The Lawbook Exchange: Greg Talbot
- by Bruce E. McKinney
The distance between New Jersey and Manhattan isn't far when measured in miles, but it's long when measured in career steps. Born and raised in the New Jersey suburbs, Greg Talbot was planning to enter law school when he took a job in New York City as an outside sales rep with a legal publisher, the Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Co. The year was 1973. He left ten years later with another sales rep to establish a new company, The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., which sold second-hand law books to lawyers and librarians. In 1988 Greg visited the ephemera fair in Connecticut and left with an understanding that the antiquarian items were fascinating and desirable. Having decided to pursue this field, Greg and his partner hired a cataloguer to assist them. Within a year they were specialists in antiquarian law that offered items ranging from incunabula to photographs of Clarence Darrow.
Stable for decades, Greg's field began to change rapidly as the internet established itself in the mid-1990s. “The rules were beginning to change and we all had to acknowledge these changes,” he said. The net was something of a mixed blessing. It expanded the audience of potential buyers and confirmed the rarity of items offered, but it also exposed supply-price imbalances, which eliminated the value of certain types of material. The company adjusted because it had to. With the addition of a managing editor, The Lawbook Exchange began to reprint scarce texts in 1991 and introduced original titles in 2003. It also maintained its first line, the sale of second-hand legal materials. In all, “the business became more complex but also more recession-proof.” This combination of countervailing business lines helped to insure the company's viability after the severe test of the 2008 stock market crash.
Looking at the market for rare books today, Greg sees “a continuing, perceptible shift” to unique, rare and highly important material. Market interest in non-rare antiquarian stock and more recent and scholarly books has declined, the line between collectible and everything else is becoming an increasingly bright line. For some, such fundamental change would drive them from the field. For Greg and his staff it is simply a lock to pick. The Lawbook Exchange never assumes that what has been will be again. Some dealers are married to the past. The Lawbook Exchange is committed to the future.
In a recent conversation I suggested that Greg prepare a short list of appealing materials for us to display digitally at Rare Book Hub that would be of interest to individuals coming to the ABAA New York Book Fair in April. He selected a dozen items pertaining to law. The list includes a flirtatious autograph letter by Oliver Wendell Holmes, a volume of canon law from 1482 with exquisite decorated initials and the first American edition of Blackstone's Commentaries in an exceptionally handsome contemporary binding. Here is a link to view them: Preview of 29 Items on Display at the April 2015 New York ABAA Book Fair. Contact Greg or Michael von der Linn, Manager of the Antiquarian Book Department, to reserve an item for your evaluation, or for an opening conversation. They would be delighted to make your acquaintance.
The 55th Annual ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair will be held on April 9th, 2015 - April 12th, 2015 at The Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, at 67th Street, New York City. The preview is Thursday, April 9rd from 5-9 p.m. The fair hours are Friday noon-8pm, Saturday noon-7pm and Sunday noon-5pm.
To contact Greg Talbot or Michael von der Linn:
The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.
33 Terminal Avenue, Clark, New Jersey 07066-1321
Tel: 732-382-1800; Toll Free 800-422-6686 in USA or Canada
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/LawbookExchange
On Twitter: www.twitter.com/LawbookExchange