Seasons greetings from our library to yours!
You know you’re getting older when you become self-referential. Nonetheless, we write to share comments prompted by another blog post, one we wrote last year at this time.
We had just offered for sale an item related to the famous First World War “Christmas Truce” – a remarkable moment of holiday season humanity in the midst of remarkably inhumane conflict.
The point today is not our year-old post, but rather the message we received in reply from one of our customers (in red below) and our own reply (in blue).
Amid the vagaries and vicissitudes of this never-quite-post-pandemic world, we remain mindful of the small, fragile, but hopefully enduring place of books within it. Knowing that any of you reading likely share our bibliophilia, sharing these year-old messages seems appropriate.
20th December 2020, COVID Christmas. Sunday, 5.30am (CST).
First, let me begin with wishing you and your families, a very joyous, healthy and fabulous holiday season with a new year that will not ‘go down in infamy’ as 2020 most certainly will. In times of fright and stress you have brought a respite that was most needed and welcomed. Offerings from a great man and many other great authors gave me a chance for escape, and not to mention, moments of restraint in not pushing the buy button and turning over my first and second born in exchange for your most sought after treasures. I thank you, most deeply.
Second, it was early this dark, damp Sunday morning whilst the household still slept that I made my pot of tea, tended to the pups, sat at the dining room table surrounded only by the illumination of the Christmas lights, and began to read the blog you had so brilliantly written on the truce. Not without saying, it managed to produce a slight lump in my throat and cloud my vision. I would have liked to attribute that to the fog that engulfed the house but I cannot attest to that, honestly. It was moving, to say the least, as was the actual moment in history. I suspect you have all seen the movie Joyeux Noël. This is a must in this house at this time of year…and at any time that we feel things spiraling out of control and leaving us with feelings of hopelessness. Thus, your blog brought me joy to know that there are others out there that appreciate the efforts of men such as Churchill, Buchanan-Dunlop and others not mentioned.
Alas, when I realised that the volumes for offer were sold contentment and, admittedly, a bit of envy settled in. But, I had to give a satisfied nod knowing that these great works are being well looked after.
Not wanting to take anymore of your time, I shall conclude with my heartfelt wishes for you and yours during the holidays. Be well and safe. Looking forward to many more books, emails and blogs in 2021.
Our reply, which ended up being a (hopefully pardonable) florid meditation, follows.
My Dear G*****,
I must respond selfishly to your most extravagantly generous missive. You are a reason that we do what we do.
There are lots of ways to sell books. Frequently, I’m reminded that doing lots of research, writing lengthy descriptions, and then composing even lengthier blog posts may not be the most *efficient way to engage in the antiquarian book trade. But, for better or worse, that’s our way.
Yes, we did indeed sell the set yesterday. And we’ll certainly appreciate the revenue, which is essential not only to keep body and soul knit, but to keep doing what we do. But a message like yours is arguably just as essential as the revenue.
Arguably even more essential.
That you would sit down to write to us on a Sunday morning is simply, exclusively, and unequivocally an act of expansive grace. Of course we owe you thanks for your artfully framed and exceptionally kind sentiments. But – and here’s the selfish part – we owe you a deep gratitude for the affirmation and encouragement.
At its best, bookselling is a conversation – a ranging, intermittent, and only vaguely coherent, but nonetheless constant conversation about the conceptions and expressions of who we are and who we hope to be as a species. As the books and ideas therein age and mellow, so too does the conversation. It becomes a susurration, a sort of quiet cultural undercurrent, consistently masked by the prevailing daily tides and wind and weather. But that doesn’t mean the conversational current is either irrelevant or unnecessary. Want of it, one feels, would still the great ocean of our experience, losing it by failing to gently stir its depths while the majority of our energy is always focused on disturbing the surface.
Thank you for stirring, G*****. Both us and the great, quiet sea.
May good fortune, high spirits, worthy efforts, and more pleasant trials attend you and yours in the coming year.
Again, at the risk of further self-reference, we wish you and yours good fortune, high spirits, worthy efforts, and more pleasant trials in the coming year.