Tag Archives: Antiquarian Book Fair

It’s Always Sunny in Sacramento

Our main lady, the lovely Kate Mitas, reports on the recent Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair. That’s not all… perhaps I should call it (for Tavistock Books, at least) the most recent and successful Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair. Stay tuned!

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By Kate Mitas

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m willing to bet that by now, if you’ve been following Tavistock’s less than stellar performance at the past three book fairs, you probably don’t really give a damn about the progress of this latest fair. All you really want to know is if we finally, finally managed to have a decent book fair, or if we’ve had to slink away with our tail between our legs yet again.

Now, if this were any other book fair, knowing that wouldn’t actually stop me from forcing you to sit through this entire blog, anyway, while I regaled you with comic misadventures and newbie impressions until, at the very last minute, revealing whether or not we’d succeeded. But just this once, I’ll spare you the suspense. 

Because this isn’t just any old book fair: at long last, and for the first time ever in my short antiquarian bookselling career, Tavistock Books actually had a good book fair.

Yeah, you read that right: we had a good book fair! We sold books! And we even made some money! Hurrah!

Well, that is to say, we mostly had a good book fair. And then again, we almost didn’t. Because, in fact, we nearly gave up before we began, and the good ship Tavistock, languishing in the doldrums for so long, seriously considered dropping out of the fair circuit altogether. 

See? There’s always a story to tell. 

So, for any who are still curious, procrastinating, or otherwise willing to fritter away a few more minutes of your time: here is your tale of book fair woe and triumph, as soberly and matter-of-factly told as I can manage right now.

Once upon a time, in a land rather a lot like this one, but slightly more drought-stricken, a wee lass of a bookseller-in-training traipsed off to Sacramento to work her first-ever booth at an antiquarian book fair. Let’s say, for the sake of this story, that it was a bright September afternoon in 2015, and that, although the hills and fields were brown and had been for some time, the sky was blue and cloudless and full of promise. This young bookseller and her not-so-young boss barreled up Interstate 80 in the shop’s trusty van, which was filled with what seemed like good candidates for a regional book fair: loads of Californiana and Western Americana, interesting ephemera, and, of course, helpings from some of the loveliest books in the shop’s specialties. The iron mesh door behind the front seats rattled quietly as they drove, and the side panels of the folded wooden bookcases in back occasionally let slip a muted clack whenever the van hit a bump. These sounds were oddly soothing to the young bookseller’s jangling nerves.

Our heroine was but five weeks into the antiquarian book trade, then, and ignorant of the sometimes cruel vagaries of the book fair circuit. She had high hopes for the shop’s success at the fair, though she kept them to herself, not wanting to jinx it. And yet, as perhaps a few of you may recall, those hopes were thoroughly quashed by the nearly unrelenting cacophony of crickets in the Tavistock booth that weekend. 

Three mournful, but plucky, blogs, two increasingly painful unsuccessful book fairs, and one wrecked van later, and the mood in the shop during the days leading up to this past weekend’s biannual Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair was decidedly grim. A kind of preliminary dread set in. There was talk of abandoning the fair circuit. All of our books looked crummy. Never mind that a second look might at them might steal our hearts all over again — no customer would want them. It rained all week, adding to the gloomy atmosphere. In short, we had the pre-fair blues.

Nevertheless, despairing naps and weeping under one’s desk are generally frowned upon at work, so, naturally, we went through the motions of packing and preparing. And while we were doing so, it occurred to me that if we kept on this way, we were definitely going to have another bad book fair. And I wasn’t having any of it, not this time.

“Hey, Vic,” I announced, “you know this is going to be my first successful book fair, right?” (This is true — you can ask him.)

The lucky title that perhaps played a hand in Tavistock Books' successful Sacramento fair! See it here>

The lucky title that perhaps played a hand in Tavistock Books’ successful Sacramento fair! See it here>

He seemed doubtful. And who can blame him? But instead of packing “The Dying Californian,” the songster that had served as my first Sacto fair’s sorry mascot, I decided to bring along our copy of Fred Fearnot and the Errand Boy; or, Bound to Make Money. Sure, maybe it was silly, but maybe it’d bring us a bit of much-needed luck, too. Plus, if things worked out, it’d make for a good blog title. “Kate Fearnot” has a certain ring to it, after all . . . 

Okay, if I’m honest, I can’t really take credit for the success that followed. Clouds continued to loom as we left the city, but the sun broke through around Vacaville. Thanks to Jim Kay’s tireless efforts, booth setup went smoothly, for the most part, and any flagging spirits were topped-up by free pizza in the afternoon. The company of what has become the usual crowd on the book-fair circuit was splendid, as always, and even Ms. P. (aka Margueritte Peterson) made an appearance, and may yet have room in her busy schedule for new clients for her social media/ catalogue design business. The crowd trickled in early Saturday morning, then grew quickly and remained steady throughout the day, and although not all of the booksellers I spoke with were happy, few seemed to regret having made the trek. At the Tavistock booth, we sold a range of material to both customers and dealers, ranging from a $9 children’s book (haggled down from $10 out of what, I’m sure, was merely compulsive bargaining) to considerably more expensive items, and everyone seemed happy with their purchases. Even the buying was pretty good for us.

Kate hasn't seen Vic so excited a book since she’s been here! He says he’s never seen a dedicated lending library binding! More details coming soon...

Kate hasn’t seen Vic so excited a book since she’s been here! He says he’s never seen a dedicated lending library binding! More details coming soon…

I wish I could say that it was a huge success, of course, making up for the preceding lackluster showings and then some. Certainly not enough to merit a Kate Fearnot blog title. Are they worth it then, these fairs? All that effort and agony, all the expense and risk just to gather, however briefly, with colleagues and book lovers of all stripes? Are they bonanzas, migratory communities, or refuges of a book trade that keeps losing physical stores? And what would we do, how would we swap knowledge and ideas and, it goes without saying, books, if we didn’t do book fairs?

Frankly, I don’t know the answers to these questions. What I do know is that I have a catalogue to get ready for next week, and a stack of cool things to catalogue for it, and a pile of fair items to finish putting away, and a tally sheet on my desk pointing out our modest profit, in black ink, for the first time. It feels an awful lot like being a bookseller.


Pride and Prejudice and Bookselling: Confessions from the 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair

This past weekend Team Tavistock (Vic Zoschak & Kate Mitas) braved the 49th Annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair. How was it, you ask? Well, we’ve asked Ms. Mitas and she kindly volunteered her thoughts on the fair. Find out below!

Team Tavistock! The lovely duo in all their book-loving glory. (Disclaimer: I told Vic to make this face right before taking this picture. He is a genial person. We promise.)

Team Tavistock! The lovely duo in all their book-loving glory. (Disclaimer: I told Vic to make this face right before taking this picture. He is a genial person. We promise.)

By Kate Mitas

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a bookseller in possession of a good book must be in want of a buyer. Book buyers being rather fickle creatures, however, and booksellers being notoriously short of cash, the art of uniting a book with its owner-to-be can be a delicate affair, engineered by the bookseller with the same gnawing anxiety and outsized hopefulness as that of a zookeeper trying to persuade members of an endangered species to mate. Spacious, but comfortable, environs are helpful in such instances, as are a plenitude of books, booksellers, and potential book buyers from around the globe, to increase the likelihood of a successful match. And, of course, lovely weather never hurts.

Enter the annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair.

New ABAA member (and our friend) Marc Kuritz of Churchill Book Collector smiles at the opening of the fair!

New ABAA member (and our friend) Marc Kuritz of Churchill Book Collector smiles at the opening of the fair!

Held in the Pasadena Convention Center this year, the largest antiquarian book fair in the country had all of these things going for it, and more. Well-lit and suitably grand, with plush grey carpeting covering the floor and dark, tasteful drapery dividing the booths down eight long aisles, the convention center housed over 200 dealers and some of their most magnificent stock, and did so with nary a hitch. The combined might of White Rain Productions and the dauntless ABAA volunteer committee, headed by Michael Thompson, ensured that everything from the easy load-in, to the well-stocked exhibitor snack room, to the requisite permits for the ABAA charity poker tournament were all taken care of before anyone could raise much of a fuss (okay, some disgruntled muttering was heard from time to time regarding the snack room, but that’s inevitable). Security was tight, snappily dressed, and both professional and friendly with the bookish crowd; the temperature inside, once the fair officially started, was neither too cool nor too hot. Attendance was predictably good, if not the clamoring hordes of collectors everyone would have preferred. In terms of operational efficiency, the general consensus seemed to be that the fair ran with exquisite smoothness.

Even I, still a relative newbie to the fair circuit, and a first-timer on this side of the counter at an ABAA fair, knew enough to be impressed by the well-oiled machinery underlying the event. The same sense of smoothness seemed to carry over into the Tavistock booth, as load-in – really nothing more strenuous than a quick drive down the ramp at the convention center parking garage, and then a stroll around the neighborhood while our books were brought up by the loading crews – turned into a luxuriously long setup, followed by a quick change of clothes before the crowd started spilling in on Friday afternoon. After that, it just came down to selling books — arguably, the most important part, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

None of this is to say that we didn’t have our usual share of book fair mishaps. For starters, our booth was missing a glass case, and we had to track it down before we could do much in the way of unpacking. Then the corner of the table supporting our two folding bookcases cracked and began to buckle overnight, which meant we had to get a new table in on Friday morning and redo everything on the cases (as you may have already guessed, by “we” here I mean “I”). My “fancy day” outfit demanded to be rectified at the last minute, and rightly so, and though I remembered to scrape the blue price stickers off the soles of my black heels before too many fair-goers had wandered in, the shoes I’d thought were a solid thrift store find turned out to be duds: part of the right heel broke off not long into that opening day, giving my already less than graceful heel-wearing gait an added surreptitious limp, and leading to the sad discovery that I’d left our Sharpie marker back at the shop.

Yet, this time around, it all felt, well, par for the course. Simply working the fair, my biggest one so far, my first ABAA fair even, seemed . . . normal. Which, quite frankly, was weird.

And which is why I now have a confession to make: I have been an antiquarian bookselling spy.

Not a spy for anyone, mind you — don’t sic ABAA security on me just yet. No, instead I have been a spy, of sorts, from the used and rare book world from whence I came, and where I spent the preceding eight years of my life in the book trade before moving to Tavistock. 

The used and rare market isn’t, of course, actually separate from the antiquarian trade. In fact, for some dealers, the two are very nearly one and the same: within the many permutations of the book business, there are plenty of antiquarian booksellers with open shops and a large quantity of general stock, just as there are plenty of used and rare booksellers with significant antiquarian stock. The distinction is in large measure a matter of how a bookseller defines herself, I suspect, and in which community she chooses to invest the majority of her energies, funds, and knowledge. (I also suspect that many of you have other, or better, definitions for these terms. Bear with me.)

In my case, the two bookstores I worked for had a far greater preponderance of used than rare material, a significant investment in and reliance on their local communities, and the kind of more limited dealings with collectors and institutions that makes me feel comfortable distinguishing them from the purely antiquarian trade. The demands and joys of running an open shop took precedence; material valued at more than a few thousand dollars was unlikely to pass through the doors. Yet, while I may not have learned the ins and outs of collating or the rigors of bibliographic description, I did learn what I still take to be the one of the most basic tenets of the trade: that the job of a bookseller is, simply, to put the right book in the right hands. 

That’s a tenet that’s easier to follow, however, when one is dealing primarily with the public, and can point to sales of $1.50 and $1500 on the same day as proof that a book’s value exists irrespective of the price tag on it. It strains credulity to make the same claim when the books you sell exclude all but the wealthiest pairs of hands.

Or so it has seemed sometimes, as, over the course of the past seven months, I have on the one hand been utterly delighted with some of the material that has crossed my desk and grown frankly callous about the prices attached to it, and yet, on the other hand, have found myself stalled at book fair booths or dinners with colleagues, making knee-jerk comparisons of the prices of things to my average annual income or the cost of the house it took my parents 30 years to pay off, and wondering what the hell I was doing there. Such comparisons do a rank disservice to everyone and everything involved, of course, and it seems likely that the authors of at least a few of the books in question, who surely knew some bookseller’s assistants in their time, would have been mortally offended at having their life’s lasting work held up to my meager income. But knowing that didn’t keep me from wondering. Was the antiquarian trade just about selling expensive books to rich people? Had I sold my bookselling soul for a living wage and the chance to actually research the material I cataloged?

If this sounds a bit like a form of snobbery, well, it is. Because the truth is, I was wrong. But being, as usual, a stubborn idiot, it took the largest antiquarian book fair in the country to convince me of that.

Some of the deceptive looking booksellers we know and love!

Some of the deceptive looking booksellers we know and love!

Antiquarian booksellers are a deceptive-looking lot, what with their general friendliness, bookish ways, frequently somewhat rumpled appearance, and ability to drink like fish at a moment’s notice. You might not appreciate at first glance the depths of trade knowledge and specialization honeycombing their businesses, which are, more often than not, simply themselves. And the same holds true of their booths at these book fairs: loving displays of beautiful and, yes, expensive books that reveal nothing of the boxes of dreck, smelly basements, second mortgages, years of self-education, and successful gambles that enabled those books to appear in all their bright glory on a glass shelf at a book fair somewhere. Until, one day, at, say, the 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair, you do.

Whether it was the fact that I recognized more of the items on display at this book fair for the truly amazing things they are, or the internationality of the affair, or the number of eager collectors, librarians, and other dealers poring over the stock, or the humbling amount of dealers who stopped by to offer their thoughts about their success or lack thereof at this fair and were, without fail, kind as ever to this newbie, it slowly dawned on me that the “right book, right hands” theory of bookselling could still apply in the antiquarian world. Each booth was a kind of sounding, showing the depths of a dealer’s knowledge, beckoning like-minded folk. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever have a collection myself, I gradually realized, but . . . if the opportunity arose to sell something as cool as some of the things I saw, expensive or not? Well, I’d be okay with that.

But what, you’re surely wondering, does any of this have to do how the good ship Tavistock fared? 

Much as I wish I could report my first successful book fair, I cannot. The official word here, in fact, is “soft,” and I’ll leave you to interpret that as you will. Groups of customers drifted up to the display cases like schools of minnows into the shade of a rock, and the gentlest greeting, even to someone else entirely, would send them skittering away. No big fish came by, and those medium fish that did bought lightly. Lots of things sold from the Discovery shelves of under $100 items; whether that translates to increased collecting or is simply an indication of economic stratification, remains to be seen. The aisles, which had been like pneumatic tubes propelling assistants from booth to booth with packages at the start of the fair, slowly turned to clogged thoroughfares of laden dealers grimly trying to ignore their aching feet as they lugged final piles of invoiced items to their colleagues up the way, and a few of those piles came to us, so the buying wasn’t too bad. But, again, the expenses of attending the fair weighed heavily, too heavily, against our anemic sales.

The plush carpeting was getting ripped up during load-out, exposing swathes of pale concrete beneath the luxurious facade. The draperies have surely been taken down and folded, the metal poles stacked in a supply closet somewhere; the security guards have taken off their suits and sunglasses, had beers, and moved on to other gigs. The transitory bibliomecca has moved on to other oases. And as we drove away from Pasadena early Monday morning in a disappointed funk, dreading the final tally, it occurred to me that at any given time, some bookseller, somewhere, was digging through a box, lugging a sign out to the sidewalk, putting a book in someone’s hand, and trying, always, to outsmart, out buy, and — invariably, incredibly — help out their colleague competitors. It’s an absurd profession in its way, and a noble one. And, in the end, we’re all just hustling, hustling, hustling to stay in the game.

Godspeed, friends.

And then... there's this and it makes us giggle.

       And then… there’s this and it makes us giggle.


Come to Pasadena, for There You’ll See…

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We are exhibiting at the Pasadena ABAA Fair! If you have a chance to come check out Booth 418 while you’re there (February 12th-14th at the Pasadena Convention Center), here are some of the goodies you can hope to find. See anything else on our site you’d be interested in perusing? Shoot us an email! We’d be happy to bring it down just for you.

Check out this 1st edition, inscribed copy of Clara Barton’s “Story of My Childhood” – published in 1907. Now housed in a custom red quarter-leather slipcase with marbled paper boards… As Barton is perhaps the most well-known nurse in American nursing history (organizing the American Red Cross and all), this is a must-have for any nursing collection! See it here>



Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.00.15 AMAn attractive, Near Fine set of Forster’s “The Life of Charles Dickens” – all first editions! Published between 1872 and 1874 by Chapman & Hall, these volumes are beautifully set in early 20th century three-quarter green morocco bindings and green cloth boards. Love Dickens? Look no further than here>






Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.00.50 AMFor the celebrity groupie in the Southern California crowd… we have a scarce cookery book published in 1936. “Favorite Recipes of Famous People” contains favorite recipes of, according to its compiler Felix Mendelsohn, “famous chefs and maitres, by stage folk and screen stars, by newspaper men, columnists, opera stars, musicians and leading household economists, in fact by glamorous personalities in every walk of life.” This cookery book only shows 4 holdings on OCLC! Get it while it’s hot>




Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 6.46.50 PMA book fair wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of library history! Have you seen our Catalogue of the Milford Library yet? This is a rare 19th C. catalogue from this small-town free library, formed in 1868. OCLC records no holdings of this edition (can you say “Score”?), noting only a sole holding of the library’s 1870 catalogue. The 3 page introduction provides a succinct history of earlier attempts at establishing local lending-library societies, etc. Interested? It is available to see here>




Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.04.45 AMThis Hardy Boys title, “The Short-Wave Mystery”, number 24 in the series, is in, according to Carpentieri’s reference, it’s “most collectible” format. This 3rd printing of the title has a frontis by Russell H. Tandy and is bound in maroon cloth with black topstain and pictorial endpapers. Colorful pictorial Dust Jacket is included! Are you a collector of children’s series books? Contact us – we can bring many! See “The Short-Wave Mystery” here>




Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 6.39.30 PMWho doesn’t love a good restaurant menu? Especially one where a big-mouth bass tells you to eat him! Check out this menu from New York’s McGinnis of Sheepshead Bay – “The Roast Beef King” (but also “Famous for Sea Food”). In 1943, a Roast Beef, Spinach and Mashed Potato dinner cost $1.45. Oh, the good old days… Drool & giggle here>


Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.05.13 AMAnd last but not least – our Fine Printing item! This broadside is a 1934 printing from San Francisco’s Grabhorn Press – one of only 100 copies. “To Albert Bender – Saint Patrick’s Night 1934” was written by Ella Young to Albert Maurice Bender, and has a woodcut headpiece by Valenti Angelo at the top. See it here! 


The Antiquarian Book World in 2016

Woohoo! It is almost 2016 and have you got a whirlwind year ahead of you! Interested in Book Fairs? Book events? Bibliophiles in general? The Antiquarian Book World has got you covered. Check out the most pressing book events (mainly CA or ABAA related) in early 2016 below!



Now until January 10th: If you haven’t caught it already, you have a few days left! The California Historical Society has hosted their current exhibition “City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World’s Fair” since January of 2015, and the closing day is January 10th of 2016! Get a viewing in while you still can… take it from someone who has seen the exhibition – it’s worth it!   http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/exhibitions/current_exhibitions/

January 9th & 10th: Greater Los Angeles Postcard & Paper Show – Glendale California. http://www.postcardshows.com/Glendale.php

January 25th (to April 25th): New exhibition at the Book Club of California in San Francisco! If you have never attended an exhibition at this prestigious club or thought of joining the ranks, you are missing out! The BCC hosts lovely and interesting functions and surely their new exhibition “Calligraphy and Poetry” is sure to impress!  http://www.bccbooks.org/


February 5th & 6th: San Francisco Book, Print & Paper Fair at the San Mateo County Event Center – San Mateo, California! This fair is close to our lovely shop… Just a ferry ride (or a long swim… just kidding you can also drive here) away! Please feel free to make an appointment and come see us when you’re around for the fair!   http://www.sfbookandpaperfair.com/

February 12th, 13th & 14th: The California International Antiquarian Book Fair (ABAA) – Pasadena, California. For those who don’t know, each year the ABAA oscillates between hosting the California ABAA Fair in Pasadena or the Bay Area. This year is Pasadena’s turn! Come down and show your support for the packed show of local, North American & International Booksellers! We’ll be there – even more a reason to come! http://cabookfair.com/index.php


March 11th, 12th & 13th: Florida Antiquarian Book Fair – St. Petersburg, FL. I have to plug this one because not only has Vic exhibited at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair before, but it is my home state! Don’t worry, alligators are more scared of you than you are of them…  http://floridabooksellers.com/

The Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair

The Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair

March 19th: Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair. This one is a must! For those of you who have never been to a book fair, this is a great starting fair to attend. Lots of local booksellers, fun-loving bibliophiles and sunshine… what more could you ask for? Read our past blogs on this fair to hear what it’s all about, then come and visit us!  http://www.sacbookfair.com/


April (We like to call it… Bookselling in a New York Minute):

April 7th, 8th, 9th & 10th: The ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair – Park Avenue, NY. Always a beautiful venue to behold, this fair boasts booksellers and book-lovers from all over the world, and never fails to deliver a spectacular event! Don’t believe us? We wouldn’t lie to you! http://www.nyantiquarianbookfair.com/

April 9th: The Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair / The Fine Press Book Fair – Lexington Ave, NY. One of the greatest things about the NY book fair are the numerous “shadow” fairs that go along with the ABAA’s shindig… check them out! You won’t be disappointed.  http://www.flamingoeventz.com/    http://www.fpba.com/fairs/newyork.html

April 9th: The New York City Book & Ephemera Fair. Again… how many fairs do you need to have happening before you agree to go to New York and have your fill of antiquarian books?! I believe “Shop till you Drop” is the phrase needed here!  http://www.antiqueandbookshows.com/


To find out more throughout the year, visit:

www.bookfairs.com or the ABAA list of events at www.abaa.org/events/  to find more to explore!



The Rare Books of Boston

November 15, 2013 kicks off the 36th Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair! The city has played a vital role in America’s history, and in the history of the book. Here’s a look at some items in our collection that tie in with Boston’s rich past.

Red Sox Memorabilia

Red-SoxFew sports fans are more loyal than Red Sox fans. The Boston team was founded in 1901 as one of the American League’s eight charter franchises. For seven seasons, the team actually had no official name. They were referred to simply as “Boston,” “Bostonians,” or “Boston Americans,” while newspapers gave them more creative nicknames like “the Beaneaters” or “Plymouth Rocks.” In 1908, team owner John I Taylor chose the name “Red Sox,” a nod to the red socks that would become symbols of the team. Chicago journalists had started using “sox” as a headline-friendly shorthand for “stockings” already, and Taylor liked the name. But the team initially didn’t even wear red socks, but dark blue ones! And a Cincinnati team was actually the first to call iRed-Sox-Deweytself the Red Stockings. The team were members of the pioneering National Association of Base Ball Players and hired their first fully professional team in 1869, but the club folded after the 1870 season.

Boston Red Sox memorabilia is part of America’s rich and exciting tradition of baseball. We’re pleased to offer Boston Official Programs and Score Cards from 1957 and 1958. Another interesting item is AG Dewey Company’s Genuine Dodge Davis Flannel sample book (1971). The company got its start in 1936 in Quechee, New Hampshire. Throughout the 1930’s AG Dewey Company made the uniforms for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and other teams.

Boston Training School for Nurses

The Boston Training School for Nurses was only the second of its kind in the country, preceded by the Bellevue school in New York. At the time, nursing was still not viewed as a vocation that required much training; women would often take up the career simply due to financial need, and in many cases nurses had no special qualifications to recommend them. In New York, this resulted in patients’ immense suffering at the hands of inept nurses. No such condition emerged in Boston, however; nurses there were considered some of the best in the nation. Thus the push to start a training school met with some resistance; why would good nurses need further training?

Eventually, however, nurses and doctors saw the potential advantages of such a program. The Boston Training School for Nurses was established in 1873. It was affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital and eventually evolved into the Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing. The organization published annual reports, which are quite enlightening regarding nursing history. This copy of the report from 1892, in very good condition, shows us how the organization and nursing have evolved in only a few decades.

Dinners for Dickens

Charles-Dickens-Boston-1842Charles Dickens made two visits to the United States, first in 1842 and again in 1867. Boston proved an important city during both tours. In 1842, Dickens arrived to find himself already quite the celebrity, and his presence was in great demand. The “Young Men of Boston” had already extended an invitation to Dickens before he’d even left England. The dinner in his honor, documented by Thomas Gill and William English of the Morning Post, was held on February 1, 1842. Dickens made an almost fatal move during the course of the evening: he introduced the concept of an international copyright law. Dickens failed to gain the support of fellow authors as he’d anticipated. Instead he sparked a battle with the American press, who accused Dickens of creating a “huge dissonance” by broaching the subject of international copyright at such an inappropriate occasion. Dickens would further disenchant his American audience when he published American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewitt, both of which painted America in a less than favorable light.

Charles-Dickens-Boston-1867But Dickens’ genius soon won over his American audience once again. Swayed by the promise of £10,000 from a group of Boston intellectuals, Dickens headed back to America in 1867. Prior to his departure, a public banquet was held in the author’s honor at London’s Freemason’s Hall, on November 2, 1867. A record of the meeting was made, which includes speeches by Dickens, Lytton, Trollope, and other luminaries. Dickens’ second visit to the US proved a dizzying tour, jam packed with readings and public appearances. During one of his early appearances, he noted that both he and America were much changed since his first visit and vowed to issue appendices to American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewitt to temper his critical tone towards the US.

News from a Moving Train

In May, 1870, the Boston Board of Trade journeyed over 3,000 miles to San Francisco to meet with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. During the trip, twelve issues of the Trans-Continental were published on a Gordon press located in the baggage car. The paper reported the normal business of the train and its passengers, along with other news. The first issue, for instance, reports that the Athletics of Philadelphia beat Harvard Base Ball Club 20-8. The newspaper’s office was located in the train’s second car. The train was also equipped with “two well-stocked libraries, replete with choice works of fiction, history, poetry, etc.” Each issue recorded a different locale on the masthead. The newspaper is generally regarded as the first newspaper to be printed on a moving train.

A Political Discourse on Abolition

Lydia-Childs_AbolitionBoston was a hotbed for abolitionism. One Bostonian’s abolitionist work, though denounced at the time of publication, is now recognized as a groundbreaking tour de force in American abolitionist literature. Lydia Maria Francis Child published An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans in 1833 and immediately shocked even fellow abolitionists. Unlike her colleagues, Child eschewed religious or scriptural justifications for ending slavery. She also ignored traditional, emotional arguments about the cruelties of slavery. This was because Child had a larger and more ambitious objective; she sought to end discrimination against free African Americans. Such a stance was hardly popular, which Child had predicted in her preface, saying, “Though I expect ridicule and censure, I cannot fear them.” Child’s tone and style of argument at the time were seen as more masculine than feminine, which didn’t ameliorate reception of her work. Her book sales plummeted, and the Boston Athenaeum even rescinded her free library privileges.

But Child’s work would prove incredibly influential in the movement, making it a desirable addition to a collection on abolition, African American history, and the history of ideas. The book is relatively scarce in the trade; only three copies have appeared at auction in the last thirty years. The last copy, sold in 2000, was imperfect. This edition of An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans is bound in the original publisher’s cloth and has the errata slip tipped in. All in all, it’s a very good copy of a hard-to-find work.

Boston’s place in history intersects with the world of rare books in so many ways! What’s the most interesting item of Bostoniana in your collection?