Bookseller News

The Thomas Mann House has paired up with ABAA-members Brad and Jennifer Johnson of Johnson Rare Books & Archives in Covina, California, to recreate the author's personal library during the years he spent in California. This informative video details the exciting project... We asked Dr. Nikolai Blaumer, Program Director of the Thomas Mann House, about this ambitious project: ABAA: What happened Thomas Mann's original library at the end of his life? The Mann family left the country in 1952, after Thomas Mann was accused of Un-American activities. Parts of his private library were taken to Switzerland, where Thomas Mann spent his last years. Those books are part of the Thomas Mann Archive in Zurich today. Other books (approximately 3500) were sold to a bookseller in Santa Monica. The German Government bought the house in 2016 after it was privately owned for more than sixty years. Many parts of the house remained in their original condition -- including the former study of Thomas Mann and its bookshelves. This room is still the centerpiece of the house -- and a wonderful opportunity to keep the spirit of Thomas Mann alive. ABAA: Who will be using this library when completed? The library will first of all be a study for our fellows, who spend three to ten months in the US. We believe that they will be grateful for the reconstitution of the library -- even though their work reaches beyond Thomas Mann research. Over time, the library will grow according to the interests and experti... [more]

The Northern & Southern California Chapters of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America would like to announce The California Young Book-Collector's Prize. UPDATE: Deadline extended until December 15. Submissions should be sent as a .pdf file to Ben Kinmont, Chair of the Northern California Chapter of the ABAA, at Most great collectors started when they were young, and most great collections started with a passion for a particular object or subject. When these objects are books and manuscripts, the collectors are called bibliophiles, or lovers of the book. Curiously, the love of books continues unabated today, despite their increasing rarity and the rapid growth of digital media. Some might even argue that the printed page has taken on a new meaning and cultural resonance in our era of computers and electronic texts. In recognition of the next generation of bibliophiles, we have created The California Young Book-Collector's Prize. The competition is open to collectors aged 35 and under who are living in California. All collections of books, manuscripts, and ephemera are welcome, no matter their monetary value or subject. The collections will be judged on their thoroughness, the approach to their subject, and the seriousness which with the collector has catalogued his or her material. The winner of the competition will be awarded: 1. A gift certificate of $500 to spend at the 2019 California International Antiquarian Book Fair 2. An exhibition of... [more]

image description

New Members

By Rich Rennicks

Welcome the latest full- and associate-members of the ABAA. Full Members David Meikle, Archway Books (Dover, NH) David Meikle bought his first “old books” at age eleven, paying a bargain price for three handsome 125-year-old books. Only when he got home did he realize most of the engravings were razored out and had probably been for sale individually in that very stall. Still, he was hooked on old books. Twenty-five years later, he jumped at a chance offer to manage a used bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and spent ten years there, eight as an owner. As his own antiquarian interests developed, he realized that running a general-interest used bookstore would not remain fulfilling for the rest of his working life. So, he sold his share and for nearly twenty years has sold primarily on the internet and at shows. While he characterizes his inventory as “general antiquarian,” over time themes have emerged that reflect a fascination with artifacts where cultures meet — missionary Bible translations and tracts; sailors' photograph albums; foreigners portrayed in Japanese printed books; Western primers and textbooks transmogrified into Greek, Chinese, Armenian or whatever; photographs of the first Japanese/Chinese/Burmese students/diplomats/entertainers in Britain/France/America; relatively unknown US military incursions in Asia prior to World War II; and immigrant religious and political publications in the US. David Spilman, David Spilman Fine Books (Sebastopol, CA... [more]

image description

ABAA Members Expanding

By Rich Rennicks

A number of ABAA members have either opened new stores or renovated their existing premises recently. This is significant because for years, antiquarian booksellers were either retiring or converting to “closed shops,” which only sell by appointment, on the internet, and/or at rare book fairs. It's an expensive undertaking to keep a shop open to the public with regular business hours, staff, utilities, etc., and many rare booksellers — like their trade bookselling counterparts — found it challenging to maintain an open shop. Unlike those in the new-book trade, antiquarian booksellers have the option of operating as a “closed shop,” and focusing on rare-book catalogs, rare book fairs, and selling to institutional collectors directly instead. Recently, a new trend has emerged, with the five ABAA members below opening new stores or significantly expanding their existing ones. Whitmore Rare Books (Pasadena, CA) Whitmore Rare Books recently moved from a second-floor walk-up space to a ground-level showroom on a much more heavily trafficked street in Pasadena. Owner Dan Whitmore explains the attraction of the new space: "We opened our new retail shop at 121 E Union St., Pasadena, CA 91103 in October 2018. The space was previously used as an art gallery. I fell in love with the high ceilings, the vintage purple-lead glass, hardwood floors and big window bays. We sit just on the edge of Old Town Pasadena and a short walk to the convention center where the CA International... [more]

Many booksellers have insurance policies that protect against loss, damage, and even liability, but what can you do to protect against crime? We asked experts from Risk Strategies and Michals Insurance to give us the low-down. In the case of credit card or check fraud, certain policies can cover loss. Kierstin Johnson of Risk Strategies says that certain Fine Art and Rare Book policies will treat the incident as a theft if the dealer ships the item out prior to the transaction going through, and then cannot collect the money. In essence, the dealer is out the book and the money and a “theft” claim could be filed with the insurance company, as the book has essentially been stolen. However, different insurance carriers take a different view. It is important for booksellers to review the exclusions in their policies. Look for the word “conversion” or “voluntary parting.” If these are present, the insurer might not cover the claim as it considers this loss caused by voluntary parting with the property because of any fraudulent scheme, trick, or false pretense. Especially when dealing with older material, even the most diligent and scholarly booksellers can find themselves in possession of material that does not have clear title. Brad Michals of Michals Insurance cites art theft as a $6 billion-a-year industry and questions of ownership can make sellers susceptible to loss. To mitigate risk, insurers recommend purchasing Title Insurance. This requires a one-time premiu... [more]

A recent discussion on social media illustrates there are some misunderstandings about the cost and application process when a firm has more than one owner or shareholder. Though not all shareholders may want to become ABAA members for those who do the application process is slightly abbreviated as some components are waived — after all, the viability of the business has already been established. Dues for each additional full member are $250 per year. The benefits of being a full member include the ability to take an active role in the governance of the ABAA through voting rights as well as the ability to serve on the Board of Governors and Committees. The following Q&A aims to answer the most common questions. Second Primary Full Membership What is a Second Primary Member? A Second Primary Member is any additional full member in a firm. Membership lies in the individual rather than the firm. Cost of membership is one-third the price of the first full member. What are the requirements for Second Primary Membership? The ABAA welcomes and encourages applications from individuals who are antiquarian or rare booksellers of good character, reputation, and credit rating who have been in business for at least four continuous years and whose principal place of business is in the United States. Applicants must be owners or shareholders in the firm. What is the application process? Individuals can commence an application at An applicant must be sponsored by three curr... [more]

Owen Kubik, a long-time ABAA member from Dayton Ohio, knew it was too good to be true when he discovered a cache of 16th- and 17th-century books in a bulk shipment of used books. Kubik regularly buys large lots of old books from thrift store recyclers. The books are gathered from thrift stores across the country — which either don't want to handle used books in their stores or have too many — and then sold wholesale by the truck-load to book stores and paper recycling operations. Going through such large shipments can be time-consuming, but Kubik finds that this "is a good source for a large volume of general stock for my open shop. There is almost never anything rare or collectible, just good, decent everyday books." A lot sourced from the East Coast in March 2018 proved to be a little different, however. “Here I am, going through old novels, encyclopedias, textbooks, etc... and then all of a sudden I start finding nice 16th-17th century leather-bound books in original bindings,” Kubik recalls. “A Cicero from 1547, Boethius from 1656, and multiple volumes of 16th- and 17th-century Italian poetry.” In total, Kubik found 20 books in fine leather bindings, all in nice condition. Not an average day at the office. "My heart skipped a beat, I think. These are not what should be coming out of thrift stores.” A close examination revealed that all the books had faint pencil call numbers on the back of their title pages. In addition, a few of the books had a bookplate fr... [more]

With the 50th anniversary of Desert Solitaire upon us, Back of Beyond Books has launched a unique publishing program to both honor the importance of Edward Abbey's book and continue the discussion surrounding Desert Solitaire. This November, Back of Beyond in partnership with Torrey House Press will publish Desert Cabal: a New Season in the Wilderness by Amy Irvine. In Desert Cabal, Amy Irvine admires the man who influenced her life and work while also examining "the inspiration of Desert Solitaire through the lens of 50 years of desert love and a contemporary, feminist vision." Back of Beyond will also publish a facsimile of the first draft of Desert Solitaire, with hundreds of handwritten manuscript changes by Abbey. This document has never been published before and only fifty sets of the facsimile will be made available. In addition, Ken Sanders Rare Books are coordinating the publication of four Desert Solitaire-inspired literary letterpress broadsides featuring original work by the writers Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, Doug Peacock, and Amy Irvine. "I'm so excited about these three publications," says Back of Beyond Books' owner Andy Nettell. "But it is a little scary too. Even though I've been in the book trade for 18 years, I really had no idea how expensive books and publications are to publish." To that end the store has launched a KickStarter crowd sourcing fund raiser in August 2018 to support the publication program. "We need to raise $15,000 to successfu... [more]

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, lifelong supporters of American history education, with a goal of becoming the leading American nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education. The Institute's mission is nothing less than to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources, which it does through creating curriculums for schools to use when teaching different periods of American history. At the Institute's core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives of American history. Drawing on the 65,000+ documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection and an extensive network of eminent historians, the Institute provides teachers, students, and the general public with direct access to unique primary source materials. Over the last two years, the institute has gained some fame for its partnership with the musical Hamilton, creating the Hamilton Education Program (“EduHam”) with support from the Rockefeller Foundation to bring economically disadvantaged students to see the musical and integrate the lyrics and performances into a study guide exploring the Revolutionary War and Founding Fathers. The program has been extended to Chicago, where Hamilton is also playing, and is being extended to other cities as the traveling Hamilton show moves around the country. The core of the Foundation is the 65,000+ items in the Gilder Lehrman C... [more]

This morning, the ABAA leadership learned that Greg Priore, former Carnegie Library Archivist, and former ABAA member John Schulman of Caliban Books, have been charged with theft from the library. This is a truly regrettable situation for the larger book community, and one in which the Association shares the public's dismay that such a theft took place. At this point in time, to comment further would be premature, as we support the legal process currently being pursued and will await its outcome. During this period we will continue to closely monitor the developments concerning this serious matter. Sincerely, Vic Zoschak President, ABAA [more]