A Few Words About Our Selling Philosophy
A gathering of booksellers is a pleasant sanhedrin to attend. The members of this ancient craft bear mannerisms and earmarks just as definitely recognizable as those of the cloak and suit business or any other trade. They are likely to be a little--shall we say--worn at the bindings, as becomes men who have forsaken worldly profit to pursue a noble calling ill rewarded in cash. They are possibly a trifle embittered, which is an excellent demeanor for mankind in the face of inscrutable heaven.
-- Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop (1919)
It is a strange sort of expedition that seeks to recover in a distant corner of a house the letters placed there years ago, in an hour of clearing-out and putting-away, by a person long since dead. It is a form of hide-and-seek with the past. The one who hid the treasure--most likely a woman--sat with the letters in her lap. What to do with them? Are they worth keeping? Should she burn them? She destroys some of the best--"They were much too personal"--and decides to keep the rest; they may be of interest one day to somebody, and so far as she can see, there is no harm in them. But where should she put them? The room at the end of the passage on the third floor? The cupboard in the garden house? She chooses a remote hiding-place, and years later posterity stumbles along in search of them, poking around here and there, getting hot and dirty and tired, and eventually finding what was put away, finding it this morning or tomorrow afternoon or twenty years from yesterday, at last finding what was lost; and perhaps what is found will change the lives of two young people in Nebraska or North Carolina.
-- Wilmarth Lewis, Collector's Progress (1951)
My best friends have all been dead two hundred years or more. Jane, Sam Johnson and Sam Pepys, Bede and Julian of Norwich, Herodatus, Xenophon. Dear friends I cannot quite believe I've never met.
-- Pamela Brown
The only absolute of antiquarian bookselling is that there are no absolutes: one has no way of knowing what will turn up from one auction or estate to the next or what treasures, monetary or historical in nature, will be revealed in an unprepossessing box lot. Over the years, we have discovered at local auctions and book sales all manner of curiosities, including a first American edition of Huckleberry Finn; signed volumes by Rudyard Kipling, E. E. Cummings, Robert Frost . . . and Aerosmith; a lovely first edition of W. B. Yeats' The Tower (1928); a scarce 1784 printing, in full leather, of Mrs. Glasse's Art of Cookery, the standard for British cook-books throughout the 18th century; the first book publication of the United States Constitution, limited to 200 copies in 1789, in the original boards, bound in with copies of the charters of the original 13 colonies; a volume of Holbein's art (1867) containing the bookplate of British novelist Anthony Trollope; a Greek manuscript Gospel of Luke dating to the 10th or 11th century A.D.; the first printing of the Declaration of Independence in book form (the 1777 Annual Register, issued in London); and (my most rewarding auction purchase ever) a hand-written census of the Borough of Kutztown, Berks County, PA, my hometown, consisting of 1,194 names, more inclusive than any 19th-century federal census for the community, completed in June 1876 for the national Centennial, mentioned only once in any published source, and lost for the next 119 years.
The satisfaction in finding, handling, and selling (or keeping, as the case may be!) volumes such as these is, I suspect, the main impetus for bibliophiles around the world to continue scrounging about in musty, cob-webbed attics and through rickety, leaning fruit-crate bookshelves. We would do so even if we made not a dime, for there is something far more valuable than monetary gain attached to such revelations: we are in direct contact with our historical legacy, retrieving it from the dim recesses of memory and projecting it forward into the future that will someday be the past through which someone else, very much like ourselves, will comb.
In addition to selling books, periodicals, and ephemera relating to Pennsylvania German folk culture, I maintain a personal library of several thousand books and periodicals on the subject, making it one of the most comprehensive collections in private hands in America, presently placed on reserve at the Kutztown Area Historical Society.
We maintain memberships and associations with the Pennsylvania German Society, the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University, the Ephrata Cloister Associates, the Berks County Genealogical Society, and the historical societies of Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, and Northampton Counties, Albany Township, and the Cocalico Valley. Additionally, I am the President and Librarian/Archivist of the Kutztown Area Historical Society. I am always interested in purchasing books, manuscripts, and ephemera relating to Kutztown and the surrounding area, including Maxatawny, Longswamp, Rockland, Richmond, Greenwich, Winsdsor, Perry, and Albany Townships; in particular, I search for real-photo post cards, manuscript diaries and ledgers, and unique historical artifacts. Please do not hesitate to contact me with quality material.
Besides its Pennsylvania history emphasis, our own pesonal library and collecting interests are inclined toward New York City, Depression-era photography, the history of technology, Gothic literature, poetry, Ernest Hemingway, Humphrey Bogart, Freud and Jung, Arthuriana and Grail folklore, Medieval art and history, baseball (especially the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cleveland Indians), illuminated manuscripts, Christopher Morley, and books about books, the history of printing, and antiquariana. We also collect selected vintage baseball memorabilia, British stoneware ale bottles, and vintage NYC post cards. And surely I should mention our full set of the 1969 Walt Kelly "Pogo Possum" figures as well as a K-Mart Icee bear . . .