Books With Legs | Newberry

Books With Legs

Every year at the Book Fair, we have a certain number of “walkers”. These are books which are supposed to sit where we put them, but somehow are always being dragged around the collector’s section, sometimes winding up seven tables away from where they started, or being carted into other rooms, or out into other rooms. There is no hope of predicting which books will be walkers, which ones the browsers will find magically attractive.

This year it was a five volume anatomical text by P.J.Roux, published in 1803, and the eight volume “pocket edition” of Alexander Pope’s Iliad and Odyssey, from 1736. The Roux is a bit upsetting because after losing three volumes of it on Thursday and finding them Friday, and losing two volumes on Friday and finding them Saturday, we finally (and permanently) lost volume 1 on Sunday. One the other hand, the Pope was a pretty little thing in a decorative red leather binding, which people kept bringing to the Collectible Checkout, saying “I can’t find a price on this”, missing somehow that the set was in a cardboard box clearly labeled with the title, date, and the number $800. Maybe they thought this was just a declaration of value and not an actual price.

Hey, we had a Book Fair! And you were all so well-behaved and intelligent, as a rule, that we didn’t recognize you. Fortunately there were enough customers like the little boy with his hands over his eyes so we could remember where we were. (He was saying “eight one five four eight one five four” as he walked along with his eyes covered. His mother, watching him, was the first to figure it out. “Oh! You’re playing hide and seek!” And they say children can’t make their own entertainment these days.)

Thursday was the busiest day. Yes, next year we will remember how the line stretched all the way from the door of Checkout to a back corner of Ruggles Hall. (People were already reminiscing about it by Saturday. The line was practically all the way out the window in the Saturday versions; by next month it will be down the block.)

Several expensive books took walks nearly that long, but all of them returned except one. (If you didn’t want to be seen buying Mein Kampf, we could have put it in a plain brown wrapper for you.) We sold the signed advance proof of Game of Thrones, but not the LP with the personal letter from Jesse Jackson inside. We sold the highly rare Georges Barbier book but not the first edition of Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad. We sold nearly 500 postcards, but our cookbook pricer says you didn’t buy nearly enough cookbooks.

Fashion, African-American Studies, Classics, and Paperback Literature were nearly completely wiped out by the end of Friday. Avid antiquaries were ripping open our supply of videocassettes on Saturday and Sunday. (My advisers, who told me no one buys videocassettes, informed me these people weren’t buying VHS to WATCH, but to resell. As always, I don’t CARE why they’re buying things, as long as they buy them.)

The Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton signed book auction finished with Donald bringing in nearly twice as much as Hillary. This did not surprise anyone particularly, though we might have gotten more for Donald if someone hadn’t slipped in while we weren’t looking to mark a decimal point in the price. We wondered why people suddenly started submitting five dollar bids.

We made a new record for second highest Book Fair total, which means they’ll probably make us do it again after the dust clears from the renovation. I’ll tell you more of our July adventures in the next thrilling installment. Right now I have to go call the person who won the glitter vinyl chrome barstools.

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