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

June 15, 2007

My Life in Poetry

by Tom Congalton
Please bear with me here for a minute, it might take me a minute or two to get to the point:

In the 1970s, before I was a bookseller, I worked intermittently at a biker bar in Asbury Park, New Jersey. One of my favorite, and least lethal patrons was known as Mel the Biker. Of course, this suffix was redundant, as virtually all of our patrons were bikers, but Mel the Biker he was known as, and as Mel the Biker shall he be known to thee as well.

Mel had three brothers: Tommy the Biker, Teddy the Biker, and...
April 17, 2007

A Plea for the Young Elvis, or; What Have They Done with Ed?

by Tom Congalton
Those philatelists among you might remember that in 1992 the U.S. Postal Service decided to issue a 29-cent postage stamp honoring the late Elvis Presley, and released unto the public two competing designs. One was of Young Elvis: slick, sleek, and saucy; the other of Old Elvis: pill-popping, bloated, bespangled, and bejumpsuited; and invited the American public to determine which would be the final product.

This, of course, engendered, at least among certain segments of the population, an interest and enthusiasm that mostly surpassed that aroused by a typical American Presidential election. Reportedly over a million Americans voted, and did...
February 21, 2007

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

by Tom Congalton
A standard annual ritual for American children is the first-day-of-school assignment of an essay about what each student did on his or her summer vacation. What better way to make the transition from the indolent days of Summer to the industrious busyness of the school year than a fond reminiscence of one's past pleasures and experiences? Summer is now long over, but in order to provide a little light in the depths of winter, I have assigned myself that theme for this issue of the magazine.

Before I talk about this Summer, I'll need to talk about the Summer of...
December 7, 2006

My Favorite Flaws

by Tom Congalton

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things"

And so begins the well-beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein song "My Favorite Things" from the musical The Sound of Music. The rest of the song continues a-pace, essentially a laundry list of objects that if come upon individually, might be considered mildly pleasant, but which if encountered en masse would be likely to cause one to become quickly and violently reacquainted with one's most recent meal.

I had a similar reaction when...

October 26, 2006

Bibliophiles in Bucolia

by Tom Congalton
Heidi and I have just returned from another pleasant weekend exhibiting at the twelfth annual book fair in Cooperstown, New York, as excellently organized by Ed Brodzinsky of Atelier Books, and Willis Monie. We have exhibited there from the beginning, although I recall missing one fair somewhere along the line, for reasons now rendered vague by memory.

The quaint little Village of Cooperstown is small town America at its most picturesque. Barely 2000 people live at the south end of Otsego Lake, the source of the mighty Susquehanna River, in a neat, orderly, and by American standards at least, antique...
August 11, 2006

The Facs of Life

by Tom Congalton

Let us consider the facsimile dustjacket. For those of you who may be unaware of the prevalence of such things, we have witnessed something of an epidemic lately of genuine first editions being offered for sale with carefully reproduced new dustjackets that imitate the originals.

These facsimiles first began to appear in the trade around twenty years ago. The first time that I noticed this phenomenon was when a few were offered for sale, added to books at fairs, intended by a dealer to spruce up, or at least try to make saleable otherwise mediocre copies of first editions. They...

June 5, 2006

Aging Ungracefully in the Rare Book Trade

by Tom Congalton

On Saturday morning before the opening hours of the Los Angeles Book Fair, I found myself seated on a raised dais with a microphone propped in front of me, part of a panel with four other veteran booksellers. We were addressing the subject of the past, present, and future of the antiquarian book trade, before a crowd of something a little less than 100 people, almost all of them booksellers.

Despite the fact I have been a fulltime bookseller for about twenty years, it was with some chagrin I realized that the majority of the attendees were booksellers whose experience...

February 15, 2006

So What's a Bookseller to Do in February?

by Tom Congalton

Despite what T.S. Eliot might tell you, in the northern half of the U.S., February is the cruelest month. Northern booksellers are generally confined to their desks as the Arctic winds blow. So what's a bookseller to do in this darkest and dreariest of months?

Americans are renowned for turning every event into a selling opportunity, so the first thing for a bookseller to do is to look forward to St. Valentine's Day. The origins of St. Valentine are a little murky (and indeed there seem to be at least three of them), but in the U.S. he seems to...

January 15, 2006

A Look at the American Antiquarian Book Trade

by Tom Congalton

At years end, the state of the American antiquarian book trade can best be described as unsettled, and in what has become an increasingly global marketplace; I suspect that the American experience is little different from that of our overseas colleagues.

Although some areas of the American trade remain robust with children's books, American colorplate books, some Americana, and some literary highspots most conspicuous among them, the trade in general continues to undergo a rapid and continuous shift. The ease of finding books on the Internet has contributed to the increasingly rapid decline of the open shop. Those unwilling to adapt...