A Book Scouting Trip to Pennsylvania

I’m a bit behind on my blog entries, but here we are, back home again after a whirlwind four day central Pennsylvania book scouting trip.

We left early Saturday morning and drove down Rte. 15 through the beautiful Susquehanna River Valley to Lancaster, PA  to visit a few book shops on Saturday and Sunday and to attend the 2010 Lancaster Public Library Book Sale (250,000 books) on Monday morning.   Lancaster is a lively bustling small city (pop. 55,000) with lots of one-way streets, and a web of various “pikes” such as the Harrisburg Pike, the Philadelphia Pike, the Manheim Pike and so-on,  so it helps to have GPS  or a good map and navigator riding shot-gun when searching out book shops—in our case, Ron is the city driver and I am “On-Star “  navigator.   It works out pretty well for us!

Lancaster Marriott Hotel - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster Marriott Hotel – Lancaster, PA

The photo above is of the beautiful Lancaster Marriott Hotel.  Many Lancaster residents told us how proud they were of the city saving the beloved department store upon which this hotel was built, instead of destroying the historic building.

The first shop we visited was Dog Star Books on West Chestnut Street.  Our last visit there was about three years ago, and the shop was just as we remembered it—nice selection of books in many genres and all in clean solid condition, interesting authors and titles, nicely arranged and fairly priced.   We spent an hour or so browsing and visiting with owner Brian Frailey.   Lunch was in order after this, as we had been up since 4:30am and we were still running on Dunkin’.   We popped into The Pickle Bar at Isaac’s in the main part of town for a good sandwich and a Bloody Mary.   Then it was on to Book Haven, a bit further out on Marietta Avenue.   The book shop is located in a large carriage house behind the owners’ home and has three floors of books.   Their book inventory did not seem quite as interesting as last time we visited, but that could be because the shop, home and business are up for sale .

On Sunday many shops are closed in the Lancaster area, so we traveled to York, PA (less than half an hour away) to re-visit the York Emporium.  This is a huge, multi-dealer one story book shop, with a great variety of books.  With hundreds of categories, most books are reading copies, with a few hit-and-miss collectibles dotting the stacks… just enough to keep us whiling away a Sunday scouting the shelves.   We found a few nice Modern Library Editions, and some nice jacketed first editions of interesting and fairly obscure titles in several categories.   York, PA is also the site of the York Book and Paper Fair (October 16, 2010 9am-4pm)

The first day of the Lancaster sale was Monday, May 24 and it started promptly at 7:00am.  The sale has been held the past couple of years at Franklin & Marshall College in their spacious and well-lit Alumni Sports and Fitness Center.   We crawled out of bed at 4:30am, grabbed some coffee, and arrived to queue up with a few others in line by 5:00am.  We were delighted to find a couple of booksellers from our home territory to chat with during our wait, and met a few other interesting people as we all huddled under umbrellas from time to time in a light rain.

Alumni Sports & Fitness Center – Franklin & Marshall College – Two hours before start of sale
Waiting in a light rain

The sale was orderly, with all books laid out on tables, and some in boxes under the tables.  The tables were generously spaced to allow for comfortable shopping (as comfortable as possible at a well-attended book sale).  No admission is charged, and there is no preview day.   “Regular” books priced at $2.00 were set out on the left side of the room, and beyond a rope barrier to the right, “Special” books were individually priced (generally in the $3-$8 range).   As at most book sales, many of the “special” books weren’t all that special, and quite a few really belonged on the other side of the rope; some were book club editions, later printings or generally common books.  We purchased books from both sides, but I can’t say we found anything that made us want to dance the Macarena; and certainly some of the better books we found were in the $2.00 area.   As with most book sales, the scene resembles locusts descending on a wheat field, and soon all that remains is stone and stubble!

We decided to make a visit to Cupboard Maker Books in Enola, PA.  It was disappointing, at least for us; it might be just someone else’s cup of tea.  Lots of paperbacks, uninspiring hardcover reading copies, and apparently anything remotely collectible is listed on-line and not available for viewing or purchasing in-store (at least this was what we were told by the counter help — the owner was away).  We always give book shops a couple of chances though; sometimes when you re-visit them, inventory and business plan has changed.  This was our first visit to that particular store.

On our way home we spent the night in Selinsgrove, PA   We had dinner at The Front Street Station Restaurant in Northumberland a few miles northeast of Selinsgrove—a charming restaurant which inhabits an old train station, complete with dining cars.  The trains still roll by, and a long freight train stopped and switched some cars while we had after-dinner drinks in the moonlight on the patio.  The following morning we visited Graybill’s Book Shop in Kreamer (east of Selinsgrove just off Rte. 522) and D.J. Ernst Books on Market Street in Selinsgrove – both places we like to stop when passing through Pennsylvania.

Back home at the shop, today was spent filling orders, answering inquiries, squeezing the cat (she missed us), and weeding the gardens (how do they grow so fast when you aren’t looking?).  Now it’s time to unpack boxes of books,  price them, catalogue them…just like Christmas!

Published in: on 05/27/2010 at 1:56 am  Leave a Comment  

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