Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2008 Issue

Buday Books: 60+ Years Of Bookselling By One Owner

Mrsb

Rita Buday, or "Mrs. B."


By Michael Stillman

In an era when so many booksellers have struggled, often unsuccessfully, to survive, we found one that has managed to weather many storms through numerous eras. Buday Books of rural Gilbertsville, in upstate New York, has been in business, under the same proprietorship, for over 60 years. Perhaps someone has been at it longer, but we have not met them. This story begins in 1947, the year Victor and Rita Buday were married. It has been running continuously ever since. We recently interviewed Mr. Buday to learn more about this remarkable survivor, and what advice they might have for struggling booksellers thinking of closing the doors after just a few years.

Rita ("Mrs. B") was a copy editor at the Saturday Review of Literature in New York in 1947. Victor ("Mr. B") worked for the printer which published the Review. Both were "book junkies," with interests in the sciences, classic literature, graphic arts, and metalworking. They were married that year, after which they moved to Long Island. Mrs. B began working for a daily newspaper, Mr. B for a printer. It was then that they began selling books, primarily deaccessioned college library books, by catalogue. However, and this is the major piece of advice they would offer newer booksellers, "we kept our day jobs." Those "day jobs" would change over the years, but the Budays never became totally dependent on selling books to make a living.

In 1962, they moved again, this time to rural Gilbertsville, population 502, "including the dog sleeping in the middle of Main Street when the sun shines." They operated their own printing and publishing business, continued to issue book catalogues, and periodically bought out nonfiction collections, to add to deaccessioned university library books from several noted upstate New York colleges.

In 1969, the Budays landed their largest printing customer. They used to run small ads in a long-gone trade publication for their printing business. One day, they received a call from an auction house in New York City asking to see some samples of their work. The following day, a large Buick pulled into their driveway. One of the passengers was Benjamin Swann, of Swann Galleries. Swann had opened his business in 1941 and was now looking for someone who could not only print his catalogues, but guarantee they were mailed on time. Working on tight deadlines, it was essential to an auction house that their catalogues reach their customers in time for them to participate in the sales. Mr. Swann agreed to meet the Budays' price, and pay overtime when necessary, but timely delivery of catalogues was "non-negotiable."

Mr. B then asked what assurance he had of being paid. One of the other gentlemen turned to him and asked whether he realized he had just insulted Mr. Swann. However, Benjamin Swann recognized it as a fair question, and assured the Budays that his word was good and that they would be paid as soon as the catalogues arrived. Both parties were good for their word, as the relationship went on for another 30 years, both during the tenure of Mr. Swann and his successor, George Lowry.

As Swann's business grew under Lowry's ownership, so did the Budays'. They would mail 35 to 40 catalogues per year, all under strict deadlines. This continued until 1998, when, as Mr. B puts it, "our bones creaked." After 50 years, they finally gave up their "day jobs," closing down the print shop and going into the bookselling business full time, though that might also be described as semi-retirement. They had put enough money away over the years to live, not in wealth in retirement, but in comfort. They converted the print shop into a book warehouse, stopped printing catalogues, and began listing books on the internet. AbeBooks was their major site, but after becoming disenchanted with them, closed their Abe shop. Instead, they continue to sell on several smaller sites: Biblio, Antiqbook, and Tom Folio, 61 years after opening for business.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

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