Bromer Books: Exquisite Things Come in Miniature Packages
Interview by Scott Laming
For this issue of the Avid Collector bookseller profile, AbeBooks PR Coordinator Scott Laming was lucky enough to talk about bookselling past and present with Boston area booksellers Anne Bromer and Philip C. Salmon of Bromer Booksellers. Anne Bromer owns and operates Bromer Booksellers with her husband David, and is also the co-author of Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures. Philip Salmon has been the store manager of since June of 2000.
Scott Laming: How long have you been a bookseller?
Philip C. Salmon: Anne and David have been booksellers for 40 years. I've been at it for about 14 years. We are pretty sure we began selling on AbeBooks in 1997, which is when we established our presence on the internet.
SL: What is your favorite part of bookselling?
PS: Buying a book that we have never seen before, which feeds into the idea that one can learn something new every day in this business.
SL: Do you have any interesting stories from when you were a book scout?
PS: Only that the whole process of scouting is what got me hooked on antiquarian bookselling. This was a time when people went out with the sole purpose of finding something good, with nothing to guide them but their instinct and experience. The internet has taken some of the magic out of this experience (sorry to say ...).
SL: Tell me your favorite bookselling story.
PS: We once prepared a video tape tour of our gallery (at the bookstore) as a birthday gift for one of our most memorable customers. He had never visited our place, and the video was set up as though he was the camera eye, and everyone on camera was addressing him. It was, in a sense, a virtual visit, and he found the gesture very touching.
SL: Could Anne tell me a little bit about your book Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures?
Anne Bromer: For a long time what has been needed in the field of miniature books is an accessible and entertaining survey for the general reader with a multitude of illustrations which highlight the subject. This was what prompted my co-authoring Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures. Julian Edison of St. Louis, a collector and editor of Miniature Book News, and myself as the leading dealer in the field of miniature books, joined together to write and photograph a "coffee-table" book with nearly 300 full-color illustrations of miniatures, most at actual size. They are spread throughout nine chapters and 14 vignettes. It is published by Harry Abrams of New York in conjunction with the Grolier Club. In the book we attempt to answer the questions most people ask when first seeing miniature books: What are they? Can you read them? Why were they produced? Are they still being produced? Who collects them? Where can I find them? Etc. The whole project took about three years to complete, and two of those years were spent doing research.
SL: Could you explain the Miniature books exhibition that is taking place in Boston and New York for those of us who are unable to see it? Any plans of taking the show on the road?
PS: Anne delivered the inaugural lecture for the book on May 1st at the Boston Public Library in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition she has curated with the same title as the book. It will remain on view at the Library until September 2. Julian Edison is curating a complimentary exhibition at the Grolier Club in New York, which opens on May 16 and runs through July 28th. The Boston exhibition is set up in much the same order as the book, and so it covers everything from Sumerian Cuneiform tablets to examples of illuminated manuscripts to modern press miniatures. The exhibitions will not be traveling, but Anne will deliver her lecture in Seattle later this year, as well as a few venues in the New England area this summer.
SL: Other than miniature books, what areas does Bromer Books specialize in?
PS: We like to say that we specialize in rare and beautiful books. This encompasses books produced by fine presses, books in fine bindings, significant literary first editions, illustrated books by noted artists, children's books and paper toys, autograph and manuscript material. We also have an interest in science fiction, and books produced during the dawn of printing.
SL: Now that it has been around for a couple of years, how has the progress been with the Rare Book Fund, and could you explain it for those who do not know about it?
PS: The Anne and David Bromer Rare Book Fund is a $100,000 endowment that was established to educate the public as to the many treasures held by the Boston Public Library's Rare Book Department. It is not intended for acquisitions. There is something currently in the planning stages for an exhibit about fore-edge paintings, but we do not have a time-table as yet.
SL: Who are your favorite authors? What are you currently reading?
AB: “My favorite books are works of non-fiction, often political in nature or of the world of art. I have just completed reading The Art of the Steal by Christopher Mason, and now am reading The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, this year's Pulitzer Prize winner. My husband David’s favorite authors are Aldous Huxley and Philip K. Dick. He is currently reading The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert.
PS: My favorite authors are Seamus Heaney, Fernando Pessoa, Arturo Perez-Reverte, James Wright and Robert Frost. I’m currently reading Franz Wright's God's Silence, and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco.
More on Anne Bromer's New Release
Miniature Books is the first lavishly illustrated, authoritative book on the delightful subject of books no taller than three inches. A dazzling array of books on subjects ranging from Shakespeare’s plays and the Holy Bible to politics and presidents, children’s books, the pleasures of life, and more are shown—with few exceptions—at their actual size. Here is the prayer book that Anne Boleyn carried to her execution, seen open to its sole illustration, a portrait of Henry VIII. Here also are the world’s two smallest books (impossible to be sure which is tinier). There are books studded with gemstones, books that Napoleon carried with him on his campaigns, books illustrated by artists such as Picasso, Miró, and Edward Gorey. And there is a section dealing with the papers, printing, and binding of these tiny marvels. The text is lively and accessible, full of great stories and fascinating people. It will appeal to the experienced collector, but also to the one just starting out and to anyone who loves the look and feel of a good book.