Rare Books And Rock N’ Roll

by Stephen J. Gertz - 23 Jul 2007

Today, the overwhelming majority of dedicated rare book collectors have been collecting for many years and are close to acquiring, or have already acquired, the remaining books on their want lists. As a result, many are either no longer actively collecting or have considerably slowed the pace of their acquisitions.

At the same time, the number of newcomers to the noble hobby is relatively small; too small to offset the loss of older, more seasoned collectors.

This situation is not good for rare books or the trade, we who are the brokers of civilization’s literary artifacts, we who have dedicated ourselves to the study and sale of the greater and lesser tomes that have shaped the culture of the mind and, subsequently, world culture.

We don’t have any certain answers on how to address this challenge. What we do know is that waiting for something to miraculously occur that will inspire a younger generation, weaned on information and entertainment technologies less than thirty years old, is a formula for disaster. I recently heard a thirty year old acquaintance state that books were an “old and slow” means to information.

This past June, at the London Olympia Antiquarian Book Fair, we attempted something a bit different, something that required a bit of persuasion on our part to be granted permission to try.

We had/have a copy of a book that represents one of the greatest associations in modern Rock n’ Roll and Western pop culture.

How best to promote it? With rare guitars, we judged.

But rare guitars are also collectible and we faced some opposition from a few who felt that never the twain (or twang) should meet. The fact that our sister company, Fretted Americana, sells rare vintage electric guitars seemed to work against us.

As long-term members of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA), which sponsors the Olympia Fair, we therefore formally petitioned their organizing committee (read our proposal).

The committee members agreed to our proposal, and we shipped to

London the guitars that would be displayed with the book in question.

We anticipated much pre-show publicity based upon interest from the local press. Alas, it was not forthcoming and we did not get the traffic that we had hoped for.

Nonetheless, we still think it was a good idea: A little showmanship is not a bad thing when promoting things in general, and, we assert, when promoting rare books in particular. Given current trends in the rare book world, the trade has nothing to lose and everything to gain. It behooves us to try anything that will raise the public’s awareness of rare books and rare book collecting. If the image of the trade gets bruised a little, so be it. Better bruised than beaten silly.

What do you think?

  1. Pingback by The purpose of civilization . . . — Books Discussion and Rating

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