From The Editor

by Craig Stark

#101, 13 August 2007

First, many thanks to all who participated in our find-the-bookman contest last week. Your answers were both unusually interesting and varied! And, actually, none of them were wrong because nobody knows who any of those guys in the photo are in the first place. Jamie's purpose in posing the question was to encourage you to start thinking about what a bookman (or woman) actually is. As I mentioned previously, the answer to this question will become clear as you progress through his columns, though you will get his partial answer today.

Second, ordinarily I try to answer every email I receive. However, due to the large number of replies we received, I wasn't able to respond personally to every one of you. Rest assured that your participation was appreciated and every email was carefully read.

Third, I thought you might be interested in some of the responses. I've excerpted the first 26 I received below. Hint: There are two correct answers amongst them and several that are borderline correct.

    1. After some contemplation I realized the man in the middle is a true bookman. He arrived with a question and was looking for an answer. The average person would be overwhelmed with the destruction, tentatively moving toward the surviving books. The bookman is already in the book.

    2. Here's my take on the picture. And it's a tremendous photograph. It can't be the fellow in the background as he appears to be reading. Based on the scene, casual reading is not the best way to spend one's time. The fellow on the left could be a Bookman but something about him looks too passive and he is too far from the books for a good look. Now the guy on the right seems to have it in gear. He's got his nose right in there and his hands on a potential find. He's my man.

    3. The guy on the right with the open book. He is checking the title page and condition of the book.

    4. The man that is just looking at the books on the left hand side is the bookman. The reason that I choose this answer is because a bookman knows what he is looking for. He can scan a book shelf and just know when he sees the book he is looking for. It is exactly what I do when I go book scouting, I can scan a shelf and just know what books to look at and what books not to look at. It is almost a sixth sense when it comes to it, sometimes it comes from knowledge of the authors, and the book itself, sometimes it comes from that voice that says, "Come pick me up. I'm the real deal." Every book dealer that knows his stuff can walk into a used book store and look at the shelves without touching anything but the books that are worth something. This is what in my opinion separates the true book dealers from the rookies.

    5. The "bookman" is the gentleman who is actually handling a book. As Mr. Frontero has said (and I'm paraphrasing here), nothing takes the place of having your hands feel the heft of the book, the strength of the binding, the quality of the paper as you turn the pages, etc.

    6. All three are bookmen. Who else would stand in a bombed out bookstore during the London Blitz of 1940?

    7. I searched all over the net and could not find any identification of the men in the picture, so I am thinking they are all bookmen because they are doing what bookmen should be doing. One is looking, one is touching and one is reading; is there a better way to find and evaluate books? And, if I was in London in 1940, I just might have been there.

    8. I would say all of them. The reason is only a true lover of books would stand in the middle of a bombing rubble and look and search the books. All three seem to being doing this!

    9. Which person in the photo is the bookman? #1, the one looking up - not on my life with my trifocals I have to squint - not smelling and touching the book, #2, the one reaching for the book - oh my God - ready to pull it down from the top of the spine - tsch, tsch. Got to be #3 the one that is touching, holding, caressing and reading the book.

    10. Answer to Question 1: It's the man standing looking up. (Man on the left) Answer to Question 2: He's a Bookman because he's searching for the better quality books that are possibly way up high. I know this because I've done it. You must look high and low to find the better books. To find the ones that are overlooked.

    11. The bookman is the one reading the book. He found something special. He's interested in the book and what is says to him. Not just the title or the value but what's inside is what counts. He's already engrossed in this book and is not searching for more until he is sated with this one. This is a book he is relishing. To sell, maybe, but also to collect and own. The peril of the bookman as I have experienced it in a very small way is when I find something special, I want it. Selling is just a small part of the fun. Am I a bookman or am I a "man" who loves books. Ah, that is the question!

    12. The guy in the back right-hand of photo. Both hands on book, standing not sitting and has climbed to the highest point in the rubble of the three men to attain his desire (and best over-all view of the books!). The force is strong with him. The other two also qualify but merely as bibliophiles crazy enough to attend a book sale during some minor "Blitzkrieg" (sp.) renovations!

    13. Part 1: The bookman is the gentleman on the right side of the picture, furthest away from us. Part 2: You can tell he's the bookman because he is not only climbing on the rubble but also looking at a book, looking through it, feeling it... I presume he's the one without a trench coat so he can move around more easily to see more books.

    14. #1, the bookman is the one on the left staring with hands in pocket. #2, the reason for #1 is that a bookman can look and know; he doesn't have to pick up every single volume. In other words he has an eye, while the others do not.

    15. My guess is that it's the middle chap because he is the one who is actually thumbing through the book, feeling, as you put it "the smell, the heft, the beauty, and the tactile impression of a good book."

    16. The man on the left is the bookman. Because he is scanning the titles!

    17. I think the guy with the book in his hands is the bookman. The two other guys are looking, but are holding their hands behind their back (well, one is reaching for a book, but is still holding one hand behind his back), like when your mother took you shopping: "Look but don't touch." A real bookman may restrain himself, but it would be hard, very hard. Bookmen have to touch.

    18. The guy on the left is the bookman because he is searching the shelves intensely.

    19. I see in all three the character of the Bookman in some form: on the left-the visual spine-hunter, the intuitive one; on the right foreground, the classic spine-toucher, intuitive yet more tactile, not losing his place as he fires along the shelf, his finger surging a hidden yet potent Flashpoint along as he goes, rear hand posed relaxed so as to allow for a Zen-like flow; and finally, in the farthest space: Ah, yes, perhaps this is the clearest reflection of the Bookman we aspire to be one with - none of that gentile and restrained stance for us, thank you. We simply must touch/hold/feel/see/be with the book. THE book. He surely is either reading the publisher's page or taking in an illustration. Ah, yes, this is the Bookman for he has lost himself in the spell, and he is home.

    20. The bookman in the picture is the man who has his hands in his pockets and is just scanning the books, the man on the left. Why: Because he has to make the most of his time and reject all the bad books in the bunch.

    21. I would say the middle one of the three men - in other words, the second man from the right. The reason I choose him is because he is in the midst of the rubble and even using the rubble to get at the book's he wants to look at, and then he is standing there perusing/reading the book and is willing to do that for hours or however long he is allowed to before being kicked out of there. It reminds me of the time when I worked for a short time for a small independent bookseller. When a shipment of new books came in, I asked with awe in my voice, "Can we look at these books?" He responded, "No," in a horrified tone. And I thought, you poor man. (The bookstore is no longer in existence.)

    22. 1. The man holding the book ... the man in the middle. 2. Because he isn't aware of the other men, and he doesn't have an overcoat on and isn't prepared for the weather.

    23. They are all bookmen. Why? Who else would calmly browse books in such an absorbed, detached manner among the open air rubble of a bombed-out building?

    24. 1. The man holding the book. 2. He's put his personal safety at stake for a book. He's climbed onto the debris and seems unaware of a timber about to fall on him.

    25. Which of the men in the above picture is the Bookman? The photographer. Why? The photographer recognized the drama and significance of the scene - which suggests that the British book culture would persevere - and then took the time to capture the scene for posterity.

    26. The last guy on the right because he is touching the books as he looks at them on the shelf?

Bookseller Rene' Hedges was our winner (#14 above), though #4 was also correct. Here's is Jaime's explanation"

"First, the Bookman is the guy on the left.

"Secondly, the way one can tell is that he is not only not touching any books, but his body language indicates that he is avoiding doing so. The theory is that, (a), he is unlikely to run across anything he can't instantly identify by scanning the spines alone, even if he's never seen it before, and (b) he is unwilling to cheapen himself and his affection by offering the commitment of touch, when it would almost surely be misplaced and/or misunderstood.

"Years of watching these people in bookstores and other book-filled venues have led me to this inescapable conclusion. And then somebody pointed out that I did the same...."

Ok, moving on to today's newsletter ...

Media Editor Catherine Petruccione shares one of her happy discoveries with us today - British travel writer Freya Stark. Stark was a remarkably fearless woman who traveled, often alone, to many lands that some of us wouldn't set foot in, let alone visit. The books that followed from her travels are both many and wonderful - and collectible too.

Also, Jill Hendrix returns today with another installment in her series, "How to Start a Clicks-and-Bricks" used bookstore. This time she explains how to assemble your power team.

Finally, if you're receiving this newsletter via HTML email, don't forget to look at the bottom for this week's QMR Book of the Week. As always, there's an interesting tale to tell.

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