Friday, April 14, 2017

This Saturday on Rare Book Cafe: from Book Fair sponsor AbeBooks, book-adventurer Richard Davies joins us.

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Rare Book Cafe is delighted to invite you to visit with us and’s public relations director, Richard Davies, on our April 8 program. There seems to be little he has not seen in the book trade. Of what remains, he is like Aristotle: no matter the direction in which we strike, we meet him on the way back.
Abebooks is one of the principal sponsors of this year’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair as well.
While we’re adding Davies’ delightful preview with Rare Book Cafe cohost Lindsay Thompson below, trying to introduce such an entertaining individual is like shipping coal to Newcastle when we can offer his own account of his life in books:
I joined AbeBooks in 2005. Although I have always loved books and been an avid reader, I realized that my knowledge of books was actually rather limited when I began working with rare booksellers. I work in the marketing department as the company’s PR person so I deal with books and booksellers on a daily basis.

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I am fascinated by the rare and collectible items that are listed for sale each day and the sales that are made each day. By studying these rare books for more than 10 years, I have acquired a reasonably sound knowledge of this business. Of course, AbeBooks is an online marketplace so I never have the books in my hand. I am reliant on the information and images provided by sellers. I also spend many hours on the telephone, listening to what sellers have to say. I try to visit used and rare bookshops when travelling – the most expensive book that I have ever handled was a first edition of Leaves of Grass and I felt scared to touch it. That’s a piece of American history right there.  I recently visited both the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library (which are two blocks apart), and found both places to be amazing. The Morgan had a Gutenberg bible on display – it was the first time I’d ever seen one.
Helping to sell an expensive item on behalf of a seller is a very gratifying experience. I am extremely motivated when I come across things that are truly unique or have immense cultural or historical significance.
I am a former journalist and that background means I am drawn to unusual items. Edith Wharton’s baby rattle takes some beating. Listed for sale in 2015, this was no ordinary rattle. Made from sterling silver, it contained a whistle, was engraved with the word ‘Edith’, and had a red coral teething section.
In 2008, George Bernard Shaw’s Remington Noiseless Portable Typewriter was listed for sale. Imagine typing out a letter on that historic machine. Along the top edge of the guarantee in faded ink, Shaw had written the words ‘Bernard Shaw, Ayot St Lawrence, Welwyn Herts.”’
Truman Capote’s birth certificate is currently for sale at close to $35,000 but that’s relatively affordable compared to Jack Kerouac’s signed original painting of his brother, Gerard. Albert Einstein’s childhood building blocks are still very much useable, but would you want to build castles with something that costs more than $160,000?
John Updike’s senior class high school yearbook is just one of many yearbooks on AbeBooks featuring people of significance… before they were significant. There’s a Bolivian catechism from circa 1850 written on llama skin, a check signed by Edgar Rice Burroughs for a mere 50 cents, and many more highly unusual items that we don’t spot. And there was the time that Eugene O’Neill’s underpants were listed for sale.
All these items are well out of my personal price range but I enjoy finding and buying quirky and unusual books that can be picked up cheaply. Examples would be I Seem To Be a Verb by Buckminster Fuller (a crazy book that shows what today’s Internet would have looked like in the early 1970s) and The Poison Cookbook from Peter Pauper Press.

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I also enjoy reading non-fiction, particularly memoirs and biographies. Travel is one of my favorite genres. I love the writing of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Jan Morris, Eric Newby and Bruce Chatwin. Patrick Leigh Fermor started walking across Europe when he was 18 – that still blows my mind. He walked across Germany as the Nazis were flexing their muscles. How can anyone just walk across a continent? Newby is funny and touching – Love and War in the Apennines is a very, very special book. Chatwin was probably bonkers too – In Patagonia and The Songlines are both remarkable reads. Morris’ book on Oxford – where I lived for many years – is so perceptive.

AbeBooks is thrilled to be one of the sponsors of this year’s Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and I’m sure it’s going to be a great event for visitors and the dealers attending.
Rare Book Cafe is sponsored by the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. It’s broadcast every Saturday from 2.30 to 3.30 pm EDT and features interviews, panel discussion and stuff you can learn about book collecting whether you are a regular at Sotheby’s or just someone who likes books.

The program airs live on Rare Book Cafe’s and the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair’s Facebook page; the Book Fair Blog, and the Book Fairs YouTube channel. Shows are archived on YouTube and can also be viewed on the Facebook pages, and the blog after their first run.

Hosted by Miami book dealer, appraiser and’s Bucks on the Bookshelf radio show creator Steven Eisenstein, the program features a revolving set of cohosts and regular guests including Thorne Donnelley of Liberty Book Store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Lindsay Thompson of Charlotte’s Henry Bemis Books; miniature books expert Edie Eisenstein; and program creator/producer T. Allan Smith.

Rare Book Cafe program encourages viewer participation via its interactive features and video: if you've got an interesting book, join the panel and show it to us! If you’d like to ask the team a question or join us in the virtually live studio audience for the program, write us at

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