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Sunday, February 5, 2006

Chapter Ninety, in which your Bibliothecary enjoys a Weekend of Book-Hunting (Part Two)

We arrive at the second sale location on Preview Night, after the initial rush. The cost to enter is nominal, as are the prices of the books. Accordingly, the crowd is large, and there are plenty of familiar faces, though your Bibliothecary keeps to himself for the most part.

The majority of offerings were ex-library books. These are culled from library circulation when demand falls below a certain benchmark, when they become damaged, or after initial interest in a title has waned—meaning of the original number of twenty circulating copies of Tom Clancy’s last novel, nineteen are no longer needed. Unless there is a book that we are personally interested in, and usually for reference, these have no appeal to us. We came away with only a handful of books. There was also a silent auction for more collectible items, among which was an attractive set of books on Vermeer and his art, for which we bid a nice odd number.

The most humorous moment of the hunt occurred when we spotted in the distance a book that looked by its markings rather familiar. When we drew close enough to take hold of it by the spine and lift it from its surroundings, we discovered a copy of our own first novel, The Last Decadent, published in 1995! It bore the tracking devices of the library, and now returned to the wild, with our hope it would be picked up by someone before the hunt ended.

Aside from the general disappointment of this night, we did come away with two coveted books by our most beloved author Christopher Morley: a copy of Parnassus on Wheels in torn dust jacket, and a crisp copy of Human Being in a well-preserved dust jacket. The latter alone made the hunt a success.

One dear reader posed this question: do we squirrel away somewhere in the store treasures which we hope to read ourself before they are sold to some other lucky book-fancier? Oddly enough, this thought crossed our mind earlier in the day.

After being protected in a clear archival cover, a book like Human Being goes directly to our personal library, never to be seen by another shopper’s eyes. Books not meant for us are researched and, if they meet certain criteria, listed for sale online. Finally, those and the remainders are priced and shelved in the store. One in particular, 1491, by Charles C. Mann, concerning the world of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus, had a definite interest for us, yet did not fit in with our collections, and we wondered if we should hold it to the side to read before offering for sale, or if we should shelve it and read it while we are in the store. We are inclined to the latter, but feel certain it will be purchased rather quickly online. There is some degree of sadness to see such interesting books, or attractive editions, sold. We know, however, that there will always be more to be had at the next hunt…

…which is this morning. Stay tuned.

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