14 August 2008

where do you get these books? 5

11. Skips, dumpsters, recycling and rubbish tips. Not highly recommended but finds are known and there are golden legends attached to skips full of books. About 20 years ago in Stamford Hill, London, a skip (UK word for 'dumpster' and a nicer word imho) filled with rare Judaica was found by a lucky and clued up passer by. Some builders doing up a house had unceremoniously dumped all the books and documents in a big yellow skip outside the place - some of the books were of great antiquity. Legend has it that he filled a van with the material and took it to a West End auction house where it made half a million pounds. It's always half a million in these stories. By the way pics above, of a myriad of U.S. dumpsters, are by Trent Nelson -a charming photo essay on the The Dumpsters of San Angelo. For which much thanks. Below is a British skip--they are invariably this shape and often painted yellow and expensive to hire.

Another great dumpster legend centres around bookish Bell Street in Marylebone, London. About 25 years ago a defunct bookshop had been taken over by the council and the books were being chucked into a series of skips outside. People assumed they were wothless leftovers until some dealers started looking at the stuff and realised there were fabulous and pricey books in there - probably from some hidden backroom. When they started carting them away in boxes the council workers got very stroppy and a fight almost broke out. During the ensuing standoff one bookseller had the bright idea of giving the workers a hundred quid (about $300 at the time.) This was accepted with delight after which they could take anything they liked. Although at least one skip had been driven away the dealers had a field day and celebrations went on long into the night. To be continued with the story of the cycling dumpster diver of Santa Cruz, Frank Kermode's great loss and the curious skip of Sackville Street...
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