The McMurtry Auction haul written about earlier has sat impatiently in a climate controlled storage unit awaiting Douglas and me to sort it and make sense of it all. We’ve poked and prodded the 50 plus boxes a little over the last month but that damn making-a-living thing has slowed us down.
Tonight is different. We are meeting at 7:00 pm to begin a serious examination. In a preliminary trip we modified the single light bulb outlet to accommodate both a light and a standing fan. I’d supplied a sturdy table. Douglas brought folding chairs and two old school, pre-globalization metal shelving units entirely devoid of the plastic found in the current box store crap.
Douglas arrived fashionably late tonight and brings beer—craft beers, God bless him—a couple of bomber bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale and Abita Andygator Helles Doppelbock. He calls me a beer snob, but I prefer the term connoisseur. I’ve tried 214 craft beers (so far) and have each one ranked on my beeradvocate.com account so I’ll let you make your own call.
We sat facing each other at an impromptu partner’s desk in the middle of our 10x14 storage unit. We are on the second floor of a huge facility, no one else is there. The automated hallway light goes out and we are illuminated by our single bulb casting shadows around us. The fan hums. The beer tastes good, and the first pile of old bibliographic pamphlets is heaped upon the table.
We each pick one up and give it the look over. There is banter back and forth over the contents, and we decide what hastily devised subject area to put it in. There are exhibition catalogues, publisher’s prospectuses and lists, literary-related items, bibliographies, library publications, stray periodicals, bookseller catalogues, auction catalogues, a big run of Typophiles publications, fine press items, foreign language, and the all-encompassing miscellaneous. Most of the material dates from 1880-1970.
Both of us have been booking for over two decades, yet we are seeing a mix of treasure and obscurities that are totally new. The thrill is not in the monetary value—most items are modest in that regard—but the sheer joy of discovery and anticipation of what is next. This thrill is distilled to a strong brew with the thousands of pamphlets involved. Having a sympathetic fellow bookman to sort and sift and swig beer with also amplifies the experience. We’re having a hell of time!
I haven’t mentioned the best piles we made—the take home ones. Every once-in-awhile a pamphlet called to me and went into the priority stack. Douglas has a more specialized collection but he also stashed a few away. There are many stories to be gleaned from this mountain of “thinsies,” but for now a few hours of pamphleteering with a good friend will do just fine.
“We need to get out of here,” I said, fortunately checking the time during a break in the revelry. “The building alarm sets in ten minutes and I don’t feel like spending the night.
We hastily gathered our leavings and made for the exit.
“Next time,” I said, and Douglas nodded.
Douglas gave an adios honk and burned some biblio-fueled rubber coming out of the parking lot. I put my foot down too and headed for home. (No tickets, no worries.)
Let’s enjoy a few selections from the take home pile:
|Douglas McMurtrie. Inscribed to Lathrop Harper|
|Inscribed to Lyle Kendall from appraiser & bibliographer John Payne|
|How about good books that are cheap?|
|Complete with illustrations|
|Published 1965. "The little magazine cuts its own grooves."|
|Professional level pamphleteering|