"Can" B. Worth
In the antiques business… and the rare book trade… there is a fine line between time and intrigue. The rule I follow is “do business now – look at it (any and all objects) later”. With my pretended and timed purchase offer inspection in its closing minutes to making the actual purchase offer… successfully… it is NOT good to …stop. But I did. Because it was Sam.
Sam Patch, who one may amply summarize by a few internet search buttons, is the source of the slogan utterance “Some things may be done as well as others”. That actually applies right here right now. I was “time up” battened down and buckled up for my “buy it” offer inclusive of …bending through the phony inspection maze …without setting off the smoke alarm of the history professor. “Yep.” and I just have to close the drawer, shoehorn past that drawer and to the office door, then step outside and CLOSE and LOCK THAT DOOR. All the while smiling and saying “WHAT A NICE DAY IT IS!” to this …about to be locked out of the old dead emeritus’ office forever… chum… I’d picked up.
Stopping this freight train was not smart. Especially as the stoppage cause was instigated BY my new chum. But, again, I DID stop. Because it was Sam.
The problem with Sam is that once one configures the jumping Sam AND his slogan into the Americana of one’s life, including rare book dealing, two black holes become before thee. First there is the Americana enigma of Sam Patch jumping from waterfalls to make a living, drowning after a short career doing that and his flaunting this occupation with “Some things may be done as well as others”. An original, proverbial …and bare bones… American shooting star. The second is that there is very, very… VERY little Sam Patch “material” (rare bookseller’s term for old books, pamphlets, broadsides, ephemera, et al,) “around”. One such as myself may know of Sam, his jumping AND his slogan and… not ever “see anything” as a rare Americana specialist “since (first learning of Sam in) high school”. Looking down at the page’s head title AND seeing the next pages headers carrying Sam’s name AND seeing a “Biography” as a ballad-poem printed below AFTER a printed introduction DID NOT stop me as much as the FULL PAGE INSERTED WOODCUT ILLUSTRATION PRINTED PLATE of Sam in the middle of the Genesee River (Rochester, N.Y.) waterfall “his last jump” inclusive of tiny stick figure spectators way up at the fall’s top… .
The pretend-time-up buzzer went off in my brain as that same brain… FELL IN LOVE… with this “stupid print” of “stupid man” drowning.
“Can ALWAYS showed EVERYONE THAT!” said the history professor to MY before him discovery of the woodcut plate.
“This?” I said tilting the exposed plate toward him.
“That. He loved Sam Patch. I never could understand THAT. I still do not understand WHY Sam Patch”.
“Some things may be done as well as others.” I said.
“THAT’S what HE SAID Sam said ALL THE TIME”.
“But its true.” I said.
“It’s stupid.” the professor said.
I looked up at the professor from the book. I looked at him in the eyes. He looked at me. “This is stupid?” I said vaguely gesturing, with two hands on the book, to the …packed and stacked box filled to the ZENITH… office. “THIS office IS that slogan”.
“This office? THIS?” said the professor gesturing with one hand to all the surrounding stack up.
“Yep” I said… retreating. “This guy was a NUT.” I continued and… closed the book and tossed it gently back into the drawer. I was intentionally inconclusive as to WHO; Can or Sam, was “a NUT”. I bent down and picked up the second book. I raised it revealing a thicker, in wastebasket condition, Victorian brown publisher’s cloth “spine perished” old book. I title paged it: “Curzon” my mind identified. “Monasteries; his second book- a zero” my mind continued. “He was reading it?” my mind finalized.
I, with no comment, quickly tossed THAT book back into the drawer. It didn’t land well; flopping open to the center of the text with the binding separating at these pages. I didn’t care. My time was up.
Curzon is “Hon. Robert Curzon, Jun.” who brings a spicy tidbit to the reader of rare book selling, dealing and purloining literature. English, a man of leisure, Curzon went hunting very ancient manuscript books in the “Levant” in the first half of the 19th century, was successful doing that and …wrote a book about doing it. Of the trio of “selling, dealing and purloining” above, he purloined and the book is about that. Not only is it a not-so-lost-anymore classic and a “true and spicy to read”, it has always… and continues to be… a some-where-along-the-way… discovered and must read for a well rounded rare book collector or dealer. Again, a spicy read… about old books purloined from exotic locations that …is not going to happen ever again… or happen in BOOK FORM ever again. THIS “Curzon” being his second book about the same subject “pails” compared with the first. This man; “Can”… I QUICKLY understood… had this book drawered there because he was trying to “poke at it” to see if on the odd chance “they are wrong about it” and MAYBE there is something in this one that’s spicy TOO? The actual market for the two books tells all; the first book is six to eight hundred. This second… eighty-five (dollars) is “to much”. BUT TO ME… the discovery of this “last book looked at” during my “inspection”… fit PERFECTLY into my … purchase offer “inspection summary”. Tossed back into it’s “drawered” poise, it could wait there until I …owned IT and EVERYTHING ELSE. “TIME TO GO!” I announced as the drawer bumped shut and my butt wedged around the desk’s side as I used my whole approaching body to…force the history professor to backup OUT OF THE OFFICE and into the hallway.