Now that I’ve told you a little about how I find books and how I started my business, I’d like to share information about some basic tools I use as a bookseller. These tools will help you become acquainted with your books as physical objects (as opposed to literary treasures).
First, from Main Street Fine Books and Manuscripts in Galena, Illinois, it’s the Bibliophile’s Bookruler.
For those of us who are new to old books, the ability to distinguish between a Quarto and an Octavo or even a 64mo and a 12mo does not come instantly. The Bibliophile’s Bookruler can help you to quickly see how your own books measure up. Each size is marked boldly in red. And, I will add that after going to the Colorado Antiquarian Book Market Seminar in August, I now understand the designations for each size and don’t need to rely on the bookruler as much as I used to. Another great benefit of that great course! Still, I wouldn’t be without this trusty tool that makes for more accurate book description.
When you have a moment, click on over to sicpress. Owned by Joyce Godsey, who is, by the way, Eraser Queen of the United States, this site has wonderful products that every bookseller should know how to use. It has erasers, for erasing old, pencilled-in (and even inked-in) prices, surface cleaning tools, hand tools, adhesives and adhesive remover for those sticky thrift store labels, leather care products, and, best of all, pre-assembled kits for book care. And I can’t forget to mention her miracle Book Deodorizer for stinky, musty-smelling books. Try it. It really works!
In addition, Joyce has spent time and shared her knowledge by making instructional videos on basic book repair that you can view on her site — how to put on lined and un-lined book covers, repair torn covers, clean surface dirt, tip in a loose page, and many more. She has also written a book, Unbound: Book Repair for Booksellers, which can be ordered from her site.
Joyce told me, “The big catalogs are fine if you are going to buy things in large quantities and know what exactly you want and how to use it. But if you read them all, you know that their clientèle are institutions. I try to focus on just repair and cleaning and make up assortments and small quantities just for booksellers, folks who don’t do repairs all the time. Besides if you buy a bone folder from Gaylord, it is 6.50 to ship it. I charge only $2 to ship a bone folder. And they don’t carry my exclusive items.”
You can learn a lot from Joyce, who has been selling books in one form or another for 28 years. I highly recommend her book, her video, and her care and repair tools. A bone folder is a must for applying those mylar dustjacket protectors. I used the leather cleaner and leather dressing on my leather-bound books before I took them to the Sacramento Book Fair in September. They looked so nice that I wanted to keep the books for myself. Thanks, Joyce!
Finally, I want to add one last tool that is helpful to me:
These are my bookseller good luck charms. Since my office is in my dining room, I keep them on my desk to remind me that I am indeed a bookseller and blessed to be one. First, I have Dante Alighieri, a favorite author of mine and the subject of my first catalogue. Next, I have a book-themed guardian angel. I got her the same summer I read A Gentle Madness, by Nicholas Basbanes, when I first got the idea that antiquarian books were just the thing for me. Lastly, I have a bronze poker chip I won in a friend’s poker tournament. I won the entire game that night. It reminds me that, like poker, book scouting relies on the right combination of luck and information. I do realize that an angel, a poker chip, and a bust of Dante are exceedingly disparate items. However, they help me keep my bookselling priorities in order.
See you in the stacks!