Rebecca’s Back

Rebecca’s back in town (not a moment too soon), with a report on this year’s Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. Reposted from Rebecca’s own rare book blog, Aldine:

Full disclosure: I have just returned from a week at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, and the blush of my enthusiasm is still burning. I want to tell you all about it.

The Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS) is often called Boot Camp for Booksellers. It’s a week-long seminar held in Colorado Springs each summer where the foundations of buying, researching, cataloging, and selling antiquarian books are taught. I was grateful to receive a scholarship from Bibliopolis this year after my Honey & Wax Booksellers colleague Heather, a CABS alumna, encouraged me to attend.

Let’s start with the nights. After dinner we wander over to the tables set up outside our building and talk to each other. Everyone has a story, tales of book scouting hoarders’ houses from Oregon to Italy, of the books we most covet, of the booksellers’ catalogs we most admire. We talk history and obscure facts (a shout out to sword swallowing and neon lights). Above all, we talk about the moment we realized we were in love with bookselling.

Each teller’s countenance glows a bit when they talk about falling in love. I feel like I’m watching fireflies. We bookish types rarely talk so much. We sit outside in the rusty orange light, consume food and drink scavenged from the 7-11 across the street, and take in the spectacle. We are a tribe.

The next morning we stumble blinking into the sunlight and get back to work. Running a business is not forgiving in this world, an odd little corner of life which strikes many as a curiosity at best. There are no shortcuts. There is only your knowledge, your skill, your creativity, your work, and your pragmatism. Only one third of the CABS class from ten years ago is still in business. I mull over the lectures and think: if I don’t do this well, I won’t be able to do it for long.

The faculty doesn’t sugarcoat this. They are unforgiving and even, at times, ruthless. They take pride in the standards of their profession, and they will not see those standards slip. But they are so good at their jobs. It’s a pleasure to watch. I feel honored to know them. I see how they observe each other, play off each other, poke fun at one another. This is part of the business, too. Make no mistake: bookselling is a way of life. CABS sets the standard for it.

Herein lies the seminar’s real value. We antiquarian booksellers have a responsibility in how we seek, research, and sell the printed artifacts of our civilization. While at a certain level we are in competition with one another, in more important ways, we are united in both our temperaments and our goals. We want to make a living, even (dare I say) a fine living. But we also feel a moral imperative to care for these fragments of human thought, to rediscover forgotten paths, and to keep the memory green. And, okay, yes. It may also be the case that we just couldn’t help going down the rabbit hole of research on that obscure little pamphlet we came across the other day. It’s amazing; I can totally sell that.

If you are thinking of entering the antiquarian book trade, go to CABS.
If you work in the trade and haven’t yet attended, go to CABS.
Even if you’ve been doing this for a while (closing in on a decade for me), go to CABS.

Antiquarian booksellers are typically resistant to this kind of rhetoric. I get it. Most of us have the temperament of a cat; we look with disdain upon those who dare suggest we act a certain way. But this philosophy contains a generous breadth and depth. It asks only that you work hard, ethically, and creatively; that you take pride in what you do; and that you value the role of the antiquarian book trade in the world.

Many of you who are reading this aren’t newer booksellers, or even booksellers at all. For you, attending may not be the right fit. However, if you see the worth in maintaining this world at the highest standards, consider donating to CABS. If you value the antiquarian book trade, demonstrate that your opinion isn’t simply a vague feeling of good will. Be generous in your donation if you can. I’ve donated an amount just large enough to be a bit painful. If you can’t, a small amount is fine, too. Even with $10, you’ll be investing in the future of this gently mad world.

To learn more, visit the CABS website.Marble

Exciting News

I’m delighted to announce today that Rebecca Romney will be joining Honey & Wax this summer. Many of you already know Rebecca, and those who don’t will soon be grateful that you do.

These past few years, as Honey & Wax has taken off, I’ve become keenly aware of my own limits. There are too many books to catalog, auctions to preview, libraries to build, for one person to cover, and I’ve been frustrated by the number of opportunities I’ve had to let slide. Rebecca’s experience and energy will expand the range of what Honey & Wax can offer collectors and institutions, and enable us to be in two places at once.

Over the next few months, we’ll be working on our fifth catalog. Rebecca will be attending the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar on a Bibliopolis Fellowship, and I’ll be giving the keynote address at the York Antiquarian Book Seminar in the UK.

Honey & Wax will be exhibiting at both the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair and the York National Book Fair in September. Come say hello, and follow us on whatever combination of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest speaks to you, if indeed any does. (Instagram’s really where we shine. You heard it here first.)

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who’s helped to bring Honey & Wax to this point. You know who you are, and so do I.YellowDoor


Springing Forward

Last I wrote, it was the early hours of the morning on April 7, and I was starving.

Happily, I got something to eat, and our New York Antiquarian Book Fair debut alongside Justin Croft and Simon Beattie went off without a hitch that evening:

Croft, O'Donnell & BeattieAfter four years gazing through the window — not that the armory offers much in the way of windows — it was a thrill to be back! Thanks to Fine Books & Collections for featuring Honey & Wax in their dispatches from the floor.

After the buying and selling, the packing and unpacking, I spent a restorative spring break in Venice, where I marched a reluctant sixth-grader through the Aldus Manutius exhibit at the Accademia:

AldusNo apologies. Totally worth it.

A few days later, in Padua’s Museo del Precinema, we had a wholly unexpected encounter with the magic lantern slides that Proust describes in the opening pages of Swann’s Way, justifying the rare book axiom that anything can be anywhere:

Magic Lantern

May was devoted to cataloguing, and looking forward to the annual pilgrimage to the London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia: a chance to see new books and old friends like Jonathan Kearns of Jonathan Kearns Rare Books & Curiosities:

Kearns & O'Donnell

The irrepressible Fuchsia Voremberg of Maggs, alongside free/secret agent Brooke Palmieri, who was lending a hand at the London PBFA Fair:

Voremberg & Palmieri

The photogenic Sammy Jay of Peter Harrington:


Laura Massey of Alembic Rare Books, with Simon Beattie and Elisabeth Grass of Simon Beattie Rare Books:

Massey, Beattie & Grass

And the hardboiled, jetlagged rare book librarians who also make the annual trip from New York City, Charlotte Priddle of NYU and Karla Nielsen of Columbia University:

Priddle, Nielsen & O'Donnell

Among countless others.

I returned to Brooklyn with a suitcase full of Fortnum & Mason tea biscuits and a group of exciting new books slated for this year’s Honey & Wax catalog. The biscuits are gone. The books, however, you will see soon enough.

Armory This Weekend!

Yes, it’s past midnight on the night before our New York Antiquarian Book Fair debut. Yes, we are bringing dozens of newly catalogued books to the armory. No, we have not photographed them. Please. I still haven’t eaten dinner.

But: you can review a copy of our booth list here, and get all the details on the fair here. Come say hello! Booth A33, by the bar.

Hoping to thank many of you in person this weekend . . . and for the longtime friends of Honey & Wax who can’t make it, we’ll be thinking of you too.


A New Year

2016 has been quiet so far: just a couple of outings to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair (where I got a sunburn), and the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair (where I regained my usual pallor).FairsBut now, in March, all the resources and energies of Honey & Wax are directed toward our ABAA debut at the armory. One month away: the New York Antiquarian Book Fair.

Are we ready? No.

Will we be? Yes.

With thanks to Simon Beattie and Justin Croft for inviting us into Booth A33, by the bar.


A Word About Meredith

Packing tonight, and reflecting on what Boston means for Honey & Wax.Boston

In November of 2010, I headed to the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair as a bookseller for Bauman Rare Books. I stayed with my old friend Meredith, effortlessly capable Harvard Business School grad, and her family in Cambridge.

After dinner, at the kitchen table, I talked about dealing for myself one day, a goal that seemed laughably distant. “How much money will you need to start?” No idea: I’d never made a budget or read a balance sheet. I had to ask Meredith to define “revenue.” She poured us some more wine, opened a worksheet, and knocked out a business plan in two hours: a foundational document (Meredith’sModel.xlsx) I will never, ever delete from my hard drive.

The next November I came back to Boston, and Meredith’s kitchen table, having just left my position at BRB, with a temporary checkbook and a stack of “coming soon” Honey & Wax business cards to hand out at the fair.

Every fall I’ve returned, with real checks and business cards now, exhibiting at the Boston shadow show and logging the four years of independent operation required to apply for membership in the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. Tomorrow night, I’ll be back at Meredith’s kitchen table, and the ABAA will vote on Honey & Wax. On Saturday, I’ll be exhibiting at the shadow show at the Back Bay Events Center (booth D49), maybe the last shadow show for a while.

It’s been an incredible four years. Thanks to everyone who made Honey & Wax possible . . . but especially, this weekend, give it up for Meredith.

Honey & Wax, 2012-2015

Honey & Wax, the early years.

The Quiet Season

Late summer: a quiet season in the book trade. No one’s in town. No one’s in the office. But don’t be fooled: we are hard at work here in Brooklyn. Stay tuned for the fall reveal!


Summertime Slideshow

The site’s been quiet for a couple of weeks. I’ve been away, gathering books and inspiration for this fall’s Honey & Wax catalog. Here are some travel slides, for those who like to follow along at home.ChurchyardBookseller and Buckinghamshire native Simon Beattie gave me a tour of some local literary highlights. This is the churchyard in Stoke Poges where Thomas Gray wrote “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” (1751).MiltonHouseAnd this is the cottage in Chalfont St Giles where the blind John Milton completed Paradise Lost in 1667. MiltonIndianThe Indian takeaway across the road from Milton’s cottage, where the great poet got his weekly vindaloo fix. Dahl PetrolThe petrol pumps on Great Missenden High Street, the inspiration for the filling station in Roald Dahl’s Danny, The Champion of the World (1975), my favorite of all his novels. Photographer Simon is visible in the reflection.Hazel'sWoodSimon in the field behind Roald Dahl’s house. The woods in the distance inspired Victor Hazell’s poaching grounds in Danny, The Champion of the World. DahlHutRoald Dahl’s private writing cottage, constructed behind his house in Great Missenden. He claimed that savage wolves lived there to keep the family away while he was working. This plan would not have deterred my child. BristolAfter our whirl through Buckinghamshire, Simon and I teamed up with Elisabeth Grass (late of Quaritch) for the journey to the first ever PBFA book fair in Bristol.TempleMeadsThere were singers! dancers! mimes on stilts! And scores of PBFA dealers. I was lucky enough to land the plush guest bedroom at the headquarters of Bristol bookseller Steve Liddle.LiddleThen on to Oxford, to pick up Lily and spend a night in Jesus College, the only college at Oxford founded during the reign of Elizabeth I. The queen was an imposing presence over our breakfast table. Lil ate Rice Krispies, unfazed, under her imperial gaze.JesusCollegeWe continued on to Paris, where we moved into the Hotel du Vieux Paris on the Left Bank. Once known as the Beat Hotel, it was home to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs decades ago. Now it’s full of modern comforts, but the old raftered ceilings remain.TimbersWe visited Shakespeare & Company a few blocks away, where Lil befriended the bookstore cat, Kitty.S&CoAnd I visited the rare book room (hello, Ben Brown!) and the Sylvia Beach Memorial Library, where a young Englishman noodled on a piano dating back to the Lost Generation:SBMLThe bookstore window scene in Paris was aspirational.BooksellerAnd we enjoyed running into the greats every time we turned a corner. I give you Montaigne, outside the Sorbonne. Students rub his right shoe for luck before their exams:Montaigne

And Voltaire, quietly amused in the Panthéon:VoltaireI’ll be back in the bookroom next week, and Honey & Wax will resume regular business hours — until then, bon voyage!Goodbye