One Touch


I’ve learned that I need to “One Touch” as often as possible. Each time I handle a book more than once, it means another book is kept waiting. Extra handling also adds to the “cost” of the book. My time is limited.

I’ve signed onto this job, this “mission.” I can’t often stop and smell the roses.

That said, some books will stick to my hand and require second and third and more “looks.”



Clif and I are heading west on Interstate 70 toward Hagerstown.

The heavy fog of morning is burning off. The early autumn color fest is being revealed.

Autumn Colors

I haven’t visited this store for a month. Others from the warehouse go up every couple days. My son Joey manages the store a couple days a week, I think.

So many moving pieces in Wonder-land.

Remember those guys who could spin plates on sticks?

Spinning Plates

It is hard to stop just one plate.

Once something is set into motion, it can be difficult to stop it.

Or there is a lot of effort stopping it. Sometimes you just let inertia carry it on. Sometimes you really should stop things.

Of course, there is a chance all the plates can come crashing down at once into a big splintery mess. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

It is a good day to travel. October is my favorite month. The weather this October has been brilliant, beautiful and balmy.

Today is no different. It will get to the mid 70s today. I should be outside, going some place, doing something interesting.

I did that yesterday. I can’t think of anything better to do today than work.

Books by the Foot needs golf books and rock records.

Culling duplicates or old stock is therapeutic. The stores always need some pruning for their health. Pulling stock is vigorous work for me as well.

It is profitable too. 20 linear feet of golf books is about 220 books. Selling dupes and culls is a win/win.

So, I’ll do a bit of duty checking in at the northwesternmost Wonder Book.

Still, I wish I were somewhere I have never been before. With someone I want to be with.

If wishes were books, I’d have millions.


The visit was quick and positive.

The store looked great. The staff was busy and upbeat. Even the Dollar Tables on the sidewalk were neat and inviting.

Funny how good attitudes make things better for everyone.





I pulled ten linear feet of golf books in five minutes. (Half a minute per foot.) I also pulled a dozen copies of Tiger Woods’ How I Play Golf. It is a coffee-table book. We can only use one for this order. But there were nearly two dozen stacked on the shelves.

Former bestsellers…they multiply. Especially in some categories.

For the rock LPs, I went to bestsellers who no longer sell so well. They get overpopulated as well. Billy Joel, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John…

Then we were ready to go. There was nothing else I could do that was useful.

Clif switched the empty van for the full one, and I hopped in.

We were back at the warehouse just after noon.

The sky was so blue. The sun was so bright.

I just wanted to go sit somewhere and have a glass of wine.

But there was half a day to go.

I went into the room where Annika is evaluating books. She was very excited about a set with the 18th century bookplate of someone I’d never heard of:

Robert R. Livingston. He was a top Founding Father. How could I not know this guy? Maybe I knew and forgot.

He represented the Provincial Congress of New York at the Continental Congress in 1776 and helped to draft the Declaration of Independence, although he returned to New York before he was able to sign the document.

During the War of Independence, Livingston served as secretary of foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation. In 1783, he accepted the post of chancellor of the state of New York; he bore the title as a moniker for the rest of his life. “The Chancellor” was a Federalist delegate to the ratification convention in New York, and as New York’s senior judge administered President George Washington’s first oath of office. Under President Thomas Jefferson, Livingston negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and, while minister to France, sponsored Robert Fulton’s development of the steamboat.

But she caught it. I take credit for sending the books to her, though. They came in a leather slush pile—likely from a fellow bookseller. I’m not sure which load it came in on.

But Annika informed me that his father was also Robert R. Livingston (known as “The Judge.”)

How do we know these bookplates belonged to “The Chancellor” and not “The Judge”?

The books were printed in 1740 which leans toward the father’s ownership. The father was born in 1718. The son 1746.

But we all know about used books.

I suggested she do some reverse searches—like searching for the bookplate of “The Chancellor.”

She found this auction record:

[EARLY AMERICAN BOOKPLATES—ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON.] Hawkesworth, John (1715—1773.) The Works of Jonathan Swift, from the library of Robert R. Livingston, each volume with his personal bookplates. Edinburgh: printed by Mrs. Mundell, et al, 1778. 18 volumes. 12mo in sixes. First of four issues, Scotch editions. Early tree calf, spine compartments ruled with Greek key tooling, morocco spine labels stamped in gilt (few backstrips chipped or dried, endpapers toned with slight offsetting from bookplates, uneven marginal toning to title.) Teerink 100. Each volume’s front pastedown is affixed with an early American engraved bookplate (18 total) of Robert R. Livingston, possibly engraved by or attributed to Peter Rushton Maverick (see Hewins p. 145) with his iconic ribbon and wreath style featuring a clipper atop the Livingston family crest with the family motto “Spero Meliora” printed inside a ribbon banner. A SCARCE BOOKPLATE OF A FOUNDING FATHER. Provenance: from the library of Robert R. Livingston. As one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Livingston played an important role in the early development of the newly formed country. He was a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, the administrator for George Washington’s Oath of Office when he assumed presidency in 1789, and the chief negotiator of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

[Our 3 plates are an exact match to these. They sold for $4500!]

Livingston Bookplates

Since the Jonathan Swifts were printed after the father’s death, our books look pretty good.

“Scotch editions” is a little concerning to the scholarship, however.

The Scotch editions I collect are in bottles. But I’ve seen that mistake by many experienced people—not Scotch drinkers though.

Still…very intriguing. And a rabbit hole for me. I could go deeper and deeper.

For example:

Descendants of the Livingstons include Presidents of the United States George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Congressman Bob Livingston of Louisiana, much of the wealthy Astor family, New York Governor Hamilton Fish, actor Montgomery Clift, and actress Jane Wyatt. The eccentric Collyer brothers are alleged to have been descended from the Livingston family.

And “The Chancellor” attended King’s College (now Columbia University.) My elder son attended Columbia. I’m no longer surprised when I see icons who have attended that school.

Another potential problem is the family estate, Clermont, was burned by the British in 1774. So, why weren’t these books burned?

In 1794, he built a new home called New Clermont, which was subsequently renamed Arryl House, a phonetic spelling of his initials “RRL,” which was deemed “the most commodious home in America” and contained a library of four thousand volumes.

Well, I’ve touched these books enough for now.

Maybe we will get back to them soon. Maybe they will just languish in my office with Annika’s notes inside…

Still…I learned a lot from these books rescued from the slush pile.

And they are pretty.

Livingston Books

These won’t go to Books by the Foot.

Lucky catch!

Then there were two motorcycles books from the turn of the (19th) century.

Motorcycle stuff. If you ever watch Pickers, you know those guys are crazy for this kind of thing. They’ll dance a jig and pay a fortune for an old rusted Indian Motorcycle strut.

This Sears Auto Cycle 1911 catalog is very cool. And I’m not into motorcycles.

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Annika found: “None online/None on WorldCat.”

Should I dance a jig?

Then there was a beautiful copy of Jackman’s The ABC of the Motorcycle from 1916. There are three online. $204, $200 and $14. (Someone should snap up the $14 copy.)

There are only a handful of copies on WorldCat of all three editions (1910,1912,1916.) $200 seems way too cheap for these. Plus, ours is fine…

What to do next? Get out the dartboard? Take a swing for the fences? Put them on eBay and let the market decide?

Or put them aside because they are so cool?

I decided to go out into the dockyard and walk in the sun.

Now it’s Friday. Nearly noon. I’m not very far on this story. People keep needing me for stuff. Stuff I shouldn’t be needed for. Of course, I can’t say: “No. Don’t bother me.”

Where did this week begin?

Last Friday…

The story went out.

It wasn’t very good, I felt.

Then I went to Le Parc Bistro. I had a martini.

Maybe two.

I texted a friend who agreed to join me.


I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.

Dorothy Parker

What an idiot I can be. Fortunately, I didn’t end up like Dorothy after four.


But my friend likely won’t join me again for a while.

Saturday and Sunday I dragged myself into the warehouse.

I finally started on William Safire’s books in a serious way.

It ended up looking like this:

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Sunday evening I had done two small pallets. There are a dozen left to do.

I created 3 full carts of books with fixed prices for the Collector’s Corner William Safire Collection.

One cart remains loaded with problems. A lot of the modern material was signed to Safire. Some are fascinating Association Copies. Watergate guys, for example.

I’ll have to wing the prices on those…

One cart of purely of Antiquarian Books* went to Annika. These are segregated so they will end up in the Safire Collection when they are evaluated.

* Antiquarian books: There is no one correct definition. I was always taught something must be at least 100 years old to be “antique.” 100 years old ain’t the same as it was when I first started selling old books. So, to be an antiquarian bookseller, I would think that your specialty would be old books—100 years or older.

But, of course, not all collectible books are antique. Can you be an antiquarian bookseller if your specialty is modern first editions? How about 1970s and 80s Punk and Metal music memorabilia?

I dunno.

I don’t even know what kind of bookseller I am. We sell a lot of 100 year plus OLD books—every day. And we sell a lot of modern collectibles (less than 100 years?).

And we sell a lot of non-collectible books every day.

I like to think of Wonder Book as “nose to tail” booksellers. We take every book that we buy and try to get the best result we can for it.

Then there was a partial pallet of real problems. Boxes of scrapbooks and typed manuscripts and stuff…

At the bottom of one box, I found this thing.

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I opened it. Nixon, in anticipation of his legacy, created a 4-year calendar for VIPs in his White House.

I flipped through it, and Safire had filled all four years.

I was backpacking through Europe in August 1974. I was supposed to spend a sophomore semester in Germany. My dad had gotten very ill over Christmas vacation. He needed some complicated surgeries. I decided I shouldn’t go.

My dad gave me a month in the summer as a substitute.

I was in Germany when the newspapers reported: “Nixon Gibt Auf.”

I saved a couple copies. I must have them somewhere.

I flipped Safire’s calendar open to August 1974.

Nixon Calendar

August 4th: “Nixon Resigns.”


Touching history.

Monday I got into the first pallet of Julie’s Bonifant Books collection.

She’d told there wasn’t anything great in the basement.

She did mention some Frederick, Maryland material she’d gotten on a house call long ago and never messed with.

“Mostly ephemera…”


Ephemera—mostly eye candy that requires real eyes on it to sell.

Our stores are not set up for small fragile material. It is too easy for it to get lost or damaged.

And you can’t very well sell it online. It is just too hard to…”quantify” in words and on a database.

Julie was right. Nothing really “great.”

Until I got to the first box of Frederick stuff.

Frederick Ephemera

Fractional currency printed in Frederick in the 1840s?

Was there a money shortage and banks needed to issue script?

I’d never seen this kind of stuff.

And there’s plenty more.

I decided we needed to create an Ephemera Section on our website’s Collector’s Corner.

(That “Corner” is getting pretty big.)

We will have a photo of each item…

Well, that is still in the dream phase. But I think it will happen.

On Wednesday, I got completely stressed out with employee problems.

I HAD to run away.

Where could I go?

I headed north into Pennsylvania.

I went hunting hostas.

I discovered the legendary nursery, Ashcombe, many years ago. Occasionally I would take my friend Barbara Mertz on a field trip there to plant shop.

We would return with hundreds of dollars’ worth of plants for her. Not so many dollars in flora for me.

She would insist on buying me lunch in the old school dining area.

The Pennsylvania Dutch egg salad was great. And only $2 for a sandwich.

They also had takeout baked goods. Pies and such. They had an odd herb bread that was like a dozen different herb rolls baked together in the same one tin.

The “top” of each roll was sprinkled with a different herb. They were delicious and beautiful too.

So, I planned for all those things.

When I arrived, the once vibrant and sprawling place felt tired. COVID tired.

The nursery felt a bit wilted.

They’d moved the perennials across the street to their tree and shrub yard. The dining and food shop was virtually shut.

I did buy a LOT of hostas though. They were 50% off! That meant I could get twice as many!

Ashcombe Hostas

The nursery was still great.

They’ll rebound. When this Plague is done and we are done with it, things will start growing again.

I feel like a stressed plant sometimes during the Plague and election. All twisted inside…

On my way south, I recalled the beer outlet I used to stop at returning from trips to my kids’ colleges and soccer games and trips to NYC.

They always had some exotic things you couldn’t find elsewhere.

This time I went for “comfort” beers. Old school things with memories.

I was too young to drink growing up in Buffalo, NY. But I remember people asking for “Ginny.” Genesee Cream Ale. And Rolling Rock 7 oz. ponies. And Chesterfield Ale—what great vintage packaging.

Comfort Beers

I’ll think of my friend John Adams. Gone so suddenly. He was a New Yorker at heart (Finger Lakes.) And he was a beer AFICIANADO par excellence.

Friday still.

I can’t make this story flow.

I’m twisted up inside.

Maybe I made the tomato, cucumber, rye bread, cheese and jalapeño grilled open-faced sandwiches too spicy last night.

Spicy Sandwiches

I’ve been making extras each time recently and freezing them for the winter ahead.

I can heat them up on snowy nights and revisit summer.

Soon the tomato and cukes and peppers will all be frozen and killed.


It was odd finding that cuke hanging from a tree at home.

I couldn’t watch the debate last night. Too stressful.

Instead, I watched the last episode of my Rt 66 box set. They were in Malibu. (I was in Malibu last February. Ancient history.) Buz and Tod fixed everything and moved on to the next place in need of help. Their Corvette two-seater somehow always heads out of town perfectly clean and…perfect—despite the battering it takes each episode.

Then, in a fit of insanity, I decided to put in a DVD of Hitchcock’s The Birds I found in a folder of loose movies I took home.

It was terrifying.

Just like 2020!

One of my favorite actresses, Suzanne Pleshette, gets killed. I’d forgotten that.


She gets her eyes pecked out!

I went to bed and a couple hours later awoke from (or was it to) nightmares about a demon trying to get into the house.


I was so scared I went and got the dogs from their pen and brought them into bed with me.

That helped.

But still, it was a bad night, and I’m paying for it today.

I did plant all the hostas last night while dinner was cooking.

Maybe we can get this Plague and the other nightmare behind us. Maybe in the spring things can start growing again.

8 Comments on Article

  1. Well, Chuck, nightmares? I’ve never figured out why people like to read or watch other people’s nightmares, Stephen King stories, for instance. Somewhat like having a fondness for super spicy food, maybe.
    I look forward to seeing some of your photos, as they always spice up your narrative. Words and pictures, always a good combination.
    Do you ever get sketchbooks filled with interesting original artwork and/or collage? I ask because I’ve filled over a hundred sketchbooks, some of which I made, with drawings, and I love to look at what other people draw. Rick

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Images are now up
      Seemed like a good idea at the time.
      Daphne du Maurier story
      I guess my subconscious didnt agree.
      I avoid horror and horror movies in general.
      We get sketchbooks pretty often.
      Most are terrible.
      Some intriguing.
      Some are great.
      No way to sell them until artist is known.
      We just put them aside w photoalbums and diaries and scrapbooks
      Thanks for reading and writing

  2. Terry commented on

    The dogs can have a calming effect. I can’t wait until I can have mine back with me.
    My hostas have had a very rough year. The weather, me unable to tend to them. Maybe next year I will be able to plant more to fill in the flowerbed.
    You always learn something new at the bookstore. I am hoping the doctors allow me back there soon as well. They say I am healing well. I need some new distractions now! Keep looking forward! Good things are coming!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Images are now up
      Great to hear from you Terry.
      We miss you!
      Come back soon!

  3. George Miller commented on

    Not surprised that you have many copies of the Tiger Woods book. Basically no wants anything to do with him. Just like all the Lance Armstrong books that show up at the library book sales that I help at.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Images are up now if you want scroll through them
      Many former bestsellers we get 100 copies in for one we can actually sell.
      Don’t know why the 2-3 people here keep sending these.
      Thank you for reading and writing! I appreciate it!

  4. David commented on

    Chuck the fractional currency is from 1837. There was a financial depression that year and a run on many small banks. All the silver and gold coins (hard currency) disappeared and some banks started issuing script. I can put you in touch with a currency dealer if you’d like.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thanks David,
      I figured it was due to shortages of real money

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