Perhaps because Ron and I have enjoyed sharing the world of used & rare books as a couple in much the same way as Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone experienced their own adventures in book scouting, these two books are special to me.
As their book scouting adventures take the authors to antiquarian book stores in big cities and off-the-beaten track locations, then on to library sales, auctions, and rare book rooms, the tales echo many of the experiences we have shared as we travel in search of great books. But I think anyone interested in book collecting would thoroughly enjoy their stories, and use them to point to new areas of exploration in the wondrous world of book collecting. In a nutshell, Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone are people after my own heart.
In their delightful books Used & Rare – Travels in the Book World and Slightly Chipped – Footnotes in Booklore, they capture the essence of what it is to be bitten by the book collecting bug. A rank beginner can follow their learning curve with each turn of the page and pick up lots of information, but the stories can also be thoroughly enjoyed by an experienced collector, for they ring so true.
I read both books when they were first published, and just recently re-read them. I believe I enjoyed them even more the second time around. Being acquainted with many of the book shops and characters that populate the book, the second reading brought forth grins, giggles and grimaces of recognition as they wend their way through used book stores in big cities and off-the-beaten track locations, then on to library sales, auctions, and rare book rooms. The quirky characters, the endless and odd variety of book-store settings, the surprising range of collecting fields—they are presented here in entertaining and informative terms.
Any budding book collector will empathize with their early bafflement on book pricing in the used & rare marketplace, and their progression from being reluctant to spend more than ten dollars on a book to practically pouncing on one priced at the equivalent of a month’s rent or mortgage payment. They learn quickly about the importance of condition and edition in book collecting, and soon attune themselves to the thrill of being able to recognize and own fine books. Our hearts are with them as they set aside three or four books in a booth while at the Spring Antiquarian Book Fair in Boston, agonizing over which one(s) to purchase since they are on a limited budget.
Their experience at a library sale (in Pequot, CT) rings true as they line up early with the crowds and are nearly trampled in the opening crush as the book seekers lose all sense of civility in their quest for treasure. It’s a familiar fright to anyone who has followed the library sale circuit. Their first forays into the book auction world are depicted in detail. They share the knowledge they glean on various areas of collecting, including some pretty detailed and amusing information on the authors of the Bloomsbury group in the book Slightly Chipped. They are quite candid about the book dealers they encounter, and about all their experiences, both good and bad.
Only Used and Rare is still in print (visit Nancy Goldstone’s website here, where you will also find information on additional Goldstone books). But, HEY… if you want to be a collector, search for a first edition of either book here or here…or better yet, start visiting used and rare book shops and have the time of your life!!