Travels With Andy

The Big Apple, CT and RI. March 2108

My wife Marcee, bookkeeper extraordinaire and sage adviser at Back of Beyond Books, constantly implores me to "just sell the books you've already got!"  Wise advice indeed which I willfully ignore to my peril.

Each spring New York City hosts 'NYC Book Week', promoting three rare book fairs and several world-class auctions over 5 days.  How could I NOT attend? And the following weekend is the Old Greenwich, CT based Ephemera Society of America's Ephemera Fair, with the best Ephemera Dealers showing their wares.  More fun!

So we bought tickets, booked hotels and spent ten days in planes, trains and automobiles scouting for material. We love the Big Apple! The ABAA Fair at the Park Avenue Armory runs four days and based on reports was a great success for my colleagues who ponied up the money to exhibit.  My attention however, was on the two "shadow fairs" running concurrently on Saturday.  Great fun as a scrum of dealers rush the floor to beat their competitors to the good stuff.  Multiple thousands of dollars later, with several excellent  photos albums of a CCC camp in Acadia National Park and a young woman's Yosemite trip, under my arm, I quit in order to get ready for the BIG show. 

We love the whole stick of Broadway.  The bigger the show the better, and if it is a musical, nirvana.  This year we were thrilled to get tickets for the Schubert Theater revival of Hello Dolly with Bernadette Peters.  Peters, at 70 years, has done it all in film, TV and Broadway and she did not disappoint.

Being tourists we had to search out the classic Jewish Deli for hot pastrami (PJ Bernstein,  1215 3rd Ave), the classic New York Bagel (Ess-A Bagels, 831 3rd Ave) and finally the best ethnic foods we can't get in Moab.  We let our friends Lizzy and John pick a restaurant and they chose Land A Plenty (204 E 58th St), a Szechuan joint in mid-town. Mildly bummed we weren't hitting something more exotic, Marcee and I politely agreed to eat there. Boy were we wrong! BEST FOOD EVER.  Not the best Chinese food ever, the BEST FOOD EVER! Always let the locals recommend restaurants.

And speaking of food, you must check out
Elizabeth Young specializes in books, ephemera, and cultural artifacts of food, wine and drink.  She also is offering a significant and stunning archive of the food writer and critic MFK Fisher.  Offered for sale is a vast and important personal archive of MFK Fisher.  Encompassing thousands of annotated books, letters, and pieces of ephemera, the archive shows Fisher to be an artist filled with humanity and deserving of her place as the First Lady of American food writing.

Plans to drive to Rhode Island after NYC were delayed by the big Nor'easter.  The third one to hit in three weeks.  Alas, much to do 'bout nothing. A little snow in New Haven and maybe 8 inches by the time I roll into Town's End Books in Deep River, CT.  Deep River, a tributary to the Connecticut River, became known as "the queen of the valley" due to wealth from the ivory industry.  See this NPR story. John Townsend specializes in natural history, nautical fiction, Americana and the Rivers of America books.  I was thrilled to score a copy of Rachel Carson's first book,  Under the Sea Wind, published in 1941.

Next stop Providence, RI and Dan Siegel at M & S Rare Books, Inc. Dan has been in the trade for over 50 years and shared a wealth of stories, including the time he was offered George Orwell's manuscript copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Dan wasn't exactly a fiction guy back then so he passed, for about 12 hours, frantically calling back Scribner's Rare Book manager Harold Graves to secure this high-point of anti-utopian fiction.
Siegel later published a facsimile edition of his treasured manuscript--one of the very few Orwellian manuscripts to survive.
One floor up from Dan is Gadshill Books, Bob Davis proprietor.  At 92, Bob is sharp as a tack and bullish on the book market.  An hour flew by as I scanned his shelves of Dickens and Dickensiana, finally scoring a first edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls. If I'm only half as sharp as Bob, I'd be thrilled.

Back south after a good night's rest in Warwick, R.I. at the NYLO Pontiac Mills Hotel on the beautiful Pawtuxet River, I head to Sam's New York System Hot Dog stand.  A local's favorite for late-night binges, their Hot Weiners were something!  And the NYLO was remarkable.  A mid-nineteenth century woolen mill has been retrofitted into a really fun and functional hotel, thereby saving a bit of Americana.

With Greenwich, CT and Ephemera 37 in my sights, I look forward to meeting up with Elizabeth Svendsen of Walkabout Books. Elizabeth has unusually good taste in her stock, specializing in collectible, rare and out-of-print books on exploration, travel, mountaineering, and Americana. We pick each other's brains almost daily in the spirit of friendly bookselling. Back of Beyond Books is collaborating with Walkabout Books on a National Park Service themed Rare Book and Ephemera Catalogue.  What we assumed would be a fairly easy task has proven elusively hard. NPS pamphlets are a dime-a-dozen, but the REALLY good stuff has proven scarce.

As I reach the trade show floor at 10am sharp, I spy Elizabeth flailing her arms at me to hurry!  Protectively hidden, Elizabeth has discovered a mammoth photo book of mammoth photos, from Mammoth Cave. It was downhill the rest of the day, but we were positively giddy with excitement with our new purchase.  If you have UNIQUE NPS material looking for a new home, please contact Elizabeth or myself.  We're looking for early NPS administrative reports, WPA posters, Pre-WWII pamphlets, early photo albums, diaries and travelogues in park areas, and early railroad promotionals about National Parks.

Other than going thru security twice at JFK, the trip home was uneventful, with five uninterrupted hours of reading, ahh! Another scouting trip in the bag, until next week when I go to Arizona to examine a storage unit full of UFO books and photographs.