Sweetness and Light

Last night, I had a question about Jonathan Swift, and pulled down my college copy of The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century, bought during my first week at Columbia in 1989. (Parenthetical note: why was a teenager with a sketchy command of English history allowed to take Augustan literature before Middle English and the Renaissance? Where was my advisor? Did I even have an advisor? “Absalom and Achitophel”? Anyhow. I guess it worked out.)

Browsing through Swift, I came across the heavily-highlighted, vaguely-recalled Spider and Bee episode from “The Battle of the Books,” in which the arrogant Modern Spider (scientific, self-reliant, predatory) argues with the serene Ancient Bee (philosophical, collaborative, beneficial). Swift’s sympathies, in 1704, lay squarely with the Bee, who “with long search, much study, true judgment, and distinction of things, brings home honey and wax.” Aesop gets the last word: “As for us the Ancients, we are content with the Bee to pretend to nothing of our own beyond our wings and our voice, that is to say, our flights and our language. For the rest, whatever we have got, has been by infinite labour and search and ranging through every corner of nature; the difference is that, instead of dirt and poison, we have rather chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax, thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.”

Not the quote I was after, but I’m glad it’s the one I found.


Honey & Wax 2.0

It’s on! After two years, Honey & Wax has moved into a proper office. I no longer have to contemplate the fate of the Collyer brothers every time I return from a book fair. Come visit, by chance or appointment: Honey & Wax Booksellers, 540 President Street at the Brooklyn Creative League. The office with the yellow door!

Our apartment was like a clown car. More and more books kept pouring out of it.

The apartment was like a clown car. More and more books kept pouring out of it.

This photograph was obscured by stacks of uncatalogued books for two years. We forgot it was up there.

This photograph was obscured by stacks of uncatalogued books for two years. We forgot it was up there.

I ran out of crates and boxes and had to turn to promotional tote bags.

We ran out of crates and boxes and had to turn to promotional tote bags.

Ryan from Dynamite Van, being a good sport.

Ryan from Dynamite Van, a good sport even after his rare book thumb injury.

Meanwhile, over at the Creative League, Guillermo and Anton were laying the rug and assembling the cases.

Meanwhile, over at the Creative League, Guillermo and Anton were laying the rug and assembling the cases.

No books on the floor!

No books on the floor! A first.

Come visit! By chance or appointment: 540 President Street in Brooklyn.


Bookselling in the Polar Vortex

So the Christmas season happened. It was festive. There were Manhattans. There was Brooklyn. In truth, I have no real memory of the last two weeks of December.

I came to my senses on the floor of the 69th Regiment Armory, for the inaugural Metropolis Fair, kicking off a historically frigid Bibliography Week in New York City:MetropolisFairThe armory air was heavy with history, from Marcel Duchamp’s avant-garde provocations in 1913 to fellow bookseller Greg Gibson’s high school track meets in 1961, which he declined to re-enact. (Why, Greg?)

Next week, I leave for Pasadena, far from the polar vortex, for the California International Antiquarian Book Fair. The last time I attended that fair, I gushed for the cameras. This time, I’ll be quieter but even more enthusiastic, because I’ll be regaining sensation in my toes.

Later in February, Honey & Wax will be exhibiting at the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair, a New York City tradition. We’ll be sharing a booth with B&B Rare Books once again. Come downtown and say hi!GVABF 2014And then, in March . . . the move! After two years as a scrappy start-up, Honey & Wax Booksellers will be leaving my dining room (and study, and closet, and hallway, and bedroom, and basement) and setting up a private bookroom here in Park Slope. Details to come. I’ll just be over here Googling honeycomb rugs if you need me . . . OfficeRug. . . and if you’ve read this far, you should bounce over to the books tab (there on your left) and see what’s come of all these travels. I’m a slow cataloger, but new acquisitions are making their way online, one by one.

2013 Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Old Stone House yesterday for this year’s Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair, especially Paul Auster, whose reading of “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story” — and memories of freezing Minnesota Christmases with his in-laws — packed the house.

Saturday morning at the Old Stone House, site of the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776 and the Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair this weekend.

The first booksellers on the scene:

Peter Miller and Casey Baltes of Cobble Hill’s Freebird Books, unpacking:

Yuval Gans and Marta Zieba of DUMBO’s P.S. Bookshop:

Downstairs, Peter and Lee Austern of Brooklyn Books:

Stephanie Valdez, setting up the table for Terrace Books’ first book fair!

Tom Davidson, bringing the modern firsts:

Unpacking children’s books at the Enchanted Books table:

The doors open!

Matt Singer and Alyssa Gerber of Williamsburg’s Open Air Modern:

Cici James of DUMBO’s Singularity & Co., raising the bar for bookseller attire:

Adam Tobin of Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights:

Joe Maynard, talking books:

The scene:

Introducing Paul Auster! Reading his 1990 “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story” (the inspiration for the 1995 indie classic Smoke, starring Harvey Keitel as Auggie), and passages from his 2012 memoir Winter Journal:

Thanks to all the bookish Brooklynites who made this day a success, with special thanks to Kim Maier at the Old Stone House, Erik DuRon and Elihu Dietz (both unsung and unpaid), and Paul Auster, who reminded us why we love books so much.

A Very Bookish Holiday

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The Second Annual Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair.

Next Saturday, December 7, independent Brooklyn bookshops and booksellers will fill Park Slope’s Old Stone House with rare, vintage, and out-of-print books in a celebration of this town’s rich history of printing, reading, and writing. Building on the success of last year’s fair featuring Pete Hamill, this year’s fair includes an expanded range of local booksellers, and a public reading by Paul Auster of his Brooklyn holiday classic, “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story.”

Mark your calendar. Discover great books. Meet local booksellers. Drink some coffee. Get those presents. Hear a story. Drink more coffee. Start the holiday season right.


Boston . . . and Also Venice

I’m taking a brief break from prepping books and making elaborate, mostly fictional checklists to remind everyone that Honey & Wax will be exhibiting at the Boston Shadow Show (official title: Boston Book, Print, and Ephemera Show) this Saturday from 8 AM to 4 PM. I’ll be at booth C-33. Come by the Back Bay Events Center and say hello if you’re in town!










Later in the day, at 3:30, I’ll cross the street to join the Ticknor Society Collectors’ Roundtable at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. And you should come to that too.







And finally, in a whimsical turn of events, you can visit Honey & Wax in Venice, at Waris Ahluwalia’s gorgeous new shop RARE in the Gritti Palace. It’s been a lot of fun pulling together unusual books of Venetian interest, from John Ruskin’s walking guide to the city to a special edition of Death in Venice presented by Alfred Knopf, and sending them overseas as ambassadors. Like their Jamesian predecessors, may they fall in love and never come home.

Kicking Off The Fall

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate last night — especially the Terrace Books team!

Honey & Wax Catalog Two.

With Ezra Goldstein, co-owner of Terrace Books, setting up.

Endlessly patient Matt Carr, who took the catalog pix, with wife Eva.

With Stephanie Valdez (center), co-owner of Terrace Books.

Too young for the wine, she turned to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Popping Up at Terrace Books

The overcaffeinated team behind our local independent Community Bookstore is tackling a new project: transforming a sleepy used paperback shop south of Prospect Park into a literary destination.

Terrace Books, offering an eclectic mix of old and new books, opened its doors to browsers this summer. The new owners are still sorting the stock and plotting the gallery space, on track to launch with their characteristic bang.

As the rare book dealer around the corner, I’m thrilled to be partnering with Terrace on appraisals and events and – as of this morning — a dedicated showcase, so the Honey & Wax books can get out more, and make some new friends. Drop by Terrace Books at 242 Prospect Park West to check out all the books!