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Shakespeare First Folio discovered on Scottish island

A Shakespeare First Folio, one of the world’s great rare books, has been found in a stately home on the Scottish island of Bute, reports the BBC. Only 230 copies of the First Folio, which contains Shakespeare’s plays, are known to exist. The last copy to be found was discovered in 2014 in a library in St Omer in France.

Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University, said her first reaction on being told the stately home was claiming to have an original First Folio was: “Like hell they have.”

But when she inspected the three-volume book she found it was authentic.

“We’ve found a First Folio that we didn’t know existed,” said Prof Smith.

It is believed the book was bought by the third Marquess of Bute, an antiquarian and collector, who died in 1900.

Bookseller Q&A: Yesterday’s Muse

Jonathan Smalter in front of his bookstore, Yesterday's Muse.

Jonathan Smalter in front of his bookstore, Yesterday’s Muse.

Located in Webster, New York, AbeBooks bookseller Yesterday’s Muse offers a everything from American and military history books, to literature and finely illustrated editions. Owner Jonathan Smalter is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), the association that represents the nation’s finest booksellers. He is a 2011 graduate of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS), and has served as co-organizer of the annual Rochester (NY) Antiquarian Book Fair since 2013. With over over fifteen years of experience in the book industry, we were eager to ask Jonathan a few questions about his trade.

AbeBooks: How did you become a bookseller?

Jonathan: I began working at a used bookstore when I was 17, and began selling books online in a limited capacity during college. Upon graduating, I pursued this full time, and have done so ever since. This year will mark the point at which I can say that I have been selling books professionally for half my life (I will be 34 in May). I opened my ‘brick & mortar’ shop in December of 2008.

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?

Jonathan: I enjoy book selling because every day is different, and I get to learn new things constantly. Researching unusual and scarce material is a challenge, and meeting fellow bibliophiles (both customers and colleagues), who always seem willing – sometimes eager – to share their knowledge, keeps life interesting.

AbeBooks: What is the most prized item in your inventory? Why?

Jonathan: Currently I own a second American edition of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, which is significant for two reasons: 1) This particular copy was owned by four generations of the Beecher-Stowe family (Lyman Beecher; Harriet Beecher-Stowe and her husband [the latter jotted marginal notes on one page]; and their son and grandson). 2) This specific copy of the book is mentioned in Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s ‘Poganuc People’: “It was a happy hour when [father] brought home and set up in his book-case Cotton Mather’s Magnalia, in a new edition of two volumes.” The work itself is an important one, but what I love most is describing the process of researching the provenance.

Yesterday's Muse

Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, owned by four generations of the Beecher-Stowe family.

AbeBooks: What’s the one book you covet most? Why?

Jonathan: Choosing one is difficult, so I’ll cheat and give you two answers. The first is a signed copy of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, in the limited edition with Johns-Manville Quinterra (asbestos) boards. The second, which is my favorite book, I have had in the first edition, signed by the author: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin. This was early in my career, when keeping books for myself was less advisable, so I no longer have it. I think perhaps I covet the latter more because I let it get away once. Both are available, but I would prefer to find them ‘in the field’ if I am going to add them to my personal collection… so the hunt continues.

AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book?

Jonathan: While not the oddest single object taken by itself, I thought the Ku Klux Klan pamphlet I found laid into a copy of the Bible was among the interfoliata more worthy of remark. I kept them together initially, with note on the somewhat troubling juxtaposition included in my description. Recently, though, a customer purchased the Bible and requested that the pamphlet not be included with his order.

AbeBooks: What’s your most memorable moment as a bookseller?

Jonathan: While I cannot properly call it a single moment, I think attending the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar in 2011 was a pivotal event in my career. Since then I have become a member of the ABAA, established more professional relationships, made more friends in the trade, and pursued a wider range of activities related to the book trade. This year will be my first year organizing the Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair, and I am also president of the Rochester Bibliophile Society. I think all these accomplishments can trace their roots back to the seminar in Colorado.

AbeBooks: And of course, what’s your favorite book?

Jonathan: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin. It is among a very few books I have read more than twice.

Defying the hangman – rare ‘Carter the Great’ magic poster goes on sale

Carter the Great poster offered for sale by Colophon Books

A rare magic poster promoting ‘Carter the Great’ has gone on sale on AbeBooks priced at £3,100 / approximately $4,541. Charles Joseph Carter (1874-1936) was an American stage magician nicknamed Carter the Great, who tried journalism and law before switching to magic where he became a household name and toured the world.  A fictionalized account of Carter’s life has been told in Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold, published in 2001.

This beautiful poster is a prime example of the dramatic marketing used to promote stage magic during its golden age in the 1920s.  Born in San Francisco, the highlight of Carter’s stage act was his ‘cheating the gallows’ trick where the shrouded magician would vanish as he dropped at the end of a hangman’s noose.

The poster is offered for sale by Colophon Books from Leek in the United Kingdom.

Learn more

Save the Date – New York City Book & Ephemera Fair on April 9

fair-space---headerNew York City Book and Ephemera Fair

On 9 April, booklovers will have the opportunity to see some of the finest rare books and ephemera at the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair, which this year is sponsored by AbeBooks.com.  More than 60 professional sellers will display a vast selection of antiquarian books, first editions, and other collectible treasures. For those with a passion for ephemera, this fair will not disappoint. Marquee items include an 1831 first edition of Beethoven’s vocal score for Fidelio and a 1938 letter from psychiatrist Carl Jung.

Visitors will have the opportunity to meet booksellers at the fair. These sellers have a vast amount of expertise and knowledge and will be presenting some of their finest items. Attendees can preview some of the exhibitors’ inventories by browsing their items on AbeBooks. Many respected sellers will be at the fair, including Little Sages Books, Read’ Em Again Books, Peter Harrington, Abby Schoolman, Carnegie Hill Books, DuBois Rare Books and others.

Other highlights set to appear at the fair include a first edition copy of Salome by Oscar Wilde – one of only 500 copies published, Herman Melville’s A Narrative of a Four Months’ Residence among the Natives of a Valley of the Marquesa Islands; or, A Peep at Polynesian and Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas and Anne Cobbett’s 1835 guide to housekeeping, The English Housekeeper: or Manuel of Domestic Management: Containing Advice On The Management of Household Affairs… For the Use of Young Ladies Who Undertake the Superintendence of Their Own Housekeeping.



Herman Melville’s A Narrative of a Four Months’ Residence among the Natives of a Valley of the Marquesa Islands; or, A Peep at Polynesian and Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas


The English Housekeeper: or Manuel of Domestic Management: Containing Advice On The Management of Household Affairs… For the Use of Young Ladies Who Undertake the Superintendence of Their Own Housekeeping

The fair will take place on 9 April from 8am until 4pm at the Wallace Hall at Church of St. Ignatius Loyloa, 980 Park Avenue in New York City. The event offers free, continuous shuttle bus transport to the Park Avenue Armory – location of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair – with the first trip leaving the Armory at 7:45am and the last one leaving Wallace Hall at 3:45pm. Tickets at the door are $15 for adults and $8 for youth aged between 12 and 21. For discount tickets, a complete list of attending dealers, and additional information, please see the fair website.

According to organizer Marvin Getman: “The New York City Book and Ephemera Fair is truly the best of all worlds, celebrating the remarkable intersection of art, history, and imagery.”

Other items of interest at the fair:


An Advertiser’s Alphabet. Illustrated by Ceri Richards, introduction by Mel Gooding


Serve it Forth by M.F.K. Fisher


The Faithful Bull by Ernest Hemingway, illustrations by Michael Foreman, 1980


Voluptés de Paris by Brassai, 1934


Madrigal by Tomas Tranströmer, first edition 2010

March’s bestselling signed books


March saw the passing of prolific American writer Pat Conroy (1945-2016), author of The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, and author Jim Harrison (1937-2016) who was known for his poetry, essays, and reviews. Harrison’s last collection of stories, The Ancient Minstrel, was published on March 1st. Both authors leave a legacy of beloved books behind, as seen on March’s list of bestselling signed books.

1. A Time of Torment by John Connolly

2. Morning Star: Book III of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

3. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

4. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

5. The Ancient Minstrel by Jim Harrison

6. My Losing Season by Pat Conroy

7. Some Rain Must Fall by Karl Ove Knausgaard

8. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson

9. The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy

10. South of Broad by Pat Conroy

Amazon’s Top 10 Books: April 2016

It’s that time again. Every month, members of the Books team at Amazon read, rate and vote on the best books of the month, and release a list of their top 10 recommended best books.

Here’s this month’s list, including April’s Amazon debut book of the month, Lab Girl by Hope Jahren


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life but it is also so much more. Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done with both the heart and the hands; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.


Lust Wonder by Augusten Burroughs
In chronicling the development and demise of the different relationships he s had while living in New York, Augusten Burroughs examines what it means to be in love, what it means to be in lust, and what it means to be figuring it all out. With Augusten s unique and singular observations and his own unabashed way of detailing both the horrific and the humorous, Lust and Wonder is an intimate and honest memoir that his legions of fans have been waiting for.


Maestra by L.S. Hilton
Born on the outside, always looking in, Judith has worked hard to learn the rules of class. She’s transformed her accent, taught herself about wine and the correct use of a dessert fork, not to mention the art of discretion. When she landed the job at British Pictures she thought she was finally on the make, but in a place like the House it turns out she may never pass the test. When Judith is fired after spotting an art forgery that could have made her career, she turns to the long-neglected friend that kept her chin up and back straight through every slight: Rage.


Dodgers by Bill Beverly
Dodgers is the story of a young man named East who works for an LA drug gang, sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys–including East’s hotheaded younger brother–to kill a witness connected to a major case, who is hiding out in Wisconsin. The journey takes East out of a city he’s never left and into an America that is entirely alien to him, and over the course of his journey the book brings in elements from a diverse array of genres, ranging from crime fiction to road narrative to coming-of-age novel. Written in stark and unforgettable prose and featuring an array of surprising and memorable characters rendered with empathy and wit, Dodgers heralds the arrival of a major new voice in American fiction.


Kill em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul by James McBride
National Book Award winner James McBride goes in search of the real James Brown and his surprising journey illuminates the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown s legacy. A product of the complicated history of the American South, James Brown was a cultural shape-shifter who arguably had the greatest influence of any artist on American popular music. Brown was long a figure of fascination for James McBride, a noted professional musician as well as a writer. When he received a tip that promised to uncover the man behind the myth, McBride set off to follow a trail that revealed the personal, musical, and societal influences that created this immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated soul genius.


Consequence: A Memoir by Eric Fair
Consequence is the story of Eric Fair, a kid who grew up in the shadows of crumbling Bethlehem Steel plants nurturing a strong faith and a belief that he was called to serve his country. It is a story of a man who chases his own demons from Egypt, where he served as an Army translator, to a detention center in Iraq, to seminary at Princeton, and eventually, to a heart transplant ward at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2004, after several months as an interrogator with a private contractor in Iraq, Eric Fair s nightmares take new forms: first, there had been the shrinking dreams; now the liquid dreams begin. By the time he leaves Iraq after that first deployment (he will return), Fair will have participated in or witnessed a variety of aggressive interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, diet manipulation, exposure, and isolation.

The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-boats by William Geroux
Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay with little to offer except unspoiled scenery—but it sent an unusually large concentration of sea captains to fight in World War II. The Mathews Men tells that heroic story through the experiences of one extraordinary family whose seven sons (and their neighbors), U.S. merchant mariners all, suddenly found themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of the U-boats bearing down on the coastal United States in 1942.

A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh
At the heart of Geoff Manaugh s A Burglar s Guide to the City is an unexpected and thrilling insight: the city as seen through the eyes of robbers. From experts on both sides of the law, readers learn to understand the city as an arena of possible tunnels and picked locks and architecture itself as an obstacle to be outwitted and second-guessed. From how to pick locks (and the tools required) to how to case a bank on the edge of town, readers will learn to detect the vulnerabilities, blind spots, and unseen openings that surround us all the time.


The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
This is what we long for: the profound pleasure of being swept into vivid new worlds, worlds peopled by characters so intriguing and real that we can t shake them, even long after the reading s done. In his earlier, award-winning novels, Dominic Smith demonstrated a gift for coaxing the past to life. Now, in The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, he deftly bridges the historical and the contemporary, tracking a collision course between a rare landscape by a female Dutch painter of the golden age, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth.


Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein
The author of the New York Times bestseller Cinderella Ate My Daughter offers a clear-eyed picture of the new sexual landscape girls face in the post-princess stage high school through college and reveals how they are negotiating it.A generation gap has emerged between parents and their girls. Even in this age of helicopter parenting, the mothers and fathers of tomorrow s women have little idea what their daughters are up to sexually or how they feel about it. Drawing on in-depth interviews with over seventy young women and a wide range of psychologists, academics, and experts, renowned journalist Peggy Orenstein goes where most others fear to tread, pulling back the curtain on the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important possibilities of girls sex lives in the modern world.


Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt
The riveting true story of the women who launched America into space. In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn t turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible. For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women–known as human computers –who broke the boundaries of both gender and science.

ILAB’s 2016 Chicago pop-up fair to grace Glessner House

Glessner House in Chicago

More news from ILAB on the association’s plans for UNESCO’s World Book & Copyright Day on April 23. Twelve Chicago booksellers will hold a pop-up book fair at Glessner House, the historic building designed for the family of industrialist John Jacob Glessner by architect Henry Hobson Richardson.

All members of the Midwest Chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), they will show a fine selection of rare books, manuscripts, prints, autographs and ephemera, and raise funds in support of UNESCO’s Forest Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI) in South Sudan.

Jeff Hirsch, Paul and Elizabeth Garon of Beasley Books,  Larry Van De Carr of Bookleggers Used Books, Bradley Jonas of Powell’s Bookstore,  Rob Rulon-Miller, and Kurt Gippert, the event’s organizer, are among the booksellers who will attend.

Completed in 1887, Glessner House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and well worth a visit. The 17,000 square foot home now features a museum and hosts cultural events. All dealers will donate 10 per cent of the proceeds of any sale made during the fair to UNESCO.

The book fair runs from 10am to 5pm at Glessner House on 1800 S. Prairie Avenue.

Edward Nudelman and the art of selling beautifully illustrated books

Art makes the world go round, according to Edward Nudelman, owner of Nudelman Rare Books in Seattle. This discerning dealer, with more than 30 years bookselling experience, relishes beautiful illustrated books and has a particular passion for European art movements from the 19th and 20th century.

In fact, a tour of his inventory is a stroll through the European art movements that shaped our world. There are examples of Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna’s Workshops), the early 20th century collective of artists and designers famous for its black and white designs and patterns. There are also examples from the Victorian Arts and Craft movement. You will find a good helping of Pre-Raphaelite items ranging from The Flower Book by Edward Burne-Jones (priced at a cool $15,000) to poetry by Christina Rossetti, famous for writing Goblin Market.

Bookseller Edward Nudelman

You will see the word ‘Jugendstil‘ mentioned when browsing Edward’s inventory- Jugendstil is a style of art that originated in Germany at the end of the 19th century that took its name from a Munich magazine called Die Jugend (The Youth), which extensively used Art Nouveau designs.

“I am drawn to the books that were published in Germany between the 1880s and the 1920s,” said Edward. “Some beautiful books were produced and I studied this period for years. The artwork is often highly symbolic. I also offer manuscripts, letters and ephemera from this era. I am usually drawn to items that are scarce and interesting rather than simply just expensive.”

A member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America since 1983, Edward’s original career was working as a scientist in cancer research. He began collecting at the end of the 1970s and started selling books in the 1980s while juggling his medical career.

He became a full-time bookseller after retiring from life in the laboratory. Today, his knowledge of art and children’s illustrated books ensures strong demand for his services – aside from book dealing, he builds book collections for clients and consults for major auction houses.

In the early days of his bookselling career, Edward favored classic children’s books. Jessie Willcox Smith – the American illustrator who worked for the likes of Good Housekeeping, Collier’s and Harper’s – has been close to his heart for many years. That accumulated knowledge about Smith resulted in Edward writing a biography and bibliography about the artist, who illustrated more than 60 books.

For more information about Edward, read this Fine Books Magazine interview from 2012.

Select items from Nudelman Rare Books

The Book of the Child offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1902 in New York by Frederick A Stokes, The Book of the Child features cover inserts on the front and back by Jessie Willcox Smith, and also three full-page color plates from the illustrator and four more by Elizabeth Shippen Green. This is considered to be Smith’s greatest book, both in size and color and composition, and produced in collaboration with Shippen Green. Learn more

Les Mois offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1895 in Paris, Les Mois is an excellent example of Art Nouveau offered by Nudelman Rare Books. Folio sized, this item has three-quarter vellum-style boards with handmade marbled paper boards and morocco label on its spine. Eugene Grasset designed the artwork for the 1896 calendar of the Parisian department store, La Belle Jardiniere. Learn more

Der Buntscheck offered by Nudelman Rare Books

One of the finest of all Jugendstil books, this title contains full color illustrations by Konrad F.E. von Freyhold, Karl Hofer, Ernst Kreidolf, Emil Rudolf Weiss and others. An important item in the history of German publishing. Learn more

Rumpumpel offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1919, this color pochoir is illustrated by Karl Hofer, one of the greatest Jugendstil artists.  Learn more

Stories from Han Andersen offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1890 by Ernest Nister in green cloth. Features six chromolithographic plates by E.S. Hard and black and white line drawings throughout. Learn more

A Strange Experiment offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1897, the scarce first title from the Philosopher Press with an Art Nouveau-style cover design by Gardner C. Teall. Learn more

L’Annee Chretienne offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1899, the boards of L’Annee Chretienne feature a fine Art Nouveau illustration. Inside are 12 full page color plates by French artist Leon Rudnicki. Learn more

Der Fliegende Konig offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1900, a scarce Jugendstil title with a striking cover reminiscent of Wiener Werkstatte design. Learn more

Leda ou La Louange des Bienheureuses Tenebres offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1898 in Paris, this is #319 of 600 copies. A beautiful example of French Art Nouveau featuring artwork by Paul-Albert Laurens. Learn more

Deutsche Marchen; Jungbrunnen Marchen offered by Nudelman Rare Books

A first edition from 1900 – an example of Jugendstil with black and white illustrations detailing stories by Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and others. Learn more

Nussknacker und Mausekonig offered by Nudelman Rare Books

Published in 1909, another example of Jugendstil in gray-green cloth with a pictorial design stamped in black and white on the cover. Color plates throughout by Otto Bauriedl and Ernst Kutzer. Learn more

Bookseller Q&A: Brown & Dickson

Brown & Dickson

Vanessa and Jason of Brown & Dickson in London, Ontario.

Meet AbeBooks’ antiquarian booksellers Brown & Dickson. Located in London, Ontario, Brown & Dickson specialize in Art, Local History, Counter-Culture, Fine Literature, and Weird Canada. Vanessa and Jason recently answered our questions about the wonderful world of book selling – keep reading to learn about their most prized items and the weird (er, gross) things they’ve found in books!

AbeBooks: How did you become a bookseller?

Jason: After high-school my friend’s father opened up a small used bookshop in downtown London, Ontario. He graciously let me be a part of it with his daughter and friends. I remember going over to his house and seeing a basement filled with boxes of books, probably as many as the entire inventory of my small hometown library. I was hooked.

Vanessa: Jason worked at a used bookstore in town and got me a job. After I finished my degree, I just kept doing it. There were opportunities to find work in fields that paid better. I could have gone to grad school. But I just like selling books. That sounds like laziness, but it’s not. I don’t think most people find something they love that they are also good at, in regards to a job. When you find out what your passion is, you’d be an idiot to let it go. If I’d known about antiquarian book selling, I probably would have skipped that whole liberal arts thing. I learn more on the job than I ever did in school.

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?

Jason: Honestly, for me the trick to love selling books is empathy. I know that sounds corny but I love to see the look in a customer’s eye that matches the look in my own eye when I find a book that is remarkable to me. To do that for a living is incredible. Book selling means I get to have that happen more often. Nearly every week I come across a book that I’ve been looking for, whether I knew it or not.

Vanessa: I find the pace of book selling, the balance between solitude and socializing, works really well for me. As Jason said, coming across those stellar titles can invigorate you for ages, keep you looking for the next great find. I have to admit, I love a big sale. It’s like being on the Price is Right. I’m always begging Jason to give me a high five and he rolls his eyes at me. I also love watching a young collector get excited about high-end items. It reminds you of what it was like at first, when you started selling.

AbeBooks: What is the most prized item in your inventory? Why?

Jason: We just acquired a collection of books from a local Canadian artist. Her library is filled with local arcana and gems of Canadian art. I recently held a copy of a London art zine that I had only heard about and had never seen. So currently that is my favourite.

Vanessa: It changes all the time. I’m currently fascinated by a Tijuana Bible. Usually I latch onto something and shove it under every customer’s nose until it sells, mostly so I can talk about it and find someone to nerd-out about it with me.

Brown & Dickson

The cozy interior of Brown & Dickson in London, Ontario.

AbeBooks: What’s the one book you covet most? Why?

Jason: The Necronomicon. Just kidding. No, I wish I could have original drawings by Jack Chambers. Perhaps a manuscript of notes for his film The Hart of London. I imagine a book of poems by Canadian artists. So few are published, but so many artists write them. I know in those private papers there are prize works. I’d love to hold a book like that.

Vanessa: I heard there’s a lost stash of Hemingway’s personal papers in the basement of his house in Cuba. I’d love to be on the ground floor of going through that stuff, or any discovery, like that box of Vivian Maier’s negatives.

AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book?

Jason: Envelopes of human hair.

Vanessa: Yeah, that.

AbeBooks: What’s your most memorable moment as a bookseller?

Jason: Honestly being in the shop with an empty street and the second side of Brian Eno’s Discreet Music playing on the shop speaker. It was snowing. The light was dim. And I thought, “I’m safe here. I have to work hard to keep this, but I’ve found my home.”

Vanessa: I think our first book party. We had a bunch of community arts organizations join us for a pop-up mini festival in this empty alley next to a downtown historic building. We had so much fun. People really loved it, and that night we all went out and partied together. The books gave us a reason to celebrate.

AbeBooks: And of course, what’s your favorite book?

Jason: Moominpappa at Sea, without a doubt.

Vanessa: The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

If you’re passing through London, find Brown & Dickson at 211 King Street. Out-of-towners can browse Brown & Dickson’s books on AbeBooks.

Bookseller Q&A: Underground Books

Josh and Megan, owners of Underground Books.

Josh and Megan, owners of Underground Books.

Underground Books is a charming antiquarian, rare, and used bookshop just off of historic Adamson Square in downtown Carrollton, Georgia that aims to be a bibliophile’s destination and a browser’s paradise. With a fascinating and unusual collection of beautiful, uncommon, and thought provoking books, Underground Books is sure to leave the serious book lover dizzy with serendipitous finds. The bookshop is literally underground, and patrons must descend a short staircase to enter the shop. A true community bookstore, the down payment for purchasing the building was raised completely from crowdfunding. Owners Josh Niesse and Megan Bell met just after Josh opened the shop in March of 2011, were married in May of 2014, and now operate their book business together, with Josh manning the shop and Megan cataloging the rare and antiquarian books for online sale. Both Megan and Josh have attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, Josh on a scholarship sponsored by AbeBooks in 2011. Underground Books is committed to creative reuse and upcycling, with journals made from damaged vintage books, magnets and pins made from their illustrations, and the shop’s signature piece, the book arch, made completely from books in poor condition.

We caught up with Megan for a quick Q&A about the world of book selling.

AbeBooks: How did you become a bookseller?

Megan: I was a freshman English major at our local university, when a friend told me a new bookstore had opened on our town square. I walked into Underground Books two weeks after Josh opened the doors and was immediately taken with the shelves and shelves of books, the cozy, quirky aesthetic, and the nerdy proprietor. Courting a bookstore owner ended up looking an awful lot like working in a bookstore—a definite perk! After graduating, I joined the shop full-time as the co-owner and resident cataloger. I love spending my days handling, researching, and playing with rare and antiquarian books!

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?

Megan: Book people! Kurt Vonnegut once said, “By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.” The book-lover to book-lover relationship is an extension of this and is truly miraculous to us. It’s a joy to talk books all day, and it’s an honor to send a favorite book home with a new friend. I’m also a scholar at heart, and I love learning something new every day, whether it’s discovering the poets of Black Mountain College or learning that Frances E. Willard had a shepherd collie named Prohibition.

Vintage books on display at Underground Books.

Vintage books on display at Underground Books.

AbeBooks: What is the most prized item in your inventory? Why?

Megan: One of my personal favorites is The Greek Romances of Heliodorus, Longus, and Achilles Tatius. It’s an absolutely stunningly bound collection of these ancient, totally wild romances. Lovers in peril, bandits, nymphs, and the great god Pan—what more do you need? For Josh, it’s this Tamerlane Edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s collected works, thoroughly illustrated throughout by Frederick Simpson Coburn. We love the previous owner’s bookplates in this series—it looks like he had a photographer come to his library and take a snapshot of him looking very studious!

A bookplate from Underground Books' Tamerlane Edition of Edgar Allan Poe's collected works.

A bookplate from Underground Books’ Tamerlane Edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s collected works.

AbeBooks: What’s the one book you covet most? Why?

Megan: Last year, Bernard Quaritch held Frances Currer’s first edition copy of Thomas Bewick’s History of British Birds, the book Jane Eyre is reading at the beginning of the novel by Charlotte Bronte. Frances Currer was not only a distinguished book collector in a field dominated by men (Seymour de Rici called her “England’s earliest female bibliophile” in his history of collectors), but she patronized the school the Bronte sisters attended, and, though it’s not provable, it seems likely Charlotte chose her pen name, Currer Bell, in honor of Frances. All of the significance, literary history, women’s history, and mystery of this book just captivates me!

AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book?

Megan: We have a collection of things we’ve found, and I’m partial to putting even grocery lists in it, but there’s definitely a front runner for weirdness. We recently found a signed pitch card of Tiny Lavonda, “the smallest woman in the world,” a sideshow performer with the Clyde Beatty circus in the ’40s. It shows her with her Chihuahua and has a poem written by her on the verso. It was so unexpected, and I love it so much; I don’t think I can part with it!

A peek inside Underground Books.

A peek inside Underground Books.

AbeBooks: What’s your most memorable moment as a bookseller?

Megan: We both agree it was attending the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, Josh in 2011 (on a scholarship from AbeBooks!) and Megan in 2014 (on an ABAA scholarship). It’s a challenging week, full of serious instruction from titans of book selling and librarianship, with vigorous learning, frantic note-taking, midnight talks with peers, and all the camaraderie of this trade. It’s a mountaintop experience.

AbeBooks: And of course, what’s your favorite book?

Megan: Josh’s background is in philosophy, but he’s a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut and other smart funny authors like Tom Robbins. Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael and James Howard Kunstler’s Geography of Nowhere had big impacts on him when he was young, and he still mentions them frequently. I love Margaret Atwood, Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf…but it’s the Harry Potter series. I am devoted. I burst into tears when I found out we were going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I wrote an essay comparing CABS to Hogwarts for the Fine Books & Collections blog. I reread them every few years and find myself as immersed and enamored as I was at eight.

Flowers for a bibliophile, at Underground Books.

Flowers for a bibliophile, at Underground Books.