It’s a Wrap: Summary of our Midwest Book Scouting Adventure

I’m finally squeezing in some time for a summary of the trip for all who may be interested.  We’ve been back home from our Midwest book scouting adventure for just one week.

We have been doing our best to catch up with ourselves – and on gardening, housekeeping, unpacking, laundry, and friends.     Our book store cat, Osa, got really tired watching us unpack all the books…

Osa, one of our book shop cats

Osa, weary book shop cat squeezed between all our new books

 By the way, Osa is oh-so happy that we are home!

 The purpose of our book scouting trips is to find interesting, unusual, high-quality stock for our book store.  We always have our customers in mind while making purchases on these trips.  It is important to know your customer base.  Otherwise, one would lose confidence well before you’d spent your first $500.  For us, this meant we were seeking out vintage decorated bindings, scarcer Modern Library Editions in excellent condition, books with beautiful old dust jackets, important non-fiction works and author-signed literature.

 Here are photos of about 2/3 of our book booty taken while unpacking:

Some of the new inventory from our book scouting trip

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 Books are everywhere, but quality older books in excellent condition which are of interest to collectors have become quite hard to find.  We do purchase books locally, but the books offered up are often not what we are seeking.  So, we ferret them out wherever we can find them.

In the past, it was common practice for booksellers to travel countrywide, even worldwide, visiting others in the trade in search of books to suit their particular customers and specialization.  It has become less common.  Without exception, all the booksellers we met were happy to see someone “from the trade” coming in to purchase books.  All were hospitable and helpful, and surprised that booksellers were still making pilgrimages, doing it the “old school” way.

Our trip began on the evening of June 1, 2013 and ended on the evening of June 15.  There were ten days of full-blown all-day (and occasional evening) book scouting; we allowed ourselves five days of pure family time in Minnesota, although we hit the large “Book Em” sale in Bloomington while we were there, and one antique shop in Lyndale, MN.

 On this trip we logged approximately 2,800 miles from Stanley, NY west to Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; then north into the Door County peninsula of Wisconsin; then west across the center of Wisconsin to the western edge of  the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area.  On our return trip we drove southeast through the Wisconsin Dells to Madison, Wisconsin and on to the Chicago area again, and headed a bit further south to Fort Wayne, Indiana, on up to Toledo, then Cleveland and back home to New York State.

We purchased approximately 300 high quality hand-picked and carefully selected books; mostly vintage first editions both fiction and non-fiction (non-fiction included travel, history, natural history, special interest); author-signed editions, decorated American trade bindings, and Modern Library Editions, plus a few important children’s books.  Now you know how picky we are in stocking our book store!  We looked at thousands of titles each day.

 We combed 16 used & rare book stores; two fund-raiser used book sales (Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and ‘Book ‘Em” sale in Bloomington, Minnesota) and at least 10 antique stores/malls.  Pretty crazy when you mix it in with all that driving!  No wonder we are dog-tired.

Book stops we made on our way West:

 Case Western Reserve University Book Sale, Cleveland, Ohio

Myopic Books, Chicago, IL

Untitled Used & Rare Books, Sturgeon Bay, WI

William Caxton, Ltd., Ellison Bay, WI

The Peninsula Bookman, Fish Creek, WI

Old Orchard Antique Mall, Egg Harbor, WI

Shenandoah Books, Appleton, WI

Blue Moon Books, Stevens Point, WI

Ottawa House Books, Eau Claire, WI

Antique Emporium, Eau Claire, WI

“Book ‘Em” Crime Prevention Association Book Sale, Richfield, MN

 Book stops we made on our return trip east:

 Antique Mall of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Dells, WI

Tomah Antique Mall, Tomah, WI

Paul’s Books, Madison, WI

Browzer’s Books, Madison, WI

Avol’s Books, Madison, WI

Howard’s Books, Evanston, IL

Amaranth Books, Evanston, IL

Bookman’s Alley, Evanston, IL

Chicago Rare Book Center, Evanston, IL

Hyde Brothers Books, Fort Wayne, IN

Every Other Book, Fort Wayne, IN

Maumee Antique Mall, Maumee, OH

 There were additional antique malls/stores we popped into along the way to look at book booths (if there were any).  Antique malls can be a terrible waste of time when book hunting, but you can’t really exclude them; we did find some interesting and collectible quality books in the ones mentioned above.  There were many others I’m not detailing here that were either bookless or just a boneyard for ragged, tired, common books.

 Our top of the list favorite was Bookman’s Alley in Evanston, Illinois.  The city of Evanston, Illinois in general is a worthy book hunting destination, with at least four quality used & rare book stores.  You don’t find clusters of books shops like this in towns and cities much anymore.

 From Bookman’s Alley:

First Edition of "Sand" in original jacket, SIGNED by Will James.

First Edition of “Sand” in original jacket, SIGNED by Will James.

Will James' signature on front free endpaper of "Sand"

Will James’ signature on front free endpaper of “Sand”

And another from Bookman’s Alley:

A Mountain Woman, by Elia W. Peattie.  First Edition (Way & Williams, Chicago, 1896).  With signed poem by author enclosed.

A Mountain Woman, by Elia W. Peattie. First Edition (Way & Williams, Chicago, 1896). With signed poem by author enclosed.

Poem by Elia W. Peattie, inscribed and signed

Poem by Elia W. Peattie, inscribed and signed, was folded into the book

We also loved Browzer’s in Madison, Wisconsin.  This was our second visit to Browzer’s over the past several years, and we were not disappointed.

 One of our many interesting purchases from Browzer’s:

Leather-bound "Photographic Souvenir - Grand Encampment of Knights Templar 26th Triennial Conclave, Boston, 1895

Leather-bound “Photographic Souvenir – Grand Encampment of Knights Templar 26th Triennial Conclave, Boston, 1895

 It’s a large, heavy book, printed on high quality glossy paper with gilt edges.

Title page from the Knights Templar Photo Souvenir Book

Title page from the Knights Templar Photo Souvenir Book

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 Also, Blue Moon Books in Stevens Point, Wisconsin was a nice surprise – not huge, but it was crammed with vintage books, and we found a lot to like there.  I featured some of the fine books we found their in an earlier post on the trip.

 For those interested in scholarly titles or Americana, the trip to Door County, Wisconsin would be very worthwhile to visit both Untitled Books in Sturgeon Bay and Wm. Caxton in Ellison Bay.

 The Case Western Reserve University Book Sale was excellent; it had a higher quality of books than most library sales, and plenty of quality vintage selections.  Although we paid a $20 each entry fee to attend the early morning preview sale, it paid off for us.  There weren’t a great number of buyers at the preview, and we found a multitude of excellent books.

We spent nine nights in hotels, six nights with family or friends.  Our best chain hotel experience was with Carlson Company hotels (Radisson, Country Inn & Suites were the ones we stayed in from this hotel chain) for reasonable price with excellent cleanliness, quality and amenities.  But the best deal of all was at the independent Bridgeport Inn in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, where we had a full-fledged large apartment-worthy suite on the water for $99.  Most places we stayed were $100/night or less for two adults. Gas prices hovered at approx. $3.80/gallon in most states, with a high of $4.59/gallon in the Chicago area ( fill up before you get there!).

 Here are some additional photos of some of the books we acquired on the trip:

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First American Edition of “While England Slept” by Winston S. Churchill in original jacket. (ALREADY SOLD)

The Shepheard's Calender, by Edmund Spenser (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1898) Decorated binding and illustrations by Walter Crane.

The Shepheard’s Calender, by Edmund Spenser (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1898) Decorated binding and illustrations by Walter Crane.

Walter Crane's monogram, stamped on front and rear boards of "The Shepheard's Calender"

Walter Crane’s monogram, stamped on front and rear boards of “The Shepheard’s Calender”

A lovely example of a decorated binding done by the Decorative Designers (stamped with a double D)

A lovely example of a decorated binding done by the Decorative Designers (stamped with a double D)

A beautiful Margaret Armstrong binding in excellent condition

A beautiful Margaret Armstrong binding in excellent condition

Two Volumes (complete) of "Cape Cod" by Henry David Thoreau (Boston: 1899, Houghton Mifflin) with original slipcase.

Two Volumes (complete) of “Cape Cod” by Henry David Thoreau (Boston: 1899, Houghton Mifflin) with original slipcase.  Book decoration by Sarah Wyman Whitman.

Label on original cardboard case for "Cape Cod"

Label on original cardboard case for “Cape Cod”

Headlong Hall; Nightmare Abbey by T. Love Peacock (London: Macmillan, 1896)

Headlong Hall; Nightmare Abbey by T. Love Peacock (London: Macmillan, 1896)

So many fine examples, hard to choose!

Travel was pretty much trouble free, and we are grateful for that.  Although…Ron and I truly run on Dunkin’ Donuts, and we were running on empty much of the time.  Our favorite coffee is almost as hard to find as rare books, east of Ohio.   It’s the Double-D that keeps us going (Dunkin’ Donuts AND Decorative Designers!).  Hence, a few incidents of inside-out clothing and misdirection.  But we sausaged through!!  Met wonderful people, and had such fun relaying our adventures to you, our readers.

We are thrilled with the results of the trip.  Love the books we brought home, and have already sold some of them even though I have barely scratched the surface in beginning to sort and catalog them.

You can view or purchase books we gathered from this trip by going to our website at www.oldscrolls.com and scrolling down to “recent acquisitions” near the bottom of the page.  I will be adding more books daily (barring interruptions!) over the next several weeks.

The last word is from Osa, who says he doesn’t want to look at any more books!

Somebody stop them!  I'm trying to sleep here.

Somebody stop them! I’m trying to get some shut-eye here.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great post. I mostly stay local, but would love to take a trip like that someday.

  2. Reblogged this on Literate Comments and commented:
    Nice book scouting post.


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