One could fill multiple volumes with PW content that would be useful to booksellers. I highly recommend spending some time not only searching the archives but browsing them too. You never know what you're going to run into. Here's something from a ca. 1922 issue, for example, that echoes into modern times and could be classified in the "Some Things Never Change Dept."
Reminiscences of a Book Scout
By Joseph Jewett Barton
XI. Reflections on Monday
The other day I was sitting in front of my desk with my feet on it, wondering whether business was really dead or only sleeping.
An old friend came in, drew up a chair, pulled out a smelly pipe, and, after getting it working well, started to soliloquize. "Yes, you had a copy of 'English Notes, intended for very Extensive Circulation, by Quarles Quickens, Esq., 16 pp. Boston Daily Mail Office 1842.' It had salmon pink wrappers, was a nice copy. Perhaps you picked it up for fifteen cents. You didn't tell me anything about it, but sent it to a New York dealer and probably asked about fifty dollars for it. I wonder if you saw that article in Hopkins' page in the Publisher's Weekly where the 'Notes' was attributed to Poe and lately had been sold at auction for eight hundred dollars, and that the next copy would probably bring a thousand." As he went out the door, I heard something about "A guardian--be careful when in the rural districts that the cows don't bite you."
I got to thinking about that tragedy. It isn't the money loss, but the sting of not knowing the value. Sombre thoughts breed others, and as various experiences of the less pleasant kind passed thru my mind, I recalled the passing of old Mr. Brown. Brown was not his name, but at present I cannot remember his real one, if I ever knew it.
He was tall and spare, a little bent in the shoulders, had dark curling hair, streaked with gray, of more than the customary length, and wore a thin mustache and beard. He looked like an old time print of a master of a small red school.
When I became well acquainted with him he told me much of his life. As I recall it, his family had not been very prosperous, nor of any particular station in the small Now England community in which he was reared. He had worked his way thru college, with intervals of teaching school to secure needed funds to finish his course.
I suppose too little food and too much hard work had undermined his powers of resistance, so at some time he had drifted into tuberculosis, but was now considered cured.
He kept a little book shop way out toward the end of the busiest street in Brooklyn. As I never pass by any place that has books in the window, I of course went in to see what he had of interest. We, of the craft, prefer to seek our own and wait on ourselves, but Mr. Brown was eager to show me everything in his little shop; he seemed fearful lest I might overlook something.
He had a hobby--Italian poetry of the old school in the original--there is a subject for you. He talked earnestly, lengthily and finally boringly on the subject; when you are hoping you may find a Thompson's "Long Island" or the "History of Flatbush" tucked away in a dark corner where somebody else may have overlooked it, the subject of Italian poetry, however fervently presented, doesn't seem to touch the spot.
I wound up my first visit by buying a "Pilgrim's Progress" with Anderson plates; that's all I could find, and I had to buy something.
Brown asked me if I would manage his shop for a few minutes while he went across the street to the baker's. He said he had not breakfasted yet, and I surmised that the thirty-five cents I gave for Bunyan was immediately converted into a bottle of milk and some buns.
I formed the habit of stopping in to see Brown about once every week. He was a gentleman, was well educated, very poor and of indifferent health. He didn't whine or curse his luck or the Capitalists, but did the best he could with what he had. He should have had many a bottle of milk and other nourishing food every day, but I do not believe he got it. He did not appear to have any relatives or friends, tho he did say he had some books in his trunk that were to go to a friend when he died. He promised to show those books to me, merely to gratify the desire of seeing a few nice items, but he never did.
In the course of one of our conversations he inquired as to my own likings among hooks; I told him I had an insane desire to acquire, at a moderate price, a presentation copy of a Kilmarnock Burns in the original boards, uncut, but I did not think my longings would ever be satisfied. Then in the most unsophisticated way he remarked that he knew an old Scotchman from whom he could get a Burns, whether first edition or not he couldn't say, as he was not interested in poems in the Scottish dialect. It was a very old copy, and he would go and see him in a few days and the next time I came, he would, in all probability, have it for me.
For many weeks he joined me in breakfast from the bakers, and if he had taken on the weight that I did from that second breakfast of mine, he would still be with us.
As time went on and he hadn't seen his Scotchman, and was not making any apparent effort to do so, my enthusiasm waned a little and I went off on a fishing trip. It was probably a month before I got around to Brown's shop again, and them it was closed. I thought nothing of this, and called again in about another week-still closed.
A few days later I was in a book shop and asked the proprietor, "What has become of Brown--perhaps you know him, he keeps a little shop out toward the end of your street"
"Who, Brown?" he replied. "Yes, I knew him, he is dead."
"What was the matter with him?" I asked. He told me that the old man's neighbors had missed him for several days, had notified the police and upon breaking into his store had found him dead, laying over a trunk full of books. The coroner said he died of starvation.
I have no doubt he was glad to go, but somehow I felt guilty. It seemed as tho there were something I had failed to do.
And tomorrow, it being Tuesday, I will get a large bunch of mail, perhaps, and after I have separated the checks from the bills, I will cash them and then go and buy among other things, several copies of "English Notes." Certainly among all those pamphlets in the second story of that old barn I have just learned about there ought to be at least two more.
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Copyright 2003-2011 by BookThink LLC
Copyright 2003-2011 by BookThink LLC