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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

(Another) One that Got Away

Most dealers (myself included) love to talk about the rare, scarce and truly wonderful titles that we found on scouting trips; attributing the find to luck, fate, karma, or just our overall brilliance and knowledge as a bookseller. Those same dealers (myself included!) are a lot more reluctant to talk about those cosmic moments when fate, luck or karma was virtually screaming in our ears but was ignored in what can only be attributed to a massive brain fart.

My most spectacular moment of mental flatulence occurred on the third day of a 4 day book scouting trip in the mid-west. I found myself standing in the upper floor of an antiques mall with an absolutely brilliant copy of 1906 novel in my hands. The cloth was in beautiful condition, the pictorial paste down, showing a Gibsonesque bust of a young woman was spotless. In short the book was in absolutely amazing condition, especially considering that it was almost 100 years old.

I still remember standing there with book in hand and convincing myself that the $12 asking price was too high, reminding myself that I specialized in children's books, ignoring that little voice that told me that I really should buy it, and feeling as smug as a dieter turning down the last brownie when I put the book back on the shelf.

Flash forward to about 6 months later, I'm thumbing through a copy of the PBA Rare Books auction catalog and lo and behold there is the picture of my Gibson Girl. Condition of the book in the catalog was barely Very Good, auction estimate $3,000. The book? Annabel by Suzanne Metcalf. Reilly & Britton, 1906. And oh yeah, Suzanne Metcalf was a pseudonym of L. Frank Baum.

(Rule #1 Trust your instincts, the worse that can happen is you die with a lot of books!

Rule #2 Learn your pseudonyms....especially those of the mainstays of early 20th century children's literature.

Rule #3 Keep a log of your book search locations....after about the 6th place it's easy to forget what you saw and where you saw it....)

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