"Can" B. Worth
Epilogue - Part Eight
From this moment of “first book purchased” begins, by …long practiced routine ritual… a “mud run” or “field dressing” of this dealer’s whole “The Rare Book Room” stock. Simplified: I buy.
For most of the next hour (at least), the procedure is the same. I select old books from the shelves and buy them. I specifically pillage any and all odd, old, not Americana and neglected “stock” (old books for sale). It is actually a fish-in-a-barrel setting. I’m in the room that is full of priced old books for sale …with no outside interference “probable” INCLUDING that the old Tyrolean has JUST STUFFED HIMSELF with his own cheese and shrimp plates so “LUNCH”, the usual “shut this buying down” “issue” is COMPLETELY NEGATED “I can go until DARK” if I need to but… do not for there are… not THAT many “old books”.
“MANY OLD BOOKS”. That, here, is the deciding rub of this that separates ME from my book scouting peers. It’s a -vision of context- point. THEY perceive themselves to be “scouting” “another dealer’s stock”, one of many “dealer’s stocks”. I see it more singularly.
Noted has been the “got my ass up here to this room etc.” opportunity. This I expand to notice that… I go into private homes buying antiques and rare books ALL THE TIME. Lots of PRIVATE HOMES all the time. The NUMBER ONE FEATURE of ALMOST ALL of the private homes I go into to buy antiques and rare books is …they DO NOT have any antiques and rare books to buy.
NONE. Especially rare books. MOST HOMES have NO RARE BOOKS in them. Maybe they have “books”, “old books”, “some books” or ONE BOOK… but THESE BOOKS are NOT rare books. I am, therefore, very well aware that, in this case, if I went HOUSE TO HOUSE up and down the streets surrounding this “The Rare Book Room”… I WOULD NOT find another “The Rare Book Room” in an upstairs front bedroom of a private residence filled with carefully curated (an action taken) “rare books”, priced for sale. I KNOW THIS as I stand there. This feature, combined with “got my ass up here etc.” and “probably will not be here ever again (?)” plus “careful assessment of the current working conditions (the lunch factor) means “specifically pillage” this “The Rare Book Room” “NOW”.
I take off the “off topic” and “on the edges” inexpensive stock first, exploring every shelf and very nearly “pulling and pricing” EVERY book. I mean EVERY BOOK and… THEY DID feel that EVERY BOOK was worth including on THEIR shelves so “go with it” and assume they are right. When I “pull” a book, title page it, price it, quick view the condition and go to put it back… IF there is a chance I might buy that book, I leave it sticking out on its shelf so that, very quickly, whole shelves of books have books “sticking out” on them that I can see and… the old Tyrolean can see. Too.
About every fifth book I actually BUY a book by taking it over to where I had set the little pewter book down, setting it there TOO and SAYING NOTHING AT ALL. Being a crafty old rare bookseller, the old Tyrolean QUICKLY determines that I AM buying these books, that this appears to be very fine and he… begins “check out” procedure of tallying the purchased books to HIS accounting satisfaction WORDLESSLY. A little slip of paper with penciling AND the occasional ACTUAL REVIEW of a purchased book, now amounting to about fifteen selections, ON THE INTERNET inclusive of an over shoulder glance at me while doing that where he also sees the “pulled” “shelf stock”… “WE” …square dance… together to the background music of DEAD SILENCE from all, all, all the other homes on the surrounding streets that have NO “rare books” “for sale”.
Within this silence and at the “been at it” about forty-five minute range this tranquility is nuanced by Mrs. Old Tyrolean ascending the stairs and appearing in the doorway to “see if we we’re dead?”. HE says to HER “need a couple of boxes I guess”. SHE sees the books purchased pile next to HIM and… vanishes. She, wordlessly, returns with THREE cardboard boxes, placing them next to the workstation AND then “eyeballs” WITHOUT TOUCHING the purchased books AND turns the penciled paper toward her “to see”. Aside from a turn my head and smile, I continue my shelf pillaging and say noting. She leaves. The old Tyrolean, sitting turned toward the room and I, surveys, fusses, surveys again, looks at the books purchased pile, looks over the room again and says:
“I USUALLY DISCOUNT TWENTY PERCENT TO A DEALER but CONSIDERING WHAT YOU’VE PURCHASED SO FAR, if you BUY ANYMORE, I will discount you THIRTY PERCENT ON THOSE. TODAY”.
“Thank you”. I say and keep working. Each purchase from then on I set in a new pile. The old Tyrolean adjusts his paper and penciling to this enhanced “dealer discount”. Another short half hour passes to HIS satisfaction. Having completed the sleuth of the “all-most-all” of the shelves, I tackle the large “wall” of Americana; the area of “specialty” so, for I, the least “of opportunity” I expected. It is “as expected”. A couple of spine ends DO stick out.
Beginning my “retreat”… I go back over ALL the pulled spine ends on all the shelves… IN REVERSE ORDER… for I know that EVEN I “get whoosey” “as I go along” so “start fresh” on “the last ones” as best as my “getting old booked out” eyes and brain “can take of it”. “Going backwards” DOES “freshen” a little. MORE of the effort is to …graciously …acquire …more “old books” …NOT… for his sales pad but for ME who reminds myself that “opportunity… and the seizing of it” IS the directive “understood” at the onset. By the last shelf with the last book the THREE boxes are FULL. All of the protruding spine ends I have pushed back flush. “That’s it?” he says.
“Almost” I say, noting the “couple of spine ends DO stick out” Americana wall.
“You know: You have bought books today that should have gone out of here YEARS AGO.” he says.
“Thank you.” I say.
The old Tyrolean looks at me for more but I turn to the Americana wall and reach for a protruding spine end. I remind myself to “let it come to you”.