"Can" B. Worth
Epilogue - Part Two
To by-pass Dead Can’s early collecting was easy if one confined the time line to the buried office beneath the packed boxes. The old stuff from that era was placed in the office and remained where it was placed. And buried. I did box up most of it myself. I knew in the shortest seconds I handled these old books that “there were some good ones” but “I’d get to them eventually”. MY real passion was to return to that one first test box I’d peeked into on the first day; the “tip of an iceberg” box. That box exhibited an entirely different Dead Can as a book collector… with “real” “rare books”.
Please recall this box (Part One). Beneath 1974 tax papers I quickly discovered a copy of CRONICLES OF CASCO BAY in its original - from-the-rare-bookseller – mailer and… two early Maine railroad pamphlets. After completely processing the contents of that box …in about ten minutes… which held more similar Maine pamphlet format Americana… the mailer I threw out.
MY dull witted vision focused on one of the original railroad pamphlet’s owner’s signature at the top of the front wrapper; William Pitt Fessenden, the Maine politician and Secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln. This signature elevated this old book to a… Maine Civil War – President Lincoln association copy… meaning… slightly more money… only… BUT “easier to sell”. Smacking my lips and rubbing my hands together I …moved on in search of more… JUST THIS SORT OF RARE BOOK; the “yeah that” rare book purchased “back then” cheaply that NOW had elevated itself through time and rise of interest in the details of American history to be… a… “better” rare book. THOSE rare books “I can sell”.
The CHRONICLES OF CASCO BAY had two trail signs I did review at this time. I knew that Dead Can lived with a view of Casco Bay so logically a… scholarly based… interest in the local history of his house view “made sense” AND that critical (scholarly) study WOULD include “reading everything” about the region with that meaning “buying everything” (rare books) about the region …even if one had never seen the publication before as long as it “was cheap” AS this Boston rare bookseller would have priced THIS old pamphlet: “CHEAP” because “who wants it” because …only an obsessive scholarly local history reader would “want it” because… rare Americana booksellers ALREADY KNOW THAT THE BOOK… does NOT contain “good historical” (read: good reading active factually accurate source narrative history) content so “is no good” (NOT worth a lot of money). BUT: Dead Can; the professitorial local history buff reader AND rising rare book collector… “would have to read it”.
And be disappointed. Right away. After a single “cover to cover” “reading” he… put it back in the mailer and “screw that” chucked it into the box and… never touched it again. EVER. No one did until I DID and… the quality of the pamphlet has not changed… nor has the market for it… AT ALL in four decades. The same applies the railroad pamphlets; DULL READING, “with folding map”. Old, attractive to the rare book eye but… “not valuable”… EVEN WITH THE ASSOCATION signature: (“Really? YOUR collecting Fessenden?”). They will sell. Sort of. After buying them “cheap”, reviewing them, probably looking them up in Williamson and… unfolding and looking at the maps… once… INTO THE BOX they went.
Putting a more favorable vantage on all this I denote: JUST that someone is doing this… radically separates them… from the rest of …anyone. Dead Can I NOTED at the time of the original box poke… was “ONE OF US”; a participant in Maine rare books. NOBODY has this sort of pamphlet “around” unless they are a rare book fellow traveler. The “in the original dealer’s mailer” alone (disregarding ANYTHING that’s IN IT) is a trail sign of THIS. That the old “kicked back” pamphlet was inside IS NOT UNUSUAL to my work. I HAVE SEEN THIS… VERY OFTEN in rare book collector estates. I KNOW THIS, in seconds, AND WHAT IT MEANS. It means “tip of an iceberg”. FROM that very first moment… I KNEW I was “good” in this stuffed full office because only a true rare book collector would have “kicked back” that pamphlet IN THE MAILER. Outside of the rare book world… “never would happen”. I could bank on it. And did. By ravenously sleuthing “the boxes”. “For more”.