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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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While we often think our new catalogs are newsworthy, this time around so does The New York Times. Today they are running an article on an 1870s photo album that we are offering in conjunction with Ian Brabner showing the family of President Obama’s ancestors. Of particular interest is a photo of his Great-Great-Great Aunt Anna Wolfley, who bears a striking resemblance to our current President. We are offering the album in our latest African-Americana catalog, and Ian will be showing it at this year’s New York Book Fair. We hope to see many of you there.

The Roof - Between the CoversBetween the Covers of a RoofApril showers bring the roofers, at least they did today. After 85 years of weathering the precipitation, our old school building had one leak too many and it was time to call our friends at DJK Roofing (Darren always does a great job at a fair price, so I’ll give him a plug here). Unlike previous repairs of decades past, in which a new layer of asphalt was added each time, it was necessary to strip a large portion of our roof down to the cricket (the wooden sloped layer that looks like the deck of a ship) and build up again. Several layers of patches over eight decades had created a buckling effect which left small pools of water after each rainstorm, and the only way to eliminate the puddles was to remove the buckled layers. But fear not, by this evening the good ship BTC will be right as, um, rain. The good news: no books were hurt – the leak was spotted down one of the classroom walls.

— Dan

Good Books in the Woods

Good Books in the Woods

Last week I flew down to Texas for a quick consultation with Jay Rohfritch and his parents, Marta and Dick, the team behind Good Books in the Woods, situated right outside of Houston. Jay had won my consulting services during the charity auction run each year at the annual Antiquarian Book Seminar in Colorado Springs – the proceeds benefit the local libraries that donate reference works for instructive use during the week.

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BTC’s headquarters in the “new-old” red brick public school building in Gloucester City, New Jersey, lies about a mile from the Delaware River at the foot of the Walt Whitman Bridge. A city marina and a small patch of park can be found there, literally at the end of the road from our building, but it is not a place where one would go for a picnic.

It wasn’t always so. Back in the day Thomas Eakins went there to conduct several photographic studies of shad fishermen. His two great paintings, Shad Fishing at Gloucester on the Delaware River and Mending the Net, were both composed from these studies in 1881. Eakins in fact came to Gloucester quite often, and made numerous drawings and watercolors of the river and the inland farms and fields. We are now inclined to think of Gloucester as “Eakins country.”
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