Posts Tagged engraving

Book Collecting Warms a Sailor’s Soul

2 November 2010

Old books are a lifesaver on the stormy seas of circumstance. This is especially true as the autumn mornings descend icily on sailors that are landlocked for the coming season.  It is time to seek comfort in book-lined anchorages where time is suspended like a boat in a gale hanging on the crest of a wave.  Somewhere beyond the multitude of whitecaps is a blue sky and a kinder wind.

There are various kinds of book collector.  The antiquarians are seeking the oldest and rarest volumes.  Speed readers tend to get through a volume and then pass it on to someone else.  I like to savor a book and will reread some if they are particularly useful, meaningful or well written.  Selling books is interesting because you can get an insight into a person by what they choose to read.

A niche market grows from niche interests.  If you are a stamp collector you will like selling stamps.  If you are a sports fan, sports memorabilia, autographs or trading cards are will suit you.  I am a sailor.  You can get an idea of the depth of my interest by looking at my other blog: Seaward Adventures.  Although I have always followed a broad array of interests sailing is the one that never wanes in my worldview.  Back in 1985 I spent a year of my spare time and a lot of money getting my private pilot’s license.  I have an interest in aviation that goes back to my childhood. My passions have been expensive ones and in deciding between boats and airplanes the winner has always been sailboats.

Books are at the foundation of all my interests and so it is with sailing.  They teach, entertain and encourage like loyal friends.  Thus, I have always been a collector of books on my favorite subject.  Life sent me in directions which have caused me to leave behind a large library of precious friends but I am making an effort to recover them.  In the world collecting few things are as ubiquitous as books.  The opportunity to find new treasures or replace old ones is everywhere.  There are used bookstores in every city.  Antique malls always have a loose selection of old books and often some very good dealers in printed matter.  Flea markets and estate sales teem with boxes of books to be had at dirt cheap prices.

There are many classic stories of the sea, from Moby Dick to Mutiny on the Bounty. Everybody knows these from school but the wider body of work is immense.  Fiction is just a part of the whole.  There is a vast array of real life accounts of voyages short and long.  There are instructional books on sailing, navigation, boat-building, seamanship,  pirates and more things naval than I care to contemplate.

Certain classics have been in print for many years.  Ashley Book of Knots is a big heavy book.  It is formatted in an encyclopedic style showing every conceivable way to use rope From the practical to the irrelevant.  If you are into marlinespike seamanship it’s an essential text.  When I settled into life in Washington state it was the first book in my new library.

Maritime history in our country has had no stronger preservationist than Howard I. Chapelle (1901–1975).  He roamed the country documenting and measuring traditional working craft that were disappearing from the waterways.  His books are part history and part studies in naval architecture.  I have been rummaging through these volumes since electronic cigarette brands I was a high school student hiding out in the library.  The Search for Speed Under Sail, The History of the American Sailing Navy, Boatbuilding: A Complete Handbook of Wooden Boat Construction, and American Small Sailing Craft: Their Design, Development and Construction are essentials of which I am still missing two.  As money allows it will be easy enough to pick them up on ABE books.  Fortunately they had a long print run.

L. Francis Herreshoff (1890-1972) is one America’s premiere yacht designers.  He published several of my favorite books, The Common Sense of Yacht Design, Capt. Nat Herreshoff: The Wizard of Bristol, The Writings of L. Francis Herreshoff, Sensible Cruising Designs and An L. Francis Herreshoff Reader. The Compleat Cruiser: The Art, Practice, and Enjoyment of Boating is one of the most engaging and informative books on cruising under sail ever written.  Some would find the book to be very outdated but if you are paying attention you will learn more than you expected about anchoring, boat designs and simple navigation tricks. Such tricks might save your bacon when the GPS goes unexpectedly silent.  I will never understand why the same people who will deny the existence of a holy God will put blind faith in battery powered electronics in a salt water environment.

For the kind of entertainment that can only be had in the pages of fiction I have always preferred C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series. These 11 novels tracing the career of a British naval officer during the great age of fighting sail ring with authenticity as well as drama.  I have read the whole series at least five times.  I also like to have a shelf full of Alexander Kent’s Richard Bolitho novels.  More ripping yarns from a British pen.  Many people like the more modern equivalent in the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian but I have never quite warmed up to the characters.

A favorite part of the nautical book genre is books that review various sailboat designs or feature the work of a particular designer.  They are usually illustrated with photos and plans.  Prime examples are Good Boats, More Good Boats and Still More Good Boats by Roger C. Taylor.  It’s a little like motorheads who can tell you the make and year of any car you see on the road and can give you an opinion on it’s performance.  In my head is a catalog of boat designs built up over more than 40 years of absorbing everything I could about sailing vessels.  Wooden boats take precedence but I don’t discriminate against other materials. The best boat I have owned so far was fiberglass.

The best of vintage nautical books have either great engravings or maps bound in.  One of my other collecting passions has always been maps.  This goes hand in glove.  The art of navigation begets the art of topography.  I cannot see a detailed chart, old or new, without concluding that it springs from an artistic sensibility as well an applied science.  I give all the credit to God for creating both the canvas, the paint and the brush.

Nothing makes me feel more secure and at home than to be snuggled up among my books.  A chill is coming and the soul must have some fuel.  Literature can be a beacon to a sailor, even on dry land, as snow falls softly amid the ranks of sleeping hulls in the Wintry boatyard.

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A Passion for Paper

1 July 2010

What does a dealer in collectibles collect for himself?  For me it was paper.  There is something about printed media that interests me on many levels.  Maybe it’s the pack rat in me.  As I grew into the antique and collectible field I continually came across what is called in the trade “ephemera.”  It fascinated me like nothing else in the profession.  I like the way the name suggests something that is lacking in substance and liable to imminent decay.  It suggests that not only our lives but the physical traces of our path through history are but dust in the wind.  The great paper trail of society comes in many forms: advertising, books, maps, documents, trading cards, lithography, prints and engravings.  The field is a grand combination of history and art.

I am fascinated with the artwork found on old documents.  Check out an antique stock certificate.  The engraved illustrations can be quite beautiful.  A postage stamp album is an art gallery in miniature.  Old checks and bank drafts often have very well done engravings or lithographed pictures.  As an item to collect collect old paper can include a broad array of subject matter or be highly specialized.  I have enjoyed maps since I was very small.  they feed the imagination as well as keep one from getting lost.  They record the locations of history and remind us of so many things now gone.  I used to have a climber’s map of Mount St. Helens that I kind of took for granted until one day it became instantly collectible as it became apparent that they weren’t going to need to print anymore of them.

Remember when road maps could be had for free at any gas station?  They are quite collectible especially if they have the right art work on the front panel.  If you are new to collecting road maps be advised that the printers didn’t always place a date on them in an obvious way.  Instead, they had a code in one of the margins.  you can read the date codes at websites such as http://www.roadmaps.org/date.html.  Maps were one of my first surprises in the collectible business.  I had always appreciated them and enjoyed them and didn’t realize what a treasure they were until I put one on eBay for a dollar and it got bid up to sixty.

One of my other favorite items were Victorian trade cards.  I had hardly known of their existence.  They keep showing up in box lots and stuffed into old books as page markers.  I admired the many charming lithographed designs and appreciated the historical detail they conveyed.  The light soon came on in my head and I adopted them as a lively little niche market.  They were doubly fun as I could gather them up at estate sales and flea markets. I kept the ones that interested me and sold everything else.  It was the first hobby I ever had that paid for itself and then some.

Of course the category includes books but that is a huge subject I will leave for another day.  There is so much more to cover in this fascinating area.  The use of paper spans centuries and the printers art has been so important in developing civilization it can hardly be grasped.  The invention of the printing press was every bit as world-changing as the invention of the Internet.   Before photography brought every man’s eye view to printed pages the graphic arts flourished wherever ink landed on paper.   Art in the hands of the common man is democratizing.

There seems an endless supply of ephemera stashed away in attics, basements and store rooms.  A good specialty shop in the field is like a god mine.  Back east I loved to go to Mr. 3L, Leonard L. Lasko’s shop on The Lincoln Highway east of Lancaster, PA.  Mr. lasko is a character and he’s been in his business for a long time.  The shop is not the neatest and if you like organization forget it.  This is a place to adjust your attitude and surrender to the thrill of the hunt.  You can find a staggering array of old advertising sometimes in new old stock wholesale units.  I remember finding packets of old Seven-Up soda bottle labels that had never been used.  They were just as they had come from the printer.  I bought them for a good price and sold them in small lots on eBay for over a year for a healthy profit.  Deals like that are just the ticket for steady cash flow.

Lasko doesn’t have much of  an internet presence but apparently he is still in business if you are interested.  You can find him at 2931 Lincoln Highway East, 17529 Gordonsville, PA, Phone: 001 (717) 687-6165.  oddly enough his favorite advertising strategy is announcing a “going out if business sale.”  he’s been going out of business for as long as I can remember.  Maybe he will shutter his shop someday but it’s still worth stopping in sometime just in case.  After all business in this day and age can be somewhat ephemeral.

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