Best of All Old Thins are Old Books.

Last weekend was 16 hours of old books.

Be careful what you wish for.

Is too much of anything always a bad thing?

I’m not bored with books by any means.

Sometimes the stress is too much though.

But this book I came across on Saturday spells out what lights my soul—always.

I Love Old Things

Old things…

Flipping through, I found the perfect page.

Best of All Old Thins are Old Books.

By Sunday evening, I had a huge pile of boxes sorted for the stores. We need to keep feeding the stores, as we are selling more books since… since before the late 90s when the WWW* killed off 90% or more of the used bookstores.

(*World Wide Web.)

I was supposed to go to New Market Plains Vineyard to watch the fireworks from an adjacent amusement park. But it rained most of the day and I was… moody. A nighttime picnic in the rain… I would have been bad company. It was so much fun a year ago. But then I had a friend… Then that got weird.

Must be me.

But the rain died down, and there were Saturday night fireworks in many places around the valley. I could see them from the mountain. I could also hear the distant, “pop, pop, pop…” over a couple of hours.

Sunday was pretty much the same.

Another mountain of books “rescued.”

A worn-out bookseller.

Some leftovers heated up for dinner.

Did I watch Perry Mason or the rest of Star Trek Season 2?

I did sort boxes while sitting on the floor. I rediscovered a lot of old friends—books I sought and collected long ago and which I hadn’t seen for over 20 years. A great run of Bradbury early firsts—a couple inscribed to me. A long run of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, which I used to avidly collect.

The Bradbury I kept. The Sherlockians I packed to sell online at the warehouse.

There are a lot of stacks ready for me to carry up to the garret and shelve.

The great room—with the 80-inch TV pretending to be a movie screen—is the last room that is still a disaster. It is mostly boxes of old books—my old books—from another life.

I had pretty good taste as a young bookseller.

My tastes now are much better. Still all over the spectrum, but I’m now generally looking for much older and much better books.

My tastes have aged like a good Chateauneuf du Pape.

This just arrived from a colleague in North Carolina.

Proverbs Calligraphy

It is a 55-page, Morocco-bound volume of Proverbs. A woman’s calligraphy and art executed over 100 years ago. How many hours did she spend on this?

One of a kind.

Monday, July 3

It feels like a holiday. The traffic is very light.

I don’t partake in most holidays anymore. There used to be parties.

I haven’t thrown one since before COVID.

I don’t get invited to other people’s parties. I think people are unsure what to do with single guys?

It is muggy and drizzly.

May and much of June were bone dry. Lately, it has rained almost every day.

Now that the ground has been wet for a while, I need to get some transplanting done.

All those baby redbud trees need to get dug up before they get too big.

I’m very pleased with the ones I’ve planted and transplanted in the last few years.

Planting trees in a forest… go figure.

Ernest is driving us up to Hagerstown.

We have some orders to pull for Books by the Foot, but mostly I think it is time for an inspection. People need to see my face occasionally, I feel. I haven’t been up there for a while. I haven’t traveled any, but there’s so much to do at the warehouse that it is hard to get away. This weekend, all I did was work on carts. I’m fast and dedicated. I handled thousands of books, and by the time I ran out of steam on Sunday evening, there were still a lot of carts with my name on them.

Sunday Chuck Carts


I did prep a lot of books for the stores and internet.

Sunday Chuck Prepped Boxes

That’s a lot of boxes. I wonder if it is some kind of record.

I also priced a lot of stereo and video components.

Sunday Chuck AV Components

I don’t think they are selling as well as they used to.

My scout even brought a few boxes of Waterford crystal glassware,

Amazing the weird stuff the old bookstore is offering these days. We’ve been trying to diversify to compensate for the declines in CD and DVD sales.

Seems to be working. Clark just texted me and my son, “Double digit growth at all three stores in June.” (That means sales are up over June 2022.)

That has been the trend since COVID closed the retail stores in the spring of 2020. Seems so long ago. There’s a box of paper facemasks in the console between me and Ernest in the truck. The box is now very dusty…

We now have 11 vehicles. On weekends, there are 6 in the dockyard. I’ll probably get rid of 2. They are getting so old.

I have a “fleet”? LOL… unexpected consequences. I just wanted to “rescue” books.

All the books in the world if I could.

Working oil it…

So many moving parts… stressful. Exhausting.

We are on the way back now. We culled a lot of old and duplicated stock.

Hagerstown Culls

Some of that is for huge order destined for Australia! The massive order was confirmed over the weekend.

It is fun to have creative ways to extend the lives of more and more books.

It is also hard and heavy labor. Each of those tubs is probably about 50 pounds or more.

The thousands of books I handled this weekend—the average weight of a hardcover book is about 1.25 pounds.

The carts I push and pull and wrestle with carry a couple hundred pounds of books or more. Many of those carts are not cooperative. Many are reluctant to steer straight. Some are reluctant to move at all.

My work is physically challenging as well as a constant mental workout. Printed words and visual impressions constantly batter my brain.

Probably salubrious.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. For years, there was a big picnic and party at the old house in Pennsylvania. It has a sprawling backyard which was surrounded by beautiful formal gardens.

How I loved working on those beds. The yard gently sloped toward the high school where the fireworks are. People would bring blankets and lawn chairs. It was fun. Sometimes over 100 people would attend.

Where did they all go?

“Pop.” “Pop.” “Poppoppop.” “POP!” “BOOM.”

The 4th of July on the mountain.

I can view well over a dozen displays from my perch.

Some are distant, on the horizon, little florets blooming in the dark.

Some are partially obscured by trees. I can’t see the big one down in Baker Park in downtown Frederick. My view is solid forest between here and that city.

Some are private affairs. Going off in backyards or fields in rural areas. Some are smaller towns. There were four nights of fireworks this year. Saturday, July 1st. Sunday. Monday. Tuesday.

I think one of my neighbors down below had a late party.

I felt a little odd. Alone at the top of the mountain, looking down on all the fun all over the valley.

I did some chores—things I’d put off during COVID. I changed out some dead lightbulbs downstairs. Put the covers on the water heater. Rehung a light fixture dome that had been taken down in August 2021 when HVAC guys replaced the two systems. Odds and ends I’ve walked past for months… years now.

When I first got home, I put on sweats and went out to carry some bags of mulch out into a neglected bed and empty them. I dug up a three-foot mimosa tree that had somehow planted itself in the gravel along the drive. I’ve been watching it for a couple of years now.

“Now or never.”

It came up pretty easy, but with a good number of roots. I hope it survives.

So many tasks only take a few minutes if you just go and do them.

(Memo to self…)

It is Wednesday. Ernest and I are leaving Gaithersburg. We did a lot of culling.

I staged the first stack of kids’ ex-library books at the front. I did it myself… so it would be done the way I wanted.

I also hung a bunch of Japanese vintage graphics. I did it myself… so it would be done the way I wanted. I wonder if they will sell. We were sent 1000s. Unwanted by them and us. I can’t bring myself to destroy them without giving them a chance.

Creative marketing. That might do it.

It was pretty warm, and a couple of staff members complained. I may have repaired it. I switched the thermostat to “Cool.” It was “Off.” I’m an HVAC tech today.

It feels good to get in the trenches and actually “do” stuff.

We ordered 4 t-shirt designs.

New Shirts

I don’t know why we put it off so long.

Annika sent another Books by the Foot newsletter. If you like pretty books, take a look.


It has been a lonely week, but much of that has been by design. I wanted to get home and do “things” after so many nights out in the previous weeks.

But then Wednesday, I wanted to see someone, but he was busy and I didn’t try anyone else.

I did spend two evenings with Laurence Olivier.

Both were unexpected.

On Tuesday, I came across a DVD of King Lear from the 1980s. It was in a box of books from my old collection from Pennsylvania. I’ve taken about ten boxes to the warehouse this week to be added to my online collection. Each has my bookplate in it. It was designed by my friend Alan James Robinson. It depicts a fantasy landscape of Connemara, Ireland. My concept. Alan’s execution.

Chuck's Collection Labels

Ireland… I will be there in a month. Dublin. Maybe some day trips from there. I thought about Galway. I have friends there I could visit. A couple of excellent bookshops. But Galway alone… Connemara, the Burren, Aran Isles… alone? That would be too depressing.

Olivier… so I came across Lear and thought, ‘Why Not?’

Big mistake.

A tragedy of tragedies… there is nothing not heartrending throughout.

Olivier was in his 70s when it was made but looks “four score and more.” Maybe it was makeup. Snow white hair and beard.

What brought this thing to me this night?

O! let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven;
Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!

The false and the faithful all most cruelly used. To what end?

All… all cruelly used.

“Smells of mortality.”

Say “not mad.”

A cautionary tale.

At the body-strewn end, I was empty to my bones. Drained and pained.

A cautionary tale. An evening of warning and portent and a kind of Scroogian epiphany.

‘Don’t let this happen!’ my mind screamed to itself.

Last night was much more fun. Henry V. Olivier produced the film. Without giving away too much… you are transported over London to The Globe in 1600. Many of the sets are made to be appear as illustrations from a Book of Hours—living actors in an illuminated manuscript.

That was much more uplifting.

Joyous in the energy and passion that Olivier brought to the production.

Watch them both as soon as you can. But beware of Lear. He will drag you through madness and despair and faithlessness and leave you worried lest the same happen to you and yours.

Perhaps one needs that kind of catharsis occasionally.

“…nothing comes of nothing.”

And my birthday is one week away.

Before the movie, I drove down the mountain and cut wood in a “flatlander” field-like yard. I thought it might help the young couple that own it. They have two small children and likely no time to clean up dead wood. I’d asked permission, and they readily okayed it.

Why? I don’t need firewood. I have enough likely til 2025 in the Barn.

I enjoy the work. It was a workout. Hot and muggy—I was soon soaked in sweat. It cleared my mind as well as purging my pores.

It was a Zen-like hour of figuring where to cut and setting my feet and arms for the correct angles.

Now I have to unload and stack it.

Wood Load

Maybe I will just toss it into a pile. It will be the first wood I will burn in October, as it is long dead and dry already.

I drove the load back up the mountain. I put a package of “burnt ends” in the oven to heat. I got the gourmet fare from Costco. It is kind of like brisket. It comes with its own barbecue sauce. I took a shower to wash away the sweat and sawdust. I cut up a head of romaine and spooned the meat and barbecue sauce over it. That’s when I looked for a DVD to put on and found Henry.

I slept deep and peacefully last night. Except when the cramps struck around 2 a.m. I should have expected them after straining so many muscles not used lately. Maybe the dehydration had something to do with it too. I limped to the bath, audibly groaning, and got magnesium and then to the pantry for some diet Gatorade.

The week has been full of books. I sorted through thousands.

Yesterday, I found a dusty old pallet laden with files and notebooks that looked like likely candidates for recycling. I lifted an old notebook from the top of it and opened it.

It was filled with ancient history.


The year I was dragged kicking and screaming by Clark and my brother Tony to try to sell books “on the computer.”

The notebook contains some of the first orders we got from the WWW.

Many of the notes are in my hand. I was clearly enchanted by this magical and simple way of getting books to collectors around the world with some clicks on a PC. There’s even one order with a Polaroid photo of an old leather-bound book that I must have sent to a customer.

Old WWW Orders

There were no camera phones and no emailing photos back then.

We also met to review the stores’ sales in June. All three were up double digits from June 2022.

The retail renaissance continues.

And the warehouse is churning out thousands of books every day.

More than in 2022. And vastly more than in 1997 when the “warehouse” was in the back room at the Frederick store.

So much has changed in the last 26 years.

I haven’t.


6 Comments on Article

  1. Ken Jacobs commented on

    Happy Birthday early sir!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thanks Ken!
      I really appreciate it.

  2. William Stoppel commented on

    I always enjoy your blogs Chuck. Fascinating to see the treasures you find in the warehouse and on your travels. Today’s blog inspired me to purchase I Love Old Things from Wonder Books online. Thx for sharing and have a great weekend.
    V/R William

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      That is very cool William!
      Thank for reding and writing.
      I’m glad we had the book!

  3. KenSchultz commented on

    As a long time reader of your blog, I enjoyed the many times you wrote about Barbara Mertz and the great visits you had at her Lorien Court home. I especially found last weeks “Lost Lorien” post touching.

    So when I saw that her house was featured in the Frederick News-Post on page D10 in the Frederick County Homes sales. I went to RedFin and found the listing and looked at the 72 beautiful photographs of that amazing house and garden. I could imagine you and her sitting in the beautiful gardens, the solarium, or several of the other perfect places to sit and chat. I hope the new owners will give it the care and respect it deserves.

    The photos were amazing and obviously professionally done. Did you know that you as you view the photos in RedFin, you can drag them from the RedFin site onto your desktop and save them, all 72 of them.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Ray and Jay sent me the links before the house was marketed.
      I think there was some drone footage as well.
      I should put that in the next story.
      Thank you for pointing that out!
      I guess maybe I was too close to see the appeal.

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