that wasn’t Landon’s only sin. Another Canadian book often found cheaply in the States was Louis Hemon’s “Maria Chapdelaine” illustrated by the important Canadian artist Clarence Gagnon, published in Paris in 1933. Because the book had been first published in 1916 and the French-Canadian artist Gagnon was not well-known outside Canada it appeared to be just another of those later illustrated editions of literary classics that the French so love to issue, to the wonder of the rest of the world.

The bubble burst one year when the New Yorker published a profile of Larry McMurtry, the writer and Academy Award winning screenwriter, who has been an Antiquarian bookseller for some 50 years. One of the people the author of the profile chose to interview was Landon who could not resist boasting that he had bought a copy of “Maria Chapdelaine”from McMurtry’s Washington store for $10. Even worse he revealed its value, (it was then selling for upwards of $2000), to the entire readership of the New Yorker. Soon we were getting offered the Milne print for $1000 - $1500 by our American colleagues and “Maria Chapdelaine” for even more. Landon seemed unperturbed when he was informed that his loose lips significantly lowered the average yearly income of half the dealers in Canada.

Now I find myself back where I started, the reflections fueled by Justin Schiller’s visit which prompted these musings and memories of my forty-some years in the trade.

While my general purpose has been to amuse, with some of the many stories that long-time dealers can relate endlessly, it seems clear to me that the real purpose in this, and all anecdotal histories of the booktrade, is to impart some sense of the sheer richness of the bookseller’s life and how important what we do is. I have come to believe that more important then mine or my colleague’s petty concerns about our personal ambitions, the true significance of our work is our social function, our contribution to the salvaging and retention of important artifacts of our civilization. The sense of continuity and the importance of the long established traditions of the trade are, I hope, apparent here, as they are so well-reflected in the sadly-few memoirs left by my betters in the trade.

For many years, in discussions about the literature of the trade, I tended to praise Charles Everitt’s “Adventures of a Treasure Hunter” as a wonderful book for booksellers. It has always been the first book I give to recently hired employees to introduce them to the literature of bookselling but it has always been received with a mixed reaction. Some liked it – or said they did – others barely bothered to mask their indifference, and quite a few have eventually expressed open contempt for my choice.

My choice for second best is David Randall’s “Dukedom Large Enough”, but the book most book people seem to prefer is David Magee’s “Infinite Riches” which is a delightful book by a delightful man, civilized reminisces by a very witty Englishman who transplanted to San Francisco and never left. That Magee personally collected Wodehouse will tell you what to expect from his own book. The first time I met Magee he welcomed me into his house where he was ensconced in a sunken living room space having a gin and tonic with a visiting collector exchanging gossip and witticisms. It was not yet 11am. The book shelves in the area behind this space had huge gaps. “Yes it’s those Heritage boys[1]”, he said, “they’re up here buying books about once a month. I can’t keep the shelves full”, he explained. Magee was, by this time I guess, buying back the libraries of those of his collectors who had died before him and like many older long-experienced dealers he was either out-of-date with the aggressive pricing favoured by ambitious young dealers or perhaps – what I prefer to believe – he just didn’t much care about profit at this stage of his life. He was very cordial, and inscribed a copy of his book “To my young Canadian colleague”. I was so impressed by Magee that those images played in my mind for a long time. That’s how I want to end my so-called career I would think – not so much swilling gin and tonic at 11am, but enjoying the fruits of all those years of struggle surrounded by old friends, cronies, and the learned and civilized people that booksellers get to deal with, ambition and money being relegated to where they belong at that age – down near the bottom of the list.
In closing I’d like to provide an answer to a philosophical dilemma which has haunted the booktrade, certainly during my time and probably since some Babylonian or Greek manuscript peddler hawked their wares in some early pre-Christian marketplace. For as long as I’ve been around there has existed a controversy over whether bookselling should be considered a trade or a profession. Well here is the answer and like all great truths it is succinct. Bookselling is a trade: Bookscouting is a profession.

END

 

[1] The Heritage boys: Ben and Louis Weinstein founded Heritage Books in Los Angeles in the early to mid-Sixties. They were very aggressive buyers for many years, building one of the most impressive and successful bookselling firms of the 20 th Century.


 

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