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

October 26, 2011

Complicated Lives: Association Copies as Artifactual Evidence

Tom Congalton

[Delivered at the Caxton Club, March 19, 2011]

When I was asked to give this talk, it was suggested that I have a title, and I found this one suitably grand:

Complicated Lives: Association Copies as Artifactual Evidence; or an examination of how association copies can reinforce and expand our knowledge of authors and their familiars, with a further look at the alchemical processes whereby booksellers and collectors attempt to transform ink into gold.

Well, as I hadn’t written it yet, I’m not sure that that this speech has anything to do with this title, but thank you in advance for indulging me. In...

April 14, 2010

The Bookshop in Old New Castle

Four Prominent Book Sellers Join Forces to Open The Bookshop in Old New Castle

On May 1 2010, Between the Covers Rare Books, Oak Knoll Books, The Kelmscott Bookshop, and the Old Bookshop of Bordentown will open The Bookshop of Old New Castle. Located on the second floor of the historic Opera House at 308 Delaware Street, the shop will sell books on all subjects from each individual store's inventory. For the May 1st grand opening, which is open to the public, the store will open at 9 am, with the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2 pm. Accompanied by food and...

December 30, 2009

On Becoming a Specialist Dealer

by Tom Congalton

[Delivered at the 2005 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar]

When I was invited to speak here at the seminar as the "specialist dealer" I asked several of my colleagues what I was supposed to speak about, and received some, truth-be-told, dubious advice. Things like "talk about yourself, and then take questions" or "you know, books."

I can't thank the faculty enough for this helpful advice.

This assignment did however, give me cause to ruminate about the nature of booksellers — how some become specialists, why others remain staunch generalists, how these transitions are made, and what it all means to a young...

December 18, 2009

1889 Report of the American Rare Book Trade

by J.W. Bouton
The following text is a preface to an elaborate, and illustrated 1889 rare book catalog from the 19th Century New York bookseller J.W. Bouton. While it is always amusing to note how far book values have progressed in the past century (and Bouton addresses this issue), what is more interesting is that, if stripped of Bouton's 19th Century phraseology, the sentiments exhibited, including the camaraderie within the book trade, have not changed a bit. - Dan Gregory


It is with a feeling of satisfaction, not unmixed with, I trust, pardonable pride, that I send forth...
December 6, 2009

Bookselling in Hard Times: "Will work for rare books"

by Tom Congalton
On September 22, 2009, the Grolier Club held a day-long conference entitled "Books in Hard Times." The text that follows is a speech delivered there by Tom Congalton, one of three rare book dealers invited to speak.

Priding myself, as I do, on a majestic ignorance of bookselling history, I regret that I am unlikely to be able to provide you today with much of an historic overview of bookselling in hard times, beyond my own very personal experiences and observations.

In early 1987, I cast my fate to the wind and declared myself a full-time bookseller, after many years as a....
June 21, 2009

Technology and the Future of the Antiquarian Book Trade

by Dan Gregory

The following speech was presented at the 2008 ILAB Congress, Madrid. It was delivered to an international audience of professional antiquarian booksellers, but may be of interest to others as well.

Presidents, Committee Members, and Colleagues. I would like to congratulate the Asociación Ibérica de Librerias Anticuarias for organizing and hosting their first ILAB Congress. And I thank them for the opportunity to speak to you today. When Tom and Heidi Congalton invited me to join them here at the Congress, I happened to be reading Aristotle's Children, by Richard Rubenstein. It reminded me that Spain is a very appropriate...

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...
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...
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...
March 21, 2007

Reply of a Gaul of the Old Continent

by Alain Marchiset


The following essay is a response to John Wronoski's speech Young Booksellers, Young Books. The author, Alain Marchiset, is a witty and thoughtful French rare bookseller, and a former President of SLAM (Syndicat National de la Libraire Ancienne et Moderne), the French national affiliate of the ILAB. Alain represents a more European view of the future of the rare book trade. His response is provided here with his permission, and our gratitude.

Tom Congalton

Reply of a Gaul of the Old Continent to an Indian of the New World

The text of the lecture given by our colleague Mr...