What books are currently on your night table?
I read more than one thing at time, and have a large nightstand: Sloan’s Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Morrow’s The Forgers, Gibson’s, Zero History, Garfield’s Just My Type, Caen’s, Sub-Hollywood, and Bedor’s The Looking-Glass War
What's the last great book you read?
Great is subjective. I’d say Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost. Probably Joyce’s Dubliners if you mean ‘classic’.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
I read *mostly* for escapism. I care less for structure and elegant construction than I do flow and an engaging/interesting plot/theme. Thus, one of my all time favorite books is Stephenson’s Snow Crash…not great literature, but an outstanding story well told.
When did you get started in bookselling?
Well, my first jump in was shortly after I returned to Maine in 1997, at a small, independent bookstore in Midcoast Maine. It was the only ‘negative salary’ position I’ve had, in that I purchased more books than I was paid on a near week-to-week basis. The owner liked to show me that he could tell which shifts I worked by looking at sale numbers in Speculative Fiction and Hard Science.
What drew you to bookselling?
I’ve always loved books, but more so, I love ‘the hunt’ and, relatedly, I love finding things that I think are interesting/important and infecting another with the interest. I’ve a long track record of getting board with work once it runs well/becomes routine. One of the very great things about bookselling is that it never runs ‘well’, one is always herding cats…you never know what the next great book/archive/collection will be like. It’s great fun.
Do you have a brick and mortar store?
I run an appointment only shop. No fixed hours, but if I’m there, I like to have people come. Admittedly, as it is currently one room, it can sometimes be less ‘browsable’ than one might like.
What are your specialties as a dealer?
We specialize in three area. About a third of our what we do is collection development and deaccessioning, that is we help define, design, and build collections and, at times, bring material back to market. About a third involves representing the work of creating book artists, binders, and printers. It occurred to us some time ago that we had a responsibility to bring along the next generation of creator, in addition to collector…so we work with a handful of creators who are producing work that we believe will be ‘important’ in future. Finally, about a third is what we broadly refer to as ‘esoterica’…this includes occult/witchcraft/demonology to sub/counter culture to erotica/fetish material. It is an amorphic area, most easily understood as “things that make most others uncomfortable in some way.”
What's the most amazing book you've ever sold?
A 1683 copy of Joseph Moxon’s, Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy-Works in a ‘binding pair’ who’s mate belongs to the Library of Congress. It is the first book in English on the art, technique, and technology of printing.
What is your favorite part of being a bookseller?
Vicarious possession. I get to have/handle astounding material, examine it, try to understand it and contextualize it, catalogue it, and then…if I’m lucky…find someone who is at least as pleased to have it as I.
What is the funniest / strangest / scariest thing that ever happened in your bookselling experiences?
I did a house visit for an estate where the original owner had gone a bit mad with his collecting. He had started quite sophisticated and there was some remarkable material in the house…but as he got older, he could not let any books ‘go’…nor did he want to let his family know what was happening. Over a period of years, he had created/build concealed spaces throughout the house and hidden/packed them with books. There were approximately 200 linear feet of shelving in the house, so there should have been about 2000 books. We removed something more on the order of 21,000 books, hidden in concealed wall spaces, floor opening, hidden panels under built ins, etc. It was quite astounding.
What do you personally like to read? Collect?
I no longer collect for myself, per se. I have a handful of fine press and speculative fiction that I’ll keep until someone wants it more than I. Historically, my collecting was around spec fiction and gothic horror.
What tips would you give someone who wanted to begin collecting rare and antiquarian books?
I encourage people to think about where their passions rest. Don’t collect modern lit or literary highpoints if it doesn’t make your heart sing. Identify the things you love and approach collecting from there. Start narrow…something you can get your arms around…and let it naturally expand as you grow more sophisticated in the area. In the end, the goal should be that you can pull any book off your shelves and describe to another, with passion and glee, why it is there.
What's your favorite book you personally own? Would you sell it, if the price were right?
Well…I have several and for different reasons…and I would part with any and all. The one that pops to mind is a copy of Essay Upon Wind, circa 1800…including two parts, “An essay upon farting” and “After thoughts upon farting; shewing its great utility”. While 50 copies were printed on paper by a British lord as a novelty for friends, this one one of 12 copies printed on vellum…because, “why not?!?”
How do you organize the books in your personal library?
I love that you think they are organized. At the moment, they are *roughly* organized by area…books on books vs fiction vs non-fiction, etc. It is piecemeal at best.
What one book would you buy if price were no object?
Kelmscott Chaucer, as I’d like to give it to my father. Personally, I’d love to find a stunning 1486/7 copy Malleus Maleficarum…just for fun.
What do you plan to read next?
That’s a great question, but I don’t have an answer. I have a pile going…and something will be added to it, most likely before anything else is finished. Story of my life, always far too much to read than time to read it.
How could a buyer get in touch with you?
The easiest is via email, ian@luxmentis.com. I am, however, hyperconnected and exist on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, etc. Search my name or Lux Mentis…most such lead back to me.
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