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Thinking About Mom: Part 1

Thinking About Mom: Part 1

Actually I never called Mom “Mom” – to me she was always Ma. Twice in the last twenty years of her life I saw Ma with the most outrageously, huge, brilliant smile on her face. I grew up in a small town in the middle of the Great Plains in the U.S. It was a great place to grow up and a good place to leave. When I was a young man in that town of about twenty thousand people, it was all white people. Ok, not quite all white people. There was one family of native Americans and one family of Mexicans, and there were two black people on the college football team. The vast majority of the people were not only European descendants, they were also predominantly northern Europeans. A nice, clean and orderly town. Of course I became a radical at a young age as to me, those white people for the most part were a bunch of fascist. The Republican Party was totally dominant and the largest newspaper in the state, which I read everyday, was pure rightwing garbage. 

In my mid twenties I discovered San Francisco and the East Bay and I fell in love with the place and I had to live there. For ten years it was my home, for ten wonderful years. My mother would visit me about once a year and twice Ma visited me with my father. On one of her yearly visits I got to see that brilliant smile on Ma’s face.

To me, San Francisco is just the coolest place. The city was incredibly vibrant. Culture, culture, and more culture. The average person there was a Democrat and there were tons of radicals. San Francisco has a history of being progressive and radical.

During that decade the U.S. started a war in Iraq and in the Midwest, the good citizens supported this war. Not in San Francisco though. Those goddamn radicals in the bay area would go to huge protests. Fifty to a hundred thousand people would be out protesting this war in Iraq and it felt so good to be part of those protests. My friends back home complained that they could not say one word about the injustice because those good solid citizens in the Midwest would be ready to beat them up for being pacifist. 

Another thing I really loved about San Francisco was this Macy’s Store in the heart of downtown. The store was absolutely amazing. I went there many times and they had everything for the home. They had clothing, furniture, appliances, electronics, home decoration, art, you name it, they had it. Their restaurants and deli’s, every culinary delight you could think of. Of course it was too expensive for me but who could resist their candy shops and deli’s. 

One year Ma was making her yearly visit. In that year my sweet, silly cousin decided she wanted to live in San Francisco and asked me if she could come out and live with me. My cousin’s family and my family were really close to each other. My sweet cousin’s name is Jane and my father and Jane’s mother were brother and sister. For the longest time we lived about twenty of thirty minutes apart and we were close friends and relatives.

On Ma’s yearly visit I decided to take her shopping at Macy’s. I did not tell my mom what I had planned. At that time I actually had a girlfriend, I guess we were pretty serious. Her name was Sue and she knew my mom and my cousin Jane. So, Ma is visiting us and we get in cousin Jane’s car and the four of us drive over to San Francisco and go to the parking garage right by Macy’s. I told Ma  I wanted the four of us to go to Macy’s. Ma wanted to wait out in the car but I insisted and insisted for her to go in the store with us. We went to the women’s clothing section in Macy’s and I found a chair for me and mom. I then had cousin Jane and my sweetheart Sue bring different blouses and other female clothes to show my mom. Ma then realised that I was taking her on a shopping spree at Macy’s.

It was magical, those girls were bringing out the nicest clothing. Then Ma started smiling and got to like the idea of having a bunch of new clothes from one of the finest clothing stores you could ask for. At one point my dear, dear mother had the happiest smile I had ever seen on her face. That was a magical time for all of us. Of course after shopping we went to a wonderful restaurant in the city. 

Part two coming up. With Ma in Las Vegas!!!

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Three Ingredient Recipes

Three Ingredient Recipes

Today we are going to talk about the Culinary Arts. A few days ago I was going through lots of books and I pulled out this book:

I might have looked at it before but I have so many goddamn cookbooks, I didn’t pay any attention to it. However, I started really checking out this book. The title is: “Healthy 1, 2, 3” , and the subtitle is: “Fat – Free Low Calorie: The Ultimate 3 – Ingredient Cookbook”

WOW! Something new under the sun: a cookbook where every recipe in it had only three ingredients, and it is going to be healthy and natural; how cool! I love to cook and I like to cook healthy with lots of whole grains, beans, and tons of fresh vegetables. Silly me though. I thought that since there are only three ingredients, it would be fast and easy. All the recipes have only three ingredients however, this author, this culinary genius, made these recipes extremely complicated. Actually, I was hanging out with my brother and I showed him the book and told him to pick out a recipe and I would cook it. The recipe he chose was: “Stir-fried asparagus with tofu” doesn’t that sound absolutely delicious? Of course this is the springtime and that is when asparagus is in season. 

My dear brother journeyed to “Delicias Beef” in Santa Tere to do the necessary shopping. Of course, this cookbook makes everything so complicated they asked for roasted peanut oil, which I do not have and so I substituted it for olive oil. I like to think that I am literate and I have a large vocabulary but this recipe confused me when it said I should cut the asparagus on the bias and all I could wonder was, what the hell is bias? So I just cut it where it seemed natural to me. The recipe says to cook this in a very hot, non-stick pan. When buying the cooking equipment for my kitchen, price was more important than the quality. I could not afford a nice beautiful state of the art stove so I bought a really funky stove, but boy was it inexpensive. The problem is that it has gas burners, but the flame never gets super hot. If anybody knows how to change that please contact me.

Back to cooking. 

I love to cook with and eat tofu as it is so incredibly delicious, natural, healthy, and wonderful. One thing I love to cook is a stir fry. You just go and get a bunch of fresh vegetables, and then I like to add some chicken or tofu. Whenever I make that stir fry my burner is just not hot enough to make it crusty. That “Stir-fried asparagus with tofu” was delicious. Of course it would have been better if the flame would have been higher then the asparagus would have been caramelised and the tofu would have been crusty. 

As you can tell by the inclosed attachment this recipe for tuna is incredibly complicated, incredibly demanding and way too complicated for this guy. However I love this cookbook and it is going into my cookbook collection.

Browse our Culinary Arts section to see what cookbooks we’ve got for sale in the store

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A Book Seller

A Book Seller

In the year of 2012 I had been living in Mexico for about ten years and somehow, my house on the beach was completely full of books. At that time I decided to open a bookstore. What I was looking for was an established store of any kind that would allow me to put books in their store, then I would go away and come back every two or three weeks and check on the books and what was happening. In March of 2013 a friend of mine informed me that his friend had opened up a record store. When I heard this news I went straight to the record store and talked to the owner and we made a deal and his record store became a record store/bookstore. That would have been in March of the year 2013. 

I had a lot of space in an empty room so I needed many more books. One of the first things I did was to put an advertisement in the newspaper El Informador. At that time I was asking for books in English and I got a few responses but not that many, but I kept that advertisement in for a while. Three different people responded and said they had boxes of books for me to purchase so I visited those people and saw the books in three different places that had the same thing in common: in those boxes of books there were many that were stamped with the words “Lake Chapala Society”. After seeing this I decided to contact the Lake Chapala Society and the director of the Lake Chapala Society informed me that he had books to sell and that he wanted to come down to Guadalajara to see what I was doing. He and two of the librarians at the Society visited me and approved of me. One of the librarians that day informed me about the “Lake Chapala Society”.

The Lake Chapala Society is a charity. A woman named Neil James from Mississippi who had spent her life traveling around the world and writing books. She ended up buying a huge piece of land on the shores of Lake Chapala in the town of Ajijic but died about twenty years ago and left her land and her house and other buildings to a charity named “The Lake Chapala Society”. This is a non-profit organisation and their goal, their mission, is to help the poor people and society in general there in Ajijic and other places. One of the things they did is to make an English language library. They told me that they had the largest English language library in Latin America. 

When I met these people I passed their test and they started selling me books. On that day, one of the librarians told me they had so many books that they did not have any space or use for them. Because of this they used to give books to men that made fireworks out of them. They didn’t like doing that and so were very happy to sell me the books so that the books had a chance to live. 

In the years before that happened and before I started my bookstore, I had a serious addiction to reading. To feed that addiction I went to any place I could think of to find books in English here in Guadalajara and wherever else I went.  At that time I would go to a lot of tianguis around the city to find books. One time when I was in a tianguis a man told me that he had books in English at his house. Of course I went to his house to see the books he had but it was not good hunting.

However, on that same day, that book loving bookseller told me to go to the “Bazar Ciudad de los Niños”. Wow, what a find! This charity sits on the most incredible piece of land and is set up to help orphans. I am positive that when this orphanage was opened it used to be out in the country. The city of Guadalajara then grew and surrounded the orphanage, so now it is an orphanage with not that many orphans and it occupies the most incredibly expensive land.

What they have is a giant bazar. I first went there about ten or twelve years ago. As a book junkie this is the greatest fix I could find. They had thousands of thousands of books mostly in Spanish but enough in English to make me extremely happy. Over the years I would go there many times looking for and finding books to read.  Eight years ago I started going to that charity to buy books for my newborn bookstore. I was not the only bookdealer going to that bazar to buy books and that is how I met many of the used book dealers here in Guadalajara.

For a novice bookseller it was very educational. One time when I went to that bazar they had sixteen copies of a book named Folklore, Myths and Legends: A World Perspective by Donna Rosenberg. This blooming bookseller decided to take a chance and bought all of the sixteen copies of that book. My guess is that I paid about 8 pesos per book and priced them at 160 pesos and it took about six years but I sold them all. Somehow one copy of that book made its way to my home and here is a picture of it.

In my life I have read who knows how many thousands of books. However, I have read maybe two or three books of fantasy and about the same amount of science-fiction. Because of that, I did not know how important science fiction and fantasy are to a books seller. One time at the Ciudad de los Niños they had a stack of about thirty copies of “The Once and Future King” by T.H White. Silly, stupid me I could have picked up thirty copies of that book for a few pesos each but I was too stupid to do that. I bought three copies and they sold just like that. Life is very educational.


Browse our Fantasy and Science-Fiction books in our Literature & Fiction section

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A classic story about pirates, adventure, treasure, and the high-seas…

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A story of four sisters surviving through New England during the Civil War…

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A young English girl in Victorian England travels to a bizarre and fantastic world…

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Coming of Age Novels

Coming of Age Novels

Last week I needed a book to read so I went to my bookcases and pulled out “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a really famous book and it was written in 1883. It has been reprinted God knows how many times but it’s a lot of times. The copy I found in my bookcase was published in 1949 by Random House. This particular copy that I am holding is illustrated and just a pleasure to read. I would read about any kind of book from mass market paperback to the illustrated  copy I have in my hand. For your edification I will take a minute to explain what a mass market paperback is. Mass market paperbacks are the smaller inexpensive books. There is another type of book called “trade paperback”, which are much larger than mass market paperbacks and more expensive.

Back to Treasure Island. It is a coming-of-age story and in these books, the main character is a teenager or a younger person. By the end of the book though, the main character has matured and now is an adult man or a woman. Many times when I am reading a book I realise it’s a coming-of-age story. 

In Treasure Island the main character is Jim Hawkins and this book is about pirates, it is probably the most famous book ever written about pirates. The young character Jim lives in England by the ocean and his parents have a small “hotel” or “lodging home” where guests can stay for long or short stays. One of their guests in their lodging home is a pirate.They did not know it at the time, but that pirate had a map that showed where a treasure was buried in the south seas. It was kind of weird for them to have a pirate as a guest but like a good pirate, he drank a lot of rum and used a lot of profanity. Then, other pirates showed up at their door. Captain Flint was the original pirate and it turns out he had a map to find a treasure. The other pirates ended up killing Captain Flint but they did not find the map for the treasure. Our young hero, Jim, finds the treasure map after a bloody battle at the lodging home. Jim then takes the map to show the village squire. This rich and powerful squire, realised that they could go and find the treasure, so he immediately buys a boat and finds a crew and takes off seeking the treasure. The squire did not realise that the crew he hired for the boat were pirates. These pirates knew that the squire had the map, then the books starts getting violent and fun.

Happy reading!

Find Treasure Island and other coming-of-age novels in in our Literature & Fiction shelves!

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A classic story about pirates, adventure, treasure, and the high-seas…

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A story of four sisters surviving through New England during the Civil War…

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A young English girl in Victorian England travels to a bizarre and fantastic world…

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I cannot remember where I bought this book, but my guess is that I bought it in a used bookstore here in Guadalajara. Before I started my bookstore, searching for books took a fair amount of my time. About ten years ago I went to the Annual Book Fair in Downtown Guadalajara with a couple of friends. When we were finished my friend was amazed because the vast majority of the used books sellers recognized me. “Ten Little Niggers” makes me chuckle just looking at it. To me racial slurs are not that big of a thing, it is just a word and any word can be mean depending on how you use it. Agatha Christie is so sweet and nice and non-offensive, it’s like white bread. 

From the time I found this book I could not stop laughing when I thought about it. I think the best thing I can do with this book, and I have thought about it many times, is to make a framed display for it and says, “if racial slurs upset you, be very careful with what you read”, then list a bunch of authors that use racial slurs. That list of authors would include Hemingway, Mark Twain, Steinbeck, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Doctor Seuss, and Aldous Huxley. I’d warn people not to read books by these authors, and whatever they do, stay away from Agatha Christie!

Find Agatha Christie and other great 20th century authors in our Literature & Fiction shelves!

The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie

A collection of short, classic Christie mysteries that get solved by a socialite and his enigmatic and peculiar friend, Mr. Quin…

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

One of the true classics of the 20th century, East of Eden follows two families in mid-century America and their intertwined lives…

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

An American masterpiece which follows the adventures of the young Tom Sawyer and his friend Huckleberry Finn in Mississippi…

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Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy

The next book I want to talk about is “Midnight Cowboy” by James Leo Herlihy. About three decades ago I was looking through the shelves at Holmes Bookstore in Oakland and for some reason I started looking for books by Ernest Hemingway. That put me in the H section of that bookstore. I stumbled across a copy of “Midnight Cowboy”. All I knew about the book was that it was a very famous movie in the 1960’s and it was rated X. At that time, I don’t think it took much to get an X rating and by today’s standards, I am sure it would be very mild. The book blew me away and actually, after reading the last page and putting the book down, I decided to read it again. The reason being it was like no book I had ever read before and the author had the characters doing some really wild shit. The main character in the book is named Joe Buck, and he ain’t none too smart to put it mildly. The word innocent comes to mind – Joe Buck has basically no clue about the world and the people in it. He is actually a rather lonely guy who lacks the social skills necessary to make friends. The author does talk about his background, which would be termed sheltered.

Lo and behold Joe Buck ends up in Houston, Texas working as a dishwasher in a low-class restaurant. He actually makes a so-called friend, which is magical to him that he actually has somebody that wants to be his friend and talk to him, or so he thinks. This friend gets him stoned on Marijuana, a new experience for Joe. The man then takes him to a house where there is a prostitute. Mr. Buck ends up in bed with the lady and at one point Joe realizes that his “friend” and the female manager of this prostitute are watching and listening to what transpires between Joe and the fallen angel. At one point Joe hears the “manager” tell Joe’s “friend” that Joe is so handsome and so attractive that if she had Joe Buck in New York City she could make a lot of money by renting him out as a prostitute for women. So, Joe gets it in his mind that he is going to New York City to become a male prostitute. Joe does take a bus to New York City however, things did not work out too good for Joe, to put it mildly. 

Near the end of the book Joe is desperate and instead of being a prostitute for women he becomes a prostitute for men. I am going to have you read the author’s words. Joe is robbing a client and here is how it reads. The little dots … shows where I speeded up the action:

Joe: “Let go, let go that table.”
Client: “No, no! I won´t! There’s no money here! There’s just private things!”
Joe hit the man across the face again, this time with his open palm.
The man continued to whimper and moan, but he didn’t move. Joe struck him again, this time harder and with a closed fist.
Locke cried out, and then he said, “I deserved that! Oh yes, I did, I deserved it!” His moaning continued again, but in a much higher key than before. Still, he clung to the night table with both arms.
Client: “I brought this upon myself” he said. “You should hit me again! My thoughts, all evening my thoughts have been disgusting, hideous. Is this blood on my face?” He tasted the blood that was coming from his nose. “I’m bleeding! Oh, thank God, I’m bleeding, I deserve to bleed!”
Joe: “Turn loose that fucking table.”

Joe picked up the table lamp and held it high in the air. “You want to give me fifty dollars? Or do you want your head broke open?”
The expression on Locke’s face made his preference perfectly clear. He looked with longing at the lamp, and his body remained pressed against the table.
Realizing what was being required of him, Joe began to feel sick.

Joe: “Please let go that table, mister.”
Locke shook his head
Joe swung the lamp down towards Locke’s face, bringing it to a halt several inches short of contact. Locke cried out, but this time with pleasure. His body went limp and he loosened his grip on the table. Joe did not at first understand what had taken place. He hadn’t struck that man, and yet Locke had given up the battle.
Then Joe looked down and saw the evidence of the gratification Locke had received.

(Hey folks, did you catch what just happened? The guy ejaculated when he almost got his head smashed. What a book!)

Locke was still in the throes of some emotion, but Joe couldn’t tell whether he was laughing or crying.

Actually, at the same time I was reading “Midnight Cowboy”, I was also reading a book by Louisa M. Alcott who is famous for her sweet, innocent, soft books. For me it is normal to read two books at the same time. What a contrast and what a way to mellow out “Midnight Cowboy” by reading Alcott. “Midnight Cowboy” is a powerful book with a lot of nasty weird shit happening. It is so weird it actually makes me feel normal, kind of.

Find Midnight Cowboy in our Literature & Fiction section, as well as some other great, yet slightly kooky, novels.

Midnight Cowboy by James Herlihy

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Let’s Read Women

Let’s Read Women

Pearl Buck is a favorite author of mine, but of course I have hundreds of favorite authors.

Pearl Buck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1938 and her most famous book is “The Good Earth”. That book is so good and timeless that I have read it at least four times. “The Good Earth” takes place in China, where Miss Buck’s father was a missionary, so what she writes about China is authentic.

Whenever I fall in love with an author, I try to find a biography or an autobiography about him or her, that makes it easier to understand their books. Pearl was a very progressive woman, and I think the word feminist would apply to her.

She was a strong supporter of birth control – for some reason 100 years ago, birth control was against the law. They would actually arrest people for talking and trying to spread birth control! Pearl was in the middle of the fight for birth control, and she used her power and intelligence to forward its use. I can’t remember the exact details but she definitely financed the research and development of oral contraceptives (that’s French for birth control pills).

Unlike most authors I have read, Laura Hillenbrand is still alive. She is famous for three books; “Unbroken: A World War Two Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” and a book intitled “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” and “Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive”. I have read all three of those books and to me, Seabiscuit was by far the best. It’s the story of a horse, but not just any horse. Seabiscuit was a racing horse and one of the fastest and most successful racehorses ever. I think that Seabiscuit was racing in the 1920’s or 1930’s.

What makes this book so fun is that Laura intertwines the history of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Northern California into the book. I remember when the book came out in the main Denver Public Library and they had a huge table with 40 or 50 copies of the book.

“Unbroken” takes place in World War II and is the biography of a man who was in the U.S Airforce and a member of a particular crew – they were dropping bombs in the Far East when the Japanese knocked their plane out of the sky. “Unbroken” is two books in one, with half of the story of detailing his experience in the Airforce and the other half talking about this man’s athletic career. At the time, the very first athletes were running a mile in less than 4 minutes. This main character is one of those athletes.

I saved the best for the last. My boss Charlie instructed me to keep this brief. How in the hell I can keep it brief when I’m talking about Willa Cather? Any list of the best female authors of the 20th century should include Willa in their top five. I have been in Willa Cather’s home – about 27 years ago I found myself close to Red Cloud, Nebraska and I visited her home, which is now a State Park. To me, her greatest book is “My Antonia”. Great is too small of a word to describe that book.

The people of Red Cloud did not appreciate this book though. Willa made characters in her book from actual people that lived in Red Cloud back then and it was obvious to the people in Red Cloud that Willa used certain locals as models for her characters. For example, in the book, the man that owned the bank is a real sleaze bag. In her Book “My Antonia” the owner of the bank attempts to rape a young woman. Willa did that with other characters too and because of this many people did not appreciate her in Red Cloud. Once her books made her rich and famous she lived in Paris for a few years and then she spent the rest of her life in New York City.

I went to one of my bookcases and found two different copies of the book “Shadows On The Rock” and as you can see by these photos this book was reprinted many times. It was originally published in 1931 and it went through eight printings in four months. What you are looking at is the Copy Right page of the first edition and I am sure it was reprinted many more times in that first edition. No doubt it was published in England and in other countries and other languages.

Now you are looking at a photo of an edition of that book published in 1995. At the very bottom at the photo you see the numbers 20 – 19 – 18 – 17. Those numbers inform you that you are looking at the fifteenth edition of the Vintage Classic Edition.

In my opinion this is one of her weaker books. I tried to read it but I could not get into it. Right now, if I had a copy of “My Antonia” I would be reading it for the fifth or sixth time and without a doubt I would be loving it.

We’ve got some great female authors in our bookshelves as well as some fantastic reads on women in history, feminism, and empowering women. Go take a look!

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

A spellbinding story about an incredible animal and the men who staked their lives and fortunes on him…

Prairie Women by Carol Fairbanks

A collection of tales from women who have lived an worked on the prairies during the frontier to modern times…

Are Men Necessary? by Maureen Dowd

A witty look at the state of the sexual union in the US and examination of everything from economics to politics…

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Leon’s Book Exchange

Leon’s Book Exchange in Melaque, Jalisco

When I first moved to Mexico I spent a lot of time in a little town on the beach in the state of Jalisco. In the last half of the 1990’s I did a lot of motorcycle touring in Western Mexico and so because of that, I was familiar with that little village on the beach. As a newly retired bum my goal was to play tennis. Previously I had to go to my place of work five days a week and for too many hours, everyday. I always loved playing tennis but with that goddamn job I did not have time – in that first year I played tennis one hundred and sixty two days out of one hundred and eighty. Early on I met a woman named Leon on the tennis courts. Somehow we started talking about books, can you imagine that? I discovered my new friend Leon was a book lover so when I informed Leon that I had put 37 books in the saddle bags of my motorcycle, she was impressed. The reason I carried those books was that I was going to a strange place that I did not know anything about and I wanted to be sure that I had a supply of books. Leon and I have been good friends ever since and for a long time. 

In the first year or two with my friendship with Leon she bought a piece of property to build a house on. Wow, that woman has good taste and she designed a beautiful house. After that she managed the construction of her future home which was something very impressive to do. In her design of the house Leon included one room that was going to be a book exchange. In the village of Barra de Navidad there has been a book exchange for over 30 years. In the year 1995 on my first motorcycle ride to Mexico, I read as many travel guides as I could and one of them mentioned “Beer Bob’s Book Exchange”. I actually went to Beer Bob’s and met Beer Bob. When I met Bob, I told him that I read about him in a guide book, which he then started grumbling about and then he cussed out those damn guide books.

In a book exchange no money changes hands, people bring in books and take books. That is what Leon did. Way back when, I spent a lot of time working at Leon’s book exchange. 

About 10 years ago I met a man at Leon’s book exchange named Lee. He was an elderly man who was in his late eighties. I had known Lee for a couple years but I would not have called our friendship strong. That changed when I decided that Leon’s exchange needed to be radically cleaned and organised. Lee offered to help but I did not expect much from him. I had let people know that I was going to do this project and a few people offered to help. Lee was insistent that he wanted to help. The man amazed me, he did so much work and he did it so well. We ended up becoming good friends. For me it is normal to give people books. It is just something I do and I gave Lee a really nice book. The book was about eighty years old and it was about one man’s experience in the book business. I had read that book and it was good but not great, but it was worth 20, or 30 or 40 dollars and was very beautiful. Lee and his wife would spend their winters in Mexico then they would spend their summer in the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound. The next year when Lee returned he gave me a book. Lee informed me that the public library where he lived has a section of  “Staff Picks”. That is how and where he first was exposed to “Browsings” by Michael Dirda.

The book that Lee gave me was about a hundred times better than the book that I gave to him! This book is subtitled “A year of reading, collecting and living with books”. Mr. Dirda won a Pulitzer Prize and in the introduction to the book, the author tells you that this book is not to be read start to finish or in big pieces. He encourages you just to read an essay or two and then come back to it later, which is some good advice. What a man! He makes a living by writing about books, a lucky man too! As I read the book, I realised that this man knows a hell of a lot about books. His tastes in books and my tastes in books are very different though, but it is obvious that he has spent his life reading. In these essays he drops many names and many titles; hundreds and hundreds of them! Some of these essays include Michael talking about his adventures shopping for books, checking out book stores, and meeting with many people in the book world. 
The very first sentence in the introduction to the book is this: “Between February 2012 and February 2013, I contributed an essay each Friday to the Home Page of  ‘The American Scholar’”. This book is so much fun to bounce around in and see obscure authors and titles mixed in with more famous authors, titles, and publishers. Such fun for a book lover, opening doors to non-stop authors and titles.

Whilst we are not a book exchange, we are always happy to receive book donations or to buy your unwanted used books! Drop us an e-mail or stop by our physical store if you’ve got something you think we might be interested in!

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Way back when I was a young man I suscribed to National Lampoon magazine. I would come out once a month and it was outrageous. It was a humor magazine. A few years ago I was talking to an knowlegebale book dealer and he informed that thes magazines are very collectible now. I managed to hang on to eight of them. That is where this story comes from. Bernie X is a ficticious New York cab driver and this story is outrageous. What I love is they mock a vice president of the United States. No, he goes beyond mocking. He tears him into shreds. 



The following story was printed in a 1976 edition of National Lampoon. This story is being reproduced without their permission either written or verbal.

Cast of characters

Nelson Rockerfeller / Scion of the Rockerfeller fortune, Vice-President of the United States under Gerald Ford. Allegedly died of a heart attack in a New York City hotel.

Henry Kissinger Secretary of State during the Nixon and Ford administrations. This man was a major architect of the Vietnam War.

Lindsay, John V. Mayor of New York City in the years 1966 – 1973.


Bernie cab driver extraordinaire


One thing you´ll never have to worry about . . . no matter what happens, Nelson Rockefeller will never become president. Y´know why, doncha? He´s a fairy! He is such a fucking fairy that they got to watch him day and night or else he´ll get killed-he´ll get assassinated. What does being a fairy got to do with getting killed? Listen . . . you got a few extra minutes? I´ll take you crosstown through the park and I´ll tell you the whole thing. I used to work for Rockefeller, y´know. That´s how I know the whole fucking story. I saved that cocksucker´s life a few years ago. Here´s how it happened. 
One night I´m cruising downtown in the Village and I pick up these two guys. One of them is wearing dark glasses and one of those fedora hats with the big brims so you can hardly see his face. The other guy is some kind of spic. Looks like he´s not more than twelve years old. The guy with the big hat gives me an address somewhere in the east sixties. I´m riding along when all of a sudden I hear these slushing noises in the back. Then I hear moaning and groaning. I turn around at the next light and I see the little spic kid with that look on his face like he´s about to come. I can´t see the guy with the fedora, but you can guess where he was and what he was doing. I lean over and see that he´s got his head buried in the spic´s crotch with the hat covering his face so you still can´t see it. Fuck this, I said to myself. I don’t usually pick up fairies unless they really make It worth my while. I got a way of making them pay more than what´s on the meter. Anyway, I don´t want these creeps in my cab, so I stop and tell them to get the fuck out or I´ll wipe the floor with them. The little spico doesn’t even hear me. He´s still on cloud nine. The gut with the hat over his face looks up from the floor, swallows a few times, shakes my hand, and says, “Hiya, fella.” It’s Nelson Rockefeller. He gives me a big bullshit story about how important cabdrivers are, how we´re the best people in the world, the hub of our fucking city. I still remember he said we´re the hub, whatever the fuck that means. And then he puts a twenty dollar bill in my hand and gives me the old wink. This is supposed to make me his asshole buddy, his lifelong friend. To tell you the truth, I didn´t a good goddamn about Rockefeller being a fairy. He could have been give blow-jobs in Macy´s window at high noon for all I gave a shit. What pissed me off was how he tried to buy me with a lousy twenty dollar bill. 
Now I´m no fucking blackmailer but I got mad and told him what he could do with his fucking twenty. All of a sudden he got scared. Maybe it had something to do with all the bad publicity he was getting at the time, his divorce and all. If I spilled the beans on him and his little spicky, it wouldn’t look too good. So I really had the son-of-a-bitch nailed. Maybe he could´ve had me killed, now that I look back on it. But right then and there he was shitting rainbow colors. What did I want, he asked me. A thousand? Ten thousand? Name my price. My own cab company? Nah, I didn´t need that fucking headache. “Better yet, why not quit driving a cab and come work for me?” he said. He said he´d give me a hundred thousand a year. I said “make it two hundred grand and I´ll take it”. He shook my hand to close the deal and I could feel his palm drenched with sweat. He was fucking leaf. He told me where to go and who to see about my job and promised he would take good care of me. I figured, what the hell, why not go along with it? Two hundred thousand was a lot more than I was making driving a fucking cab, right? Anyway, I didn’t have to hondle with him. It was easier for a guy like that to just give me a nice cushy job, to make it all look good. Or else give me a loan, like he did with all those other people, all those friends who also had something on him. Anyway, I didn’t feel guilty about it. A guy like that wipes his ass with thousand dollar bills every day. Two hundred thousand doesn’t mean shit to him. 
The next morning I go to this address he gives me, a shitty looking office building in the garment district. For some reason, Rockefeller´s office is called the Intercontinental Shipping and Forwarding Company. It looked small from the outside, but I could see that it took up the whole fucking floor. For all I know, the whole building was Rockefeller´s. I had to fill out these papers just like any other job. Then I had to see this snotnose guy with a dark suit and little glasses.
Snotnose looks at my file. They already got a file on me. He notices that I am a licensed fag detective. The police actually gave me a special license because I work with them a lot on cases involving fags. I got a special knack for spotting them. No matter how straight they look, I can tell if they´re homos. So Snotnose gets a brainstorm. I´m going to be a fag detective for Rockefeller, a very important job. Why does Rockefeller need a fag detevtive? I ask. A good question, says Snotnose. And he tells me about his plot to assassinate Rocky. It seems that when Rocky bought Venezuela and Puerto Rico, the main thing he wanted to do with these countries was to find all these young spics and use them for his fag parties. Snotnose told me that Rockefeller was nuts about really young boys of the “Hispanic persuasion” – those were the words he used – kids about eight, nine, ten years old especially. He would get busloads of them, pay them to do all kinds of disgusting fag stuff with him and his homo friends. The snotnose said that most of the kids didn’t mind. A lot of them were fags anyway, so. Rocky was actually doing them a big favor. He was giving them enough money to support their whole families. But there was a small group of spics who were very mad at Rocky for what he was doing. They weren´t fags. They were so fucking mad that they wanted to kill him. Sure, there´s a very good security team guarding Rocky, he said. But the one area where he´s vulnerable is with his fag boyfriend. This is the one indulgence we have to live with. If he doesn’t get his fags every day, he goes crazy, like an alcoholic without his liquor. So we have to give him his spic boyfriends, but we have to maintain the tightest security possible. And that´s where you come in, he said. You will be in charge of screening all of Rocky´s boys, to make sure they are harmless, not fanatical killers. It seems that they got wind of this new revolutionary organization in Puerto Rico that swore to kill Rocky at any cost. Just a few weeks ago, he said they very nearly got him. He was campaigning down on Mulberry Street, in the Italian neighborhood, and somebody stuck a knish in his hand and of course, he took a bite out of it, and it turned out to be poisoned. You don’t eat knishes on Mulberry Street, but he´ll eat anything that’s put in his hands, Snotnose said. He still doesn’t know the difference between a knish and a calzone. But they managed to pump the poison out of his stomach. 
Anyway, the security team would take care of everything. They just wanted me to be the fag expert on the team, as an extra precaution. So every day I would report to Intercontinental and look over a bunch of new spics, usually PRs or Venezuelans from Rocky´s ranch. He even raises them on the fucking ranch, like tomatoes-nice looking boys, mostly ranging from eight to about thirteen or fourteen. I had to give them a good once-over and my seal of approval. If I thought there was a rotten apple in the deck, I would tap the kid on the left shoulder. That was the part I didn’t like. I smelled out nine straights in the first two weeks, and I´ll never forget the looks in their eyes when the security guys took them away. Maybe they were really harmless, but I couldn’t take no chances. I couldn’t afford to split hairs and my word was final. 
So everything was going along hunky-dory for a while and then the shit hit the fan. I get a call in the middle of the night from Snotnose. “Get your ass over to 655 East  Sixty-third street,” he said. “Go to the twelfth floor. When the elevator opens, press the twelve button six times. The door will close and the car will take you to the unmarked floor between twelve and fourteen. Get off and walk down a hallway to a door marked 13-F. Ring the bell four times-two longs and two shorts.”
I do exactly like he said and I end up in this fucking gigantic apartment with all these stupid looking paintings and statues. I guess Rocky was having one of his big fag parties because I saw about a dozen little spickies and a bunch of his pals there. You know, Kissinger, Ronan, even scumbag Lindsay was there. I always knew that cocksucker was a fairy. Kissinger was still running around naked with his little button of a cock, trying to jump on one of the kids. He was drunker than a nigger cowboy on a Saturday night. 
But everybody else looked very worried, very tense. “What the fuck happened?” I asked. “That´s what we´d like to know,” Snotnose said. Jesus, was he in a bad mood! “Because of your bungling, somebody got to Rockefeller,” he said. “That’s fucking impossible,” I said. “Every kid in this room was O.K.´d by me. They´re all fags. My mother should drop dead if they´re not all screaming homos.” But Snotnose gave me a look that cut me dead. “You slipped up on somebody in this room, Bernie. And now the boss is on the brink of death. First the Kennedys, then Martin Luther King, now it looks like the biggest and best of them all is going. All because of your fuckup.”
Just then one of the doctors comes out of Rocky´s bedroom. He looks pretty grim. No, he said, Rocky isn´t dead yet. He´s still hanging on by a slim thread. Luckily, he´s got a very strong constitution. But he´s going into a coma and it looks like he´ll be dead by morning. It seems that he was poisoned. He didn’t have anything to eat or drink, but he did swallow something, the doctor said. There was only one possibility. Somehow the killer got the poison into his balls through some kind of injection and when Rocky did his stuff on the killer, bingo, that was it-down the hatch and into the bloodstream. 
Well there goes my 200 Gs a year, down the toilet, I thought. Who the fuck did I slip up on? One of those son-of-a-bitch spics was a fake fag. I was mad as hell and I started slapping the little cocksuckers around. They were all scared and yakketing away like chickens in that funny Puerto Rican style Spanish that nobody can understand. I was in a mood to kill the whole fucking bunch of them. Then I noticed one of them was dozing off-he couldn’t keep his eyes open. He´s one of the darker type PRs-what I call a shvugarican – that’s half shvugie, or Negro, and half Puerto Rican. He´s got a smile on his face like he´s happy and content. He´s not scared, like the rest of them. I shake the shit out of him to get him awake. You´re the son-of-a-bitch that did it, aren´t you? I said. He nods at me and says yes. Only I shouldn’t feel bad, he says, because he is a fag. He deliberately trained himself to be a fag so he could infiltrate Rockefeller´s parties and assassinate him. He sacrificed his masculinity for the revolution that would someday overthrow the imperialist Rockefeller. Yes, he was a homo, he said. But more important, He was a patriot. He said they had a method of injecting poison into his balls, so it would mix with his semen, making it a deadly weapon of assassination. He said the poison was made by their Botanica ladies – they´re like witch doctors. I should have realized they would have a fag killer. But still, it was no skin off my ass. I didn’t fuck up my job. I knew the guy was a homo. And then he falls asleep, and bingo – he´s dead. The doctors looked at him and said there was probably enough poison on his balls to kill an elephant. He died with a fucking smile on his face. 
Swell . . . at least he got me off the hook as far as the blame went, but it still didn’t solve the problem of what to do with Rocky. His staff was on the phone all night, making arrangements for the biggest fucking doctors in the world to fly in. They came from the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Vienna, Heidelburg, Zurich. Guess what? Nobody knew a fucking thing about what to do. All they knew was that he swallowed some kind of spooky poison that a Puerto Rican witch doctor cooked up, and they didn’t know how to treat it.
It looked like Rocky was going to croak when one of the little spicolas tugged on my arm and told me how he could be saved. According to the witch doctors, the only way to neutralize the poison was with a different kind of semen, semen that would act like an antidote, if the semen was strong enough, it might work. 
By now, the doctors were so desperate they figured anything might work. If Rocky was being poisoned by a witch doctor, maybe he might be saved by the same kind of medicine. Only whose come was the right one? So they made everybody in the room jerk off and they injected a few drops into Rocky´s arm . . . you know . . . like intravenous feeding. Nothing happened until they shot mine in. All of a sudden, Rocky woke up for a few seconds and his heart and respiration began to improve. So it was my come. I figured as much.
But somehow, the excitement of that little hunk of come was too much for Rocky, and in a few minutes he started sinking fast. All of a sudden the medical machines and wires attached to his body started to jump and make noises. The doctors knew there wasn’t much time for anything fancy. Not even for intravenous feeding. They decided there was only one way to save Rocky – an open heart blow-job. They figured the fastest way for me to come was to get a terrific blow-job from one of the fags, and I would shoot my gun right into Rocky´s open heart, to get his ticker working again. The fact that I just jerked off didn’t matter to them. I had to get it up fast and get it up good. That was no problem to me since I normally can come fifteen, twenty times a night. But I´m not crazy about getting blow by a fag. In fact, I can´t stand them. They turn me off. I hate the son-of-bitches – I´m allergic to them. They´re the only people who can´t turn me on. And there´s no time to get a broad, so there´s no other choice. 
Hurry the hell up, yells one of the doctors. Who´s the best cocksucker in the room? They tried all the little spics on me. The poor guys were sucking and licking and stroking and doing everything they could, but my pecker was still as soft as a rabbit´s ass. Everybody was screaming at me, cheering me on, begging me to get a hard-on. The doctors were ready to cut Rocky open as soon as I signaled I was about to come. I was getting scared. I wasn’t holding back on purpose . . . although I was used to holding back my come for hours when I had a hard-on. I was just helpless. 
And then, the miracle happened. Rocky opened his eyes for a split second and saw me standing there with my schlong hanging out. His eyes got bright, and he croaked, “Bernie . . . Bernie.” I forgot to tell you that Rocky was secretly in love with me from the moment he got into my cab. Fags are crazy about me, too. I can´t help it. Anyway, when I heard this I had to act fast. I gritted my teeth and shoved my lip cork at Rocky before the doctors could stop me. He grabbed it and did something terrific that made my joint shoot up like a fucking rocket. I don´t know what he did, but all of a sudden it was as big as a salami. So when the doctors saw what was happening, they opened him real fast. In no time I shot my gun into the spot they showed me. I never came so fast and so hard in my life. Then they closed him up and crossed their fingers, hoping the next miracle would happen. A couple of minutes went by and sure as shit, his heart started beating stronger. The machines were all showing the right signs. The cocksucker was coming to life. My come saved his life. To tell you the truth, I was impressed with Rocky. I was touched by his feelings. Fag or no fag, it was a remarkable thing for him to do. He must have had a great will to live.
Well, a few days later, Snotnose came by and said that they wouldn’t need my services anymore. He gave me a couple of hundred bucks severance pay and that was it. He said that from now on, Rocky couldn’t afford to fool around with fags. The doctors insisted that he be put on a strict antifag regimen – some kind of special injection or serum or some kind of shit that takes away all sexual desire. So they didn’t need a fag detective anymore. That´s all the thanks I got for saving the son-of-a-bitch´s life! I´ll bet you that Rocky is still getting his supply of little spics. One of these days, he´s gonna do it again, and bingo – it´ll be all over. The papers will say he died of a heart attack. But you and me will know better. And the next time he´s not going to have Bernie X around to save his fucking ass, believe me.

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This is an article that appeared in the weekly magazine named Abe Books. Abe Books started about 1960 and was put out of business by the computer in the year 2000. It was a magazine for the professional book sellers. A dear friend of mine who was not in the book business but suscribed to this magazine because he loved books. This man would give me his old copies and it was always a pleasure to read. About five years ago I asked a man to type out the story for me, which he did. This is the story of an insane book collector who started collecting books about the year 1800 and then for the next 60 years he amassed an unbelievable large collection of books. Luckily he was born into money and he spent the vast majority of it on books. A 190 years after his death they were still sorting out his collection. The man was insane and that is a trait that makes for one of the best book colection ever amassed. He is my role model.In amassing my Collection of MSS. I commenced with purchasing everything that lay within my reach, to which I was instigated by reading various accounts of the destruction of valuable MSS. As in the beginning of any undertaking few persons are sufficiently masters of their subject as to judge unerringly what may be done & what not done with so regard to myself; I had not the ability to select, nor the resolution to let anything escape because it was of trifling value. My principal search has been for Historical & particularly unpublished MSS., whether good or bad, and more particularly those on Vellum. My chief desire for preserving Vellum MSS. arose from witnessing the unceasing destruction of them by Goldbeaters; My search for charters or deeds by their destruction in the shops of Glue-makers & Taylors.As I advanced, the ardour of the pursuit increased until at last I became a perfect Vello-maniac (if I may coin a word) and I gave any price that was asked. Nor do I regret it, for my object was not only to secure Manuscripts for myself but also to raise the public estimation of them, so that their value might be more generally known, & consequently more MSS. preserved. For nothing tends to the preservation of anything so much as making it bear a high price.

So wrote Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792 – 1872), one of the greatest collectors that the world has ever seen. His words were written about 1828, in the introduction to the privately printed catalogue of his manuscript collection. He was not yet 40 years old, and he had a great deal of collecting ahead of him, but he had already purchased many thousands of manuscripts, some of which today are amoung the treasures of the world’s libraries. 
Forming antiquarian interests at an early age, Phillipps spent his life, and continually overspent his fortune, in amassing the enormous collection of manuscripts and printed books that is still in the process of being dispersed, nearly 125 years after his death. 
Even to summarize his collecting activities is no easy task. He bought up libraries and booksellers’ stocks, dealt extensively with merchants of wastepaper and vellum, and was obsessed by the written and printed word. He never threw away even the slightest scrap of paper with writing on it. 
His life was a tangled web of difficult personal relationships, monumental purchases and broken commitments – a complex series of actions and transactions difficult to unravel and sometimes painful to observe. He was consumed by his collecting, and his personal and business dealings were hindered by his explosive temper, and by his intolerance of anything that threatened to interfere with his acquisition of books and manuscripts. 
Sir Thomas Phillipps was born in Manchester, England, just over two centuries ago, on July 2, 1791. He was the illegitimate son of Thomas Phillipps, a successful calico manufacturer, and Hannah Walton, of whom relatively little is known. 
Sir Thomas was raised by his father, and although letters occasionally passed between the Phillippses and Hannah Walton, she was not permitted to visit. She eventually married another man, and was left a small annuity by the elder Phillipps at his death in 1818. 
The future collector manifested his instincts while in his teens. After being educated locally, Phillipps became a student at Rugby in 1807. He soon sent his father a handwritten list of his books, displaying pride at owning more than 100 volumes, mostly editions of popular literature. Another list, more substantial in its contents, was prepared two years later, but the real turning point came after Phillipps entered Oxford in 1811. There he met other students who shared his interest in books and antiquarian pursuits, and Phillipps quickly developed a passion for topography, genealogy and local history. 
Phillipps was by no means an outstanding student, but he did have a genuine interest in historical research, which he expressed by working with original manuscript and printed records in various antiquarian projects. As was the case with all of his endeavors, his research plans were often more grandiose than practical, and they usually had to be scaled back considerably. He was also soon overspending his allowance, chiefly on antiquarian books, drawing rebukes from his father, who failed to heed his son’s pleas for additional funds. 
Phillipps’ father also refused to consent, in 1817 to the younger Phillipps’ marriage to Henrietta Molyneux, whose father was unable to provide a substantial dowry. The marriage did indeed take place, but only after the death of Phillipps’ father in November 1818. 
The elder Phillipps was well aware of his son’s spendthrift tendencies, and in his will, prepared just three months before his death, he made his son his principal heir, but granted only the income from his properties, and protected the outright ownership for future Phillipps generations through the legal device of entail. The younger Phillipps now had a substantial income, amounting to some 6,000 pounds a year, but the maintenance of a London house, as well as the large family home at Middle Hill, Worcestershire, used a significant portion of it. 
Phillipps and Henrietta Molyneux were married in 1819. Through the influence of Henrietta’s father, Phillipps was made a baronet two years later, and he used the title with pride and fervor. 
Although three daughters were born to this couple during the first four years of their marriage, the relationship was not a happy one. Phillipps could not curb his tendency to spend large amounts on manuscripts and books, requiring him to diminish his income to pay interest on loans, and also leading him to forego payments to tradesmen and other creditors. Phillipps was to be the target of creditors’ lawsuits throughout his life, and the Phillipps family would frequently resort to periods of extended residence on the Continent to cut down on expenses and to avoid creditors at home. 
Through all of this, Phillipps continued his book and manuscript purchases, driving his wife (and her father) to distraction. Sir Thomas was frequently away, visiting  booksellers, attending auctions, carrying on research at libraries and record offices, and remaining far from Middle Hill to avoid his creditors. 
Broken by circumstances of her family life, and the increasing emotional distance from her husband, Henrietta died in February 1832, at the age of 37. 
Phillipps began, almost immediately, to search for a second wife who could augment his income substantially. After a decade of fruitless, and sometime ludicrous, approaches to the fathers of wealthy brides, Phillipps settled for a dowry of 3,000 pounds, which was to be used by Phillipps to provide a marriage settlement for his wife, and in 1842 he married Elizabeth Mansel. 
Phillipps’ relationship with his second wife was better than with his first, and the new Lady Elizabeth Phillipps bore with the whims, eccentricities, temper, and unabated bibliomania of Sir Thomas until his death 30 years later. In his will, however, Elizabeth received only the sum of 100 pounds, “as a mark of his affection,” to supplement the income from her marriage settlement. 
The mention of Elizabeth in Sir Thomas’ will seemed almost and afterthought. The focus of his will, as it had been the focus of his life, was the vast library. The first printed catalogue of his library was produced in 1819, when Phillipps was 27 years of age. Listing nearly 3,000 books and 50 manuscripts, the catalogue reflected the topographical and historical interests of the young collector. 
During the ensuing decades, taking advantage of the tremendous opportunities for collectors in Europe in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, and the later favorable market conditions for buyers in England, Phillipps swept through auctions, negotiated for collections, and obtained long credit with booksellers. 
The pace of his purchases fluctuated during the course of his life, but Phillipps was always an eager buyer. He was relentless at auction, often willing to pay any price to get what he wanted. His aggressiveness made for some unpopularity, and he would seldom yield, even when battling with the British Museum for a prize. His eagerness drove up market prices and severely strained his finances. Phillipps, however, never heeded the advice given to him in 1831 by the London bookselling firm, Payne & Foss: “We venture to say in confidence, that if you could only restrain your anxiety, and had the resolution to say no, you would be enabled to purchase all your MSS. at a much more reasonable price than at present. A few might possibly escape you but after all for the bulk, we are certain, that no other purchaser is looked to, but Sir Thomas Phillipps.” 
His business relationships with booksellers were often strained. Although he frequently took years to pay, usually did pay eventually, and in a slow market, booksellers often preferred to move the stock, even at Phillipps’ difficult terms. 
Typical of his troubled dealings with the trade were his transactions with the London bookseller, Thomas Thorpe. Phillipps had purchased manuscripts and books from Thorpe for years, paying very late, and contributing to Thorpe’s financial hardships. Their relationship took a turn for the worse (for Thorpe) in the mid-1830s. in exchange for Thorpe agreeing not to compete against him at the Richard Heber sale, held in February 1836, Phillipps agreed to make a substantial, but unspecified, subsequent purchase from Thorpe’s stock. 
Later that year, after Thorpe had issued a large and unsuccessful catalogue of manuscripts, and was in financial distress, Phillipps agreed, after hard bargaining, to purchase Thorpe’s manuscripts at about half the catalogue prices. For 6,000 pounds (in negotiable bills guaranteed by Phillipps), Phillipps obtained more than 1,600 manuscripts, including many of the original records of Battle Abbey, founded by William the Conqueror, in addition to several early English literary manuscripts, among many others. 
To raise needed funds quickly, Thorpe transferred the bills to other parties at a discount, but when Phillipps was unable to meet his obligations on the bills the following year, Thorpe was forced into bankruptcy. This episode, like many of Phillipps’ transactions, eventually resulted in a protracted lawsuit regarding payment, but through it all, Phillips owned and retained the manuscripts. 

Phillipps’ Private Press

In addition to his collecting, Sir Thomas Phillipps was also very much interested in printing. Phillipps wished to publish historical and topographical works, and he resented paying the prices charged by commercial firms. 
In 1822, Phillipps engaged Adolphus Brightley to move to Middle Hill to operate Phillipps’ private press. Brightley was the first of many printers who would work at Middle Hill, and who would also leave eventually, for various reasons. Brightley stayed for three years, coping with a demanding employer, poor living and working conditions, and few benefits. Phillipps was constantly behind on paying wages, ad he resented the possibility that his printer might have the slightest moment of idleness. Phillipps therefore kept up a constant stream of quickly prepared and illegible copy for Brightley to print, ensuring that Phillipps would get his money’s worth. 
After Brightley’s departure, similar stories were repeated with subsequent printers, who found Phillipps’ low wages insufficient reward for trying to learn Latin, Greek and Anglo-Saxon. Phillipps’ printing projects, including numerous small pamphlets and a large catalogue of his manuscripts, were carried out by a variety of printers over the years, and the often scarce publications of the Middle Hill Press are sought by collectors today. 
Phillipps began the printing of the catalogue of his manuscripts in 1824, with additional sheets being printed and added as his new accessions were received and listed. By the time of his death, the catalogue recorded 23,837 manuscripts, but this figure is deceiving. Often an entry referred to a group of manuscripts rather than an individual item, and there were a number of uncatalogued manuscripts left at Phillipps’ death. The actual number of manuscripts in the Phillipps collection has been put at much higher figures, especially when individual deeds and letters are counted. 
As Phillipps’ fame as a collector grew, the number of requests by scholars to consult his manuscripts increased. Although potential visitors often found that it was difficult to finalize arrangements with Phillipps, he did try to be accommodating and he genuinely enjoyed showing his collection. 
Visitors were often surprised by the lack of comfort at Middle Hill, for the house was not maintained for the convenience of guests or even its human occupants, but for the wellbeing of the collection. Books and manuscripts were everywhere, housed in small drop-front wooden boxes stacked on one another, so that they could be removed quickly in case of fire. The windows of the house were also never opened, presumably to protect against the intrusion of weather. 
The books continued to encroach on living space, so that there were stacks of the boxes everywhere, and desired manuscripts could not always be found. There were also beech logs, smeared with paste, placed liberally around the rooms to attract worms that might otherwise lodge in the wooden bindings of the books. By looking for signs of infestation in the logs, such as sawdust trails, Phillipps could tell which logs had been successful in drawing the worms, so these logs could immediately be burned. 
Phillipps was not only a collector of manuscripts. In addition to other objects, such as coins, he always bought printed books, and the purchases accelerated toward the end of his life. Although he never owned a Gutenberg Bible, having been outbid on two occasions in the 1840s, he did aquire more than 700 other 15th-century books, among the more than 50,000 volumes in his library at his death. As Phillipps wrote, half-seriously, to his longtime friend Robert Curzon, in 1869, “I am buying Printed Books because I wish to have on Copy of every book in the World!!!!!” While this dream was never realized, Phillipps’ library did include thousands of wonderful books in all fields, from early illustrated books to Americana, though his printed holdings were overshadowed by the riches of his manuscript collections. 

Moving the Collection

Middle Hill was a large house, but it was rapidly becoming overrun by the library. It also served as a reminder of one of the most disappointing episodes of Phillipps’ life, the marriage in 1842 of his eldest daughter, Henrietta, to James Orchard Halliwell. 
Halliwell, a young scholar and author, had corresponded with Phillipps in a cordial manner since 1839, regarding manuscripts and historical matters. After Halliwell began to visit Middle Hill in early 1842, and met Henrietta Phillipps, his relationship with her developed rapidly. When the prospect of marriage was discussed with Sir Thomas, he raised objections to Halliwell’s lack of financial prospects, especially since Phillipps himself was unable or unwilling to provide Henrietta with a dowry. 
The couple married in spite of Phillipps’ objections. Although Henrietta attempted to reconcile with her father, the publication in 1845 of accusations against Halliwell regarding the theft of manuscripts from Trinity College, Cambridge, further alienated Phillipps. Halliwell was never criminally charged with the theft, but a modern reexamination of the documentary evidence by D.A. Winsatnley, Vice Master at Trinity College, concluded that “after giving him [Halliwell] the benefit of the doubt it is impossible not to believe that he stole the manuscripts from the college library.” Phillipps never spoke to Halliwell again, even as Halliwell’s reputation as a Shakspearean scholar grew, and Phillipps took what steps he could to reduce the property that might come to Halliwell by inheritance. 
Phillipps grew more and more angry at the thought that Halliwell, a manuscript thief, could become his heir. Phillipps had no male child and Middle Hill and the other family lands were restricted by the entail imposed by Phillipps’ father. Under its terms, Halliwell would be an heir to the estates, if he would agree to assume the surname of Phillipps after Sir Thomas’ death. Phillipps determined to remove the library from Middle Hill, to insure that Halliwell would never own any part of it, and in 1863 and 1864, Phillipps moved his household and library to Thirlestaine House, a 60-room mansion in Cheltenham. Well over 100 large wagon-loads were required to move the library alone, with the trips resulting in numerous collapsed wheels and broken axles. 
Despite the size of the new quarters, the library continued to crowd out the occupants. While Sir Thomas worked at arranging the collections, his wife Elizabeth wrote that she was “booked out of one wing and ratted out of the other.” 
When Phillipps moved out of Middle Hill, he was determined that there would be little left of it for Halliwell to inherit. He cut as much timber from the estates as he could, and he let the house go to ruin rather than rent it out so that it could be kept up. Vandalism was frequent, there was a great deal of damage from water, and the house became a shambles. 
Phillipps’ spite remained with him until the end, which came on February 6, 1872. In his will, Thirlestaine House and the library were given, with many burdensome conditions, and with extremely inadequate funds for upkeep, to the family of Phillipps’ youngest daughter, Katharine Fenwick. 
The will also specified that no Roman Catholic, nor Henrietta nor James Halliwell, could ever inspect the books and manuscripts. The library was to remain in the order in which Sir Thomas had placed it, and no bookseller or stranger was to be allowed to rearrange it. Phillipps also specified that “no hot air flues or gas pipes shall ever be lighted or used in Thirlestaine House.” Other lands that Phillipps had purchased during his life were left not to his children, but to a distant cousin. 
James Orchard Halliwell acted quickly to assume the surname of Phillipps and rescue what was left of Middle Hill. Katherine and John Fenwick were faced with the task of inventorying the vast collection and deciding what could be done with it under the terms of Phillipps’ will. No one yet knew all of the treasures that were to be found in the library, but with the death of Phillipps, the long process of dispersal of the largest private collection yet assembled could begin. 


The task that faced the Fenwicks was of enormous proportions. The will was specific regarding the preservation of the library, but there was little money to maintain it. The naming of the Fenwicks as heirs by Phillipps put an end to years of outside speculation as to what the fate of the library would be. Phillipps had made overtures to many institutions, both in England and abroad, but with his difficult temper, no institution met his conditions or kept his friendship long enough. 
The story of the dispersal of the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps is unparalleled in the history of book collecting. In the first few years after Phillipps’ death, the Fenwicks tried to keep the conditions imposed by Sir Thomas, but it was a heavy burden. The requests by scholars to use the collection increased, and the Fenwicks were forced to take the controversial and unpopular step of charging small fees for admission and use. Relief was forthcoming, however, with the reforms of British inheritance laws that took place in the early 1880s. 
Under the new laws, the Fenwicks could petition the Court of Chancery for permission to sell personal property that they had received as heirlooms, despite any conditions attached. The Court ruled that the Fenwicks could arrange to sell under Court approval, “all or any of the Manuscripts and all or any of the books of which there are duplicates or two or more editions and all or any of the prints and coins of which there are duplicates.” With this ruling, the dispersal of the Phillipps collection began. 
The story of the sale of the Phillipps collection is a long, detailed, and fascinating one. Until his death in 1938, the dispersal of the collection was handled by the Fenwicks’ youngest son, Thomas Fitzroy Fenwick, who applied excellent judgment to the task. He understood the dangers of flooding the market, and he also understood the benefits of both private and public sales. 
Beginning with sales of duplicate books at Sotheby’s in 1886, Fenwick started the long process (still very much in process) of tapping the library’s riches. By 1914, Fenwick had sold a number of items privately, and had also sent to auction 18,876 lots of books and manuscripts, which realized more than £70,000. There were six additional sales at Sotheby’s before Fenwick’s death, as well as private sales to J.P. Morgan II, Sir Chester Beatty, and A.S.W. Rosenbach, among others. 
With the death of Sir Thomas Fitzroy Fenwick in 1938, and the outbreak of the Second World War, the dispersal of the library entered a new phase. The library was crated up, and Thirlestaine House was requisitioned by the Ministry of Aircraft Production. As the war neared its close, explorations began by the library’s trustees to sell the collection en bloc. 
Lionel and Philip Robinson, acting for their London bookselling firm, William H. Robinson Limited, negotiated a purchase of the library in 1945 at the then seemingly high price of 100,000 pounds. In retrospect it was one of the greatest bargains in book history, but this was not obvious to all at the time. The library was impossible to inspect, and much had to be taken on faith. The money was difficult to raise, and even Harvard University rejected the Robinson’s offer of the collection at 110,000 pounds, in the event they were able to purchase it. 
The faith of the Robinson’s was more than justified. A quick sale at Sotheby’s in 1946 of only 34 of the best manuscripts in the collection raised more than 50,000 pounds. Other public and private sale followed, and the Robinsons were soon able to buy out the bankers with whom they had purchased the collection in partnership. 
Some of the riches of the Phillipps collection were revealed in a series of sumptuous catalogues issued by the Robinsons. Other high spots were sold to institutions and private collectors throughout the world. The Robinsons decided to retire from business in 1956, retaining the ownership of the collection. A new series of sales began at Sotheby’s in 1965, and in 20 sessions, through 1977, thousands more of the books and manuscripts in the Phillipps collection were revealed to the world. 
This still did not mark the end. Following the sales at Sotheby’s, the still enormous residue of the collection was sold for one million pounds to H.P. Kraus of New York. As Kraus wrote in his autobiography, A Rare Book Saga:
“As I read the gallery-proofs of this book in November 1977, I can add, with pride, that we have just returned from London, where I succeeded in acquiring from the trust created by Lionel and Philip Robinson all the remaining Phillipps manuscripts. It is hard to believe that, after many auctions, about 2,000 volumes of manuscripts and over 13,000 letters and documents remain. It will take time to catalogue this huge mass of material, much of it unknown to scholars, and I am confident that many discoveries will reward my venture.” 
They have. Important Phillipps manuscripts continue to appear in Kraus’ catalogues, and the end is nowhere in sight. It is sobering to realize how much of our cultural heritage was acquired and preserved by Sir Thomas Phillips, and how much survived the sifting of the generations who are still dispersing the collection. 

Further Reading

As befits a collector who operated on a grand scale as Sir Thomas Phillipps, there has been a great deal written about the Baronet and his collections. The indispensable source is A.N.L. Munby’s series of five Phillipps Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951 – 1960; reissued in two volumes in 1971 by Sotheby Parke-Bernet). Munby, who was commissioned to write the Phillipps saga by the Robinson brothers, wove a fascinating narrative filled with bibliographical and biographical details. Munby’s separate volumes deal with different aspects of Phillipps’ life and collections, and contain a mass of information that is of interest to anyone who enjoys studying books and their histories. 
For a reader in search of a less technical and more connected narrative, Nicolas Barker has abridged and rearranged Munby’s work in Portrait of An Obsession: The Life of Sir Thomas Phillipps. The world’s greatest book collector…(London: Constable, and New York: Putnam’s, 1967). Barker’s abridgment retains Munby’s language and with it the flavor and scholarship of the original. It is immensely readable. 
The arduous physical task of arranging for the move of the Phillipps collection is wonderfully described by Philip Robinson in “Recollections of Moving a Library or, How the Phillipps Collection was brought to London,” in The Book Collector (Vol. 35, No. 4, Winter 1986, pp. 431-442). A.S.W. Rosenbach’s adventures in dealing with Thomas Fitzroy Fenwick are related by Leslie A. Morris in Rosenbach Abroad: In pursuit of books in private collections(Philadelphia: Rosenbach Museum & Library, 1988). 
In addition to these descriptive accounts, there are also Sir Thomas Phillipps’ own Middle Hill Press publications, including his catalogue of manuscripts, the Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum, the massive folio volume printed over many years and reprinted by The Holland Press in 1968. Also well worth reading are the many catalogues from Sotheby’s, the Robinsons, H.P. Kraus, and countless other firms that have handled the thousands of manuscripts and printed books gathered by Sir Thomas Phillipps.