The Secrets of the Old Rare Books Collector's Secrets
Part Three (A)
It has been thirty-five years... or longer... since I had my first rare books collector contact with Benjamin’s (her doggie Part One) caregiver and ‘old rare books’ collector. I am not a rare books collector; I am a rare books dealer... who has obsessive force contact with... ‘old rare books collectors’. I believe that... Benjamin, her doggie... is the forth doggie she’s had since I had my ‘first... contact’. I am not sure; it could be the fifth. “Ahhhh...” is my focus on that; the history of her doggies. That is an oral litany I avoid and veer off from. Especially the “put down” tales. The only ‘put down’ for me is a rare book and its own disaster: I fear and free fall... should Madam of Benjamin act to ‘put down’ an old rare book... I am... trying to sell her. Yes and that put down is a ‘time to go’ whistle. Too. I remind that God has damned rare books in our current world (Part One) and that I, as a dealer, am always standing at the door of old rare books Purgatory.
My... vile first ‘this collector’ contacts were that; vile. She was new to the old rare books world and so... therefore... gathered (accumulated) ‘old books” as if they were ‘rare old books’ that
“Found”. And found out too... them to be rare too... presumptively. THAT, for a old rare books collector... is a single form of Purgatory... itself... too. I, a dealer... just wanted her damn money; an aspect (having money) she showed signs of having... to my trained ‘old rare books eye’. “NOT FOR YOU” was the subliminal rating of my business with her wallet and after a couple of commercial title page tosses... I gave up commerce and settled for bookseller voyeur... at the regular ‘we crossed trails’ church book sales, local estate sales and... local auctions. I did not wonder... to wonder... what bibliographies were her favorites and ‘most used’. No... she did not ‘carry those with her’ the way I did... and still do. That may not sound vile but
Vile too was that... she ate the foods... vended at the (church) sales too... while she “looked at” “the books”. Molasses cookies... gingerbread men with sugar decorations... “turnovers”. YES that is exactly right and included eating (native Maine) “wild blueberry”... turnovers... while she “looked at” a... large... Victorian bound... Gustave Dore Dante’s Devine Comedy tome with its “engravings”... that was (and still is) ...valueless... but in ‘perfect condition’... until a goo-gob of blueberry turnover goo... “dropped”. Okay? I didn’t have my seatbelt on so was ejected from the church basement book sale... for goo-gob groaning AND value-less-ing... the whole “OLD RARE” book. Too.
This all went from there (that)... for decades of I witnessing She ‘finding’ ‘valuable’ old rare books AT... whatever and absconding them in furtive nominal cash on folding card table top abscond while I stood ground with ‘my GOD’ appraisals and empty handed escapes. OH EVERY NOW AND THEN I would find a little “something” but most of these sorts of sales of ...old... rare.... books... “don’t yield”. Except to the fascinated old rare books “collector” (accumulator). Yes: That is it: Boxes of old books purloined at church basement sales... packed in their cardboard boxes in the classic “MY OWN BASEMENT”. Then that being that... WHY would I ogle all this... and her entourage, too?
Gathering my wits about me after a decade of rough and tumble contact I still wantonly PEEKED at all she ‘did’... especially a (or any) rare books ‘in hand’. That right there is a secret of a secret; old rare books collector’s secret. That is right: It is. Bibliomanes, no matter how low (poor) the old rare book be... in hand... and “over there”... ogle it. It is ‘automatic’ and not restrained. Both of these are assisted by ‘it doesn’t matter’. Because it doesn’t... matter. I mean... who’s gonna stop that/this? NO ONE. All are over at the baked goods table eating molasses cookies. NO ONE CARES. “God has damned old rare books in this world”. So.... NO MATTER what the old book held in hand ‘over there’ is... I ogle it. To my satisfaction.
That last may be very... vulgar and vile. What does that mean? It means a ‘Heaven Forbid’ that what I spy in a ‘her hand’ is judged to be a ‘possibly’ ‘a that’ and... well... then... I go over and ASK HER about it (the book in her hand). VILE and VULGAR behavior... especially if she hides the crummy old book from my sight within her garment OR is totally forthcoming and presents to my hand the crummy old book to “WHAT DO YOU (I) THINK?”.
“I think I am going to die”.
“Eat one of the cookies; that will perk you up”. How many decades did this “THAT” go on for? IT IS STILL GOING ON. Do you understand how many old church sale books she’s “found” that I have looked at and she has stored away in boxes in her basement. And worse... I remember them... all... should I ever ‘see them again’. AND THAT DOES HAPPEN TOO. This too is a secret of the old rare books collector’s secrets. ONE DOES... ‘remember’ the old books... ‘looked at’... even the crummiest one... Yes one does... forever... and if one does not... one stands very little chance of “EVER” being a “GOOD” old rare books collector.
Of course the other side of this vile ratio was that She wished and wanted to see ME naked too; MY ‘old rare books’ at hand and ‘just found’ so SHE would strip search ME with that abusive vanguard being stymied ‘most often’ by I ...having found “nothing”. But better... was the “I FOUND” that was a “GOOD” and, too, was OUT OF HER reach (collecting realm). THAT IS a ...dirty trick... and is too a secret of an old rare books collector’s (and dealer’s) secret. Oh yes it is. “And leaves her befuddled”... too.
To purvey to the reader this “I found a GOOD out of her collecting realm” I must establish a ‘such as that’ for the reader to be knowing of; a peculiar old rare book that we may together know and know that others do not know. This. This would be an old rare books collector’s secret. It is not a ‘secret of a... secret.
Titled to the dealer trade and collector’s “I KNOW” are the category of printed old rare books called a “Handbill Throwaway”. This is a hand held size single wisp of old paper with printing on... one or both sides. To understand... it is the piece of trash paper handed out by a persona usually standing on a sidewalk foisting these paper wisps at all passing by with a success of about sixty-five percent acceptance and often joined to promotional verbal banter relative to the ...handbill... throwaway being passed out. Yes and there we go; we now know what a ‘that’ is. PRINTED on one side; a “broadside” handbill throwaway or TWO sides; a “broadsheet” handbill throwaway. And all are for a “God Knows What”. One receives the paper wisp, glances at the “piece of crap” and it is thrown... away. GONE; a rare book... thrown away.
A fair example is a handbill requesting purchase of “DINNER TICKETS” at an 1875 Bowdoin College commencement dinner... in this case the fifty year anniversary commencement meal of the Hawthorne and Longfellow’s graduations. Simple enough; handed out, scan-read, thrown away. It is a rare book form that ‘very rarely’ ‘survives’ (is preserved). It is a singular moment of... print on paper... and is, usually, about that moment too.
Rarely are these (handbill throwaways) actually saved. MOST ALL are chance preservation? HOW THAT? How about folded up and used as a book mark... in a book... that no one reads... and is donated to a church sale... and sold to me... who spies the folded wisp and knows what it is... AND the often remarkable ‘moment’ it is of... with that moment being ever more a grand historic moment... therefore... making the throwaway a true ‘rare’ and... VALUABLE... ‘old rare book’...: A “PRESIDENT SHOT”... handbill... throwaway. I am confident the reader understands ‘this’ ‘now’.
No. I stick to the handbill throwaways. It is a little world out there in the “God has damned the rare book in this world”. And Benjamin’s caregiver has “NO CLUE” back then and ...still to this day? Yes... This...; old rare books... is about printing on paper. That is how you start old rare book collecting. NO collecting old books. One collects PRINTING... on PAPER... and its ‘many varied forms of that”. And that is only a ‘secret’. It is not a ‘secret of a secret’.