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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

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]


An Antiquarian Pesach

By John Schulman

Each April, when Passover occurs, Jews all over the world join with family and friends to celebrate the occasion (this year from April 22-30) with a seder, a ritual meal that marks the beginning of the holiday and which involves retelling the story of the Jews' liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt, a story taken from The Book of Exodus. The instructional guide to the stages of the feast (besides reciting the narrative of Jewish liberation there are also prayers, songs, and commentary) is called the Haggadah (plural: haggadot). There is some dispute as to when the first haggadot were compiled, but most scholars agree that it was somewhere between 150 and 350 CE and that it achieved a fairly standardized form by the time of Maimonides in the 12th century (Maimonides included a version of the Haggadah in his Mishneh Torah (Jewish laws), ... [more]

Cheryl Needle, an antiquarian bookseller from Pepperell, MA, died in January. Born in 1948, she is survived by children and grandchildren, her partner of 25+ years, Frank Infante, her former husband and sometime business partner, Matthew Needle of Newburyport, MA, and her many friends and colleagues in the trade. Although she was not a member of the ABAA, she had all the qualities one looks for in a great antiquarian dealer: a fine eye for unusual material, reasonable prices, the highest ethical standards, and on top of that, she was friendly, decent, and caring. Greg Gibson of Ten Pound Island Books remembered Cheryl in his Bookman's Log blog. Below are excerpts from that, followed by contributions by some of her other friends and admirers. Greg Gibson: A veteran of more than four decades as a used book dealer, Cheryl was an active parti... [more]

Previously, John Schulman offered some tips on giving antiquarian books as gifts and using the ABAA website to find what you're looking for. Today, he focuses on choosing antiquarian books specoifically for children. Giving children's books to children requires just as much thought and insight as giving books to grownups. Children are generally just as aware as adults when it comes to assessing the degree of thoughtfulness and consideration that went into the gifts they receive. Thinking about the child's interests and personality is key. Much as you love the N. C. Wyeth illustrated edition of Treasure Island, don't give it to a six year old girl into race cars and robots. But we all have favorite books from our childhood, and many of us hope (myself included) that our children will read those books and get the same kind of pleasure, comf... [more]