Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2010 Issue

To Reuse or Not to Reuse, That is the Question

Wrightpacking01

Packing can include both new and old material.


By Karen Wright


Wow! When I put a call out to two different booksellers' organizations, IOBA and my ABS group, asking for comments and opinions about wrapping books in new or reused materials, I didn't know I was about to be barraged with a hurricane of replies. But, thanks very much to all of you who did reply, you helped get this article off the ground and though I couldn't use all the info you sent, I've tried to paraphrase and condense so you can see what the other folks are up to without falling asleep halfway through this tome.

What really started me thinking about reusing packaging material was when I got an updated notice from the former fearless leader of IOBA, Shawn Purcell, with this good advice about shipping: "State your rates clearly, don't make shipping a profit center, process the order quickly, include a professional receipt, use good butcher paper and bubble wrap, a box is almost always better than a mailer, become familiar with all the shipping options and protections, and send it out quickly."

One does not need to be a "fanatic environmentalist, it's just good sense" as one bookseller put it. It certainly makes sense to me to reuse and recycle. It costs less, it is good for the world, which is burying itself in trash, and frankly, I don't think that, except for the snootiest of collectors, anyone really gives a mule's tail whether or not the package is pretty as long as their books arrive in a timely manner, well packaged, and without dents and broken spines. But that's just me.

The packing materials I use are sometimes new, but more often reused materials that I collect hither and yon; i.e. boxes that have packets of cheese in them are almost always the size of one or two 8vos or 4tos, so I hit up the gal at the grocery store and she kindly does not slice the top off with her deadly box cutter, but opens them so they can be reused. Also, I live in a tourist town and there are lots of gift shops, bars, and antique stores. They often reuse their bubble wrap, but if not they know to call me and I'll come running. You know the adage - their trash, my treasure.

I only use clean stuff with minimal-to-no tape, and no odd odors or soiling. I often find big rolls of clear packing tape at flea markets, but be careful, they may be old and cracked or too thin and fragile to use so check them before you buy. I do buy bubble envelopes in various sizes for low range 8vos and small 4tos, but anything bigger goes in a box. Almost every book is wrapped in brown butcher paper, then either bagged or boxed, depending on the weight of the book, its fragility, its value, and how far it has to go. So far I have, in twenty years, only had one book returned damaged, and that was by a post office person who set it on something so sharp and so hard that it pierced a bubble wrapper and two layers of brown paper, the hardback cover, and about thirty pages of text. They must have been practicing sword-fighting tricks in the back room and stabbed it with a rapier, for heaven's sake! Oh, and I insure anything over $50.00, just in case. Many booksellers recommend getting delivery confirmation. I don't always; again it depends on where it is going and the price of the book.

So, anyway, that's how I do things, but what about other folks?

I started with one of the big boys. I live near the Alibris warehouse in Nevada. They're not usually too happy to see an email from me. But I emailed Peter Skerritt at Alibris Client Services with a question. I've toured their huge facility. They have dozens of folks opening envelops and boxes and I wanted to know why they couldn't open the package, make sure that it is the correct book in the proper condition, and then slap their label on it and reseal it instead of tossing thousands of boxes, bubble wrappers and other materials in the recycle bins.

He said he spoke to one of the shipping people and they explained that "…although the packaging material that we discard after opening those packages is recycled, we do not use the same package to re-send the order on to the customer. There are several reasons for this, and it starts with the opening process. This can be a furiously fast process when there are six cages of packages, each containing several thousand packages and everything has to be opened, inspected, then placed in the line to be checked in as "received". I've seen as many as fifteen cages in a day, so there's no time to be too gentle with a package when opening it. They're careful not to damage the contents, but the packaging is not an important item. And the packaging that we use is completely different than the material that most sellers use and our own label and logo is affixed to our packages shipping from the Distribution Center. It's all standardized there."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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