Articles by our staff and guests on all aspects of the rare book world.

June 21, 2009

Silly Season in America

by Tom Congalton
The Silly Season in America, the seemingly interminable period of time leading up to the Presidential election, has finally ended, with the nation's expectations high about the victor, the Democratic candidate, and now President-elect Obama. Anyone who is even reasonably paying attention doesn't need to be told by me that, given America's checkered struggles with the question of race, the election of an African-American president is an historic event.

Interest in the election has run high. Unexpectedly, more Americans voted in the Presidential Elections than voted for the latest winner of the television talent show "American Idol." And while the...
May 5, 2009

Forging Ahead

by Tom Congalton

Lately it seems like I've been overwhelmed with email offers of bad copies or reprint editions of important books with forged inscriptions by famous authors.

As a serial optimist, in the distant past I had been inclined to consider a likely looking autograph as good until proven otherwise, and for the most part this attitude was usually proven correct.

In those halcyon days (okay, they weren't really all that halcyon, but allow me at least to burnish my modest tenure in the trade with a little nostalgic lustre), most of the more obvious forgers and fraudsters were known to many...

November 24, 2008

French Connections: Paris Hilton Sex Video

by Tom Congalton

The other day I was eavesdropping on a telephone call that Dan Gregory, the Between the Covers employee of longest tenure who isn't an actual family member, was having with an Internet web consultant who occasionally does work for us. I spend a lot of my time monitoring whether my employees are beavering away, with the result that I am usually the only one who isn't working very hard. Such are the daily stresses of the modern rare book CEO.

What Dan was trying to determine on his phone call was how we could drive more traffic to the Between the...

October 1, 2008

The Ethics and Etiquette of the Scrum

by Tom Congalton
Let us examine the dynamics of the set-up hours of a book fair. This is the time before the public is let in, when the dealers trade gossip, complain about the location of their booths, and prepare and primp their displays for the open hours of the fair, carefully laying traps for the much anticipated, but not very unsuspecting collectors.

It is these same collectors who have often and persistently expressed to me their envious and bitterly held belief that these are the golden hours when well-capitalized and avaricious dealers blithely snap up impossible bargains from their less fortunate or...
June 19, 2008

Rare Books as Investments

by Tom Congalton
Wherein Your Correspondent Displays a Certain Magisterial Ignorance of the Economics of the Rare Book Trade

One of the major weapons in the arsenal of a resourceful bookseller is the ability to reconcile seeming paradoxes. Probably the most common of these we face is the dilemma of discussing the topic of rare books considered as investments. Barely is an antiquarian bookseller whelped before he or she is taught the cardinal rule of bookselling: Thou shalt not promote rare books as investments. The Antiquarian Booksellers Association (or ABA) even codifies this as Article 13 in their Code of Good Practice, and I....
April 7, 2008

The Leaning Tower of Photography Books

by Tom Congalton

One of the joys of dealing in modern literary first editions is the neat and nearly uniform size of the vast majority of one's inventory. Your basic octavo volume, when packed for a book fair, nestled convivially amongst its fellows, will fit neatly in a standard document storage box. After having done a few hundred fairs, one can pack up quickly and neatly, leaving no space in a box for the books to shuffle about, with the resultant deterioration in condition that loosely packed books usually suffer. I particularly recommend books of poetry and drama for this purpose — usually...

March 4, 2008

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Plagiarize the Ways...

by Tom Congalton
Plagiarize. To steal or purloin and pass off as one's own (ideas, writings, etc., of another). - Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1956 edition)

Well maybe plagiarize is too strong a term. Borrow? Appropriate?

If one were to read the proprietary discussion group of the members of the Antiquarian Booksellers of Association of America (ABAA), plagiarization would be one of the most avidly discussed topics, ranking right behind (in order of frequency): conspiracy theories, cocktail recipes, personal digestive issues, and the advisability, or lack thereof, of impeaching the current American presidential administration.

At any rate, little is more likely to rouse...
December 6, 2007

Oh, Baltimore!

by Tom Congalton
Labor Day Weekend (in the U.S., the long weekend that precedes and includes the first Monday of September, created by the Federal Government as a day off for the working man, and in practice, if not reality, the final weekend of Summer) usually finds us in Baltimore, Maryland for the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show.

Baltimore, a major east coast port on the Chesapeake Bay, and nicknamed "Charm City" for reasons somewhat elusive to me, has a long and illustrious history that needn't be recited by me, beyond noting it as the city where Edgar Allen Poe died in the gutter...
November 1, 2007

A Bestiary for the Used Bookseller

by Tom Congalton
Megalisters, Page Hogs, and PODs, Oh My!

For the used or antiquarian bookseller offering books on the various commercial Internet search services, it rapidly becomes apparent that the old rules of bookselling have gone by the boards. Previously, it was customary to actually own the books you were offering for sale. However, the promise of reaping profits by manipulating other people's data was not long confined to just the financial markets.

In the early days of the search services, Relisters appeared. Relisters would list for sale books owned by other dealers, often very unique copies, copying the owner's data, but with...
August 14, 2007

The Big Day Stay

by Magnus Broadsnort

It has always been my intention, since I began writing this column for Rare Book Review, to alternate chatty and anecdotal essays on bookish topics, with magisterial, carefully researched articles replete with detailed and incisive commentary on topics of immediate and vital interest to the rare book world. Thus after my self-indulgent and rambling article on poetry in the last issue, I was scheduled to reveal several exciting discoveries that would significantly forward the art and science of bibliography. And with that intention did I gather my copious research materials, as Heidi and I left for the weekend to our...