Bookseller Heaven; or The Thirtieth Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar
Before I go any further, let me just say that we were privileged to have thirteen expert, professional faculty members from every phase of the book world; experienced librarians and archivists, long-time rare booksellers, ephemera experts, a bookbinder, a rare book school instructor, and a computer genius. Let me just apologize to the wonderful faculty right now if I don't get all your plaudits and expertise straight. There is not enough room in the article for the knowledge and proficiency you all displayed. During and after each of our lectures, we were given plenty of time to ask questions and the entire faculty showed great humor and patience with our queries and comments. I'm sure that on occasion some of them were rolling their eyes back in their heads.
The diversity and expertise of the students was also quite interesting. These book people came in all shapes and sizes and they came from all over the U.S. and Canada. There were librarians, book conservators, archivists, novice and experienced booksellers, people from Friends of the Library, and staff from the online bookselling monster, Barnes and Noble.
We were offered many pounds of reference materials, all of which had to be trundled home because we couldn’t bear to leave any of this valuable stuff behind. They included lots of individual store catalogs and several reference books such as Ahearn's new tome which will be most helpful as I venture into the world of appraisals. Perhaps some of the most valuable resources we were given were leads to the many online reference sites. Networking was heavily stressed from the beginning of the seminar until the last gasp, and the value and processes of various kinds of partnering with other booksellers was explained in great and fascinating detail. For some reason, it had never occurred to me to call up a fellow bookseller and see if they wanted to go fifty-fifty on a collection was that too expensive for me to buy alone. Duh!
Our next lesson was Book Selling 401, presented by Rob Rulon-Miller, the Director of the seminar. He has been in the book business since 1969 and owns Rulon-Miller Books in St. Paul, MN. His co-speaker was Kevin Johnson who has Royal Books in Maryland. They answered some important questions. What makes books rare or important and where are these books found? What is a first edition and how does one determine it? What is the significance of signatures, inscriptions, laid in ephemera, and the like? How do appraisals work and who can do them? Where can a bookseller go to get more information about how to evaluate books?
The material we got from Dan Gregory from Between the Covers Books was not only timely, but amazingly easy to understand considering I'm a technological numbskull. He is THE computer and technology guru for the book business according to several faculty members, and one of them confided to me that he'd steal him away from Between the Covers in a New York second, if he could. Dan's discussion of how to prevent data loss, what file formats to use, how to design and print catalogs, and how to output Internet data, was invaluable stuff.
We received a twenty-two page checklist of reference works used in the antiquarian book trade and how to use them, from Dan DeSimone, Curator of the Rosenwald Collection at the Library of Congress. His cohort in the discussion was Professor Terry Belanger who is the founder and director of the University of Virginia Book Arts Press and Rare Book School, and honorary curator of Special Collections there. Their good-natured bantering kept us all chuckling while we learned. They included handbooks, price guides, and bibliographic manuals on book collecting, publishing history, specialized catalogues, book and book art history, and chronologies. It will take me weeks just to get them all in my database.