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Monday, February 20, 2006

Chapter Ninety-Six, in which your Bibliothecary enjoys a Visit from Saint Duckett

With out-of-town business to attend to, your Bibliothecary and the Silent Partner were resigned to being unable to attend the two book sales we had long ago penciled on our calender. But before we even embarked on our trip, a dapper young man brought eight boxes and bags of books into the shop to trade, sell, and donate. A small stack found its way directly into our personal collection. A good bagful we will list online to tempt the discriminating buyer. The majority will be fodder for the next local fundraiser. Little did we know these were not mere consolation for a missed hunting trip, but the prefacing tip of a biblioberg.

James Duckett was a Catholic bookseller in London. Laws of the English Reformation prohibited the printing or distributing of Catholic literature. He spent many years of his life in jail, and in 1602 was sentenced to the gallows on the accusation of a bookbinder. Together the men shared a cart to their execution at Tyburn. Pope Pius XI beatified this "bookseller for Christ" in 1929, and Duckett became the patron saint of booksellers and publishers. This weekend the good saint smiled upon us, sinners though we may be.

With time to spare on Sunday, we made a brief stop at one sale along our route. This was the final day, remaining books were half-price, and the selection was limited--lots of Tom Clancy, Danielle Steel, and Robert James Waller. We did manage to turn up one box full for inventory, as well as a few titles to add to our American Revolution collection.

We made our first scheduled stop, and then concluded we had enough time to proceed to the nearest Barnes and Noble. Now, as an independent book seller, Barnes and Noble and others in the superstore coven are more corporate storefront outlets than book havens; they are, however, places where great numbers of books congregate, and so we are drawn to the hunting field. Once inside, we begin to discover armfuls of books we didn't know we were looking for. There are so many beautiful books covering so many interesting subjects--though they are easily purchased, the time necessary for reading them is sold separately. Still, in the till we leave behind four Franklins, and emerge from the stacks with two large bags of booty.

When Necessary Acts of Devotion comes out in book form, mention of two of the books we acquired will be found in their rightful place, among the other Antarcticania in the chilling Chapter Eighty-Three. For now, they must be recognised here. The first is Shackleton: The Story of Ernest Shackleton and the Antarctic Explorers, by Gavin Mortimer. Only one quarter of this trade paperback quarto treats the Endurance expedition, but it gives a good overview of all explorations of the continent, with many photographs. The second book is a hardcover entitled South With Endurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917: The Photographs of Frank Hurley. This glossy edition focuses, as the title suggests, on the photographic record of the Endurance expedition, publishing many images for the first time, as well as excerpts from Hurley's diary, and an examination of his equipment and techniques.

The next morning Duckett arranged for us time to visit a discount book outlet, where publisher remainders go for a second chance to be read. Here we were able to gather two bags of more books necessary to our survival. A quick side-trip to the local second-hand bookshop was a disappointment, as it was closed. But the good saint was not finished yet with us. One of the sales we could not attend was giving away the remaining chaff. We were able to pull out four bags of more books suitable for inventory.

Finally, we picked up the two volumes of Vermeer which we had won at auction in the madcap Chapter Ninety. These books are so beautiful we were loathe to open them to take a peek at their contents. For now, they make a sumptuous decoration at Mad About Books International Headquarters, hidden deep within an inconspicuous cornfield. Soon, though, their information will be coaxed out, for Vermeer is too compelling a subject to be ignored for long.

So ended our weekend without books. We returned home in our element, and eager to explore the new worlds at hand. And as so many of our Dear Readers have experienced for themselves, we already have more books than we have time to read--do we really need more? Most definitely. And the reason is stated most succinctly by Callie:
I commune among books as Thoreau did among nature.
Like Saint Duckett, who could not live without producing and distributing his religious texts, we find ourselves most ourselves in and among books.

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