A Report from the Tompkins-Cortland F.O.L. Used Book Sale in Ithaca, NY

For the past sixty years or so, bibliophiles have been lining up or camping out in Ithaca, New York to gain entry to one of the biggest used & rare book sales in the U.S.  This is our tenth year of attending the Tompkins-Cortland Friends of the Library Sale.    Held twice a year (spring and fall) with over 275,000 items for sale, it is housed in a huge permanent warehouse at  509 Esty Street.   The sale is well organized, with neatly shelved books displayed in over one hundred categories throughout the building, with wide aisles, maps provided.  On the first day of the sale, there is a 50 item limit (per visit—you can re-enter but you have to stand in line again), and no “hoarding” is allowed.  These are good rules, and make for a pleasant sale.  The hardest part about this sale is waiting in the line, which is a long one even if you get there early in the morning (especially if it’s cold or rainy).  Hard core bibliophiles and book dealers pitch their tents and sleep in line to maintain their good position for opening day.  A photographer from the local newspaper is usually there to photograph the person who has managed to be the first one in the door.  But if you come reasonably early in the morning (arriving by at least 7am) you will probably gain admittance with the first group of 200; even though the place is huge, fire code laws are followed and at some point, those in line are waiting for others to leave before they can gain admittance.  If you bring a book(!) or enjoy talking to the other book lovers in line, it can be a fairly pleasant wait.

Line at the book sale

Although the quality of “finds” has decreased in recent years at book sales across the country (this one is no exception), and some years are better than others, we always come away with some unusual and/or highly sought-after books that we are proud to add to our inventory at Old Scrolls Book Shop.  Even on the later days of the sale, one is usually able to ferret out some good finds.  Prices go down each day as the sale progresses.

The money earned from the sale is used to support the Tompkins County Public Library.

This year among our better finds was  a fine first edition of Freddy’s Book signed by author John Gardner, a nice early edition of How to Cook A Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher with a dustjacket folded inside the book, and an unusual and scarce novel, Old Jed – Romance of Love and War of the Delaware Valley (1927) in a very well preserved jacket.  We also found a nice clean jacketed copy of Here is Your War signed by Ernie Pyle.  These were all found on the regular shelves (not in the “specials” room — where the offerings are often not particularly special).

The 2010 Finger Lakes Literary Festival was also going on Ithaca (May 7-9), with readings, workshops, and other literary events at various locations.  This year there were Troubadours entertaining us in the waiting line at the sale — actors from the Ithaca Shakespeare Company, reciting works from the Bard.


On our way home, we stopped to view beautiful Taughannock Falls located in Ulysses, NY just a few miles north of Ithaca in Taughannock Falls State Park.

Taughannock Falls

The Spring sale continues through May 25.  Here are some details:

2010 Spring Sale

Over 275,000 items for sale, most with first day prices of $4.50 or less. Click here to see some of the specially priced items housed in Collector’s Corner where items of interest are priced individually.

May 8, 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM

May 9-10, 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

May 15-17, 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

May 19, Senior/Persons With Disabilities Day, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

May 22-24, 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

May 25, 12 noon – 8:00 PM

May 26, Not-for-profit Day, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

For questions about Not-for-profit Day, call 607-272-2223 or click here.

Fall Sale – Oct. 9-11, 16-18, and 23-26


Published in: on 05/10/2010 at 12:57 am  Leave a Comment  

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