Cataloging a Boring Collection

Like everyone, some days are better for me than others.  As a tangent to that, some collections we acquire are better than others.  We recently acquired a fabulous collection of sporting books, primarily hunting and fishing.  This type of collection is a real boon.  Specialty non-fiction is our best-selling stock and the life-blood of an internet bookseller.  We dabble in textbooks, of course, where the quick profits can be had a few times a year, but super specific and esoteric knowledge collected into small print-runs by tiny specialty publishers are where we tend to make bank.

In general, these collections are really interesting to catalog.  I loved cataloging the Easton Estate collection.  Robert Easton was a Hollywood dialect coach and actor who specialized in accents.  He collected books in English written in dialect and he collected books about language and linguistics.  His collection was fascinating, especially since I’m an amateur linguist and lover of wordplay (my personal reading tendencies are for books about linguistics and I tend to listen to podcasts about linguistics while I work).  I quite enjoyed the challenge of cataloging the collection of Dr. Michel Philappart, who began collecting books as a child in WWII Belgium and who had quite a few extremely valuable and rare works in his collection, mainly in French.  For example, a true first edition of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo and several very important medical texts were among his collection.  I remember the Kehoe collection of aphorisms and quotes fondly, too, and there have been several interesting collections from smaller estates that were interesting just for their novelty.

The current collection I’m working on, however, interests me not one bit.  I’ve tried, but paging through the books I’m more apt to grimace in disgust than to dig through the internet for more information about the topic.  Yes, it is the aforementioned collection of sporting books.  They range in topic from African big game hunting, to venison cookbooks, to training turkey hunting dogs, to making fishing lures, to bow-hunting, birding, grouse, bear, bucks… I’m not one to disparage anyone for their hobbies, since I have a few doozies of my own, but I just do not understand the appeal.  Going outside?  Without internet?  Where there are bugs and… nature?!  Not for me!  So, cataloging this collection has been a bit of a bore, and has also left me with a disinclination to take pictures of the books to fill up our Instagram account.  While these might be great sellers for us (we’ve been selling them almost as fast as we’ve been able to list them online), I’ll be happy to go back to digging through our backlog of antiquarian medical texts, or French philosophy, or architecture.  Or basically anything.  While all books are interesting to SOMEONE, I think I’ll pass on the hunting and fishing stories.

The Literary Olympian

There is a general sense in the minds of many people about the type of person that is an avid reader or book collector.  The stereotype of a quiet, socially awkward, glasses-wearing shut-in is perpetuated by movies, television shows, and even our beloved books.  In fact, just examine the connotations that the word “bookish” evokes.

I would absolutely describe myself as bookish.  I read a lot, I work with books, my closet is full of overflowing bookshelves instead of clothes, and I’m not exactly the paragon of physical fitness, to put it mildly.  Therefore, when I start talking excitedly about sports and athletes, it can be surprising to people who view me through the stereotypical lens of a bookish nerd.  After all, don’t book nerds all hate their natural school-yard enemies, the dreaded jock?  Don’t book nerds disdain nonintellectual pursuits like sweating and competing?  Why would someone who enjoys classic literature or science fiction fandom be interested in SPORTS, of all things?

Well, all I can say is that people are not one dimensional and do not fit into only one category.  Personally, I like to combine my hobbies.  The relevant example here is my love of hockey and my love of books, which translates into a growing collection of books about hockey.  And, to smoothly segue to the main point of this post, books about Olympic hockey.  The Olympics are coming to a close soon, and it has been a fun ride.  The US women’s team plays Canada tonight for the gold medal game, while the men’s team was sadly eliminated by Czechia.  Go Team USA!

Every Olympics, Winter and Summer, sees a new flurry of books written about it.  Biographies, tell-all scandals, histories of the games, behind-the-scenes reporting… a veritable smorgasbord of feasts for the sports book collector to satiate their appetite with.  But this website is devoted to the older fare, the finely aged wines of this particular niche genre, and boy do we have a lovely offering for people like myself who drool over Olympic books.

In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, the Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles.  A book by Hugh Harlan called “History of the Olympic Games Ancient and Modern” was printed up for these, the Xth modern Olympic games.  It wasn’t anything special, really, mostly just a souvenir book to read in the stands while waiting for the races to start.  But one intrepid spectator sought out 15 athletes of the games and got signatures from them.  These athletes were competing in various sports like field hockey, shooting, and boxing, and from all sorts of countries, including India, Japan, France, and Mexico.  This is a rare collectible item for a book collector who is also a sports enthusiast and it is newly listed on the website under our Sports category.  May the best collector win!