We Shall not Pass this way Again
Of course things could be found. Things then too recent, common or unimportant were everywhere, the 20th century a plague to be survived, 19th century material around in random places, 18th century material almost not at all. Only once or twice I found 17th century material and when I took one such book to school to talk about it in 6th grade someone stole it. Even those who don't collect could covet.
In my twenties I was a dealer of sorts. I could find material and collectors and make a profit, doing well by doing good. In my forties, after a twenty year run building businesses I for the first time had both time and money to collect in a serious way and so began to look at acquiring some of the things I had learned of in youth but never seen. Initially I bought from many dealers with mostly indifferent results until it was suggested I contact Bill Reese of New Haven. He was helpful and sent me a list of bibliographies many of which in time I acquired. In this way I learned something of the complex world of rare books. It was both obscure and logical.
In the early 1990's on trips to Europe I met Hugh Bett of Maggs Brothers, Anthony Payne of Bernard Quaritch and Reg and Philip Remington, men who conveyed the intensity of collecting, and sent me home to Florida to build a collection that focused on the New World. Within a year I was bidding at auction and acquiring material from Bill. Over the next ten years I bought from a small group of dealers and in some cases at auction, always, perhaps with one or two exceptions, with dealer advice. In 1995 my family moved to San Francisco where I continued to collect the new world and went on to collect other things but felt then, and still feel, such early material to be uniquely exceptional. As Hugh Bett explained at the outset you must first decide to collect such material and then be patient about acquiring it. "For the most part it's not on anyone's open shelves." As I recall he explained it this way. "You have to buy it when its about." For a few years it was and I did.
In ten years I acquired an appealing collection.
I continued to read dealer and auction catalogues into the millennium and to buy randomly and along the way began other collections: American travel, auction catalogues and the Hudson Valley. If such early travel books are among the Everests of collecting, the later North American material presented interesting almost daily jaunts through the thickets of the American experience.