Secondhand Wonderland: The World of the Used Book

‘I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins. I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading pages someone long gone has called my attention to.’ So wrote Helene Hanff, author of 84 Charing Cross Road, the definitive novel about the lure and grip of used books. Hanff knew the power of the musty book smell, the red-pen underlines, the bent-down pages that meant someone, somewhere marked that spot as the phone rang, the baby cried, or the clock ticked well past bedtime.

The secondhand book is more than merely a bargain for the book lover. It’s a cross-cultural, inter-generational link between readers. A torch-race, of sorts, with batons passed in all directions, from the collector to the student, the casual reader to the obsessive.

[..] In this PopMatters special feature section, eight writers-each their own unique breed of book-lover-step inside the world of secondhand books and demonstrate the diversity of the experiences it contains. Kirby Fields describes the small town store that went from temporary linger-spot to provider of his childhood education. Erika Nanes explains the careful process of date selection based on a man’s handling of his used texts. Diane Leach praises those flyleaf inscriptions, Deanne Sole dissects the world of the St. Vincent de Paul charity store, Justin Dimos reveres the famed Caveat Emptor, while Rob Horning, David Pullar, and Ian Mathers take business-like approaches to the subject, breaking down the secondhand bookstore’s fiscal concerns (among other things).”

(via Pop Matters)

1 Comment

  1. I learned as much shelving books as a used / rare bookseller as I did in my elective classes in college.

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