Daily Archives: February 18, 2008

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Writer on the Verge

February 18, 2008 by in category Archives

So Many Books…

By Kate

Another lifetime ago, I was a book collector. My personal favorites were first edition mysteries and finely bound poetry and philosophy. Yes, me. Go figure. I used to scour the massive used bookshops on Hollywood Boulevard and the nooks and crannies of Melrose Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard where dozens of fascinating shops held the secrets of the universe bound in soft Moroccan leather.

One by one, as property values rose and rents increased, the stores closed. The bookshops are gone now. The marketplace for rare first editions and antiquarian books has moved to the Internet and eBay.

This weekend I spent two days attending the annual Los Angeles Antiquarian Book Fair, where those same dealers who used to own bookshops on Melrose come together with likeminded dealers from all over the world to buy, sell and trade their treasures.

There were hundreds of book sellers represented and thousands of books on display. Naturally, I saw many exquisitely bound editions of William Shakespeare and Walt Whitman and Jane Austen. One dealer sells books so ancient they look like petrified forest mushrooms on the shelf. Another sells clever, three-dimensional, accordion-style books designed by a Parisian artist. Still another dealer sells only mysteries and his display shelf featured first edition copies of Raymond Chandler and Earl Stanley Garner and a nicely preserved, full set of Agatha Christie’s mysteries.

I loved poking around the individual dealers’ booths, examining the books and discovering new treasures, but it was a bittersweet time for me. I miss the stores, miss the smell of old books, miss the wise counsel of the book dealer.

Sadly, the only thing more rare than the beautiful books I saw this weekend are the bookstores that used to sell them, so allow me to end my post with a public service announcement: SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLER. We’ve lost so many, but there are still some great stores out there. Don’t forget them. You might pay a bit more for a book but the personal service is gratifying and the rapport you build with the seller is priceless. And hey, it’s a write-off!

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