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June 2013 – Russian Hill Bookstore

10 Jun

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Bibliophile unbound

June 10, 2013 | By |

Bibliomania is the love of books. It is NOT a disease. Quite unlike the fond appellation put to those fuzzy book-lovers who devour cheap paperbacks and unwanted bin books: The Bookworm. These hunched creatures collect (collect!) beastly remainders and self-published “novels” while breaking the spines and creasing the pages with indelicate paws and indiscriminate habits. The Bookworm pursues the gross content found upon the deflowered pages of such dog-eared ephemera. Imagine! The Bibliophile isn’t interested in such defilement. The Bibliophile is an aesthete. He is an admirer. It is of no concern to the Bibliophile that, upon release from captivity, there is no reconciliation between Prometheus and Jupiter in Shelley’s four-act lyrical drama. The bibliophile is an admirer from afar. What is of concern are the points. The points! Oh, it is much too difficult to describe to the low-brow masses the delicate and subtle beauty of the points. Attempt to describe the sunset on your last day of existence, and you will know the difficulty of describing the criteria demanded of a First Edition, First Issue. It must be sufficient, then, to simply list a series of words, much like Shelley attempting to locate two words that rhyme, ending in “theus” … Octavo … 19th Century Full-Brown Calf … “Misellaneous” (Shelley!) misspelled on the Table of Contents! Raised Bands! Marbled Endpapers! Such are the points of the rare First Edition, First Issue (c.1820) of “Prometheus Unbound.” But you wouldn’t understand.

Perhaps the ultimate second-hand book on Bibliophilia to find its way into a second-hand bookshop, complete with the Bibliophile’s idiosyncratic points to distinguish this particular copy as a First Edition, First State, is A. Edward Newton’s “The Amenities of Book-Collecting and Kindred Affections.” A copy happened into the Russian Hill Bookstore this past week, and I happened upon it. Using my left thumb, and holding the title open at a proper ninety-degree angle, I “thumbed” through the beauty of the points, as it were. I daresay I had to request a tissue from the proprietor as my hands began to perspire with each passing particularity. A fever-dream indeed. And as I thumbed, so shall we now count, in reverse order of import, the points, thus:

  • Tan cloth covered spine.
  • Colored caricature of Dickens and Thackeray as frontis, with tissue guard opposite!
  • The exclusion of an index found in later printings!
  • The word “Piccadilly” found on page 268 – line 3, where the author mistakenly located the Carlton Hotel. In later printings this error was corrected to “the corner of Pall Mall and the Haymarket.”
  • Scarce erratat slip tipped-in between pages 268-269!

10 Jun

By

A second hand bookstore

June 10, 2013 | By |

A second-hand bookshop is like a small neighborhood recycling plant and orphanage of inanimate objects. Unwanted and neglected books will be taken in, dusted off, and given a gentle resting place until a new owner comes in, and a new home is found. Upon being shelved in their proper sections, old friends will become reacquainted. Old conversations will reignite. Pritchard and Proust …. Alcott and Alden …. Barre and Barth. They will take up where they left off, and talk about the chimera of youth, or the advantages of going to bed early. Their paper, and the knowledge printed there-on, will be reused. A mind will be reanimated. Sometimes a note written in the margin by a previous owner will rekindle a forgotten memory, and a new note will appear beside the old one. Numerous authors will develop a new story, note by note, owner by owner. The new story will be written in the margin next to the printed one, Proust or Alcott, or Pritchard or Barth. The books will come in and the books will go out in an infinite cycle of renewal. This is the story of a Second-Hand Bookshop.