Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2010 Issue

Follow-up to Better World Books Article

Bwbagain

Better World has both supporters and detractors.


By Susan Halas

November's lead story on Better World Books of Mishawaka, Indiana, not only attracted a greater than usual number of readers, but also evoked quite a bit of response both directly to AE and in the form of long running threads on various dealer and collector lists. We are following up with two unedited responses that we hope will help clarify the practices of the firm and the concerns of traditional book dealers.

We thank Better World Books for being kind enough to host our visit and also thank the many dealers, collectors and library patrons who wrote to express their opinion.

Susan Halas
AE Monthly Writer
Reach Susan at halas@hawaii.rr.com

Response to Article from Better World Books

By Tara Gilchrist
Head Antiquarian, Rare and Collectible Department

It was with pleasure that we welcomed Susan and AE readers to our warehouse, and we were happy to show her around and answer her questions. She was able to speak to executives and employees, to dig in our boxes and poke through our shelves.

Her viewpoint is that of a "bookseller", a traditional bookseller from the "old school". We understand and respect that tradition of knowledge and the craft of bookselling, and seek to keep the best of those traditions while using the book to make a powerful social impact. While Susan's article was fairly thorough, we appreciate the opportunity to clarify three points in particular.

It's not clear in the article that the tipper is only used for thrift books - not the books the libraries send us, or from campus book drives. It's used for the books that we purchase outright from the thrift stores, which arrive in big, unwieldy Gaylords. No client is losing any value with the tipper, as we outright own those books. The tipper makes it easier to sort the shoes, belts, and headless Barbie dolls from the actual books. No mention was made in the article of our improving that process, which has been underway for several months.

It was curious to read Susan's comment about the lack of intellectuals in our crowd; if it meant grumpy, tweed-jacketed, pipe-smoking, bushy-browed types, then that would be accurate. We apply our considerable intellect to designing the best programs for libraries, our customers, and those supported by our literacy partners.

As for the sensationalized headline of "Cultural Strip Mining": we are saving many books, every day, which may have otherwise been lost: from the $10 German-language 1940 agriculture report to Peter Force's Declaration of Independence to signed Picasso lithographs, we sell books to the curious, collectors, academics, libraries, and booksellers, at a fair price.

Calling out libraries for "letting these books go" without understanding where they are going is uninformed at best. The needs of academic and public libraries are constantly changing. Their primary directive is to provide relevant books and materials to their constituents, and they excel at this. They operate with a different definition of "value" than booksellers: libraries, without a doubt, value their culture and communities, and they are called to respond to those fluctuating needs in a timely manner. Booksellers value money. Librarians have a different skill set, and a different bottom line, than those of booksellers: they work hard to balance traditional needs with modern demands to best serve their public. Booksellers, on the other hand, work hard to generate the best profit: Susan has been selling books for over 60 years, and she's still learning new things, keeping up with changing markets and sales venues... every good bookseller is always doing these things, and cataloging books, and talking with customers... Librarians are dedicated to keeping up with the needs and values of an entire community; booksellers have other bottom-line priorities.

I believe we need to give the libraries a big round of applause. They are constantly seeking means to support their communities by providing them with a specific kind of immediate, cultural value, and finding homes for the books which no longer suit those needs. They do this under enormous pressure from their directors, under tight budget constraints, and with insufficient time to do the task. I suggest that Susan attend the summer ALA conference; I believe that Susan would do both librarians and booksellers a great service by writing a story about the choices and challenges of today's librarians, both academic and public; perhaps she will not be as critical after listening to librarians from all walks.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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