Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2009 Issue

Spend an Afternoon in the World of Books

Langley Harbor on a warm day


By Bruce McKinney

Whidbey Island, an hour from Seattle's downtown, is a worthwhile day trip, a pristine place where a community of 58,000 lives and tens of thousands visit, if mostly in the summer. Here there is at Langley, Washington, in addition to the requisite groceries and nick-knack shops, an assemblage of book sellers who share a neighborhood and belief that the world of books and images shall endure even as the drum beat of multi-dimensional thought daily subverts old reading habits by offering a bland blend of internet calories that, while sustaining life, deny the poetry of language, the power of image and the touch and possession of the real thing: works on paper. This book selling community practices their trade in a place that, though only 60 minutes distant from Seattle, is a step away from the daily bustle and a step back in time: the day or weekend jaunt where both the casual reader and the committed collector can find lunch, things to look at and some reading or discoveries to take home.

That these booksellers practice their trade in the shadow of Microsoft and Amazon is a reminder that the nearby presence of these behemoths does not diminish the commitments of everyone for the traditional alternatives. Someday, in the Museum of Natural History we may see an exhibit for booksellers in the same light we view scenes of ancient man in a pas-de-deux with mammoths: as the way it was but is no longer. For today these dealers adapt and organize themselves as a destination: a day away, to some extent a step back in time. The what, where and when of book buying and selling changes and so too do booksellers' approaches.

This said, on the pages of the New York Times that arrives daily to in part replace the Post-Intelligencer that slipped beneath the waves a few months past, the news is more and more about Google, Amazon and eBay this and that. The Times, that clearly loves books, finds every reasonable excuse to write about them and to celebrate their continuing existence even as their own stock drops and long time readers pinch the fresh editions for signs of life as expressed by heft. Life is precarious for all things printed these days.

In a world that seems more and more to have traveled with Columbus to the new, those who have stayed behind seem attracted to the shore, looking ever out to sea, wondering when everyone will be coming back. They may not but neither will these sellers of the printed word depart from their DNA driven quest for consistency with their resonant inner voices. Their generation knows the sound even as their children and their children's children glance away in disbelief that such old ideas still resonate with anyone. Twenty-somethings now live in a different place, of thought restructured by repeated internet searches into thought processes that circle the globe in seconds to deliver the history of coffee but none of its taste.

That is why these Whidbey Island holdouts march on. They long ago tasted the drink. The chemical formula, available on line, may be entirely accurate and satisfy the intellect about the facts. But books and images are about something much more. There is feel and smell, color and scale along with human interaction, opinion and debate. The world increasingly is settling for the facts. Just across the bay from Seattle a few are holding out for the feeling. They understand our heritage and who we are. They have it right.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] DAVID BURLIUK WITH ORIGINAL DRAWING and Signed twice. David Burliuk Rare ACA Gallery exhibition catalogue, undated. CA$400 – 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS. Text by Margaret Atwood. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2019. $CA400 - 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] LAWRENCE WEINER: POSTERS. Nova Scotia College of Art, Canada,1987. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: WILBUR SMITH: THE DARK OF THE SUN. Heinemann, UK, 1965. Signed First edition. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: ROBERTSON DAVIES: LEAVEN OF MALICE. SIGNED Clark, Irwin, & Co., Canada. 1954. 1st edition. CA$400 – 600
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [THE NOTABLE TRAILS LIBRARY]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: THE TRIAL OF DR. X; ROE V. WADE; THE GALILEO AFFAIR; THE TRIAL OF BERNHARD GOETZ… CA$300 – 500
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [MILITARY FICTION]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: Canada's Royal Military College. REVIEW, THE STONE FRIGATE, A HISTORY OF THE RMC… CA$300 – 400
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [WW1] CANADIAN (C.S.E.F.) SIBERIA 1918-1919 PHOTO ALBUM. With approximately 303 original official war photographs, postcards, and personal photographs. CA$8,000 – 10,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: HANS BELLMER: THE DOLL. 1995, 1st Ed. CA$150 – 300.
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: FAN HO; HONG KONG YESTERDAY. ModernBooks edition, 2006. First edition. 4to. CA$300 – 600.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: TARYN SIMON: AN AMERICAN INDEX OF THE HIDDEN AND UNFAMILIAR. Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012. Third edition. CA$600 – 1,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.
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    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Gonnelli:
    Auction 50
    Books, Autographs & Manuscripts
    March 6th-7th 2024
    Gonnelli: Cramer, [Picasso, Chagall , Miró], Trente ans d'activité. Starting price 4800€
    Gonnelli: Futurism
    Gonnelli: Avienus, Opera. 1488. Starting price 1200€
    Gonnelli: Vimont, Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France, en l'année 1642. Starting price 5000€
    Gonnelli: Goedart, Metamorphosis et historia naturalis insectorum. 1662.
    Gonnelli: Il Petrarcha con la spositione di M. Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo.
    Gonnelli: Poblacion, De usu astrolabi compendium.

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