By Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
A married couple of modest means, Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone, go birthday-gift shopping in a rural bookstore, and become interested in used books, famous titles in hardcover at low prices. One bookstore visit leads to another and, in the process, the protagonists become addicted to buying rare books, and build a collection. Their journey ends at Swann’s in New York, where, with racing hearts and surging adrenaline, they succeed in buying a rare first edition of Good-bye, Mr. Chips, their initial triumph at auction.
The plot of Used and Rare is a continual hunt, sometimes for particular titles or editions, sometimes seizing unexpected opportunities. The Goldstones visit book dealers and book fairs, from small-town Massachusetts to Boston and New York City. Dealers are named—no aliases—and described in detail, as are their stores and books. In step with the narrators, the reader learns about editions, publishers, physical condition—everything that relates to valuing a used or rare book. Dealers tell collecting stories and tales about books and authors, e.g., a Charles Dickens visit to New York and his inspiration to write A Christmas Carol.
Used and Rare is an excellent primer for a fledgling book collector, or a starting collector in practically any field. It’s also a fun read, sharing adventures with two wide-eyed, naïve beginners, who confess their blunders and unfulfilled hopes, yet win some victories and learn a lot in the process.
Used and Rare: Travels of the Book World by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. St. Martin’s Press, 1997.