Posts Tagged library

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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Price Guides and the Dealers Home Library

25 April 2010

Whether you are a buyer or a seller it is easy to get burned by dealing from ignorance. I came into the antiques and collectibles on the cusp of a steep learning curve. I have always believed that when the going gets tough, the tough go to the library. Knowledge has never ceased to equate to power. When you first become fascinated with a particular area of collecting you have a need to come up to speed rapidly.

You never know everything there is to know about any subject. Be ready to continue your education as long as your involvement lasts with your collection. Some subjects are vast and varied. A subject such as militaria covers many events and so many different organized groups of people it is almost impossible to encompass everything. Conflict has been around as long as man has existed. On the other hand Mc Coy pottery began manufacture in 1910. 100 years as opposed to thousands. Still the wise collector has an intimate knowledge of his subject, large or small.

There is a large body of literature to help you be an informed shopper. There are books giving historical data of the artifacts you are interested in as well as price guides which catalog current values. These are usually based on prices realized at a broad array of auction houses. Illustrated guides are the most interesting to look through but it’s hard to fit a lot of items in a book when space is taken up by pictures. books that are made up of long lists with brief descriptions and prices may seem a little boring. However, from a pragmatic point of view they offer a lot of free cam4 chat bang for the buck.

What you need to know about any item is it’s age, condition, authenticity and value. Everything else is gravy. Get all the gravy you can but be aware of people spicing it up to make it seem worth more than it is. Experience will add to your fund of knowledge. Develop personal contacts so you can pick smart peoples brains like a garden.

Develop a personal library. the money you spend informing yourself is value added to your collection. There are a lot of good used books out there which can be had cheaply. Look out for badly outdated price guides they aren’t very useful. Modern publishing is a gold mine. The standard works can be obtained through Amazon.  A tried and true favorite is Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2010: America’s Bestselling and Most Up to Date Antiques Annual – 42nd Edition (Kovels’ Antiques and Collectibles Price List)

A very interesting source I found recently is  Collect.com This website features a huge selection of  resources in including price guides on many indidvidual collectible categories,  cd’s and dvd’s, webinars, and downloads.  The downloads really caught my attention.  There are such things as PDF versions of older gun catalogs, books on various kind’s of glassware, comics, surveyor’s instruments.  The areas covered are quite broad.  The prices are very reasonable.

The internet in general is a vast archive of the minutiae of our culture.  It is all by itself  the largest volume in your library.  What you need to know is either on the net or it can tell you where to get what you want.  So the next time the going gets tough, where are going to go?

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