Category Archives: Events

We Have the New Americana

Happy 4th of July! In honor of our great nation’s Independence Day, we thought we would share with our loyal followers some of our newest and/or most notable Americana items. What better time of year to round out your collection? And don’t forget to check in next week for the 20th Anniversary of our shop! An interview with our fearless leader and a special surprise for Tavistock fans – stay tuned!

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This Evolution of a State or Recollections of Old Texas Days is by a local Texan blacksmith – Noah Smithwick – who moved to Texas in 1827 and served in the war for Texas independence and later on as a Ranger. Though he left the state in 1861 due to his sympathies for the Union (sorry, Confederates!) he was able to leave behind a work that Dobie has called “The best of all books dealing with life in early Texas” and Jenkins notes as “the most fun to read”. Don’t miss out! This specially bound version of the edition can be seen here>

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This beautifully illustrated poster from United Air Lines dates back to 1968! Depicting a colorful and intricate (and distinctly American) ship in the Boston harbor – one can only wonder if this was successful at getting civilians to visit the beautiful city. One thing is for sure and certain… we are wishing it was time for the Boston Book Fair just by looking at this! See it here>

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This Compilation of all the Treaties between the United States and the Indian Tribes Now in Force as Laws is a necessary addition to any collection dealing with Native American history. This a 1st edition, as published in its original binding in 1873, with a very intriguing provenance… for it carries the bookplate of Mr. J. B. Milam, first principal Chief of the Cherokee nation. Intrigued? See it here>

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Our old archiving wiz Kate Mitas recently published a series of blogs detailing her experiences in cataloguing archival material! We have seen a rise in archival interest in the trade over the last many years, and truly enjoy when an interesting collection comes across our desks. Here we have the archive of a Pennsylvania man, Adam Atkinson’s purchases of land in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio in the early to mid 1800′s! The letters within provide a unique view of western expansion, charting quite literally western expansion of a single community. Of note in this collection as well are the number of documents pertaining to Atkinson’s attempts to locate surviving Revolutionary War soldiers or their descendants in order to purchase unclaimed Revolutionary War bounty land grants! Read more on this fascinating collection here>

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 7.29.31 PMI know I often include execution pamphlets in blogs like this one (what can I say… some of us have strange minds!), but this one is one of the most interesting we have seen! This an 1821 broadside detailing the execution of Stephen Merrill Clark, who was convicted of intentionally setting fire to a stable owned by one Mrs. Pheobe Cross, which in turn consumed the house of Andrew Frothingham, Esq. Now this rare broadside will be a favorite with parents the world over (bear with me here) as Clark’s dying exhortation contains the following: “My the youth who are present take warning by my sad fate, not to forsake the wholesome discipline of a Parent’s house. Had I taken the advice of my parents I never should have come to this untimely end”. Imagine that! See this rare in the trade item here>

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And, last but not least! As a reminder to all of you who use July 4th as an excuse to party hard (not that we are excluding ourselves from this)… a piece of temperance reminder! This archival book contains over 400 pages of clippings, letters and leaflets all about the Temperance movement and Prohibition in the early 20th century! Compiled by a Pomona, California native Mrs. S. C. W. Bowen (presumed), this catalogue of prohibition is sure to set you on your toes… See it here>

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The Northern California Chapter Quarterly Meeting

By Margueritte Peterson

This past Tuesday the 21st of March saw the members of the Northern California Chapter of the ABAA at their Quarterly meeting, this time held in Walnut Creek at the elegant Massimo Ristorante restaurant. Tavistock Books had three in attendance, Commander Vic Zoschak, trusty Aide-de-Camp Kate Mitas, and myself! There were 20+ members and guests in attendance, and not only was there a dinner, but as the meeting was held in downtown Walnut Creek, new ABAA member Laurelle Swan held a reception prior to the meeting at her store, Swan’s Fine Books, just a couple of blocks away. On the docket to be discussed at this meeting in particular were some important items – the recent California ABAA and Shadow fairs, our new rep (John Crichton) from the Northern California Chapter in New York, and some very important news on the AB228 law that has severely hurt and hindered many California booksellers. Of course, the evening would not have been complete without some hilarious comments (and some “statements”, too) by many of our local California booksellers. So happy to have been in attendance with a great meal, wonderful conversation and hilarious one-liners – some shared here for your enjoyment along with a few images below!

  • “When the women dressed in drag, married women and fooled them with devices”
  • “She has entered the pit of hell
  • “Uh, no… find another sucker”
  • Insurance fire
  • “Yes, I would probably be banned from China if they ever found out”
  • “I’d like to make some comments if I may… and then make some statements too…”
  • “Everybody was talking about it in MY neighborhood…”

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Beware the Ides of March Today, Folks… But What on Earth are the “Ides of March”?

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By Margueritte Peterson

Have you ever heard anyone say “Beware the Ides of March”? I have known this phrase my whole life, and even known that it speaks of March 15th. However, I have never truly known the whole story behind the Ides or why it was something akin to a Friday the 13th – a date to be feared and treated carefully. So what began a public fear of this date? Is it something we should truly beware? Allow me to answer your questions!

The Ides of March was a date in the Ancient Roman Calendar. Their years used to begin with what we now know as the month of March, and the holidays celebrated within the month are commonly regarded as different New Years celebrations. “Ides” happened every month, however, as they were an observance of the full moon and usually on the 13th or 15th every month, and March was just one of the many. That being said, you don’t ever hear anyone say “Beware the Ides of September” – do you? So what happened to bring March’s Ides into question? Well, the assassination of Julius Caesar, and a pithy and dramatic line from none other than William Shakespeare, of course!

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 11.15.39 AMCaesar was, according to legend, warned by a seer to “Beware the Ides of March”. This was followed by Caesar throwing it gently back in the seers face while on the way to the Theatre of Pompey in 44 B.C. on March 15th, when he joked that the Ides of March had come and nothing bad had happened, and the seer replied with “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.” – meaning that the worst was yet to come. Caesar was then assassinated by almost 60 conspirators led by Brutus and Cassius at the meeting of the senate – an event which sparked civil war and led to the creation of the Roman Empire and dissolution of the Roman Republic. Shakespeare, a master of creating phrases that live on in the minds of his audience, must have known that by dramatizing such a famous occasion he would be inducing a world of fear surrounding the 15th of March! But is there any truth to the fear? Well, take a look yourself! Here are what the Smithsonian deems the top 10 events in history that took place on March 15th that coincide with the fear of the day. 

1. Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 B.C.

Conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus stab dictator-for-life Julius Caesar to death before the Roman senate. Caesar was 55.

2. A Raid on Southern England, 1360

A French raiding party begins a 48-hour spree of rape, pillage and murder in southern England. King Edward III interrupts his own pillaging spree in France to launch reprisals, writes historian Barbara Tuchman, “on discovering that the French could act as viciously in his realm as the English did in France.”

3. Samoan Cyclone, 1889

A cyclone wrecks six warships—three U.S., three German—in the harbor at Apia, Samoa, leaving more than 200 sailors dead. (On the other hand, the ships represented each nation’s show of force in a competition to see who would annex the Samoan islands; the disaster averted a likely war.)

4. Czar Nicholas II Abdicates His Throne, 1917

Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and, in July 1918, executed before a firing squad.

5. Germany Occupies Czechoslovakia, 1939

Just six months after Czechoslovak leaders ceded the Sudetenland, Nazi troops seize the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, effectively wiping Czechoslovakia off the map.

6. A Deadly Blizzard on the Great Plains, 1941

A Saturday-night blizzard strikes the northern Great Plains, leaving at least 60 people dead in North Dakota and Minnesota and six more in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A light evening snow did not deter people from going out—“after all, Saturday night was the time for socializing,” Diane Boit of Hendrum, Minnesota, would recall—but “suddenly the wind switched, and a rumbling sound could be heard as 60 mile-an-hour winds swept down out of the north.”

7. World Record Rainfall, 1952

Rain falls on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion—and keeps falling, hard enough to register the world’s most voluminous 24-hour rainfall: 73.62 inches.

8. CBS Cancels the “Ed Sullivan Show,” 1971

Word leaks that CBS-TV is canceling “The Ed Sullivan Show” after 23 years on the network, which also dumped Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason in the preceding month. A generation mourns.

9. Disappearing Ozone Layer, 1988

NASA reports that the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere has been depleted three times faster than predicted.

10. A New Global Health Scare, 2003

After accumulating reports of a mysterious respiratory disease afflicting patients and healthcare workers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, the World Health Organization issues a heightened global health alert. The disease will soon become famous under the acronym SARS (for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

Now, though I am not at all convinced that the cancelling of the “Ed Sullivan Show” deserves to be on a list alongside the disappearing Ozone layer or the assassination of Julius Caesar (no matter how popular it was), but I’ll bite. It certainly seems like some tragic world events have taken place on this day in history. Then again… tragic events take place every day in history. What about the 26th of December, 2004, when 280,000 people died in the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami? Or the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York? What about every school shooting, sinking ships, genocides around the world? Surely other days could be found that have known numerous tragic events, just like the Ides of March, throughout history. 

In any case, perhaps it is best to keep your wits about you today, and hope that all turns out well! What do you believe? 

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Fair-ly Blue in the Face… That’s a Wrap, Everybody!

The entrance to the fair!

The entrance to the fair!

By Margueritte Peterson

Well, another year has come and passed us by. Another Book Fair has come and gone. I would venture to say not just any book fair, of course, but the ABAA’s 50th California International Antiquarian Book Fair, to be precise. Despite no longer being an antiquarian bookseller personally, I still attend the California ABAA fairs to see such an amazing group of people in a fantastic setting. Without a doubt, the ABAA’s California Fair is a beautifully set-up fair where one can find all manner of items. From incunabula to amazing pop-up miniatures – modern firsts to Hollywood movie posters! And let’s not forget the Tavistock Books Booth with an array of items from Dickens to Americana! Everyone can find something that suits them at the ABAA Fairs (whether or not they can afford it is a different question entirely). 

IMG_20170212_150408However, since I’m now attending the fair as an outsider, it is difficult for me to remark on certain aspects of interest to other booksellers and those attending other fairs around the country. In terms of attendance, I was there on both Friday evening and Sunday afternoon and turn-out seemed steady and flowing. It was not often that I saw booths occupied solely by only their manager or owner. There was a healthy number of booksellers as well! Over 200 exhibitors signed up for and exhibited at the fair, and all that I spoke to said that, in terms of sales, it was a success (which is bookseller lingo usually means that they made the money they spent getting to and exhibiting at the fair back… so at least there’s that!). To help with some of the questions specific to exhibiting booksellers, I got a bit of info from the Tavistock Team – Vic and Kate:

Q: How painless was set-up and take-down as compared to other fairs you have exhibited at recently, especially compared to last year’s Pasadena ABAA Fair?

Setup was rather drawn-out for us, though that was partly our fault — our original booth design looked better on paper, and it took a while to rearrange the various cases. Then electrical was slow to get all the booths wired, and didn’t get to our row until late Friday morning. It’s hard to get everything situated just right when you can’t really see what you’re doing (or how clean the glass is!), and we were still futzing right up until the fair opened. But after our travails, we got it finished in time!

Q: What were sales like? Was it a profitable fair for Tavistock Books?

We’re happy to report that the good ship Tavistock stayed afloat. It wasn’t a great fair, but it wasn’t a bad one, either. Given our sometimes less-than-stellar track record, we’re not going to complain, in fact, as Vic has been saying, “We’re OK with OK!”

Q: Was turnout as grand as you expected it to be? Two years ago at the ABAA fair there were reportedly quite a few thousand people. Was it a similar experience this year?

Other booksellers reported aisles too packed to walk down, so we presume the turnout was high. Our location [on the corner of the exhibitor space, across from the Bancroft Library’s wonderful exhibit of California fiction] never seemed to get that kind of traffic, unfortunately. Though maybe that’s just a case of the cash box being greener on the other side of the curtains?

Q: What was the overall bookseller attitude toward the fair? Two years ago many were quite skeptical of holding the fair in Oakland, but the sales and turnout cured their skepticism! Was there any anxiety over how this year’s fair would hold up to the past in the bookseller community?

From what we’ve heard so far, it sounds like just about everyone is happy with how the fair went. Given the unusual and somewhat bizarre array of circumstances working against this fair’s success — the proximity of the New York fair, the recent enactment of California’s new law about signed material [AB 1570], the Mission Impossible-style theft from a London Caladex facility of three booksellers’ wares before shipment to the fair, and the emergency landing of a plane bearing another bookseller’s books in the remote arctic en route to California — that’s saying a lot. Kudos to all involved, and a big “thank you” to fair coordinator Michael Hackenberg for his tireless efforts, as well as all the good folks at White Rain Productions!

Though you wouldn't know it looking at them, these two have pains shooting up their legs and out their eyeballs!

Though you wouldn’t know it looking at them, these two have pains shooting up their legs and out their eyeballs!

The ABAA Fair coming only a week after the Pasadena Book, Print, Photo & Paper Fair offers a wonderful twofer for out of town booksellers and customers, but in all truthfulness, it can be quite stressful on the booksellers themselves. You would never know it to look at the smiling faces behind the beautifully-arranged display cases, but by the Sunday of the second fair there is more than one smiling face masking an exhaustion only known by those who spend whole days in a row on their feet being charming. Oftentimes, people who don’t know antiquarian bookselling think of it as a somewhat lonely job – sitting in a dark corner sniffing dust-covered leather tomes and muttering to yourself in between inhaling on your pipe – but despite the fact that at times it is a solitary life (and often preferred that way), most people don’t understand that the level of sociality experienced in the few days of a book fair can amount to the equivalent of months’ worth of gabbing by the water cooler in an office setting. Book Fairs are an amazing place to really see what the sellers are made of… they are cool under pressure, they are charming even if their sales are down the toilet, they smile even if they have pain shooting up their legs and out their eyeballs!

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Michael Thompson of Boreas Fine Art showing some of his trickiest and most beautiful pieces!

In terms of interesting items at the fair, a few things that caught my eye were the colorful miniatures at new-ABAA member (and friend to Tavistock Books) Kim Herrick’s booth for her business The Book Lair, and the larger-than-life art books shown to me by Boreas Fine Art’s Michael Thompson. Not to mention that even in the Tavistock Books booth something fun caught my eye… a circa 1850 Gold Scale used in the California Gold Rush – in its original manufacturer’s wooden case! Now that is something you don’t see every day! 

 

 

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Vic giving his Book Collecting 101 speech at the fair on Sunday!


A few events also stuck out in both attendee and exhibitor minds alike, as the ABAA Fairs always put on interesting and educational seminars and receptions. Alongside other seminar speakers like Western Americana-expert Gary F. Kurutz and William Blake specialist John Windle, our very own Vic Zoschak gave his usual two seminars (usual because they are helpful and beloved by all) Book Collecting 101 and What’s This Book Worth? on Sunday afternoon. I stopped in on these speeches (that I personally witnessed at the ABAA California Book Fair in 2013) and can say with certainty that they are an absolute necessity for those starting out in the trade or in the antiquarian book-buying world and are unsure of how or where to begin. On Friday evening the trade also held a Women in Bookselling reception for the growing number of ladies involved in the book business! Now, along with the socializing of the day and the bookseller dinners in the evening… a full weekend was on everyone’s schedule! And, as usual, the booksellers we know and love handled it with unbelievable grace and charisma. And now, let us return to our dark corners to catalogue new fair finds and smoke our pipes in peace. 

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Celebrating Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week… with an Antiquarian Spin

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By Margueritte Peterson

February 1st marks the beginning of Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week! Now, we’ve written several blogs on some of our favorite children’s book authors, but what we haven’t done in a while is take a look at some of our most popular antiquarian children’s literature items! We thought we’d take a little tour through some of our inventory and see how we can celebrate this week of Children’s literature with some… antiquarian flair!

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 11.00.11 AMThe beginning of what we know today as Children’s Literature is commonly attributed to authors around the mid to late 19th century, with authors like Charles Dodgson, Edward Lear and Rudyard Kipling paving the way for fantastical and nonsensical Children’s Literature – more often than not written for the pure enjoyment of children. However, before true “Children’s Literature” existed, the writing for the young was more didactic in nature, always teaching a skill or a moral lesson (sometimes with even an implied punishment for failure to learn the lesson provided). This 1806 “Young Child’s A-B-C or First Book” is a Children’s chapbook teaching the A-B-C’s in Hornbook style – with images of items beginning with the letter in question. It is a first printing of this chapbook, rare in the trade and in fairly nice condition for its age! See it here.

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Almanacks began to appear in the 1800s as well, with one popular type being Kate Greenaway’s yearly ones for Children. Though these continued to have a sense of didacticism in them, as they were a fount of knowledge and information, fun colored hand-drawn images of small children in fashionable clothing made these little books a bit different from their earlier counterparts. Our 1886 Almanack (published in 1885) is a clear representation of the Kate Greenaway publications, with a scarcely seen 19th century dust jacket still intact. See it here.

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 11.02.11 AMIn the 1900s we begin to see more and more child-oriented literature, such as naturalist and animal illustrator Cecil Aldin’s “The White Puppy Book”. This book in particular contains 25 illustrations (a clear distinction of the rise of literature for the children’s enjoyment), of which 12 are full-page illustrations. This illustrator used his skills to bring enjoyment to children with this book, with humorous images of a white puppy. See it here

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Skipping ahead to 1955, we see the popular Children’s Series books at peak demand. Edward Stratemeyer had formed his syndicate in 1905, and series books like Tom Swift, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys had been favored by the young for decades. One of our favorite series that doesn’t (in our humble opinion) receive enough acclaim for its creativity and individuality are the Freddy books! Our 1st edition of “Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars” is one – the Freddy series including stories of a fun-loving pig that tries desperately to go on many different adventures. They are illustrated intertextually with brightly colored and humorous Dust Jackets. See this item here

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 11.02.35 AMAlmost every adult in the United States knows the Dick and Jane series to help teach children to read with humorous lines and repetition. The series was iconically illustrated by artists such as Eleanor Campbell and Robert Childress, and though first appearing in the 1930s remained popular ever since, even being reissued in 2003. The iconic phrase “See Spot Run!” comes from this series! A set of 16 scarce reading cards from 1962 can be found here

So how else can you celebrate Children’s Author and Illustrator week without splurging on a neat antiquarian item? Well, whether you are a parent, a teacher, a bookseller or a librarian, here are a few ideas!

TALK with a librarian or a local children’s bookseller. They can recommend the perfect books for yours and your children’s age or interests!

READ with friends and family. Reading together is fun and helps create enthusiastic, strong readers. It’s never too late to become a reader!

VISIT independent bookstores and children’s specialty bookstores and learn about a new (or long gone, in our case) children’s author today!

And visit the Children’s Author’s Network for more ideas on spreading the Kid Lit love this year! 

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Boston or Bust! One Bay-Area Bookseller’s Look at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair (Said Bookseller Being our Very Own Vic Zoschak)

By Vic Zoschak

If it’s the second weekend in November, I must be in Boston.  Wait, I was in Boston last week, late October…?  Yes, this year, due to a date conflict at the Hynes, the Boston fairs were right in the middle of the 2016 World Series.  Can you imagine the craziness in town if the Sox had beat the Indians [who are looking pretty tough this post-season] and then the Jays…?  Hey, it’s bad enough as it is with a few hundred [thousand?] booksellers, collectors & librarians running around the Back Bay.

So yes, Wednesday October 26th, found yours truly boarding a direct United flight, SFO – BSO.  My usual [bad] luck took a vacation, and the flight departed [more or less] on time, arriving right around dinner time.  Which I had at the conveniently-located restaurant next to my hotel, Rooster Bistro.  Totally forgettable.  Totally.

A good night’s sleep suppressed that memory, and when Thursday dawned, I made my way to the North Bennett School in the company of Laurelle Swan [Swan’s Fine Books, Walnut Creek CA], an ABAA scholarship recipient to that day’s ABAA/RBS Educational Seminar.  A joint effort, this year 30 bibliophiles gathered to hear the likes of David Whitesell, Terry Belanger, Todd Pattison, Don Lindgren & Nina Musinsky speak about their respective areas of expertise.  I, while there that morning to welcome those 30, was not a seminar registrant this year.  So once all had departed for their designated classrooms, I departed for Brattle Book Shop, 9 West Street.  On arrival, I immediately headed for the 3rd floor [Rare Books].  For those not ever having had the pleasure, Brattle gets lots of books.  Lots.  And Ken frequently pencils bookseller-friendly prices on the flyleaf.  And, this week there was a 50% sale in effect, which began on Monday.  [Note to self: fly out earlier next year].  Yes, I soon expect parcel(s) to arrive from Brattle [as do, I’m sure, hundreds of other booksellers].

Thursday night, traditionally, is the night for the meeting of the ABAA Board of Governors.  This year was no different, and we convened at the nearby Brasserie Jo.  The meeting was filled with typical ‘governing’ administrative matters, which I only mention here, because as part of the meeting, the board approved 7 new ABAA members, of which 5 will be noted here, for, in the past, I have often crossed paths with these fine folk: Kim Herrick, Laurelle Swan, Andy Langer, Michael Thompson & Abby Schoolman.  Congrats to you all!

broadsideAs is the custom at the Boston fair, Friday night 5 pm rang the opening bell.  I, like many others, made my way in & started visiting folks I knew…  and quickly realized it was downright hot in the hall!  I don’t know the gate, but if ambient temperature reflects occupancy, it was well attended!  I recorded but a single purchase that night, but hey, if, as was the case here, it’s an unrecorded 19th C. adventist broadside, I’m [very] ok with that.  Thank you John.  My book scouting continued the next morning at the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Fair.  As said elsewhere, “the incomparable Peter Luke snared most of my attention (not to mention funds) with such great items as this 19th C. execution broadside.”

Saturday night.  Why does everything gets scheduled Saturday night?   The Grolier reception.  RBS gathering.  Trivia night.  What to do?  Well, in this case, since I had a Grolier nominee in the works, that got some time.  As did the nearby BSO, which played Mozart & Bartok.  My advice, skip the Bartok should it ever come up.  

An image Vic nabbed at the BSO!

An image Vic nabbed at the BSO!

Sunday, my luck returned true to form…  United 477 was 2 hours late departing Boston.  I shouldn’t complain too much however, as the reason for the ATC induced delay was rain in San Francisco.  We need it.  As I need Boston.  It’s a great fair, in a great town, and I always come away with some great items.  Next year, it’s in November, after the World Series.  So no dilemma about where to be when the Giants are playing … whomever [the Sox?  If so, then I’ll be in Boston again in October!].  In either case, see you there.

PS.  Yes, I know, I need to take more pictures.  I’ll ask Greg for lessons.

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The Migratory Habits of Booksellers

By Kate Mitas

Ahh, book fair season is upon us once more: when booksellers of every stripe take to the skies and highways of America in search of fresh resources and temporary bibliophilic nesting grounds. It’s one of the book trade’s enduring mysteries, and a sight to behold. Drawn by forces scientists have not yet managed to explain — collective memory, blind professional instinct, shifts in the earth’s magnetic field, or merely the prospect of good food and drink with colleagues — flocks of booksellers converge for weekends at a time in cities and towns across the country, clogging bar stools and sharing vast quantities of hugs, trade knowledge and alcohol. Here, they perform the time-honored ritual of artfully displaying their brightest finds for local bibliophiles and librarians to admire, in the hopes of attracting paying customers and thus ensuring continued survival. It’s an improbable business model in the best of times, and the second decade of the 21 st century is not, alas, the best of times. It’s hard to know these days if exhibiting at book fairs is increasingly an exercise in magical thinking — an evolutionary failure to adapt, with portents of incipient dodo-ism – or an increasingly necessary means of making available the real, tactile wonder of books (and ephemera, etc.) and advocating for the pleasures of owning them.

Setting up!

Setting up!

In a bizarre reversal, Tavistock Books kicked off the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair in style and with a degree of hope, toasting a decent showing at the Sacramento fair and our just-released catalogue with a glass of champagne in the American Express lounge at SFO. Contrary to last year’s comedy of bad luck, no van wrecks preceded our departure, and, though we didn’t know it yet, no luggage would be lost en route. Our books, along with those of a whopping 14 other California booksellers, were already waiting at the venue, thanks to the combined might and keen packing skills of road warriors Brad Johnson (The Book Shop) and Jesse Rossa (Triolet Books). If the décor of the Amex lounge – typical neutral airport fare with an upscale twist, backed by a wall-length display behind the bar composed of old 1940s-style suitcases, radios and cheap “antique” books (of the World Book Encyclopedia variety), its warm shades of red and yellow the only color in the place – hinted at an ominous book nostalgia underway around us, we chose to disregard it. Besides, we’d already begun drinking before noon.

As usual, Louis Collins was running a tip-top operation once we got to Seattle, complete with roving bands of equipment crews and free coffee and pastries for exhibitors. The venue was hot, as is always the case, but a brisk pre-fair business left many dealers looking pleased, if glistening. In yet another odd reversal, this time I found myself offering occasional tips to fellow assistant and booth-mate Jeremy Reidel, of Books Tell You Why, doing an admirable job of setting up his first solo booth display. The inevitable rain the following day did nothing to dispel the crowds of fairgoers, given an extra boost by the Ephemera Society, and even Sunday brought a significant number of people into the fair. And, through it all, strangely enough, the Tavistock booth stayed relatively busy. We weren’t selling things hand over fist, to be sure, but we kept selling things: to collectors, institutions, old customers, fellow booksellers, all day Saturday and, to a lesser extent, on Sunday, too. All in all, it was a frankly surreal turn of events. Had the good ship Tavistock finally broken its bad luck streak?

To some extent, astonishing though it may be to admit: yes. Unlike many at the fair, it seems, we had good sales this time around, or at least good enough to cover our expenses and cost of goods and make a little profit, to boot. The buying was decent, and we walked away from a pre-fair Sunday morning trip to Taylor Bowie’s shop loaded with armfuls of great new cookery material. Not to mention this lovely eye-catching poster, scouted by Vic in the first few minutes of set-up and soon to be catalogued (contact us for details if interested):

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I even found a book for myself . . . from our own booth, much to Vic’s endless delight, which I eventually bought after hiding it from the customers all morning. As Vic has been fond of telling people, however, we probably made somewhere around $1.38 an hour – and that’s not including potential missed sales from the shop being closed, the costs of repairing at least one book that didn’t weather the journey and extra handling, etc. So did we really come out ahead, in the end?

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All dressed up!

I’d like to think there’s more to it than just number-crunching. That, in some incalculable way, discussing Stephen Greenblatt with a long-time Seattle-area collector branching into Renaissance studies, or helping a new customer find just the right early nursing books for her research, or getting a whirlwind lesson in medieval paleography from Kait Manning (Philip Pirages) and being schooled in maritime journals by Greg Gibson (Ten Pound Island Book Co.), or simply being part of a physical, non-virtual book presence in the life of a community once a year, amounts to something. It’s too damn fun not to.

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