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Book Fair Blog

Every book has a story

Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.

No Profit in Empty Space

You have been your usual generous selves during the month of March, and I am, in my own endearingly grouchy way, grateful. We were beginning to think, in February, that you had abandoned us. But here come the donations, with all their wild wonder.

I don’t refer JUST to the seven-foot South American blowgun or the collection of vintage beads with labels like “Antique Yak”. What I am regarding in quiet wonder are the collections which have arrived. Who KNEW that Chicago held such hidden treasures? (I did, actually, because I’ve been doing this job for a while. That’s just one of those rhetorical questions, tossed in for dramatic effect.)

Thirty-four boxes were dropped off at our doorstep just yesterday. This is not uncommon: we’ve had deliveries this year with more boxes. But these thirty-four boxes all contained bright shiny books on just one basic subject: investment. Seems the donor runs a magazine for investors, and these are the last few years’ worth of books sent over for review. Some are signed, some are uncorrected proofs, but all are nice and new, and ready to be read. I expected these will sell reasonably well, come July. Who among us, after all, does not need a little help with our surplus cash? (Another rhetorical question.)

We have had estates in from two major Newberry scholars, whose deaths were matters of dismay to the general Newberry community. Each estate included a minimum of forty boxes of books, collections of works both scholarly and mundane, but heavy on the scholarly. What makes THIS notable is that both scholars tended to concentrate on Italy. So the Book Fair, come July, will be a major hunting ground for anyone looking for any and all topics containing some connection to Italy from the tenth century on: politics, religion, philosophy, history. This is on top of another collection coming in, which is NOT an estate, of another scholar cleaning out Italian studies.

Of course, this brings up a problem I have spoken of before: the scholarly book. Scholarly books about the size and heft of a hardcover romance (which we sell for two bucks) are priced with their limited market in mind, and therefore start at around a hundred dollars online. It’s not that I MIND charging more: it’s just hard to explain to people why a hardcover book at this end of the table is three dollars, and a book of similar size and shape just four books down from it is thirty dollars. And how do you think customers react to my explanation, especially since two-thirds of these books are in Italian? (Rhetorical again.)

With any luck, I’ll have a few customers who will see the book, realize it’s a wonderful bargain, and buy it before any of the whiners come in. (This is what I call Lottery Ticket Luck: it won’t happen. Even people who realize they’re getting a bargain like to whine.)

Someone has dropped off another collection of nice, if somewhat battered, nineteenth century stuff. We have a modestly damaged children’s book (it was too tall and thin, so they stuck it inside another tall, thin book for safety. But the second book wasn’t QUITE tall enough, and the dolly’s hat got broken off at the top.) There is a nice edition of Don Quixote from 1809 (lacking the map, I’m sorry to say. I’d’ve liked to see what a map in Don Quixote looked like.) There was a five volume run of a late nineteenth century literary journal I hadn’t heard of before (Frank Leslie’s Sunday Magazine) and a shorter run of a fairly scarce magazine called The Spokesman. This was a trade journal for people who made carriage wheels. Get that one? Spokes…oh, you did. Then consider that another rhetorical question.

If you’re that smart, you can help me with another, non-rhetorical question. Do you have a lot of friends looking for books on the Risorgimento? That’s a word I need to look up only every three or four years, but with these collections…. You do? What would I do without readers like you?

Yep, going out on another rhetorical one. Do you think they’re addicitive?

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