Please take a few moments to browse over my own little niche carved out of eBay’s grand internet extravaganza! In recent years, I’ve been listing eBay auctions out of our home, searching of that next printed something or another that puts a smile on my face, and with a bit of luck, added coin in my pocket. Even after more than 30 years dealing in used books, paper collectibles and miscellaneous ephemera, seldom a day goes by without uncovering some fascinating printed tidbit or another I never before knew existed. So do I have a great job, or what?! Whenever a new batch of consignment items happens my way, I generally post fresh eBay auctions weekly, along with other previously listed and discounted auctions. Presenting each and every auction with clarity and accuracy, I often spend too much time on descriptions, especially on unusual historical curiosities, or far more likely, simply to amuse myself.
So do continue coming back to browse through my auctions now and again, even if you don’t find something worthy of bidding upon this time around. Maybe I can still bring a smile to your face too, while perhaps enticing you to continue visiting future eBay auctions offered by thebookmonger.
“Le buste survit a la cite”
THUS WROTE the poet Theophile Gautier, or, in George Santayana’s unforgettable translation, “The bust outlasts the citadel.”
A book is so fragile in appearance that a child can tear it up and destroy it; it can be tossed into the fire (not to mention its author, sometimes, for greater surety). It is so naked, under its ludicrous leather covering; it is a diminutive heap of paper, and much like insects we cannot crush because they are too small. By what mystery, then, can this miniature thing resist the powers of destruction? Like insects, you reply, by power of multiplication. Print one thousand copies of a book and it can laugh at danger. Like an army of fresh rested troops it moves forward over the battlefield of time; it may be instantly decimated by constant enemy fire, but it knows its objective and is certain of attaining it, if with only a handful of survivors. The printed book possesses power above all other powers, a force practically invincible, nay, invincible!
No power of persuasion is comparable to that of the book. The most gifted orator dominates and carries a crowd away for a moment, thanks to his unaccountable prestige of voice or glance. Later, its admiring tribute paid, the crowd does as it wills.
The book, on the other hand, is modest and mute. It makes no demands. It bears abandonment, mutilation and oblivion. It always has the last word! It deposits in the human mind germs over which nothing can prevail. One day, despite the will and prejudice of their host, these germs develop and live, and finally modify the very spirit they inhabit. Born of thought and feeling, books in their turn create other thoughts and other feelings that end logically in other books, and so ad infinitum. Civilization, ceaselessly modified by books, proves to be the reflection of books in the works of men. Books are the fathers and masters of civilization; their control is essentially magical.
That is why books have always inspired tyrants with horror and they strive their utmost to destroy them. Omar burned the library at Alexandria; the Inquisition burned the writings of heretics; Hitler burned the books of men who did not believe in Nazism. But the book defiantly laughs at assault and wrath. The book lives when its enemies long since are dead; it is ever prepared to recreate a new world of free, intelligent, and happy men.
From the Preface by Francis de Miomandre in A Code for the Collector of Beautiful Books, New York, The Limited Editions Club, 1936
The Bibliomaniac’s Prayer
“But if, O Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To keep me in temptation’s way,
I humbly ask that I may be
Most notably beset to-day;
Let my temptation be a book,
Which I shall purchase, hold and keep,
Whereon, when other men shall look,
They’ll wail to know I got it cheap.”