Over the River and Through the Woods
Along the Maine coast, 15 minutes south of Kennebunkport and 104 from Cushing, the scene of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World, set into a pale November landscape the Hanrahan home, from the outside, provides no clues about the books and bibliographers within. The theme that animates their lives, books and the printed word, once through the front door, appears in all the expected places and then, for emphasis, occupies several sections of the house altogether. In many shops and most homes such volume and complexity overwhelm all good intentions for order. Not here. Rooms are devoted to categories and the material shelved logically. Upstairs, over the garage, the heart of the enterprise is a well lit workroom in which material is analyzed, described and priced before going into mail order catalogues, posted on line or set aside to be offered at shows. Even so, thousands of other pamphlets and ephemera are in bins, divided by period and subject. The only way to see this material and a substantial portion of their books, that are not online, is to visit.
In addition, within the stock there are 75 to 100 early English plays, more than 200 early almanacks, groups and collections of photographs, bookplates and newspapers. Much of the material was priced 10 to 20 years ago and remains unchanged.
There is also something unexpected: an entire room devoted to Maurice Sendak, the American writer and illustrator of children's books. This is Joyce's material. Only 15% of these roughly 1,000 items, including posters and ephemera, are online.
I spend some time sifting the bins for Hudson Valley material and am rewarded with an 1815 almanack printed in Kingston. Jack mentions they have a further group of uncatalogued early almanacks that he promises to unearth a week hence. For the moment he and Joyce are preoccupied with preparations for the book fair. It's Tuesday afternoon and come Thursday evening they'll be setting up at the Hynes Auditorium in downtown Boston. For the show they'll bring examples of their inventory, a taster menu that only hints at the bacchanal.
On Thursday we also head for Boston but divert west down Route 93. The goal is Eveleigh Books in Dover, Massachusetts, the location easy to find with Google Maps. There we meet Leigh Stein, 79 going on 40. He's invited James Gray of Cambridge over for the discussion. Jim is also a bookseller and they collaborate from time to time. Leigh will be exhibiting at the Boston Books, Paper and Ephemera Show on Saturday and Jim is helping him prepare.
Leigh is a late-to-the-party bookseller. Although born in 1930, he didn't get into the fray until 1994. In prior lives he built, acquired and along the way, sold businesses. Over the past 15 years he has created Eveleigh Books based on careful acquisitions and research and today employs a team of women who convert his passion for acquisition into online listings. Eveleigh Books occupies the entire lower level of his country home which looks out on a scene out of Thomas Hardy.
Leigh today is the new blood in the business. He entered the field as the internet was coming to life and does not live by or depend on old assumptions. For him, bookselling is the internet mixed with the occasional show. He occasionally issues catalogues and does shows but the internet is his primary sales milieu.