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Blog posts by Greg Gibson

News, gossip, recent adventures and acquisitions, and deep thinking about the antiquarian book trade.

Selections from Member's stock

In February of 1964, in my freshman American Literature Survey Class, I first encountered Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Our teacher was Daniel Hoffman, a worthy poet, critic, and educator who'd go on to publish two dozen books, one of which, Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe was nominated for the National Book Award. All in all, a serious customer. At that time, furthermore, he was 41 years of age, at the height of his powers as a teacher. Sparks flew as he paced in front of his desk, expounding on Jonathan Edwards, Fenimore Cooper, Poe, the Transcendentalists – inspiring us, challenging us, prying us loose from our childish preconceptions, frightening us, taking us places no teacher had ever taken us. And then we got to Moby Dick Moby Dick; or, the Whale New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851. First edition. Octavo, original publisher's brown clot... [more]


Gauguin’s Model

By Greg Gibson

Today's entry has to do with the way Tahiti looked to Gauguin, but it is also about colleagues, and buying things, and about surprises – about whether or not they can be surprises if we expect them. Last week at the Brooklyn Book Fair my cellphone went off. It was colleague John Thomson calling me from across the room. He'd found something in DeWolfe & Wood's booth. I scooted over for a look. It was a lot of 24 cabinet photos of Tahiti. About a dozen of these had captions on the back; just enough info to assure me they were actually photos of Tahiti. I bought them because I'd never seen their like before. As I wrote somewhere else, this becomes more and more a reason for buying something. If it's new to you – buy it! I also asked John if he wanted to go in on the photos with me. Not because I didn't have the money, but as a courtesy o... [more]

Fight of the Century: Auction Houses vs. Dealers Editor's note (John Schulman): Greg Gibson of Ten Pound Island Book Co., a specialist in “wet books” (maritime books, manuscripts, ephemera, sea charts, etc.,) has for the past five years authored a weekly blog chronicling his life in the rare book trade. Because he is smart, observant, witty and outspoken, and because he is a gifted writer (the author of several books) Bookman's Log makes for great reading on many topics of interest to antiquarians – market trends, the effect of the internet, reviews of book and paper shows, and sundry anecdotes about fellow dealers and collectors. In the past, Gibson has made passing comments on the undeclared war between dealers and auction houses, but those were mere shots across the bow compared to the anti-auction cannonade of his last two contr... [more]

Okay. Hang on to your hats. Here comes the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, presented by the ABAA. This is the Big Leagues, baby. The World Series of Book. From Thursday night through Sunday afternoon at the Park Avenue Armory, we'll be keeping company with some of the world's finest books and manuscripts – mindbogglingly rare and valuable items - sought by collectors of inestimable wealth (those unspeakably rich folks obvious to all but known by name only to Bill Reese, Don Heald, and their Continental cohorts); representatives of Institutions of Higher Learning whose annual budgets exceed those of many African nations; young men and women of good breeding who've attended the right schools and have decided to invest family millions in ruinous antiquarian ecstasy; smiling auctioneers and avaricious dealers cruising the flo... [more]


What Could be More Fun?

By Greg Gibson

What could be more fun than spending two days pouring over old magazines, pamphlets, prints, letters, diaries, photos, advertising, account books, political fliers and broadsides, trade cards, baseball cards, posters, menus, valentines, historical documents, song sheets and songsters, alphabets, juveniles and primers, post cards, labels, stock certificates, passports and old newspapers – to name only a few? If your answer is “Nothing!” you needed to be at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Greenwich, CT this weekend, for the 35th annual Conference and Paper Show of the Ephemera Society of America. The theme this year was “The Sporting Life” and conference organizers provided a full slate of sports oriented lectures, presentations, book signings, social events, an auction and, oh yes, a paper and ephemera show. Of course, since we are s... [more]


Carried Away

By Greg Gibson

People tend to get carried away by the romance of old books and paper, and it's easy to see why. The thrill of the hunt, the joys of discovery, and the marvelous stories locked up in dusty old letters, journals, and books provide a perfect escape – an antidote to the stresses of our daily lives. Unfortunately, overworked librarians and book dealers often find that their interaction with books and manuscripts devolves into an insistent time/money proposition. As much as we'd like to linger over an ancient text, or just sit down and read the damned thing, we've got to get that bugger cataloged and shelved. There's work to be done! We wind up stressing out over the very things that should be affording us relief. So it's a delight when, every once in a while, something comes along that is so arresting and charismatic that it commands our co... [more]

Along with robins and daylight savings time, the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair is the harbinger of spring. In the old days, I'd drive down to the house of my friends who run Bartleby's Books, park my car in their driveway, and take a long, pleasant, shirtsleeved walk down Wisconsin Avenue to their shop in Georgetown, delighting in forsythias, daffodils, and short dresses along the way. But their shop has been closed for four years, and it's a good thing, too. Their business is thriving at home, and I would have needed skis to make the walk this year. As it was, finding our way across the Key Bridge to site of the book fair at the Holiday Inn in Roslyn, VA, was an arctic excursion, fraught with ice patches, snow banks and potholes. Promoter Beth Campbell and her helpful staff made move in a snap, but no one was too surprised that the l... [more]

While in Ireland and out of the book world, I've been posting chapters from a story I'm working on. (See earlier entries on Bookman's Log.) The story is set in the town of Talman, a fictional iteration of Nyack, NY, one of the stops on my book route for decades. One of my favorite dealers in Nyack is Fred Rosselot, a lovely guy with a sharp mind and a sharper eye for books - with which he filled his house. This past weekend, Fred was severely injured in a fire which destroyed his house and his entire stock. For details go to Bookman's Log... Presumably the ABAA Benevolent Fund will be helping out as well. According to colleague Lorne Bair, "I've already forwarded Mr. Rosselot's devastating news to the Trustees, who will no doubt act appropriately." "Of course, there are many on this list who don't donate to the Benevolent Fund, but who mi... [more]


Used Books of the Future

By Greg Gibson

Years ago a colleague named Owen Kubik sent me an enigmatic manuscript. After considerable headscratching I determined it was the journal of a young naval officer sent to the Pacific to capture a sociopath who had committed murder and mutiny on the whaleship Globe. We sold it to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and felt quite pleased with ourselves. Then it occurred to me that this manuscript would be an excellent frame for a new non-fiction book about the gory events aboard the Globe. Owing to the unexpected success of Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea, there was a bull market for maritime non-fiction books that year. I wrote a cracking good proposal and sent it off to my agent. She loved it, and several publishers loved it (because it closely resembled a book that had already proved to be successful) but there was a catch. Another writ... [more]


Book Show Wars

By Greg Gibson

Back in the 1990s event promoter Bernice Bornstein saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. Her husband Marvin owned a parking lot directly across the street from the Hynes Auditorium, where the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair was being held. “Why not have a smaller show for non-ABAA dealers that same weekend?” she asked. “We could use the basement of Marvin's garage.” Thus the first “Shadow Show” was born. The idea met intense resistance at first. Old-line ABAA dealers were concerned that another show would steal customers and dilute earnings. They feared the public would confuse the ABAA show, where rigid standards for dealers were enforced, with the non-ABAA show, where the only requirement was the ability to pay booth rent. They feared competition from dealers with lower overheads. They feared their stable p... [more]