England, Scotland, Ireland

I wish I were the kind of traveler who blogs fluently, breezily, in the moment, from foreign sidewalk cafés and park benches. Instead, I am one who, two weeks after she’s returned home, remembers that she intended to blog about her June book-scouting tour, and not just post the occasional photo to Facebook. Here are some belated highlights.

I started in London, where I met up with fellow booksellers (and far more committed bloggers) Brooke Palmieri of Sokol Books and Jonathan Kearns of Adrian Harrington. Bright young things, both. At least Brooke is young.

With Brooke Palmieri & Jonathan Kearns

In the days before the London International Antiquarian Book Fair, I checked out Brooke’s fascinating exhibition, Renaissance to Relativity: Masterworks of Paint and Print, at The Gallery in Cork Street, and visited some of my favorite shops: Adrian and Peter Harrington, Natalie Galustian, Peter Ellis, and the other usual suspects in Cecil Court. Next: three days of browsing and buying at Olympia, where I saw these striking paper wraps on an otherwise dull eighteenth-century book. Witness the first installment of my projected hundred-part antiquarian paper wraps Tumblr:

After London, my good friend and equally good driver, longtime Bristol bookseller Steve Liddle, spirited me through the stunning Northumberland countryside to Scotland. In Glasgow, we visited Cooper Hay’s perfect bookroom:

Steve Liddle & Cooper Hay

And now I have bookroom envy. So, probably, do you.

On our way back from Fife (Larry Hutchison) and Edinburgh (Grant & Shaw, McNaughtan’s Bookshop, and the incredible private collection of David and Rosemary Temperley), we stopped in Newcastle and North Shields to visit Anthony Smithson of Keel Row Bookshop, the force behind this September’s York Antiquarian Book Seminar, an intensive workshop for English booksellers conceived along the lines of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. I got to eat bubble & squeak, and hear the free jukebox at The Fair Trade Inn on the banks of the Tyne, both landmark firsts.

Me & Anthony Smithson

Then on to the libraries of Dublin: Edward Worth, Chester Beatty, Trinity College, Archbishop Marsh, all amazing in their own ways. I scored a private tour with Elizabethanne Boran, librarian of the Worth collection, an immaculately preserved eighteenth-century private library housed in Dr. Steevens’ Hospital since Dr. Worth’s death in 1733. I guided myself through the more central and popular Chester Beatty Library (a rare book library and art museum in one) and Trinity College LIbrary (after a simultaneous encounter with the Book of Kells and a million tourists). The beauty of Trinity’s Long Room is no secret, but here’s more evidence:

I ended the day with a visit to Archbishop Marsh’s Library, the oldest public library in Ireland, now under the inspired direction of keeper/bartender Jason McElligott. Here’s one of the bullet holes in the stacks, a shot fired on Easter 1916.

My preoccupation with Yeats and Joyce in college paid off handsomely on this last leg of the trip. “Grey eighteenth-century houses”! “You never cross O’Connell Bridge without seeing a white horse!” It was as though I’d once dreamed about Dublin and never quite shaken it off. Here’s the spire of St. George’s, around the corner from Leopold and Molly Bloom’s house in Ulysses. “The sound of the peal of the hour of the night by the chime of the bells in the church of Saint George”:

And here is Joyce himself, surveying St. Stephen’s Green. “Crossing Stephen’s, that is my green”:

At the urging of everyone who’s ever been there, I visited David Cunningham’s Cathach Books on Duke Street, only to find that the shop been rechristened Ulysses Rare Books on Bloomsday 2013, a few days earlier:

David kindly ducked into the basement to offer me one of the now-historic Cathach bookmarks.

Cool as these bookmarks are, the books I brought home are my favorite souvenirs — though if all goes well, I won’t be keeping them long.

Hello, Book Collector

This spring has been exciting: more private sales, fewer public updates, deliberate plotting of the second Honey & Wax catalog. I was going to write “chess-like” plotting, but at this point it feels more like Tetris.

One of the happiest moments, which I meant to mark and then didn’t, was an unexpected shout-out to the first Honey & Wax catalog in The Book Collector.

A venerable English quarterly, The Book Collector was founded by Ian Fleming (yes, that one) back in 1952. Nicolas Barker has been the editor since before I was born. I regard The Book Collector the way I regard women’s suffrage: a surprisingly recent institution, historically, but one that feels as though it’s been around forever.

The first Honey & Wax catalog took a couple of months to design and print, but it’s no exaggeration to say that it was years in the making: I’d thought for so long about what I wanted my first catalog to be — and exhibited such neurotic behaviors during its final production. Thanks, Nicolas Barker, for spreading the word about Honey & Wax:

First Catalogue Review: Honey & Wax, Spring 2013

A surly senior bookseller, to whom I owe a lot, recently remarked that second catalogs are always an anticlimax. Not on my watch. Stay tuned.

Your Weekend, Explained

What are you doing this weekend? Let me tell you.

Tonight, Thursday, is the opening of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory, which runs through Sunday. Go get your armory on, then come visit Honey & Wax at the downtown Shadow Show! We’re Booth 603 at the Altman Building in Chelsea: 135 West 18th Street, Friday 5-9, Saturday 8-4.

Yes, there’ll be a 34-panel German symbolist shadow frieze (pictured) . . . but that’s just the beginning. Come see for yourself.

Know Your Books

After the intense wrapping-packing-shipping cycle of the holidays, fueled by caffeine and gingerbread, the best part of the new year so far has been getting out of the house.

(The worst part has been letting go of star intern Allie, who had to return to “college.” So she could “graduate.” Whatever. Call me?)

In January, I met up with a great group of neighbors and their books at Community Bookstore’s Know Your Books night, a public conversation about the books we keep and the reasons we hold on to them:

Find of the night: a group of meticulously (even obsessively) decorated manuscript notebooks, many covered in African-inspired patterns, produced by a Bristol abolitionist in the early nineteenth century. Not for sale, but a thrill to see.

The following week, at a private event, whip-smart members of the Smith College Club helped refine my thinking about the historic role of American women as book collectors, dealers, and curators.

I kind of love giving these talks: they remind me of how much I enjoyed teaching, but with wine at the end of the hour, instead of grading. I hope to do more of them.

Right now, though, I’m focused on getting to Santa Monica for the fair this weekend – have to give San Francisco a pass – and cataloguing new books for the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair in a couple of weeks.

If you’ll be in New York for the Greenwich Village Fair, come downtown and say hello! I’ll be somewhere on the auditorium floor, fussing with signage.

Old Stone House Pix

The holiday rush is rushing, and carrying Honey & Wax along with it, but before the new year is here, a note to say how great it was to open the season with a colonial houseful of Brooklyn booksellers on December 1!

Thanks to Open Air Modern, P.S. Bookshop, Book Thug Nation, Human Relations, Unnameable Books, Singularity & Co., Prints Charming, and Freebird Books — and especially to Pete Hamill, whose sunset reading closed the (first annual) Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair at the Old Stone House. “Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”

And special thanks also to Hugh Crawford for the pix!