Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Mystery of Cloomber - A Conan Doyle

It's *pouring* snow here in my little corner of Montana this morning.  Was only supposed to be a skiff of snow, but it's at least 4" of heavy stuff and still pouring down.  It's a good day to take a minute and find my next read.  Like many bibliophiles, I can't help but turn to British "classics" in winter.  I'm not sure what it is. Some sense of nostalgia for a place and time I've never experienced first-hand must have something to do with it.  No matter, I don't have to understand it to enjoy it.  Personally, it's not Dickens at Christmastime, but Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and PG Wodehouse that usually accompany me before my winter's naps.  A recent find was this unknown to me book The Mystery of Cloomber.  I know nothing except a man (Santa?) is horrified by what he hears.  I also happen to know this copy was once in West Virginia.  
This copy includes a great book trade label from Bluefield Book & Stationery Company in Bluefield, West Virginia.  Like many book stores approaching the 20th Century, they also sold other goods, like cut glass, china, office equipment, stationery along with "All The Latest Books."  I also wonder if this book was in a subscription library of some kind with the contemporary numbered label in the upper corner.  Now, where did I put that list?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy 100th Loeb Classical Library!

The Loeb Classical Library has been around for 100 years this year.  You can read all about the history of this monumental series over at Wikipedia.  But even better, you can start reading the classics themselves thanks to a cool site that has streamlined digital access to these wonderful books.

Also, you can share your love of Loebs in a new-ish Flickr group for folks who love the series.

There is lots of amazing work going on all the time to preserve and share these ancient texts-- and more discoveries to be made!  Here is William Noel from the Walters Museum of Art in a recent TED Talk about revealing Archimedes.  PS, thanks TED people for getting a recording out shortly after it was actually made!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ralph Ellison speaks.

I was catching up on some podcast listening this week, and heard the folks at Bookrageous talk about "one hit wonder" authors.  One of my favorites is Ralph Ellison.  A fascinating interview with Ralph Ellison has been digitized from the archives of my old work place, the Oklahoma Historical Society, and as of this writing has about 10 views. Thanks OHS for making this available to everyone to see.

You can browse Ralph Ellison's personal library on Library Thing's Legacy Library project.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

While you were out...

So, you understand I wasn't just sitting around all winter waiting for the blog to unfreeze, I was up to a few things, and now I can finally share.

I started using Tumblr for things that don't quite fit the format here.  The first is like the Exile Bibliophile blog but on tumblr, just like the blog only less wordy: Also, I should note completely different content than the blog.  Tumblr also makes it easy to run audio content, which is something I've wanted to do with Exile Bibliophile for a while -- a podcast.  I know it's very 2007 of me, but I can't help it.  If I ever get one "in the can" as they say in the "biz", I'll be the first to tell you so.

I also started a Tumblr dedicated to library ink stamps --, which has been surprisingly popular and features daily posts.   I've also started another dedicated entirely to errata slips -- this one is a little slower going, but is picking up steam.  The errata slip tumblr was created in response to a conversation on twitter and then it got out of hand.  You know how it is.

Of course, you can find me on Twitter:

Thursday, March 15, 2012


After battling Google over a snafu with 2-step verification, I'm back!  Egads.  I'll have a few old posts that never went up because of the lock-out, and updates too.

I have several updates in the hopper, but I'm hitting the road tomorrow for what will be a great time in Great Falls, Montana to be one of the speakers for their Festival of the Book series.  So, briefly, if you can catch me, please do at the Great Falls Public Library this Saturday at 2 pm.  They've also got some other good stuff lined up on other Saturdays, so check it all out.  More to follow.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Trade Labels spotted!

It's been a while since I've posted on book trade labels, but believe me, they are never far from my heart.  Over Thanksgiving, the Mrs. and I took a pleasant trip to visit friends and our old stomping grounds in Oklahoma.  Luckily for me I was able to  include nearly all the surviving used and indie bookshops in Oklahoma City-- and a new one!

I made quite a haul home in my suitcase, and had to ship a goodly sized box back to Montana as well.

One of the books I bought on an impulse was Barbara Hodgson's The Tattooed Map.  What initially caught my eye on the Clearance shelf at the new Half-Price Books in Edmond, OK was the Chronicle Books colophon on the spine-- these folks put out wonderful books.  Always worth a flip through at the very least.

What a surprise when I did. It was a constant flow of beautiful ephemera reproduced throughout.  Then, closer to the back, bookseller labels started popping up.  I include here only three of the six.  They came out a little blurry.  I think my scanner is just too much for my rickety desk and that's what's causing that.  They really are beautifully reproduced in the book.  I found myself running my fingers over things and surprised it wasn't pasted in.

Maps, books, and ephemera play an important role throughout the story, although it really isn't about that.  Newspaper clippings, receipts  business cards, fold out maps, are complimented with exact details (like library stamps on the backs of maps) and handwritten lists and notes throughout.

As a story, it didn't blow me away, but it's gotten better in my mind with a few days of perspective.  Hodgson has produced a few other books described as Illustrated Novels along similar principles, but this was my first.  Hodgson's more recent book, Trading In Memories, about being an ephemera hunter, has moved from my "Acquire On Sight" list to "Acquire Now" list.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Did you know I'm on Twitter? Do you follow me there?  I love Twitter.  I have a nice list of bibliofolk as well.  Check it out!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Protect Your Books (and Your Marriage) with Proper Shelving

Another guest post from me has appeared over at the GoneReading Blog.  Check it out!

Protect Your Books Through Proper Shelving Techniques

I’m the first to admit, I don’t care for all of my books equally.  But I own books that are precious to me, requiring better care.  Caring for your books begins with your eyes.  Look at them closely, carefully– especially books you’ve had for a long time.  Do boards on any of your hardcovers bow?  Does each book sit square?  Are the heads of the spines busted?  Have you gouged your gauffered edges?  These injuries are symptoms of inadequate storage.
When caring for your books, the basics begin with shelving.  No matter how much you love your books, you aren’t reading all of them at once, right?  Books spend most of their time on the shelf, so shelving them with an eye toward care can go a long way.
Don’t tell my wife, but her preference for shelving books upright by height with total disregard for subject matter or author is actually best for long-term book care.  I, on the other hand, prefer to shelve non-fiction books by chronological subject matter and fiction by author’s national origin and life chronology.
That’s also why we’ve been happily married for nearly a decade: We don’t mix our books.  Shelved by height, books support each other.  Huge books, often atlases or enormous art books, are best laid down and stacked pyramid style, biggest on bottom.  Over time, the slick, high quality paper in these books is so heavy it will damage the binding if left upright.

Snug, Not Tight

Books like to be held snug, but not tight.  If you’ve ever busted the head of the spine of a dust-jacket or hardcover book removing it from a shelf, you know you’re packing them in too tight.  Packing them too tightly can also cause the boards of hardcover books to bow inward over a long period of time.
But there are also dangers with shelving books to loosely.  Boards will warp outward under the weight of the pages when left unsupported.  The spine will also splay loose at the top in early stages. This can also happen when taller books are shelved tightly amongst smaller brethren.  The solution: Use bookends to maintain snugness.
Like I said, I certainly don’t treat all of my books this well.  But the books I really love deserve my full attention.  I try for a happy medium, sometimes making choices for the best of the book, sometimes adhering to my impeccable scheme.  Occasionally a little compromise works best.  That’s the best bet to save your books, as well as your marriage.
For more on the subject of book collecting, the anatomy of books and proper shelving techniques, Benjamin recommends this helpful PDF: ABC For Book Collectors

Friday, November 11, 2011

Exile Bibliophile the Tumblr Edition

I've started an Exile Bibliophile tumblr edition, in hopes to lay groundwork for a podcast.  So, I'll have fewer of the posts like the previous here, but even more bibliophilic content in general.  You can find it here:  The tumblr will NOT replace or likely displace any posts here.  It'll be business as usual on the blog, but even more goodies here:  So, check it out already!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

...out of the window

A gentle introduction to the gentle madness

This week, I have the pleasure of guest blogging over at GoneReading, a site for people who love books. I've especially enjoyed the series A Dude Reads Jane Austen. Also, GoneReading has a great store with bookish gifts and things and proceeds support libraries and literacy. Pretty great stuff.

So, here it is:

It’s interesting so many people love books, but so few people claim to be book collectors.  Is it because it sounds like claiming to be a breeder of polo ponies?  Perhaps.

I collect books.  I do not own a yacht.  I’m not embarrassed by either fact.  I even seek out others who collect books too, so maybe we can be friends.  (The Mrs. says I need people-friends too, not just book-friends.)  In my quest to find kindred collectors of books, I’ve found quite a few proto-collectors.  Proto-collectors are people who are very nearly collecting but can’t quite claim full book collector status for themselves.  They seem to be charmingly unaware how a quest has come upon them, consuming money, energy, and precious time-- but still they claim to not be book collectors.  I’m the first to admit, it’s hard to say when exuberant Bibliophilia become full-blown Bibliomania.  But the first step is certainly to admit there are stronger forces at work than the love of a tale well told.  

Not everyone who owns a lot of books is a book collector.  Granted.  I wear pants most days, and own many pairs, yet don’t think of myself as a pants connoisseur.  Book collectors are the same way.  A book collection has a purpose beyond accumulating, beyond, even, reading.  A book collection has a purpose.  What should the focus be?  That’s the beauty of it.  It can be anything.  Anything at all.  And though book collectors have been carefully forming collections for centuries, the most interesting book collections are yet to be formed.

Collections often focus on a particular author, a particular illustrator, publisher, series, a style of bookbinding, a particular subject (like books of made-up words, or pants-wearing polo ponies).  Not long ago a short article was circulating about a collector of books that use human blood in their production or signed in the stuff.  I was surprised at the variety of books that fit into the collection.  Another great way to see what’s new in collecting is to review the entries for the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest sponsored by the ABAA (The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America).  Nearly all of these entries demonstrate what amazing collections can be assembled on a college student’s budget.  

Another thing to do is get to know other collectors.  They may not be on your street, or at your 8-to-5, but there’s a big beautiful blogosphere pulsing with the thoughts and purchases of serious bibliophiles.  I have over 250 blogs in my RSS reader dedicated to bibliophilia, and I know I don’t follow everyone.  I’m constantly finding new ones.  And people find me through my own blog.  There are also several clubs, societies, and other organizations for book collectors, many of which can be found at the website of the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies.  There may also be sites dedicated to your preferred objects of book love-- a great example is Collecting the Modern Library, a site dedicated to the Modern Library series of 1917-1970, compiled by collectors over many years and still growing.  I wish there were many more like it.

If you love books, you’ve likely heard booksellers bemoan the unliterate age of the e-panopticon we live in today.  Publishers are even worse.  The moaning has its merits, but the moaners are overreacting.  Historically, booksellers considered the end of books with the emergence of radio and television too.  The great thing about the internet is it has largely removed one of the biggest barriers of book lovers: geography.  Historically, book collecting has largely been a past-time for urbanites, but that is no longer true.  The internet has also caused what were once thought to be rare books into a wider market place to be outed as actually fairly common.  But books are finite, and I think we’re currently living in what will be “the good ol’ days” of book collecting.  A time we’ll look back on fondly when nearly everything was available and most of it cheap.

There is still frontiers to be explored and treasures to be found in book collecting.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Lumberjack's Boxcar Library

The problem of getting books into the hands of readers has been solved in many ways over the centuries.  Of course, one of my favorites is the bookmobile.  A classic, and staple of rural life in the 20th Century.  But in 1919, there was something else in the works to get books into the hands of the lumbermen in the employ of the Anaconda Copper Mining Co.  The Anaconda company is one of those "too big to fail" sorts in the history of Montana-- it's name was apt.  But that's not to say this wasn't a great idea.
Beginning in 1919, this railroad boxcar was refitted to be a library on rails to serve the mobile timber camps in western Montana.  The men and their families could be in these remote camps for a few months at a time, and undoubtedly anticipated the days when the library car came.  That's how it was at least where I grew up on bookmobile days.  According to the info posted, it was perhaps administered by the Missoula Public Library.  I would certainly love to hear more about how this "cooperative effort" really worked between the public library and the Anaconda Co.

I'd also love to get my hands on lending records--- what were lumberjacks reading in the 1920s?  Especially lumberjacks with access to an ostensibly public library working for an enormous multi-national "evil empire" type corporation whose practices gave rise to the modern organized labor movement?  How were books selected?  Did the employees and their families enjoy it?  It must have been effective since it was in use into the late 1950s as a library by the Anaconda Co.  After that, it was used by the University of Montana at one of their lumber research stations-- first as a library then as a dormitory.  It was later used for storage, until it was discovered by the museum and acquired for restoration and interpretation of the timber history of the region.

To interpret my own photos a little, the floor plan above is oriented opposite of how the car actually sits in the first photo.  The restoration is underway, and although I know the administration at the museum where it is, I haven't had a chance to chat with him about the project.  It certainly is impressive, and should be on the biblio-tourists list of stops when passing through Montana.

Today this railroad bookmobile resides at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula in Missoula, Montana.  The restoration so far is impressive indeed.

Of course, if you know more about this amazing piece of bibliophilic history, please get in touch.  A real dream would be records, or even a book with markings that showed it was used on this unique library.  Even if it's not about this particular library on rails, I'd love to hear about others.  Do any others even exist?  Surely they do, but I've had a hard time finding any online.  I know the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula would also appreciate any stories as well.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Exile Roams West Part 3

It's been a hectic month!  I'm finally home after a few weeks of meetings and conferences that took me west.  I'm a truly blessed man to be able to drive the length of Montana several times during a gorgeous, mild autumn.

While I was in Missoula, I was able to find The Bird's Nest.  It's not hard to find, but parking can be an issue.  I was parked about 2 minutes too long on the street and was greeted with a $2 ticket.  I used it as a parking permit the rest of the weekend.

I was very happy to find this shop.  Why?  It's a true booklover's used bookshop.  When they say "Books & Stuff", it's really more about the books than the stuff, but some of the stuff was interesting too.  Ephemera anyone?  It was also nuts.  Having lived in a tiny town on a highway to Canada, I've enjoyed the quiet things in life.  But Missoula, is nuts.  The streets don't make sense, bikes everywhere, young people, buskers, Occupyers shouting, etc.  Not what I'm used to in my small town.  So, finding this quiet shop was exactly what I needed.

There were great books to be had here and prices were good too.  Very good in some cases.   I had worried that being in the center of a "happening" downtown in the arts district would make books dear.  It wasn't so.  The lady at the front desk was even great.  Completely silent the day I came in to browse (for nearly 2 hours), and helpful and pleasant when I needed help another day.  In other words, perfect.

There was even some older stuff to be found on the shelves, but prices there were bad, especially as much of the 19th C. stuff was warped/ moldy/ etc., but prices didn't reflect the generally poor condition of old stuff.  And by "old", I mean 125 years old plus.  Almost everything from the last century was in nice shape and fairly, even low priced.

I was in town for the Montana Festival of the Book and realized I had forgotten an example of a trade edition and a book club edition to be passed around so folks get an idea of the difference.  It's one of those things best explained when holding both in your hands.  I knew the Bird's Nest would have examples, and they did, as long as I wasn't too picky (It was a Crichton title for the curious-- in both BCE and Trade hardcover).

I didn't find anything in my particular collecting areas, but I did come away with bargains-- like 4 pristine volumes of The Anchor Bible for about $15!  It may have even been $12.  It's been a couple weeks ago now, but I do remember thinking I couldn't cover Media Mail shipping for the four books for that price from separate dealers.

There were also nice vintage copies of classics and now-obscure-but-the-rage-in-1935 stuff too.  There were surprises, and groaners too, but it was all well chosen and the stuff that hadn't been culled in many years of shelf-sitting you could see why it was still there.  It seemed to be a well trafficked shop, which means constant turn over.  Which is nice.

The Bird's Nest is the kind of shop where they still hang a review of Francis Parkman's works from a 1926 New York Review of Books, because it's still informative.  The old building has some charm too, which I'm certainly among the least immune.  It creaked and groaned, had odd platforms and tiny nooks I had to duck and hunch to get into.  Granted, I'm a big dude, but still--.  It was also fun to play "What Dept. Store did This Fixture Come From?"

I also stopped in at another book shop, this one more akin to Half-Price Books, for those familiar with that outfit.  (I like them a lot, but have moved far from their area).  This one is called The Book Exchange.  For most used book lovers, and seekers of the rare and odd, it was a bit too clean, a little bit slick, but they had a decent coffee shop built in, which I remember desperately needing when I arrived.  For books they had very nice remainders, gently used books, etc.  Prices were really good here as well for most things.  I came away with a lot more than I had anticipated when I walked in.  I definitely bought books out of pure serendipity.  It was about what one would expect from a smaller, more local version of Half Price Books in a modestly sized college town.  One of the things I noticed was a very large selection of comics.  I don't go in for them myself, but for those who do (and I know there's a lot of you), this would likely be a stop you wouldn't regret.  They also had a great genre paperback section, which was nice since I was needing the next installment of a series, and they had the next two!  Also, lots of parking (which is honestly almost never a problem in Montana).  Sorry I didn't seem to take many pictures inside.  Probably because my hands were full of books.

So, if you're in Missoula, there are a couple fantastic book shops in town and another close by. Check them out and say hi.  Or not.   Silence is a virtue in Montana.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Exile Roams West part 2

I've recovered from my latest trip to Missoula, this time for the Montana Festival of the Book.  What a wonderful event and an amazing group of people who put this on.  Upon arrival I picked up the loose paper bundle gathered for orienting presenters.  I scanned the program prepared as a supplement to the local newspaper, and lo and behold, thanks to alphabetical listing, there I am on the same page with James Lee Burke!  How about that.  Sure there are six names between his and mine (including the amazing Bonnie Jo Campbell), but there I am.

The festival itself was only a couple days long, but included enough panels and presentations I was forced to make tough choices.  There were often 6 choices at any one time, and all of them with fantastic authors and presenters.  You can see for yourself at the Festival website, while the 2011 info is still up.

One such session I enjoyed was a discussion between Keir Graff, Craig Lancaster, Jenny Shank, and David Abrams about "online stuff."  It was focused on blogging and social media but did get around to a few other topics as well.  Especially as all four have published/ soon-to-be-published novels.  Also, Craig was funny.  So was Jenny, but you expect her to be, having written for The Onion and McSweeney's.  Sorry, but it's true.

Montana's Festival of the Book is really dedicated to literature and literacy.  It's also almost entirely attended by middle-aged and older people, which was a surprise.  There seemed to be a lot of young people around for a few key sessions, especially in Poetry, but that would be it.  Odd.  I thought to myself, well, this is more the demographic for book collecting anyway, so I'll likely find other collectors here.  But I really didn't, until my session.  I found the idea of a session on book collecting or a talk about books as objects was disorienting to many participants.  And intriguing.  They checked their schedules, asking, "When are you, again?", and "I'll have to catch that."  

My session (titled Adventures in Book Collecting) was pretty well attended (about average for the smaller sessions).  There were tons of great questions, and people seemed genuinely interested in learning more when it was done.  Of course, my favorite part, was all the smiles at the end.  It didn't hurt LibraryThing hooked me up with some great swag to give away!  You can't tell, but the guy in the greenish shirt is holding a cue-cat.  Everyone else ran away to gloat over their prizes, so I missed photographing about half of the swag winners because I was mobbed by the audience.  I should bring an assistant next year.  Any volunteers?

Since I was in the last time-slot of the last day, the festival was drawing to a close.  It was a lot of fun and I look forward to trying it again next year, if they'll have me.

Attending these kinds of high-quality events, one should be forgiven the temptation to name-drop, so I will only indulge it only once more.  Corduroy.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Exile roams west Part 1

Almost two weeks ago now, I ventured west to Missoula.  If you're not familiar with Montana's cities, Missoula is the Austen of Montana.  Artsy, liberal, and overflowing with students.  It was site of the 2011 Montana History Conference sponsored by the Montana Historical Society.  The conference was.... ok.  More to the point though, I was finally in the populated part of the state, and in place where books must certainly hang heavy from vines.  My reasons why:  Centers of education, economic downturn (for the area), and lots of people constantly transitioning.  My mouth watered at the idea of what books could be had.

Once I got there, I did have to actually attend the conference, and also had some other responsibilities there as well (board meeting for the Museums Assoc. of Montana), but I would have a full morning and one gap in an afternoon I could use to explore the area bookshops.

I consulted with my Readar app by LibraryThing.  Readar is a locator for bookshops, libraries, book festivals, etc.  Like UrbanSpoon, but for booklovers, they say.  I can see that.  Now, the content of the bookstore locator information, reviews, etc. is user generated, so in some cities and parts of the country it can be uneven.  Montana is one such place (but improving incrementally now I'm getting out and about).  
Readar said there were a few bookshops near my hotel, but no hours, no reviews, not even clear if they were new or used shops.  I checked in another source-- The Yellow Pages.  Not a website of yellow page listings, mind you, the actual phone book in the drawer by the bed in my hotel room.  Those Yellow Pages.

One large listing caught my eye-- The Montana Valley Book Store, 100,000 used books, open every day 8-7.  Early enough I could could have a good long browse before my first meeting at noon, and if I have to go back Saturday or even Sunday on my way home, no problem.  I could even hit it again in a couple weeks when I come back to town for the Montana Festival of the Book.  Open.  Every.  Day.  

I checked the address-- Alberton.  Where's that?!  My in-phone GPS assured me it was close-- only 20 minute drive on the interstate west from Missoula.  I made my plans for an early Cracker Barrel breakfast (I can't quit that cheesy hash-brown stuff and sweet tea) and hit the road.

I arrived at 7:30 in Alberton after a highly efficient breakfast.   I was early and excited.  Alberton is a very small mountain town that was obviously established to take advantage of the railroad, or the railroad came through Alberton to take advantage of it happening to being there.  Either way, it didn't seem to be a healthy relationship.  The small town has seen more affluent days, but still had that charm small mountain towns do.  I started watching for the book store.  It wasn't hard to miss on the main drag through the few blocks that makes up the town center.

The building has certainly seen better days, but was on the historic register, which meant it was beloved by someone.  A 100+ year-old former grocery store, according to the plaque.  Interesting.  The huge front windows were dark, but in the growing daylight, I could see narrow packed shelves with books from floor nearly to 12-foot ceiling.  I'm a big guy, and I already knew this was going to be tight.

Promptly at 8 AM, Keren, the owner and her big dog (that I don't remember the name of, but was equally nice as his owner) unlocked the doors and turned on the lights.  Rather, snapped on *the* light.  Each row of shelves has its own lights overhead for browsers to flip on and off as they go along.  For doing so, each bank of lights has long strings dangling down to frighten you while browsing and forgetting that long strings are dangling  from the ceiling to run across the back of your neck, feeling precisely like some kind of insect intruder about to dive down the back of your shirt.  

The important stuff-- the books.  They were everywhere.  They claim 100,000 plus, and I bet they're right.

The books were interesting.  A good mix of fiction, both antique, unfashionable, popular and recent stuff.  Almost like the leftover books of a hundred years of vacations all in one place.  Also, a goodly bit of poetry.  Nonfiction was also good, especially in the outdoorsy subjects-- hunting, fishing, camping, gardening, etc.  Plenty of the unexpected too-- like a road-map of Morocco circa 1975.  

Condition was overall a bit lower than I like.  I found a couple books I passed on because of condition-- even the occasional moldy book.  There were also the pre-requisite used bookshop cats who were not very sociable that early in the morning (neither am I), but the occasional puff of hair from the books reminded me they were there.  Maybe a pass for folks with allergies.

Prices were good considering this is western Montana, a very expensive place to operate a retail business of any kind.  I went in hoping to find a couple things I thought likeliest to find.  I came away with none off that list, rather an armload of serendipity and a good conversation.  That's likely the best way to visit the store-- with open eyes and mind.  

So, if you're in Missoula or just cruising I-90, don't be afraid of heading west to Alberton and stop in to Montana Valley Book Store and see what treasures you uncover.

Check back soon... it was an eventful trip.