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

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    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> KNIGHT, HILARY. The Original Portrait of Eloise that Hung at the Plaza Hotel. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> WARHOL, ANDY. "Iced Lemon Delight," an Original Watercolor Presented to Hilary Knight's cat, Phoebe $8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> SENDAK, MAURICE. <i>Where the Wild Things Are.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED with drawing to Hilary Knight in the month following publication. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> NOLAND, KENNETH. Original circle painting, untitled, acrylic and ink on cloth, for cover of monograph $8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> TOULOUSE-LAUTREC. <i>Histoires Naturelles,</i> 1899. With 22 original lithographs. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>A Collection of Poems,</i> [1711]. The first authoritative and complete collected Sonnets.$15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> LONDON, JACK. <i>The Call of the Wild.</i> 1903. First edition, first state jacket. $2,000 to 3,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> FROST, ROBERT. Autograph Manuscript of "Build Soil," 12 pp, 1932-1936. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> GOULD, GLENN. Glenn Gould's extensively annotated copy of Bach's Goldberg Variations $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> PLATH, SYLVIA. EARLY Autograph Letter Signed, about her beginnings as a writer, Northampton, MA, 1951. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> HOUDINI, HARRY. A collection of 11 cast iron shackle and lock items from Houdini's personal collection. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> M4 ENGIMA MACHINE, with very rare RARE HYDRA KEY ENVELOPE. $400,000 to 600,000
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    <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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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Erich Maria Remarque, <i>All Quiet on the Western Front,</i> first American edition, Boston, 1929. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sir William Russell Flint, gouache & watercolor illustration for Homer's <i>Odyssey,</i> 1924. Sold for $22,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters, signed to his family, 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>Lady Windermere's Fan,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, London, 1893. Sold for $27,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Emil Cardinaux, <i>St. Moritz,</i> 1918. Sold for $17,500.
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    <b>Doyle, Arnold “Jake” Johnson Online-Only Auction, ending Dec 18:</b> <i>The Settler and Sportsman in Anticosti.</i> $400 to $600
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    <b>Doyle, Arnold “Jake” Johnson Online-Only Auction, ending Dec 18:</b> CARLETON, HENRY GUY, <i>Advice to Young Anglers.</i> $300 to $500
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    <b>Doyle, Arnold “Jake” Johnson Online-Only Auction, ending Dec 18:</b> SOUTHARD, CHARLES ZIBEON, <i>The Evolution of Trout and Trout Fishing in America.</i> $400 to $600
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