Part Fifteen (C)
On a day, standing, in the open air of a flea market, a... gentleman... who looked like a “summer only” coast of Maine day sailor in dress, manner and pierce of his eyes... approached me. He introduced himself. I did not remember his name. He stated his rare book interest and hooked a well established ‘old rare book room’ bookman of the “IS HIMSELF” status as a reference onto... this stated interest. He said “I understand you’ve found a Thomas Shaw broadside (broadside ballad handbill). So & So who IS-HIMSELF says you have. That is a very fine find. I have never seen one. I know they have one or two at Maine Historical. Is it for sale?”
Notice how carefully this man verbally backed up into me? He touches his way into the bibliomane fortress of my own “IS-HIMSELF” with impeccable presentation of ...minimal but dead-on rare bookman maze running verbiage that... leaves me with no question and... no choice... that he be a rare book man of “IS-HIMSELF” TOO while rock skipping straight at me regarding a singular ‘very fine’ broadside ballad handbill... perhaps the most notorious of ‘rare’ “Maine Broadsides” (a ‘stands alone’ subject).
I am not touching “SHAW BROADSIDES”. I do not need to here. The reader may touch... Thomas Shaw of Standish, Maine, broadside balladeer... using the smart-phone ‘Goggle THAT’. And I... ‘I think’ ...I am not touching. But: I may... be unable to resist... touching Shaw and his broadsides... I feel. But for now: “So what.” and “Do some work on your own”.
I responded properly to this gentleman’s query. I said “I did not find the broadside but I found the one who found it.” The man accepted that and paused his intensity of looking me over. Then he said “May I see it?”
“I don’t have it with me,”
“Of course... Which one is it?
“A mournful song: Knight’s”
“That’s quite rare.”
I couldn’t tell if this guy had any idea what we were talking about; the broadside I’d just identified. But I could tell he was not... “GOING TO BUY IT” for “A LOT OF MONEY”. I could tell this... ‘by gut’. Remarkably (oddly?) he did not pursue “A PRICE”. We just floated away past each other
On a day, standing, in the open air of a flea market.
Two days later a Maine rare bookman... whose old rare book room and old rare book room desk stand as impeccable credentials to him being a RARE... BOOK... MAN of “IS-HIMSELF”... knowingly drove into our farm yard and... had ‘this guy’ ‘in tow’. I ended up... (four to six minutes later) showing the Shaw broadside ballad handbill... “TO THEM”. And preparing to pick a price off the ceiling of the blue sky above our farm yard. They, by taciturn... did not ‘go there’. The... summer boat trash... gentleman... TOO... continued with very carefully ‘back in slowly’ biblio verbiage... that softened to biblio chatter and then began to ‘pop and spit’, like a piece of meat on an out of doors summer grill...; more... and then even more... biblio pop and spit... while I counter popped and spit right along TOO. The chauffeuring rare book man shortly said that he “is glad to see you two are hitting it off”.
That is how I met Thomas Truxtun Moebs. He did not buy the broadside ballad. He never asked the price. He knew I was “too smart for him”. “On that”. Thomas Moebs was brilliant (died 2011). More definitively, he was so brilliant that he could manage, utilize and covey his brilliance... right in front of me... while I watched. That’s is very rare to have happen... particularly when it is done about ...very rare books. We began that day a ‘we will meet again’ relationship... about... very rare... rare books and how
That is what I write about regarding Thomas Moebs. There is plenty to write about Tom Moebs, deceased, but I am writing down a very specific point of shared interest and detailed conversation he and I ...explored... that I ...very much doubt... one will find elsewhere... in anything other than an active form. My hope is that a reader, reading this conversation record may, at least, ‘know it when you see it’ ‘in action’ or, should you dare... engage the... you can... ‘try it’ yourself.
Now.... I am just a rare bookman who rare book scouts (hunts) best behind a flashlight in the far corners of the oldest garret I can... I... first talk myself into and then... get my aging butt behind the flashlight... into... these garrets. I do this over and over. I ...scope, scoop, and slither away all and any ‘printing’ and/or ‘writing’ I ‘find’ ‘there’. Very simple: I go. I get. I leave. The space is empty. It is never ‘grows back’. I ...know that I am doing this WHEN I am doing it. So I ‘do a good job’. No slip of old paper is ever left behind. And I do this alone. No... you cannot go with me. When I come out... into the daylight in the old homestead’s yard... I do not want to see you. Talk to you. Show you. No. This does not happen. I go back to my rare book room with my ‘acquisitions’ and generally never say anything to anyone for any reason at all ‘about this’. No one ever seems to care.
And I do find... ‘old’ ‘rare’ ‘books’. No question about it; this system I have used for four... now nearing five... decades works very well. I do not need any ‘help’. Or idiots around.
Moebs had a completely different approach and ...had already ensnared me in it... and I had ‘no idea’ how carefully... he played the fiddle...; let me call it that. But I found out. Moebs lived in his sailboat and, for land travel, he towed a vintage and small Airstream trailer... that were his ‘old rare book rooms’. Again: He did this and they were his rare book rooms. That was it. No ‘anything more’ ever... with this including his European travels. Let me put it this way; a rare bookman working from a rare book room format like this is a serious... situation? Skill? Brilliance? Managed brilliance. Yes; that last. Especially when it is Year after Year ‘no changes’ ‘for decades’. If one leans back in the old rare book room desk chair to ‘think about this’ it may actually become “Yikes.” Should one be... an old rare book... man that “IS HIMSELF”... ‘sitted’ at his old rare book desk ...in his old rare book room.
Briskly defining exactly what I am speaking of; the actual action taken by Thomas Moebs... I release his ‘mastering plan’; his actual action. Moebs, where ever he was, or was going to, or was gonna be... would... at that location, approach ALL the ‘old’ (rare) book men at their desks in their old (rare) book rooms that he knew of ‘there’. He did have a cryptic ‘little note pad’ with pig Latin short hand declarations in pencil. For example my rough entry included who was “I” and that “I HAD” a Shaw Broadside. With the date of this contact and anything else I happened to let slip such as “why don’t you come over and buy all of my rarest rare book finds for a dollar each. Thank you for doing this.” Or... “contact information”.
Using this note pad chronology over and over for decades each time he ‘passed through’ or ‘came by’... Moebs purposely and perpetually “visited” every... ‘old book room’ of the old rare book men sitted at their old rare book desk... in any given radius... doing that until he’d ‘run out’ in the ‘that radius’... so simply ‘moved on’ to the NEXT note pad cryptic record radius. Yeah... THAT with that kind of precision engaged by the manage brilliance I noted earlier.
Understanding this? He is very... very-very knowledgeable about rare books. He is very... very-very smart. He knows both of these and controls this. He actively seeks to ‘get into’ private rare book rooms. “Sweet talk” with the fluent knowledge of the ...fluent language of the... bibliomaniac... IN his old book room with the door closed to all... suddenly this man Moebs is sitting in the MY rare book room guest chair.
From there he, in a gentleman’s way...: He was West Point ’61 and Virginia aristocracy including silver spoon and silver hilted sword... simply charmed his way into ALL the desk drawers, shelves, boxes and... all ... ‘rare books’ “Show me anything” (“EVERYTHING”)... over the years. No; Moebs was too crafty to “NEED” to “GET IT ALL” right away or “NOW” or ...: He could ‘wait’. If a rare pamphlet that YOU didn’t know the “IT” of “IT” and HE DID... he would say nothing. Do nothing. And fully, over YEARS... ‘off guard’ the owner until ‘just that right moment I feel it’. Yeah: Like that. One would suddenly have a ‘hole’ (remember holes? Part Fifteen [A]). And Moebs would be gone. He was very... very-very... good at this.
I learned ‘about this’. Through direct contact. In my rare book room. OVER YEARS... I spoke up about this. He “faint”. I hammered the points. He acknowledged begrudgingly. We ‘discussed’. He simplified: IF... these rare book men in their rare book radius were ‘good’, ‘knowing’, ‘active’, ‘work at it’, they will, Moebs deducted, “GET” “OLD” “BOOKS” of all kinds of ‘sorts’. He, then, would simply show up and , as a gentleman, ‘pick their ripe ...bibliomaniac... tomatoes’. He flawlessly and with ‘say nothing’ understood that any of these ‘old rare book men’ could, at anytime... ‘get’ a ‘something’ and he stuck to his end of the bargain: He showed up. At ALL of the ...old book rooms.
He was a master... mind of deductive “FEEL” of an “OLD BOOK”. Brilliance of sense of archival purpose, archival pursuit, factual key words, directives of (from distant) biblio galaxies and universes and... “content”. He could feel collectors (institutional and private) of these “SAME”. He: Silence. Low profile. Below radar and the ...impeccable... ‘not greedy’ price of “FOR SALE”... of an acquisition... two point five minutes after he ‘left your yard’. It was really very hard to compete. Hard to consider a ‘compete’. Hard to TRY to compete.
I just said to myself... when this whole blossomed in front of me... “I CAN DO THIS TOO”. And I did.
Old rare book men in their old rare book rooms at their old rare book desks ‘sitted’ had... in a local radius... the ‘best’ ‘old rare book’... density. I ‘could bank that’.
Moebs taught me.
How to avail and manage ...old ‘rare’ book men at their old rare book desks in their old rare book rooms.
The vast “you” has only a fifteen second peek in from the OUTSIDE of a closing
‘rare’ book room door. I am inside and... do this; what Thomas Moebs taught me; a ‘trick of the trade (?)”... all the time; constantly. For decades. That is why I am in Arlington St. John’s old book room in January?
You get it?
“But what about density?”