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The Transit of Venus in Philadelphia 1769

An illustration from the first volume of the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, showing the path of the Transit of Venus as observed in Philadelphia in 1769.

One of the disad-vantages of having a quarter of a million books for sale is that sometimes it is easy to forget what you have, even with a database to help you. This morning Ken [BTC’s cataloguer Ken Giese, who works on archives and pre-20th Century material for us] walked into my office and said, “So, this Transit of Venus…” Having just had my first jolt of caffeine, and having spent the weekend trying to get at least one of my children the least bit excited about witnessing a celestial event that will not occur again in their lifetimes, I immediately jumped in, “Corey [BTC’s photographer, Corey Bechelli, with whom I share an office] and I were just talking about it. We might go up to the roof around 6pm. We figure we’ll have an excellent view from there and I brought in binoculars to make one of those safe viewing thingies [caffeine apparently not doing much for my vocabulary of astronomical instruments just yet].” (BTC’s flat-top roof was featured in a previous blog post)

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Just in case you hadn’t noticed, our very own Ashley Wildes is currently featured on the Fine Books Blog in the latest installment of their Bright Young Things series. These interviews with young booksellers spotlight many of the best and brightest of the next generation. And maybe what’s most encouraging, their enthusiastic attitude toward bookselling in what some doomsayers are calling the end days. It’s a great series that comes highly recommended and not just because it features our very own punk rock cataloger.

Today I indulged myself by cataloging some old science-fiction pulps of which we have a few. I am by no means a hardcore sci-fi fan (Dr. Who excluded), but old pulps never cease to capture my attention, particularly those with wonderfully outlandish covers. Today I worked through a run of Wonder Stories published by Hugo Gernsback, for whom the Hugo Award is named. While typically the biggest attraction would be the eye-popping covers by Frank R. Paul, what gave me pause was an original letter from superfan Jack Darrow dated 1931 that was laid in to a copy of the Wonder Stories in which it appeared in print. Read the rest of this entry »

I started teaching guitar when I was 17. This happened for a few reasons but not because I was stellar at my instrument. When you’re 17 and don’t want to work at McDonalds you do a lot to put gas in your car. This can be anything from mowing lawns, helping elderly relatives, or in my case teaching your Aunt’s hairdresser’s daughter guitar. Read the rest of this entry »

At BTC I’m sometimes guilty of being a bit too earnest: my patronymic first name is, after all, Ernest. This is a useful trait in the trade not unappreciated by Tom, but if it causes me to spend too much time cataloging an unworthy book, he rightly sees it as an enthusiasm to be discouraged, or, when not properly curbed, then punished. Thus Tom had me catalog this week a Souvenir program for a 1942 benefit performance on Broadway for the Tiny Tim Society, a Ladies Auxiliary of the House of Saint Giles the Cripple in Brooklyn. Read the rest of this entry »

The imagination is a wonderful thing and I’m a big believer in the less is more school of fiction, but this can border on the comedic when carried over to non-fiction. I recently found a book from the latter category while out scouting. It’s a manual of sexual positions called The Forty Eight Ways by Fuji Yamamoto that grabs your attention for all of the wrong reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

No, this is not American History X; no, I have not somehow turned against my principles, and no, my name is not Eva Braun. I am, however, currently in the company of Hitler, from the neck up at least (him that is). Now before you all start accusing this fine establishment of being white supremacists let me explain why I’m currently being stared at by a bust of one Adolf Hitler. Read the rest of this entry »

First of all, I feel like a fraud writing this short blog. Young Ashley Wildes suggested the theme of writing blogs about one or another of the weird and random objects that one stumbles across in the vast storage areas here in our 15,000 square foot school building. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s it like around Between the Covers on a typical day? How does this complicated engine function? Who cares (aside from me and my fellow cogs in this Rube Goldbergian machine)? You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway. Essentially we: 1) obtain books, 2) ready and offer them for sale, 3) sell them (hopefully), and then 4) deliver them to their respective purchasers. At least, that’s the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Well, probably not that much when you get right down to it. But we do keep adding books to our mountainous inventory. In order to keep the wheels of commerce turning here at BTC, we are continuously buying private libraries and the complete or partial inventories of other booksellers. One of the most recent was the store inventory of the Georgetown, Washington, D.C. bookseller Bartleby’s Books. Before I go any further, I should note most emphatically that this does not mean that Bartleby’s, one of the best Americana dealers in, well, America, has discontinued business. Rather the opposite is true. However they did lose their shop lease and rather than go, yet again, through the laborious process of re-opening at another location further down the block, they decided to renovate a part of their home and take the more rarified elements of their inventory with them. This left them with thirty years of accumulated store stock, which is where BTC comes in.
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