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Blog posts by John Schulman

John Schulman is co-owner of Caliban Book Shop along with his wife Emily Hetzel, operating a general used and rare bookstore in Pittsburgh since 1991.

Selections from Member's stock

ABAA members and book lovers the world over mourn the loss of William Reese, antiquarian bookseller of New Haven, CT, and founder of the William Reese Company. He was universally acknowledged to be the greatest American antiquarian bookseller of his generation, known for his expertise in Americana, color plate books, natural history, exploration, literature, and the history of the book, and also widely celebrated as a man of uncommon graciousness, generosity, humor, and decency. William Reese was born on July 29, 1955 in Havre de Grace, Maryland, son of William Blain Reese and Katherine (Jackson) Reese, and died early in the morning of June 4, 2018 at his family's farm, Seven Springs Farm, in Havre de Grace after a long illness. He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Hurt, his sister, Barbara Reese, and his nieces, Sarah Dyer and Tessa Curri... [more]


First State Notes

By John Schulman

What's the difference between a first edition, first printing, first issue, and first state? Pay attention, there will be a quiz! Sometimes the most simple questions have the most complicated answers. Does God exist? What is love? Who wrote Shakespeare's plays? And what IS the difference between a first edition, a first printing, a first issue, and a first state? If you already know the difference, scroll to the bottom of this blog and take a quiz to test your knowledge of the first state or issue points for various famous works. For those of you still curious about our convoluted answer, we have thankfully secured permission from Terry Belanger, one of the greatest scholars of bibliography and printing history, to quote his definitions of these terms from the Bibliographical Society of America website. Thanks also to bookseller Cynthia G... [more]


Buying Rare Books as Gifts

By John Schulman

ABAA member John Schulman of Caliban Book Shop has some advice for anyone considering buying antiquarian or rare books as gifts, and explains how to use the ABAA's website and how to work with ABAA dealers to your best advantage. So it's crunch time and you need a gift for a booklover. When people come into our store asking us to find the perfect item, the first questions we have are about the recipient. We ask the standard questions: how old is the recipient? What does he or she like to read? Has the person already started collecting books in a focused way? Then, as we think about what we have in stock, we ask a few more questions: what is the price range? Would the recipient like a first printing or something in a handsome binding? Once we have an idea about the recipient, we can get to work. A Word of Caution! Giving a book to a person... [more]

We first learned that Jack Hanrahan died from his friends Rusty and Veta Mott, who wrote to us, "It is with sadness that we yet again pass along the news of the death of a wonderful friend and colleague. Jack Hanrahan, of Wells, Maine, died at 7:30 last night, age 85. Jack, a long time member of ABAA, was a man who contributed to the world not only as an antiquarian bookseller, but as a Milton scholar, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, and as restaurateur in Brussels and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was a scholar, a bon vivant, and a delightful companion. Our sympathies and best wishes go out to Joyce, his wife and friend." The entire ABAA echoes the words of the Motts. Jack was a very New-England bookseller, slightly crusty but full of humor and a genuine raconteur. He started selling books soon after getting out of the Na... [more]

We mourn the passing of Ed Glaser, who died on July 31, 2017 at 88 years old. He was universally cherished for his humor, wisdom, ethics and generosity, and he was part of the book trade and its culture until his dying days. Ed started out in business in the mid 1960s, quoting books found in thrift shops to want lists in AB-Bookman's Weekly. By 1969 he had quit his full time job and opened up a large used bookstore in New Rochelle, NY. In 1970 he joined the ABAA. After some time as a shop owner — as he relates in his video interview with Mike Ginsberg — he got bored with that aspect of the business, and fortuitously, a world class collection of science, medicine and psychiatry was offered to him. After buying the collection and spending some time researching it, he realized he had a "bonanza," and set about issuing a catalog, which wa... [more]

John Schulman (Caliban Book Shop) interviews Heather O'Donnell (Honey & Wax Booksellers) about a new prize she and Rebecca Romney have created for female book collectors, The Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize. John Schulman: Tell us about the process that led to the establishment of this prize, from initial inspiration to fruition. Heather O'Donnell: The inspiration for the prize grew naturally out of our daily conversations at Honey & Wax. Rebecca and I spend much of our time working with collectors: defining their priorities and goals, researching the material on hand, proposing new avenues of inquiry. We love to see evidence of a mind at work, reflected in a collection that breaks new ground or brings familiar books together in a surprising way. We want to encourage the habits of mind that make for a great collection, and to see more w... [more]

Harper Lee has passed away, but her great novel, To Kill a Mockingbird lives on, accompanied by either a second novel, Go Set a Watchman, or as many have speculated, simply the published version of an early draft that would become TKAM with much input from her editors at Lippincott, who upon reading the manuscript in 1957, asked her to rewrite it and set it twenty years in the past. TKAM was finally published in 1960, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, and sell (to date) over 45 million copies, but whatever Lee had been working on since then remains almost entirely unpublished. She apparently had a couple books in the works in the ensuing decades, but was unhappy with them and they have never come to light. Maybe now they will. She lived in Monroeville, Alabama, with her older sister, Alice, and kept a low profile, refusing interviews, bu... [more]

"Day had turned cold and gray when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail. He climbed the high earth-bank where a little-traveled trail led east through the pine forest. It was a high bank, and he paused to breathe at the top. He excused the act to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine o'clock in the morning. There was no sun or promise of sun, although there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day. However, there seemed to be an indescribable darkness over the face of things. That was because the sun was absent from the sky. This fact did not worry the man. He was not alarmed by the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun." Jack London (1876-1916) was born in San Francisco, near Third and Brannan, mere blocks away from the exhibition hall we used every other year for the California International Anti... [more]

Bernard M. Rosenthal was born in 1920 in Munich. Most of his immediate family left Munich for Florence in 1933, left Italy for France in 1938, and arrived in the US in 1939, each move in response to the problem of being Jewish. Both sides of his family, the Rosenthals and on his mother's side, the Olschkis of Italy, were heavily involved in the book trade going back generations as antiquarians, printers, publishers and authors. An extensive interview with Rosenthal was conducted by Dan Slive (head of Special Collections of the Bridwell Library at SMU) and appeared in the RBM Journal in 2003; in it, Rosenthal gives a fulsome account of his early days in the trade, starting in 1949 as an apprentice bookseller in Zurich under a bibliographical “tyrant,” Herr Frauendorfer, then later under the tutelage of Arthur Swann at Parke-Bernet, and... [more]

This election is unlike any other in terms of the candidates, the frequent emotional rollercoasters, the influence of the wealthy, the corporations and the media, and the volatile and complex nature of the issues – guns, race, religion, nationalism, foreign policy, poverty, immigration, nuclear arms, pestilence, famine, ecology, the Supreme Court, etc., etc.. How to make sense of it all? Most antiquarian booksellers feel that the books of the past can illuminate the present, and so, in that spirit, knowing that we cannot get you to unplug the telly, log off from Facebook or stop obsessing over FiveThirtyEight, we recommend the following books to supplement your daily media intake. These texts will give you The Long View, supply historical context, make you the life of the cocktail party, and perhaps even provide you with a modicum of ho... [more]