Curious Book Shop – East Lansing, MI

We drove through quite a thunderstorm as we left Ann Arbor on the night of July 12, with lightning streaking across the darkened sky.  We spent the night at a Courtyard Marriott in Brighton, a western suburb of Detroit.  The next morning dawned sunny and beautiful, and we made our way northwest to East Lansing, Michigan.

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Here I am in front of the Curious Book Shop, 307 East Grand River, East Lansing, Michigan

Curious Book Shop is owned by Ray Walsh, and has been around since 1969.  It has a huge inventory of old books, magazines, comics and movie and sports material, all nicely organized.

 

Owner - Ray Walsh and me, Curious Book Shop, E. Lansing, Michigan

Owner – Ray Walsh and me, Curious Book Shop, E. Lansing, Michigan

 

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Lots of great inventory to browse through here!

We found that Ray had a nice selection of older books, including decorated American trade bindings.  He also had some nice L. Frank Baum selections, including this one, which we purchased:

The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and His People (by L. Frank Baum - Bobbs Merrill, 1903)

The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and His People (by L. Frank Baum – Bobbs Merrill, 1903)

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Here is a beautiful Arts & Crafts binding signed by author George W. Stevens which we purchased here:

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(SOLD)

(SOLD)

He also had some wonderful books on magic!

Modern Magicians' Hand Book, by William J. Hilliar (Frederick J. Drake & Co., Chicago, 1900)

Modern Magician’s Hand Book, by William J. Hilliar (Frederick J. Drake & Co., Chicago, 1900)

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This is a shop you can spend hours in (three floors containing around 50,000 items), so plan accordingly if you visit!

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Next, join us as we point the car up old Historic Route 27, right through the middle of the Michigan mitten!

 

More from the Great Book Town of Ann Arbor

The fourth bookstore we visited on July 12, 2016 in Ann Arbor.  Here I am in front of Motte & Bailey Booksellers in Ann Arbor, Michigan…

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Motte & Bailey offers over 10,000 volumes of used and rare books in a spacious and well-organized store located at 212 N. Fourth Avenue.

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“Motte & Bailey” is a type of medieval Norman castle, a wooden palisade rising on a mound of earth, found in many places in England, Wales, and Scotland…this name was chosen to reflect the specialty of the store’s inventory, books concerning all the various aspects of history.  But there are books from nearly all genres here, and all in lovely condition.   We found Gene Alloway manning the desk at the front of the book store; he has been active in the business since 1996.

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With Gene Alloway, Proprietor of Motte & Bailey Booksellers, Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Here is an example of a title we purchased at Motte & Bailey:

Two volume set of "Ramona" in a decorated binding (Little Brown, 1900) SOLD

Two volume set of “Ramona” in a decorated binding (Little Brown, 1900) SOLD

I highly recommend a visit to this bookstore if you are in Ann Arbor — it was one of my favorites there.

The fifth book shop we visited in Ann Arbor was charming beyond belief.  I felt as if I had stumbled into a time machine and stepped into a bookshop on some old London street.

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A wiry, spry man with pale gray hair and glasses greeted us as we came into the shop, in his crisp white shirt and a neatly tailored charcoal gray vest.  This turned out to be Richard Leahy, who takes charge of the night shift at the store.  You must envision him from my description, because he does not like his picture taken.   A shame, because he added so much to our visit at this store…but I guess you will just have to go there yourself (in the evening) if you want to experience the pleasure of meeting him.

By now it was about 6:00pm, and we were starving.  We were assured that the store would be open until 8:00pm, and asked Richard for advice on where to eat dinner nearby.  He directed us to an Italian restaurant just a few blocks away.  It was a delightful place called Gratzi.

Grazi Restaurant, 326 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, MI

Gratzi Restaurant, 326 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, MI

Gratzi had an excellent wine list and their food was fabulous.  You know how we usually take photos of what we are served in restaurants?  Especially when it is beautifully presented??  Well, we were so hungry we didn’t even pause for those photos this time!  Take it from me, the food and wine was top notch.

With full tummies, we walked back to West Side Book Shop, where Richard was waiting to assist us as we combed through their beautiful inventory.

Inside West Side Book shop, 113 West Liberty, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Inside West Side Book shop, 113 West Liberty, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Here are a few of the items we spirited away from this book shop:

The Small Yacht by Edwin A. Boardman (Little Brown, 1923)

The Small Yacht by Edwin A. Boardman (Little Brown, 1923)

 

Star-Dust by Fannie Hurst (A. L. Burt, 1921)

Star-Dust by Fannie Hurst (A. L. Burt, 1921)

Star-Dust by Fannie Hurst (A. L. Burt, 1921)

 

The Spirit of the North (Cupples & Leon, 1935) - inscribed by author LeRoy W. Snell

The Spirit of the North (Cupples & Leon, 1935) – inscribed by author LeRoy W. Snell

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Join us in the next post, we will be leaving Ann Arbor (sob!) and driving to East Lansing, Michigan.

We Are Chapter 47. Woo-hoo!

It was such an honor and a pleasant surprise for Ron and me when we learned we were featured in Rebecca Rego Barry’s recently published book, Rare Books Uncovered – True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places.

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Rebecca interviewed a wide range of booksellers and collectors to ferret out book scouting stories involving serendipity, hard work and sometimes pure good luck — and the result is this entertaining and educational read published by Voyageur Press.  With a foreword by Nicholas A. Basbanes, any book lover will want to add it to their library.

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Rebecca interviewed me last year when I shared with her a few of our true book scouting tales. So much has happened over the past year that Rebecca’s work on this book was pushed to the recesses of my mind.  Also, I know there are many booksellers out there with interesting stories to share about their adventures on the book hunting trail, so I knew she would have plenty of material to sift through.

Thus I was blown away when I learned that we are Chapter 47!!

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Rebecca Rego Barry is the Editor of Fine Books & Collections Magazine, the most beautiful and informative magazine available on book collecting.  She is a talented writer and I hope this book is a huge success for her.  She has been doing a number of book signings on the east coast, including a recent one at the famous Grolier Club in New York City.

Read more about Rebecca and order the book on her website HERE.  You can get a signed copy too!

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Because we have so much to celebrate in 2016, we’d like to invite you to celebrate with us.  Visit Old Scrolls Book Shop online and take 20% off any book order there during the month of February 2016.  Just use the coupon code celebrate2016 at check-out and the 20% deduction will be activated.

If you need any assistance, just give us a call at 585-355-6971.

 

Awesome Antiquarian Books – Minneapolis

This may well be our favorite Twin Cities book shop, which we visited for the first time during our recent Minnesota trip!

James & Mary Laurie, Booksellers - 250 3rd Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN

James & Mary Laurie, Booksellers – 250 3rd Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN

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We spent an entirely wonderful day here!

20150630_122601_resizedTheir hours are 11-6 Monday through Saturday and by appointment.  Free parking available in a small lot on one side of the store (limited number of spaces), but also a big parking ramp nearby.

We found a nice space in the lot at opening time, around 11am.

With an inventory of over 120,000 books, our day was well occupied!

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Here’s me, wondering where to start…

This beautiful and large street-level shop also houses more than 30,000 classical and jazz vinyl records, and a gallery of old prints and maps.

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To say we were excited about the book selection here is an understatement, especially since there were many nice examples of our favorite specialty, decorated American trade bindings.  But of course there were thousands of interesting books in all genres, and they were in beautiful condition.  The shop is well organized and easy to browse, with pleasant surprises at every turn.

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Here are just a few samples of some of the beautiful decorated bindings we found here:

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James & Mary Laurie Booksellers was founded in 1969 (they were located for twenty years on the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis before moving to this location).   We did not have the pleasure of meeting Mary, but Jim is a super guy, and was wonderful to us during our visit.

Here I am with Jim Laurie

Here I am with Jim Laurie.  He’s a tall one!

After hours of perusing and purchasing books, we broke away for a little pick-me-up at Dunn Brothers Coffee, just around the corner.

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Great smile, great coffee!

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When we returned to the book shop, we were invited to descend to their warehouse area, where many more books are stored.  Come on along!

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Here were many more thousands of books, stacked to the ceiling.  Good thing we had that coffee!!

20150630_145244_resizedWe found several wonderful books down here as well, and added them to our purchases.

Can’t say enough good things about this book store — make sure you pay them a visit if you are ever in Minneapolis!

In the evening, we met my sister Karen and her husband Gene in Spring Park for a sunset cruise on her daughter and son-in-law’s boat.

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The weather was perfect for a quiet evening on Lake Minnetonka

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Twin Cities – Biblio-fantastic!

20150626_105952_resizedThe 25th Annual Twin Cities Antiquarian Book Fair took place on June 26-27th, 2015, and YES, we were there!  I grew up in the great State of Minnesota, and it was time for a family visit…which happily coincided with this MWABA sponsored event.

Twin Cities Antiquarian & Rare Book Fair - June 26-27, 2015.  Progress Center, State Fairgrounds, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Twin Cities Antiquarian & Rare Book Fair – June 26-27, 2015. Progress Center, State Fairgrounds, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Over 50 exhibitors from across the country came together at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds in St. Paul.

We arrived at 10:00am on Friday, thinking that’s when it opened (silly me) — only to find out that selling did not commence until 3:00pm.

This turned out to be a fortuitous error, because it caused us to drive over to Midway Used and Rare Bookstore to while away the hours, and there we discovered they were having a splendid 50th Anniversary Book Sale!

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Midway Book Store   was  voted Best Used Book Store of the Twin Cities by City Pages.

 

 

Midway Used & Rare Books, owned by Tom and Kathy Stransky, was established in 1965. They are housed in a Streamline Moderne building located at the corner of University & Snelling Avenues in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Free parking spots!!  And inside there are two expansive floors of books, with excellent books in clean solid condition, in just about every genre,  from American History to Science Fiction, literature, decorated bindings, and much more.  Midway was also exhibiting at the Twin Cities Book Fair.

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We had a ball here, and came away with two boxes of carefully selected books.

Another lucky break — just a few steps away we found just the kind of cool old tavern where we like to have our traditional brain lubricating pre-book fair Bloody Mary!

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We didn’t even have to move the car — our space was reserved for Christensen Saloon and Midway Books exclusively!!  Perfect.

Christensen Saloon - St. Paul, Minnesota.  Have you ever seen such a long bar???

Christensen Saloon – St. Paul, Minnesota. Have you ever seen such a long bar???

We arrived back at the book fair promptly at 3:00pm, and it wasn’t long before we ran into John Phillips and his daughter Jennie from Evening Star Books.

John Phillips with daughter Jennie (Evening Star Books), and me.

John Phillips with daughter Jennie (Evening Star Books), and me.

John and Jennie recognized me from my blog!  They are friendly and fun booksellers, and had a cool selection of Literature, Mystery, Science Fiction and much more.

Evening Star books is based in Middleton, Wisconsin, and sells via their website and book fairs like this one.

Over at Sonny Ideker’s booth (Sonny Ideker, Bookseller) we found this treasure:

The History of Modern painting from Picasso to Surrealism (signed by Picasso)

The History of Modern painting from Picasso to Surrealism (signed by Picasso)

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Sonny hails from Roswell, Georgia, and exhibits at over 30 book fairs a year — so if you go to antiquarian book fairs, look for Sonny.  He had an extensive array of fine books.  This was was one of his selections we liked…

Spain, by George Wharton Edwards. (Penn Publishing Company, 1926)

Spain, by George Wharton Edwards. (Penn Publishing Company, 1926)

Sonny Ideker's booth at the Twin Cities Book Fair

Sonny Ideker’s booth at the Twin Cities Book Fair

Here are some more photos from the fair…

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Exhibitors came from as far east as Boston (Peter Stern) and as far west as Utah (Ken Sanders Rare Books and Back of Beyond Books).

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Ron looking over a case of goodies

In our next post we’ll tell you about the book scouting we did before and after the fair on our trek to Minnesota.

 

 

 

Southern United States Book Scouting Adventure

A two-week book scouting expedition through the southern U.S. is about to unfold here on our blog.  Buckle up, you are in for a whirlwind, happy book scouting adventure!  Fourteen days, 13 book shops, and two Friends-of-the-Library book sales!

Leaving home (Stanley, NY) at lark-rise on Saturday, April 19th we headed west on I-90 toward Rte. 71 South through Ohio, beginning a journey that would take us through ten states: Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Our first book scouting stop was in Xenia, Ohio at Blue Jacket Books owned by Lawrence Hammar and his wife Cassandra.

20150418_141613_resizedA couple of years ago, Blue Jacket Books survived a disastrous flood from a broken water pipe–an event that could have been catastrophic to their business.  We were happy to find they have made a terrific comeback with a little help from their friends.  See an article about the great community support they received HERE.

Blue Jacket Books, Xenia, OH

Blue Jacket Books, Xenia, OH

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Here I am, having fun in the stacks!

Here I am, having fun in the stacks!

We found many nice collectible quality books at Blue Jacket…here are a few examples:

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First Edition of “Making Over Martha” by Julie M. Lippmann in original dust jacket023228

The Singing World, Edited by Louis Untermeyer and signed by him on front free endpaper

The Singing World, signed by editor Louis Untermeyer on front free endpaper023230

Maya, by William Dudley Foulke. 1st Edition decorated American trade binding (signed binding - FSD)

Maya, by William Dudley Foulke.
1st Edition decorated American trade binding (signed binding – FSD)

Our thanks to Cassandra and Kate for showing us a good time at Blue Jacket Books and for listening to our stories and laughing along with us!

We spent hours exploring the many rooms of books at Blue Jacket.  Now we were hungry.

The Golden Lamb Inn, Lebanon, Ohio

The Golden Lamb Inn, Lebanon, Ohio

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If you’ve followed our blog in the past, you know how much we like to visit historic hotels.  So our next stop had to be in Lebanon, Ohio at the historic Golden Lamb Inn, Ohio’s oldest hotel.

20150418_160826_resizedThe Golden Lamb was established in 1803.  The present four-story structure is built around the 1815 rebuilding of the inn, maintaining its colonial architecture.

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A beautiful park next to “The Golden Lamb”

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Because of its strategic position on the highway between Cincinnati and Colombus, many notable literary figures and politicians have stayed there over the years, including Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Daniel Webster.

20150418_171553_resized  Twelve American presidents have visited the inn, including William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, William McKinley, Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush.

Tavern in The Golden Lamb

        Tavern in The Golden Lamb

The inn has a cozy tavern, four large public dining rooms, and four private dining rooms plus 18 air-conditioned guest rooms.

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Lobby area at The Golden Lamb

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After enjoying a cocktail and good conversation in the tavern, we savored a good dinner at the Golden Lamb.

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Then we got back in the car and headed south, stopping for the night just beyond Lexington, Kentucky.

On our last southern trip, we did a lot of book scouting in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia on our way down, stopping at book shops in Lexington, Knoxville, and Atlanta (you can look at older posts HERE and HERE to see details of some of our book scouting in those areas).  This time, we zoomed toward Florida to catch some big sales at a couple of book shops there and to make it to a few F.O.L. book sales.

Our next post will be about our visit to a book store closing sale in Dunedin, Florida.  See you there!

Book Scouting Queen Gets Crowned

It’s never a good time to get a crown on your tooth…but three days before Christmas $$$?  Really??!

View from a pretty little alley in Penn Yan, NY

How do you make a visit to the dentist fun? Lucky me, I have a great dentist who is located in a good book scouting town — Penn Yan, New York.   So I usually find a way of working some book hunting into the mix when I have a dental appointment.  Ron was with me this trip, so after my crowning we stopped to eat at one of our favorite little spots in town, the Tavern Restaurant.  Let me repeat, my dentist is GREAT, so he didn’t numb me up too bad.  I could even sip a Bloody Mary out of a straw afterwards!! AND eat lunch.  Yay.

Tavern Restaurant, Penn Yan, NY

Our table by the fireplace

Our table by the fireplace – can’t really see it in this pic, but there was a nice fire blazing!

Penn Yan (the peculiar town name is a syllabic abbreviation of “Pennsylvania Yankee”) lies at the north end of the east branch of Keuka Lake, my favorite of the Finger Lakes.  It is about seventeen miles southeast of our home and book shop.  A pretty village of about 5,000 citizens, Penn Yan has two used book shops.

The Books Landing recently relocated to 9 Main Street after years in a small store on a corner at 1 Main Street.  I was anxious to see their new digs!  Unfortunately, they were closed.  All we could do was press our noses to the window.  (Fortunately, my return trip to get my permanent crown is scheduled for a Tuesday.  Hope that works.)

The Books Landing, Penn Yan, NY

The Books Landing, Penn Yan, NY

The Books Landing, run by a very nice lady named Barb Mullins,  has always leaned toward paperbacks and good reading quality books for the locals and seasonal visitors.  But I have found enough unexpected hardcover collectible gems in that store to keep me coming back.

Next, we telephoned Eileen O’Reilly, proprietor of Belknap Hill Books at 106 Main Street.  We found this store to be closed too, but with a sign taped to the door that said “Want Books? Call…” and of course we did!  She and her wonderful dog (“Rosie”) were kind enough to come right over and open up for us.

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Eileen O’Reilly, Proprietor of Belknap Hill Books – Penn Yan, NY

Rosie, the book store dog

          Rosie, the book store dog

Eileen has operated Belknap Hill Books out of this store since 1987.  She and her husband have recently decided to put this three-story residential-commercial building up for sale.  It may be the end of another book shop…and I will be sad.

Belknap Hill Books, Penn Yan, NY

Belknap Hill Books, Penn Yan, NY

20141222_142406_resizedHere are some lovely books we purchased at Eileen’s…

The Inns of the Middle Ages

The Inns of the Middle Ages

Kotto - - Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs

Kotto – – Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs

Master of the Vineyard

Master of the Vineyard

Wanted - A Chaperon

Wanted – A Chaperon

Penn Yan is high on my list of favorite New York towns.  Interesting shops, walkable streets, the clip-clopping of Mennonite horse & buggies, a most beautiful lake and lots of wineries nearby.   It is quaint, historic, and just quirky enough to be interesting!

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Were they expecting Noah?

Pennsylvania – Book Hunter’s Dream

A street view in York, PA

A street view in York, PA

I love, LOVE, Pennsylvania.  Beautiful forested mountains, winding river valleys, lovely old towns steeped in history, houses built of stone.  Lower taxes  (in comparison to New York State, at least) making gas, food, lodging and just about everything else more affordable.  It is also terrific book scouting country…it seems to harbor just the kind of antiquarian books we like, and the York Book and Paper Fair is a great place to find lots of gems in one great location.

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So we made the beautiful drive last weekend to the 2014 fair held in the charming city of  York on October 18.  From our home and book shop, York is about a four hour drive, most of it down beautiful Rte 15.  And, the date of the event coincided exactly with our wedding anniversary, so we drove down on Friday evening and made a weekend of it!

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On our way down we stopped in Mansfield, PA for dinner at a delightful restaurant called Lamb’s Creek.

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The York Book & Paper Fair is held at the beautiful Holiday Inn & Convention Center, 200 Loucks Road (Rte. 74 & US 30) in York, PA.  We arrived  at around 11:30pm.  Happily, they saved our room for us!

Main Lobby at Holiday Inn & Convention Center, York, PA

Main Lobby at Holiday Inn & Convention Center, York, PA

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It’s a wonderful thing for booksellers and buyers who come from far away to be able to stay at the same location as the book fair — get up in the morning, have your coffee, and walk right in to the event!  It’s a lovely venue — the hotel has lounge and restaurant facilities on site, and the rooms are  reasonably priced.

Entrance to the York Book and Paper Fair

Entrance to the York Book and Paper Fair – Holiday Inn, York, Pennsylvania

This sale is always well attended.  Dealers and buyers come from all over to buy and sell antiquarian books, ephemera, maps, vinyl, and more.

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Some of our favorite book dealers are regulars at this fair, like Jean Gonzalez from Somewhere in Time Books (St. James, NY).  Jean always has a beautiful selection of signed first editions and collectible quality books in all genres.

Jean Gonzalez of Somewhere In Time Books, with Ron Sollome (Old Scrolls Book Shop)

Jean Gonzalez, Somewhere In Time Books, with Ron

Jean will be offering collectible Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books at the upcoming World Fantasy Convention which runs November 6-9, 2014 in Washington, D.C.  Find him in the “Dealers Room.”  For more information on this great event attended by SF and Fantasy fans from all over the world, click HERE.

A purchase we made from Jean at Somewhere in Time at the fair:

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E. Christian Mattson (below) of Baltimore, Maryland, is always fun to talk to in his booth — he’s both knowledgeable and entertaining — AND he brings a terrific book selection.

E. Christian Mattson, Baltimore, Maryland

E. Christian Mattson, Baltimore, Maryland

From him we purchased a tall stack of Landmark Series books, and this attractive decorated American trade binding:

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Jesse Brubacher and his wife Sarah, of Jesse H. Brubacher Books (Stevens, PA) are among our top favorite book dealers.  They always offer the kind of books you are proud to own, always in fine condition (they had an especially nice variety of decorated American trade bindings).

Sarah Brubacher seated at her booth - York Book & Paper Fair 2014

Sarah Brubacher seated at their booth – York Book & Paper Fair 2014

Here are some of the books we purchased from the Brubachers:

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Nice, huh??

Best of all, this is a pleasant and friendly fair!  People enjoy themselves;  there is excellent lighting, acoustics and space to move about in comfort, even when busy with buyers.   Best of all, there is a good variety of interesting and high quality stock.

We visited a book shop or two after the fair –and cracked open the champagne to celebrate our anniversary.  I’ll be back soon with the rest of story and a few more pics.

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Cazenovia, NY Book Sale 2014

Last weekend Ron and I made our annual trek to the Cazenovia, New York Friends of the Library Book Sale.   We haven’t missed this sale in fourteen years.  It’s always a good sale, and usually blessed with beautiful clear weather — as it was on this Saturday morning (July 25, 2014).

Cazenovia, NY Public Library

Cazenovia, NY Public Library

Book buyers soon started lining up for the 9:00am opening of the sale, which is in three locations on the library grounds — in the barn, under the tent, and in the spacious basement community room.

Book buyers lining up at the Cazenovia, NY 2014 book sale

Book buyers lining up at the Cazenovia, NY 2014 book sale

I love their penguin, who unfailingly stands guard at the head of the line…

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They almost forgot to put his apron on him this year…but here he is, all decked out!

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This is  a pleasant book sale, because the books are spread out in three locations so there tends to be some breathing room.  Cazenovia is a gorgeous town, the books are fairly priced, and the library volunteers are always so friendly and welcoming.

Here are just a few of the books we found this year at the Cazenovia sale:

To Rule The Night, signed by author and astronaut James B. Irwin

To Rule The Night, signed by author and astronaut James B. Irwin

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The Mind of Leonardo da Vinci by Edward McCurdy (Dodd Mead, NY, 1928, 1st Edition)

The Mind of Leonardo da Vinci by Edward McCurdy (Dodd Mead, NY, 1928, 1st Edition)

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Scarce first edition of "The Fox and The Hound" - winner of the Dutton Animal Book Award, 1967

Scarce first edition of “The Fox and The Hound” – winner of the Dutton Animal Book Award, 1967

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Endpapers of "Man-Hunters of Scotland Yard"

Endpapers of “Man-Hunters of Scotland Yard”

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Association copy,  inscribed to Bahamas' first Prime Minister, Sir Roland Symonette and his two boys, with author-drawn arrow pointing to their frontispiece portrait next to inscription

Association copy, inscribed to Bahamas’ first Prime Minister, Sir Roland Symonette and his two boys, with author-drawn arrow pointing to their frontispiece portrait next to inscription

We inevitably follow this sale with lunch in the open air courtyard at the Lincklaen House, a lovely historic hotel and restaurant just across the street. They always serve fresh homemade popovers(!) with a tray of butter to smother them in, and offer a seafood bisque that is hard to beat.

Dining patio at the Lincklaen House, Cazenovia, NY

Outdoor dining at the Lincklaen House, Cazenovia, NY

Thanks to all the volunteers who manage to put on one of the most enjoyable book sales in New York State.  This was their 40th year – congrats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The History Behind the Fourth of July

Happy 4th of July! I apologize for not posting for awhile, but aside from being engaged in spring clean-up activities here at Old Scrolls Book Shop, I’ve been busy fighting a war.   I’ve just finished reading Kenneth Robert’s 836-page epic of America’s War of Independence, Oliver Wiswell.   It had me hooked from page one.

Oliver Wiswell, by Kenneth Roberts (1st Trade Edition, Doubleday Doran, NY, 1940)

Oliver Wiswell, by Kenneth Roberts (1st Trade Edition, Doubleday Doran, NY, 1940)

Independence Day seems a great time to write about author Kenneth Roberts, who is most famous for his splendid historical novels covering early American history, particularly the Revolutionary war era.

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Kenneth Roberts, photo from the back panel of dust jacket on his book “Boone Island.”

History is most often written by the winners; therefore we usually don’t get “the rest of the story.”

Oliver Wiswell is a thoroughly researched and well-written historical novel, telling the story of America’s war for independence from a different side– the Colonial Loyalist’s point of view.

Covering the eight years of grueling societal division and conflict, Roberts brings to light events and issues that were never exposed in your average American History class. All your standard heroes, like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and others are here seen as the imperfect, three-dimensional characters they actually were. Important battles are set forth as they actually happened – often won by the Loyalist side, and yet lost by retreating British generals who had no interest in victory.

Map on front endpapers of "Oliver Wiswell"

Map on front endpapers of “Oliver Wiswell”

This was truly America’s first civil war, dividing families, friends and neighbors in a great clash between those who believed they should avoid the bloodshed and suffering of a war with Great Britain and those who wanted to engage in war at any cost to gain complete independence. Both sides were patriots who loved their country, with different ideas on the best course to follow for the future of the colonies. It was not a matter that was put up to a vote. Well respected citizens and educated people were driven out of their homes if they were believed to be Loyalists; tarred and feathered, tortured or sent into hiding by mob rule. Families, homes, farms and businesses were destroyed –neighbor against neighbor.

Rear endpapers, "Oliver Wiswell"

Rear endpapers, “Oliver Wiswell”

Not without humor, Roberts succeeds in exposing the absurdities of war, and the follies of the military leadership and troops on both the British and Colonial side. He also conveys the resilience and strength of civilian men and women who, caught in the circumstances of war through no fault of their own, suffered great loss and hardship. His well-drawn characters are appealing and his scenes descriptive as he takes us from Boston to New York to England, France, and back to the colonies as his main character, Olive Wiswell, struggles to preserve his American homeland in the best way he knows how.

To experience this time in our history from the Revolutionist side, read Kenneth Roberts’ Arundel (1929) – the American Revolution through the Battle of Quebec and Rabble in Arms (1933), where he presents the conflict from the viewpoint of the Colonial rebels who are fighting against all odds to halt the advancing British invasion. The struggles of soldiers and civilians alike are vividly brought to life, amidst the miseries of war when food and supplies are scarce because of human greed and faulty links in the chain of command.

Arundel, by Kenneth Roberts (Doubleday Doran, 1933)

Arundel, by Kenneth Roberts (Doubleday Doran, 1933)

Rabble in Arms, by Kenneth Roberts (Later printing - Doubleday Doran, NY, 1943).

Rabble in Arms, by Kenneth Roberts (Later printing – Doubleday Doran, NY, 1943).

All of these books are compelling reads and make for a thorough education on America’s beginnings.

The great thing about an intensely researched and well-written historical novel is this; as you become involved with the characters, you absorb the facts of history in a way that never happens when reading a textbook, and hear the story as it can never be told in a book without characters. You experience life as it happened for people of the time, in detail.   As history unfolds in this compelling way, it stimulates a hunger for further reading and research.

I came late to appreciating the writing of Kenneth Roberts. Now I know why his books have quickly left our shelves, year after year.  He was a great novelist of America’s historic past, and wrote his novels with the same dispassionate truthfulness that made him a great journalist for The Boston Post and The Saturday Evening Post in the early twentieth century.

*Key historical novels by Roberts and their topics include:

Arundel (1929) – The American Revolution through the Battle of Quebec
The Lively Lady (1931) – War of 1812
Rabble in Arms (1933) – Sequel to Arundel; the American Revolution through the Battles of Saratoga
Captain Caution (1934) – War of 1812
Northwest Passage (1937) – French and Indian War and the Carver expedition
Oliver Wiswell (1940) – The American Revolution from a Loyalist’s perspective, from the Siege of Boston to the United Empire Loyalists
Lydia Bailey (1947) – The Haitian Revolution and the First Barbary War
Boon Island (1955) – 1710 shipwreck on Boon Island, Maine

In 1957, two months before his death, Roberts received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation “for his historical novels which have long contributed to the creation of greater interest in our early American history.”  He died, aged 71, in Kennebunkport.

*taken from Wikipedia

Collectible first editions of Kenneth Roberts works are almost always available here at Old Scrolls Book Shop.

 

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