Graceful Exits

Sumerian Enoch

In the midst of begats and died one name stands out – Enoch. In the Christian Bible book of  Genesis the story is told that “Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him” .
I know that I am not the only one who has wondered about this story. Later in the Bible the story is told of Elijah who was taken up to heaven in a chariot – no mention is made as to what happened to him or Enoch afterwards. Did they die ? Did Enoch live forever ? I don’t think we will ever find the answer to those questions. And don’t even get me started about the Sumerians and the Annunaki ! I am fascinated with something that happens to everyone – everyone dies. Most people don’t like to talk about such a supposedly morbid subject , but I find the topic to be of great interest. One of my favorite stories about the death of anyone is the story of the death of Socrates. I believe that every learned person should take the time to read this story. The story of the death of Socrates that has come down to us is a quick read. Written by Plato the story describes the trial of Socrates and his subsequent death which was brought about by drinking hemlock. Socrates meets his death in a stoic fashion. I can’t remember when I first read the story , but it is one of my favorite stories. Death is fascinating – it is life’s greatest and final mystery – which brings me to the point of this post – two books on the subject that describe the death stories of beings who seem to be much more prepared for death than most. When Socrates took the hemlock he did so with no apprehension of what was to come . He had expressed the notion that in his belief system death was NOT the end. It would have been very nice if Socrates could have come back in another life and elucidated for us the details of his journey from this world to the next and back again. Alas , no one has done so ? Or have they ? My answer to that question will have to wait for a future post as it is not the subject of this particular post . The subjects of this particular post are two books that describe the death events of mystics and masters.

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Random Musings of A Mad Bookseller

  It must have been in 9th grade or so when I first read the poem in my high school English class.  The imagery of the poem entranced me !  It became one of my favorite poems.  Like a piece of clothing washed too many times , life and time washed away the vibrant memory … Read more

In Defense of Real Books

The fables of John Gay

I love books and always have.  I would have a hard time imagining a world without books.  I know that there are societies that still exist that don’t have books and they seem to get along just fine.  I am not an anthropologist and don’t know all of the social ramifications that come about once a society develops the capacity to write things down into book form and to pass that knowledge along to future generations.  Certainly oral story telling and passing down knowledge via oral means has served humanity well and still serves many cultures well , but books seem to be a powerful means of insuring that knowledge is preserved .   I sit looking at a volume of Gay’s Fables published in 1793.  The book is full of stories predate the publication of the book by hundreds of years. We owe a great debt to John Gay for his collecting these stories and preserving them in a format that over 200 years later I can still access.  I have sitting in another room floppy disks that I used with computers just a few short years ago.  I am certain you can still obtain external floppy disk drives, but the information on the disks might no longer be compatible with my Windows 7 operating system.  I don’t have to worry about Gay’s book of fables as long as my eyes can see and even then someone could read the book to me.  This is wonderful !  Another volume that jumps out at me is ” Enchanted Tales of the Atlantic”.  This book was published in 1898 and contains stories about such places as Atlantis and Antilla and Hy – Brasil.  In it you can read tales about Merlin and Sir Lancelot as well as the story of the voyage of St. Brandan.  I can sit for hours and occupy my time reading these stories.  The only operating system I need is the one that I have always had – an inquisitive mind.   I have a great admiration for those people who made books possible – from the ancients who started recording events by drawing on cave walls to the people who hand wrote manuscripts to the people who developed type and to those who developed moveable type.  We all have a debt to those people who handed down stories via oral traditions and to those who eventually wrote down those stories.

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Shipping Large Boxes of Books Revisited

This is the second part of my “Shipping Large Boxes of Books” In the first part of this I related the story of shipping a large set of “The Encyclopaedia Britannica” to a customer at a US Embassy. Early in October I got another order for a set of “The Encyclopaedia Britannia.  This order was for the large format version of this edition which was printed on fine rice paper.  This again was the 1910 / 1911 edition which is considered to be the last great version of this set.  This was a very heavy set of books.  The total weight of the books was almost 100 pounds. If memory serves me correctly I sent one box which weighed 43 pounds and another which weighed 48 pounds. These books were shipped from Pennsylvania to Washington state – completely across the country!  I wanted to insure that the books arrived in the condition they left my shop. I wrapped each book in kraft paper. I chose heavy duty boxes which I purchased at Staples.  The boxes were designed to handle up to 75 pounds per box, so I had a good margin of safety.  In addition to wrapping each book individually I placed bubble wrap on the bottom of the boxes and around the empty spaces in the boxes.  I taped the boxes with 2” wide packaging tape.  I shipped the 29 volume set in 2 boxes. In retrospect I think I should have used 3 boxes.  When I took the boxes to the post office the clerk who assisted me seemed to have difficulty lifting the boxes.  The boxes felt heavy to me, but I did not have difficulty moving them.  Next time I will limit my boxes of books to 35 pounds or so.  I insured both boxes of books.  I shipped 2 boxes and I insured each box for half of the total value of the books.  I thought about insuring each box for the total value of the set – there is an argument that could be made for doing that – the entire set would be worthless if just one of the boxes was damaged , but I decided to take the risk of insuring each box for half of the total value.  I shipped the books via USPS media mail. I could have also shipped them via UPS ,but I have had good results with the USPS.  I obtained delivery tracking and confirmation for both boxes.

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Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde



October 16th 2012 marked the 158th anniversary of the birth of one of my favorite writers – Oscar Wilde.  Oscar Wilde was certainly one of the wittiest men who ever lived.  He is remembered for many things. He enjoyed great fame and success as a writer of short stories, plays, poems, prose and essays.  Of his short stories he is best remembered for “The Picture of Dorian Gray” which is one of my favorites.  If you take the time to read “The Picture of Dorian Gray” you owe it to yourself to read the annotated , uncensored edition of the work which was recently published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press and edited by Nicholas Frankel.  (ISBN 978-0-674-05792) .  I started reading the popular press version of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” last year and immediately upon publication of the uncensored version I bought a copy and read both versions at the same time.  The original work was first published in the July 1890 edition of Lippincott’s magazine.  It had a stormy beginning.  It was condemned as being “unclean and vulgar”.  Most of the versions of the work that were published omitted much of what Oscar actually wrote.  The Belknap Press edition provides an accurate rendering of the story as it was actually written. We are greatly indebted to the editors for restoring this version to the popular press.

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Valuable Guides To First Editions

Product Details

Like most booksellers , I never really thought  much about first editions until I became a bookseller.  I collected books of all sorts, had a particular fondness for antiquarian books, but I never seemed to be overly concerned about the  edition of  the book was that was in my possession – unless it was a comic book.  I collected comics long before I collected “books” .  I was genuinely interested in having an original Journey into Mystery 83 (first appearance of Thor) or an original Avengers #1, but when it came to regular books, the edition didn’t seem to matter too much to me.  When I became a bookseller that changed.

I started getting older books and started being interested first editions.  I used to get gaylords full of books which were the leftovers from a local book sale.  One day while going through a gaylord full of books I came across an old copy of “The Federalist”.  I looked it up on ABE books and found that it was not a first edition, but an  early edition (1826 Glazer edition) of this important and popular work.  The text block of the book was clean, the boards were in fair to good condition , but the binding was a bit loose. I took the book to a local bookbinder and had it resewn and had new front and rear end sheets stitched into the book. Once the book was repaired it was much more enjoyable.  You could open the book and read it without having to worry about the book falling apart.  This was one of the books that got me interested in first editions and from then on I started to pay more attention to the edition of the books that came into my possession.

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Identifying First Editions

If you sell books either in a store or online for any period of time sooner or later you will be called upon to do a task that can prove to be very valuable to your bottom line – determine if a book is a first edition.  Determining whether or not a book in your … Read more