Now that I’ve sold books at my first book fair, I’m trying to prioritize what’s next. First, I need to unpack all of those boxes of books I brought home from the book fair. I should finish describing uncatalogued books (of which there are many) and put them up for sale on my website. I should scan images of said books for my website, a time-consuming but worthwhile task, because I like for people to actually see the books they’re going to purchase. I’d like to become a member of some regional book clubs, like the Book Club of California and the Roxburghe Club. I need to sign up to exhibit at another book fair. I need to sell some more books. I need to buy some more books.
But perhaps the most important project on which I’m working is this:
My first catalogue will be completed sometime between November and January. It features illustrated and unusual editions of the works of Dante Alighieri. These books are among the first I ever collected. When I was teaching high school, my senior Advanced Placement English class had to read The Divine Comedy.
Upon being told they’d be reading this classic, many of the students moaned and groaned, complaining that the language and the poetic form were too complex for their seventeen year old minds to understand. If you haven’t spent much time around teenagers, you need to understand that the typical high school student often equates age of text with the phrase “too boring to read”. They often begin reading works by authors such as Dante saying, “I can’t . . .” or “I don’t get it . . .” If a good teacher can get the students to focus and to stick with it, they often see that indeed they can read and even appreciate such a work.
After teaching this work for a few years, I got a good idea. I began to track down and share different illustrated editions with the class, hoping that my students would feel a deeper connection to the text after seeing how different artists over time interpreted this great work. I also tried to emphasize that, from the beginning, Dante was marketed towards the common man. The Divine Comedy was published in the Italian vernacular rather than the traditional Latin, for starters. The 1502 edition, printed by Aldus Manutius, was published as an octavo, much more portable and easy to read than the cumbersome incunabula by which it was preceded. From then on, countless editions of this rather complex work have been published for the reading pleasure of the common person.
I only had two or three books to share with my students when I stopped teaching in 2000, after the birth of Huck. I continued to build a collection in this area, thinking that eventually I’d return to teaching. Along the way, I discovered the antiquarian book world, and here I am, seven years later, selling books to people who already appreciate them.
I plan to acquire a few more books to add to this catalogue, and finding the right books in the best condition takes time. I ‘ve written most of the descriptions for the books I already own, and I’ve scanned all of the images of those books that will appear in the catalogue. Next, I’ve got to work with the layout, develop a mailing list, and catalogue new books as they arrive.
I recently wrote a post about feeling like a “real” bookseller after selling books at my first book fair. Publising print catalogues, is, in my opinion, another hallmark of the “real” bookseller, and I look forward to completing my first one.
If you’d like to receive a copy of Catalogue #1 once it is complete, please send your address via email to chris @ bookhuntersholiday . com.