I so enjoyed re-reading Charles Everitt’s Adventure of a Treasure Hunter that I have to record a few more excerpts from Everitt here. I highly recommend reading it yourself. Here was man who was — ahem — not afraid of his own opinions and who clearly relished sharing them with other booksellers, collectors, and librarians. He also enjoyed a good laugh at his own expense once in a while. I’m just going to list some of the comments that caught my eye here. Everitt’s words need no embellishment by me.
About what he called a “true collector”: “He cared only for books; not at all about their value in dollars.”
“I have almost no use for librarians; but I doubt that 2 per cent of our librarians even know the function of a library.” Everitt goes on to say that he lunches with the two per cent who do.
“You probably know about the hunger and thirst of the Donner Party, the travelers who, caught in the Sierra Mountains in winter, finally ate one another. That hunger and thirst is mild compared to that of a collector lacking one volume to complete his collection. Hunger for books is, in some people, the thing that will break down all inhibitions and hesitations. It is no respecter of person or station.”
“A bookseller who does not know what he’s got has nothing — unless he knows where to find out.”
“Really good book catalogues are works of art, and sometimes downright bibliographical masterpieces.”
“Some dealers specialize in subjects; some in methods of operation; and some in customers.”
“If the rare book trade seems to you a fabulously profitable calling for a strange breed of adventurous yet profoundly learned beings, I can tell you why. Every dealer who does not die broke (say one in five hundred) makes occasional big killings. Like me in these pages, he remembers and tells about the jackpots. Averaged out over a business lifetime, the killings melt down to a living wage, sweetened by the adventure of the chase. The adventure is there, no doubt of it. And the learning is there, too, much of it or little, depending on its possessor. Fundamentally a bookseller or any dealer in antiquities has no capital, no equipment, nothing but his knowledge.”
Quoting J. Frank Dobie: “Luck is being ready for the chance.”
“The first rule of sound practice for any collector, and indeed any dealer, is to establish a firm connection with someone he can trust, and not keep shopping around in search of an extra dollar. Quite aside from the time you will waste, dealing with a friend often shows a better dollar balance.”
“Of the millions of words that have been written about bookselling and rare books, most are damn nonsense. The whole thing is really nothing but a battle of wits.”
See you in the stacks!