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Blog posts by John Schulman

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


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]

Several years ago my teenaged son and I were lunching with the late Burton Weiss at a popular Berkeley bistro, Le Rendezvous. Burton was a tall, thin mordant guy, prone to squawking when he got worked up, really quite a brilliant bookseller (he would sometimes say things in passing that belonged in the Bartlett's Book of Antiquarian Quotations, such as: “Reading is bad for books” and “Never judge a book by its contents”). Burton was lamenting growing old, and my son politely asked him when he was going to retire. Burton looked at my son like he was crazy. “Booksellers aren't ALLOWED to RETIRE!” he shouted. “They just DIE!” Everyone in Le Rendezvous paused to look at the madman dining with us. But was he mad? When Greg Gibson reported on the death of Cheryl Needle and how she was selling material to him and his colleagues e... [more]

John Schulman shares his history with the Discovery Day program at the annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair. In 1996, after being asked to appraise books and manuscripts for PBS's first season of Antiques Roadshow, I discovered that I had a knack for quick and competent evaluations, and while I am not the most photogenic or well-spoken guy, the producers at WGBH in Boston liked me enough to invite me back year after year. For the first several years, the book tables at the Roadshow featured a healthy mix of auction house specialists and independent dealers, all of whom were ABAA members. Now in its 19th season, there are fewer indie dealer-appraisers at the book table, but they are still all ABAA members: me, Ken Gloss from Brattle Books, and Ken Sanders. All three of us are generalists (Sanders is also a specialist in Mormon and LDS mat... [more]

Trying to cajole John Thomson of Bartleby's Books to contribute a couple paragraphs on Moby Dick, I asked him whether he still read it every few years. “Oh yes,” he said, “still do.” I asked him why he kept on reading it, what he could possibly get out of it by now. “I would find it impossible to put into words how much that book means to me and what I find in it. Its meanings change, and I change with it,” he said, “about time I read it again.” Layers of meaning, garnering new insights with each reading, is one of the hallmarks of great literature. Melville drew on the Bible, Shakespeare, Hawthorne, old whaling lore and cetology (the scientific study of whales), on sea shanties and old tales of exploration and shipwrecks (including that of The Essex), and on his own seagoing experiences aboard The Acushnet, to shape his n... [more]


Brooklyn Book Fair

By John Schulman

Marvin Getman, a seasoned and affable fair promoter, is using the newly built Brooklyn Expo Center in the Greenpoint neighborhood for the second time, September 19-20, 2015, as a venue for a fall book and antiques show. Last year, Getman garnered considerable praise from ABAA exhibitors at the fair, which has encouraged many of us to either return this year or try it out for the first time. This time around, there are over 60 ABAA dealers among the 140 exhibitors. Because Getman was literally the first person to host a fair there last year, there were naturally a few problems with the building (kindly scrutinized in Greg Gibson's blog about the show, which you can read here), but this year, the show should run much more smoothly. Last year, many dealers commented on the youthful energy and hipster vibe of the show-goers. Ed Pollack wrote ... [more]

Editor's Note: I asked Russell Freedman of Second Life Books in Lanesborough, MA, a specialist in women's history and literature and in female suffrage, to pick a handful of titles that reflect changing attitudes from the 19th to the 20th Centuries on the role of women as mothers. Here's what he came up with. -- John Schulman, Caliban Book Shop CHILD, Mrs. . THE MOTHER'S BOOK. Boston: Carter, Hendee and Babcock, 1831. This was reprinted a number of times in the 19th Century. Child offers views of matrimony and child rearing as well as general notes for mothers. She was a strong supporter of women's rights and an ardent abolitionist, but perceived that first progress had to be made on the anti-slavery front before the subjugation of women could be addressed. SIGOURNEY, Mrs. L H. LETTERS TO MOTHERS. NY: Harper, 1838. This also was reprinted... [more]