Miscellaneous adventures in the book trade, some exciting, most not.
The Goldstones, husband-and-wife antiquarian booksellers well known for writing books about books (Slightly Chipped, 1999, etc.), have apparently never experienced a book-related incident that has somehow not made it into the pages of one or another of their memoirs. This collection includes, for instance, anecdotes about a chipped tooth and the wonders of super glue, sparsely attended book signings, the long memory of Southerners when it comes to the Civil War, the perils of buying books online, the contents of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library and of the Library of Congress’s Rare Books Room, and the notations on highly collectible novelist Michael Ondaatje’s 1974 wall calendar. A few of these anecdotes are meaningful and of interest to bibliophiles and literary scholars alike; most, however, are not—especially when they’re seasoned with such pabulum as “when your book is rejected, so is a piece of your soul.” A sad failure of storytelling comes with their longish account of the strange career of one Ken Anderson, who transformed an autodidact’s love for the literary modernists into a briefly thriving career manufacturing and selling the forged autographs of Ernest Hemingway, William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound—a story that could have taken wings if written by the likes of Nicholas Basbanes or Alberto Manguel, but falls flat on the page in the Goldstones’ hands. The best moments come sporadically, in the form of data that will send collectors scurrying to their libraries to see whether they have a first American edition of Cold Mountain (worth a few hundred dollars) or a first UK edition of the inaugural volume in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (worth something like $30,000).
That inspiration aside, Warmly Inscribed doesn’t amount to much.