04 July 2008

House Calls 6 / Box Clever / Drug bust etc.,

Things to take to a house call--mobile phone, boxes, tape, marker pen, cheque book (sometimes cash.) People are often way off in their estimation of quantities-- we went to a house in Harrow said to be bulging with books. On the phone the earnest young man claimed there were 10000 or more academic books from three generations of nuclear scientists, economists and religious scholars. There were less than 500 rather dull books which we suggested they donate. We had bought 200 'flats' in readiness - 'flats' are the technical term for boxes that have not been made up.

On the subject of eventful calls, our now ennobled colleague (noted earlier for doing a house call during an orgy) found himself getting arrested during another house call. His patch was South London - which explains it. He was at the appartment of some fallen posh boys, like something out of 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels'. He was up a ladder looking at some pretty decent leather bound sets (not just Scott, but Wilkie Collins, Hardy, Le Fanu, Gissing etc.,) the last gasp of a country house library. Suddenly the police burst in and arrested the half dozen upper class layabouts and hauled them off with our friend who was ordered to come down off the ladder and shut up. He protested vehemently about having nothing to do with it all. Later that day he was released with an apology, his father being some kind of Q.C. Apparently the lads had been importing hashish from Morocco. He never got the books.

A great rival in the auction rooms and occasional on house calls was the late great George Jefferies whose family had run a bunch of book stalls on Farringdon Road, London for most of the 20th Century. There is a photo of the stall in Mary Benedetta's THE STREET MARKETS OF LONDON (John Miles, London 1936--photos by Moholy-Nagy and worth about £300 nice in jacket, half that for lesser copies sans jacket.) George always paid cash and cleared the books in sacks which didn't do them much harm but certainly didn't improve them. The perfect size for a box is a matter of some dispute but I can report that the former ABAA president Peter Howard (of Serendipity in Berkeley) has his boxes made up specially and they are 'double wall' and 16 by 9.5 (deep) by 12.5 inches; he is also very keen on sturdy grocery bags with string handles and once moved shops using only these bags. We are of the 18 by 12 by 10 school. A former president of the British ABA eschews boxes entirely and loads the books in phalanxes in the back of a large estate, claiming you get more in that way. The debate continues...
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