RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

01 April 2010

Library Sales



Above is a bookplate of extreme cuteness for a library probably long since dispersed. I like the quote from Kit Marlowe: 'Infinite riches in a little room.' The other quotation you see on bookplates of this period is Shakespeare's ".....find tonques in trees,/books in babbling brooks,/sermons in stone,/ and good in everything....." The background behind the two kids looks like the Cotwolds for some reason. More real than these two sonnenkinder are the four fine persons running a library sale in our pic below.



I try to hit a library sale or two whenever I am in the States. Judging by a recent report from the excellent Americana Exchange they have become quite regimented. It used to be about joining a long boring queue ('line') as early as you could bear it and then on opening time ruthlessly rushing in - every man/woman for themselves. However at a sale at Palo Alto (a rich Silicon Valley town once renowned as the home of America's finest acid/ LSD) they did it thus:
...at 9 a.m. they whet your appetite by having an outside tent book sale with all books priced at $1.00 ..some very nice books, ephemera, prints...At 10 a.m. they send you a half block down the nearby driveway to another classroom full of the next best books at $1 each - shelves and shelves of them on every possible subject. About 10:45 you stagger back, laden with bags and boxes of books, towards the main room and get in line according to number. At 11:00 sharp, the first 150 people, who by now are revved and ready to bolt, get in (we were 146 and 147) and have an hour to shop, with a limit of twelve books each...
Library sale goers in California are apparently a pliant and unquestioning bunch, such marshalling would not work in Europe (with the possible exception of Germany) and in England it would lead to fights and possible hospitalization of some library staff and a handful of dealers.

The thing about library sales is to have a plan. It helps to know what they have in there and info can sometimes be garnered in the line. You have to know where to head first and it is useful to have a mate or two so that you can be omni-present (divide spoils later.) In my experience they tend to make mistakes in the area of funny older novels, slim vols of poetry and funky or kitsch artbooks, photobooks, manuals and trashy paperbacks. They overrate Children's books, leather bound books, Americana etc., Many dealers scoop up anything that looks sellable and then go through it more carefully at leisure, possibly checking prices on Iphone devices or phoning a friend. This is slightly disapproved of but universal; even now libraries are probably working out ways of banning it.



If possible avoid library books at library sales, you will see them priced up on the net but they look and feel unpleasant and with a few exceptions are slow to sell. Most library sales are disposing of unwanted donations so library books are not so common. It is good to arrive with some sort of shopping bag or a capacious and slightly naff trolley bag. You cannot make deals and you cannot take stuff back. You will see 'civilians' (non dealers) buying tons of utter rubbish that they would never look at in a bookstore. Bargains are known-- a dealer in Berkeley who seldom pays more than a buck a book recently found the true 1908 first (it's green) of Anne of Green Gables at a library sale and turned it round for $10K. I found a proof copy of Hemingway's 'Fiesta' - so long ago that I cannot remember what I got for it.

Below is a library sale at Singapore Expo Hall --the ad proclaimed 'Book lovers have much to cheer this August as the National Library Board holds its 10th Library Book Sale. Books and magazines in all four official languages will be on sale from $1-$5, with each customer allowed to buy up to 60 items. Payment can only be made by cash, Nets or CashCard.'

Was there anything in English, any sleepers? Will check it out in 2010 ...It's now 2010 and August is coming up. Must check flights. Meanwhile libraries have started to have book sales online and so far they appear damned dull. You cannot replicate the excitement and the insanity on a paltry website. Check out the library at London Borough of Richmond effort. This is not Oklahoma or Arizona library sale nirvana with 500,000 books in a stadium with 2000 hyped up dealers barely containing their sanity in pursuit of treasure...



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