It's always interesting to see how much the old faithful sources continue to provide predictably. I met Dan at the Strand Rare Book Room in advance of a lunch. As usual, they were processing more good books presently, than I'm likely to see almost any bookshop I visit elsewhere: a very clean copy of the wrappered edition of Warhol's Index Book; a beautiful copy of Diana Vreeland's Allure; a lacuna in my collection of catalogues from the seminal avant-garde dealers Ex Libris, and sundry other gems. Dan nabbed most of these and off we went to 12th Steet Books, just two blocks west.
12th Street has always been a favorite of mine, despite the radical change in its personality after a move from the old 17th Street location (under the name Chelsea Books). 12th Street's stock is consistently scholarly, with a steady stream of academic's collections replenishing the shelves. The books may not look "rare", but for someone with an interest in later 20th century scholarship, there are gems each time I visit. Today I found a fine, fine copy of Sebald's Rings of Saturn; an unusual anthropology journal which was designed by minimalist Dan Flavin(!); and just for reading, Waverely Root's memoirs of his time in Paris in the 20's and 30's. Dan and I had a bit of a grab fest when we both spotted two 60's wrappered novels signed by Louis Aragon, which itself was not so exciting, until we saw they were inscribed to Roman Jacobson and quite cheap.
Almost every time I visit these wonderful shops, I swear that I will be back again soon without so much of a delay. And I will regret it when I don't stop in again for a few weeks.
Tomorrow I head back to Maine for a few days, and will stop in at a shop that is quickly becoming my local Maine equivalent of the two shops above. Consistently unusual stock at good prices it what I seek. Samantha will take the Acela to Boston on Friday, where I'll meet her. I'm hoping we will have time for lunch and a visit to the Brattle Bookshop, which is Boston's answer to the above. When I worked around the corner from the Brattle, at John Wronoski's Lame Duck Books, we would visit sometimes three times a day, depending on what collection was being sorted and priced. They would frequently just fill up the carts in the lots outside with books, in an effort to keep the stock moving. I remember finding a group of children's books signed by the philosopher W.V. Quine, which was a hoot.
There are very few shops like this left in the states, as the supply seems to be waning relative to demand, and so many dealers think that there is a "right price" for a book based on the internet.