by Chris Lowenstein

#127, 25 August 2008

Bookseller Catalogues

Part II

Accidental Antiquarian Series

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On a recent visit to an antiquarian bookshop, I asked the owner if he had anything by or about Dante Alighieri, the subject of my first catalogue.

"No. I don't think so," he answered. "I have a lot of Western Americana and Californiana. But feel free to browse around."

I spent about a half hour scanning the shelves of the shop. At last, my eye landed on a small book with a parchment cover on the bottom shelf of a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. The book's spine was painted in red Italianate scrollwork.

Parchment cover. Florentine scrolls. Hmmm. Quite a few editions of Dante are bound in parchment. Could it possibly be?

I knelt down on the floor and pulled the book off that low shelf. The front of the parchment cover was hand-painted with a large dragon and calligraphic letters. Reds, greens, and golds, a bit faded but still intact, shone in the daylight. I experienced that moment of pure elation that every book hunter knows - that feeling of serendipitously finding something I'd been seeking for a while, that feeling of discovery of something wonderful, something that, until I found it, had been sitting innocuously on a shelf waiting just for me.

"I think I found your only Dante book," I said, rising off the floor. "I'll take it."

"Oh my goodness! I forgot I had that one. It was given to me on consignment a while ago," the bookseller said, surprised. "It's yours."

With that, I purchased what would be the final book in my Dante catalogue. I had 49 other books, prices researched, images scanned, and descriptions written. This last book would be a fitting addition to the rest of the collection. It was time for me to work on piecing it all together to make a catalogue.

First, I needed to find a computer program that I could use to digitally lay out the catalogue's pages. I started with Pages, a program on my Macintosh, but I wasn't satisfied with the ultimate product. I had too much trouble sizing images. Rather than research other, more sophisticated programs, I started over with Microsoft Word, which provided ample options for fonts, colors, and images. The bonus was that since I already knew how to use Word, I could use it quickly. I'll save the fancier desktop publishing programs for those already in the know or for my next catalogue.


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