"Can" B. Worth
Epilogue - Part Nine
The letting an “it” …come to me… when facing a shelved wall of … a rare bookseller’s “area of specialization”… is better considered as “let EVERYTHING” come to one ..extended to… “let ANYTHING”… come… to… I? I had scanned, skimmed, “let” and …now contemplated the THREE spine ends I had caused to be “sticking out” on this shelved wall of Americana “for sale”. One was a thin pamphlet in a cardboard lined plastic bag, the second was an octavo in deep olive green publisher’s cloth and having a gilt title on the spine and… the third was a small, vintage (circa. 1950’s) paper candy box… full of folded… (“pocket”)… maps.
Accepting the “easy does it” logic qualifying these selections and my best-action-to-take… now… I retrieved the pamphlet. It, in green wrappers and …crisp fine condition… within the plastic bag… showed its short title “ELIJAH FISHIER’S JOURNAL 1776-1784” boldly on the front wrapper.
I hate rare books displayed in plastic bags. It is an obsessive stature of the trade …now. A …usually thin, ephemeral–ish, “fragile” “paper” “offering” goes into protective plastic bagging and …never comes out of that plastic bag (excepting brief transaction inspection “if needed”)… dealer after dealer after collector after back-to-a-dealer… again rare book trade cycling. I did not need to release the pamphlet from its bag. A paper price tag upon the bag told all I needed to know: $85.00. I chose this old pamphlet first because it was …the cheapest and easiest item of my three selections to possibly …buy.
The Fisher journal is, to New England booksellers, a “quintessential” “no brainer” It is a 19th century printing of a Revolutionary War journal. I have “always seen it around”, just as any Americana bookseller has, since I was first in business. “Common” describes its availability status. “Perfect, crisp, fine” …excepting some cases where the wrapper has “separated” along the spine “otherwise fine”… condition is the USUAL state. This usual state also CLEARLY SHOWS that sometime, back long ago in 20th century rare Americana time, “someone” “found a stack of them” (a pile[s] of the pamphlet) and …NOW… they have all been quietly “sold” one by one so… can be found “around” “perfect”. “Not rare” because of this “found pile”, this “found pile” ALSO explains the perfect condition OF ANY “rare Americana” pamphlet meaning if it is TOO PERFECT there was “probably a copy on top of it and a copy… under it. NONE the less, with it content and title, “I still like it”. Backing that up is that I myself have probably bought and sold twelve copies “over the years”. And:
It was not until the sixth to eighth copy that I …actually READ the whole pamphlet cover to cover. This has caused me to become… not only NOT JADED as to the scarcity issue but… an advocate of “how great” the pamphlet is.
In the bookseller to bookseller to collector local New England rare book trade, I watched the “Can B. Worth” start at twenty dollars, climb upward to “one twenty-five” with an occasional “one sixty-five” and then “fall back” (and be still falling back?) to “sixty”. At “sixty” it’s a steal… based on MY reading “of it”. Here found, sticker priced at eighty-five dollars I… test the thirty percent discount (?) on the Americana shelf by… handing it to the old Tyrolean and… standing there before him.
He looks at the pamphlet in his hands and looks up at me from the chair. I know he knows EXACTLY what the pamphlet is. HE knows I KNOW EXACTLY what the pamphlet is. He does not know how I feel about the pamphlet, that I’ve read the pamphlet and that …I KNOW that he has… NEVER READ the pamphlet… although I know that HE MUST have had “at least twelve copies” TOO (although I am being generous with that allowance). “OH how about SIXTY?” he says.
“OK.” I say.
What do I know about the pamphlet from reading it that “makes it better”? The last two years of the… perfectly splendid Revolutionary War service journal is… the account of Mr. Fisher’s “two years after he came to Maine” journal account of his …18th century homesteading in Maine …that begins with him “begun to digg the suller for my house” (alone, by hand) on through the first two years of …one of the best descriptions of pioneering in Maine and how it was actually done day by day… there is. It is …a “must read” “keeper” of true Maine history… IN ADDITION to it being a classic HIGH QUALITY Revolutionary War journal written from the foot soldier’s view. Again; it is “must read” Maine settlement history including a fascinating account of Fisher’s travel to the Boston area to purchase axe heads and scythes blades to “sell” to his pioneering neighbors. Anyway… I buy it for sixty dollars “to sell”.