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    Adventures of a rare book dealer (and former small bookshop owner).

2009 Colorado Antiquarian Seminars

Written on April 27, 2009

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I just posted this over at the Fine Books and Collections blog, but though I’d put it up here too for the three or four people who read this blog but not the one at FB&C (and if you’re not, you should!):

I would just list to pick up where Chris left off and recommend that anyone reading this – whether dealer, collector, librarian, or simply book lover – consider attending this year’s Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. I graduated in 2006 and quite simply my business would not be anywhere close to where it is today without my having attended. It is no exaggeration to say that the Seminar easily saved me two or three years of effort and learning on my own by trial and error. Between the advice given, information bestowed, contacts made, and inspiration received it is an investment in time and money well worth making. Indeed, in the years since I attended I have made back what I spent on my trip many times over simply through the books I’ve sold to people whom I met via the Seminars. What I wrote shortly after returning from the Seminars, I still agree with and re-post here for anyone thinking about registering:

I’m a bit overwhelmed at the thought of coherently summing up the experience of this year’s Annual Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, which I was lucky enough to attend. So much is packed into the week. So I’m just going to kind of list my thoughts in the order they occur to me -

– The most common question I’ve gotten from other booksellers is “Was it worth it?” To which the simple answer is, you better &%$#@(&%-ing believe it was. Every penny, every hour, every bit of lost sleep was worth it.

– The seminar struck a difficult balance between being useful for the newbie while not boring the more experienced sellers. They managed, in my opinion, to engage both the more advanced attendees as well as those just beginning. This is, of course, a testament to the faculty.

– Was a surprisingly diverse group. Many attendees were literally just starting out. Others had been working at it for year. A few open shops. I was also interested to see that there were a fair number of librarians and pure collectors in attendance. I was also struck by the number of (like me) younger students. Still a minority (about ten of about fifty), but as someone who’s used to usually being the youngest person in a group of booksellers, a nice change. I think part of the liveliness of the discussions stemmed from what was a reasonably eclectic group.

– In a strange strictly-speaking kind of way, the information given during the seminars was in some ways the least of the entire experience. Which is not to say the information wasn’t invaluable, or that this alone wasn’t worth the price of admission all by itself. It was. But for me, two other elements are what really made the seminars outstanding…

– The first was how what the faculty taught told you at least as much about what you DIDN’T know as what you did, and in this way sketched out the boundaries of your expertise while simultaneously inspiring (at least me) to continue to learn more.

– And second, the other amazing part of the week were the other attendees. I think I learned more from the other “seminarians” than anyone else. In addition, it was wonderful to finally be able to talk with other people who know what you’re talking about. We all basically work alone in a business that most people don’t understand. What a relief then to talk books and not have to explain what you’re talking about. Haven’t laughed so hard as I did last week in a LONG time. In addition, the other students are, of course, the people who will be your colleagues for the foreseeable future. Good people to know.

– Highlights? Faculty member Terry Belanger. Erudite, engaging, a bit eccentric and with the driest sense of humor I think I’ve ever encountered, he made what were often fairly dull topics (bibliography, collation, etc) utterly fascinating.

– Also: good bookscouting. Paid for my plane ticket with a few finds from our various field trips. Huzzah!

In short, one of the best week’s of my life. Can’t recommend it too highly. Beg, borrow, or steal but go go go. You won’t regret it. Happy to answer other questions for anyone who’s interested.

As Chris pointed out, there are many scholarships available (indeed more than ever before). But even without scholarship support, any bookdealer or bibliophile looking to expand their knowledge, grow their business, or meet their colleagues would be well advised to attend.

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