If not, there should be. On our road trips, we happen across books in all sorts of out of the way places-without planning to find a bookshop, or used bookstore. When we pass by a sign that declares–used books, we brake, as safely as possible, and turn right around if necessary. Sometimes we are horribly disappointed–the shop is closed. Little garage stores, or hole in the walls don’t have regular hours, and even if they do, our cruising along the road can be from 6 a.m. to midnight–we are oblivious to time. Once in leaving The Road Kill Cafe, on the way to The Pencil Sharpener Museum, we rounded a curve and there was a white outbuilding with a nice sign. We stopped, it looked deserted, but we tried the door
anyway. And we saw books–rows and rows of lovely printed things. A middle aged gentleman joined us, we chatted, and found some wonderful tomes to add to our collection, as well as for fun and reading. We were just in time, he would have closed and locked the door if we’d been any later. His place was more of a storage area, less of a shop, but weaving through white washed church filled roads in New England, a small tasteful sign designated that within this private home, there was also an antiquarian bookman. Sometimes private homes make me nervous, the feeling is too personal and I’m afraid not to buy something, for fear of offending the homeowner. That of course, is completely silly, but it’s my hang-up. My husband has no such trepidation, and sallies forth, eagerly assessing the shelves of neatly alphabetized titles within. We had a terrific time. Half the pleasure of road trips are meeting fascinating individuals along the way. Booksellers without exception, fall into that category. Within the New England shop, I found a sought after Volland 20’s children’s title with glorious bright illustrations for a reasonable price. We picked up other things, but that was my prize from his place. However, stopping at a ramshackle building in the MA Berkshires, in a less prosperous area, the atmosphere wasn’t as relaxed. The books within were covered with plastic in some places, and those that weren’t were either dust filled, or just plain dirty. Although there were plenty of books we were interested in, the owner priced his stock at a ridiculously high level, and didn’t seem to want to budge. He was definitely a character, we learned of his life, work, and various other things before we were able to pick the few affordable pieces we wanted, and finally be released from his grasp. That visit took far too long, with little to show for it. But we did encounter an unusual seller.
A formal antiquarian bookshop that we had seen advertised from the highway, beckoned us near. However, our lame old dog was with us, and we would need to go in one at a
time, if we wanted to peruse the well stocked store. This one definitely had higher end pieces, and I salivated over possible Alice in Wonderland illustrated volumes, or my old favorite, Mother Goose. Our dog was in a stroller, just like a kid, so we asked politely if it would be possible to bring him in–he wasn’t barking, and couldn’t wee wee on anything, and he couldn’t bite any one either, even if he had wanted to, which he didn’t. If the owner had declined, it would have been better than his half assed assent and subsequent disapproval of the very sight of our dog. Our time in the store was rushed and awkward, we wanted to see the stock, and buy some books, but his obvious dislike of Merlin caused a pall to overcome our natural love and interest in his stock. He was perfectly in his rights not to want a dog within his store–however, once you say yes, to treat both customer and animal with contempt and distaste is uncalled for. I can’t recall buying much from there, which is just as well.
We also collect, well, things. All sorts of things. We have cut back considerably due to lack of space and my growing horror of clutter, so now when we come across
an antique and collectibles mall, we concentrate strictly on paper ephemera, with a tiny side of LPs and silver charms. After having his beard trimmed by a barber in a real railroad caboose, we visited an antique mall in OH. Oh, is right! Some fab old Science magazines, children’s primers, and illustrated books popped up there, and we made out like bandits. And we killed around 4 hours, which during a road trip can set you back apace. Ah, but it was worth it. Sometimes antique malls have virtually nothing of interest in paper or book form, and sometimes it has too too much! This past weekend we stopped at a place in the middle of PA, expecting little, and got so many 1 buck books, we had to ask for a large box. And there were a zillion more we would have taken had we owned the Apple company and were made of money. Lacking that, we had to pick and chose which ones we thought were the best buy, and decide if they may increase in value–only one title was bought with that in mind, the rest were pure delight in the dust jackets and story-lines. We aren’t all that practical in the collectibility department, unfortunately.
So, what type of books do we usually find? You name it. Newer titles are shelved in some antique malls, which I find irritating, since they aren’t old, nor collectible in any way. And some older are so highly priced, that you know the booth owner isn’t a book person, but someone who happens to have a couple of Dick and Jane’s ratty 60th editions, and think they have a stack of gold paper. On the other hand, I almost felt badly buying 60 cent pulp paperbacks from a little store in KY. They could easily fetch 5 dollars a piece. Other books were priced a buck, and again, the value would have been higher if the owner understood the book market.
In Indiana, outside of the circus land of Peru, we almost missed a book exchange. In a side building on a older lady’s property, steel shelves had nicely categorized and alphabetized books–mostly romances and mysteries
and westerns. That was fine with me. Some were nice golden age books, others newer releases I hadn’t read. Then came a fab surprise. She asked if we like the ‘really old stuff’ because she had boxes and boxes we could look through. And boy, did we. We grabbed Victorian boards with beautiful artwork for a song, and some more old crime fiction for almost nothing. I’m not a collector of Victorian or Edwardian literature, so I’d no idea if anything we chose was worth a dime. We ended up paying 45 bucks for two large boxes because that’s the amount of cash we had on hand. The sad thing was the owner exclaimed as we paid her, ‘well, I can buy groceries this week!’ We hope she was joshing us, but our instincts say otherwise.
At the end of each road trip, I take photos of our stash, and put them up on flickr for all to drool over. And sometimes a couple people do find something to covet. Usually, though, it’s just us, happy as little bookworms, with our new treasures.