This is a cautionary tale I suppose. One of those moments that hits quite hard as the implications sink in.
As you might imagine, we spend a lot of time dealing with people who are sorting out the books and papers of recently deceased relatives and, just as often, those who are very old and downsizing to move into smaller living spaces towards the end of their lives. This is an everyday situation for us and for most bookdealers I would imagine.
So when the middle-aged daughter of an elderly father, who is almost 90, gets in touch to say she is sorting through her father’s things ahead of him moving to somewhere smaller, this is nothing unusual. She mentions also that there are boxes and boxes of books in the garage: again, so far so unremarkable. As usual the van is dispatched, the young chap who helps with lugging gets a couple of hours work and we all pitch in to unload the van of 55 boxes of books into a storeroom to be looked through at our leisure. This is, as you might say, “all in a day’s work.”
Those of you who follow us on twitter will know that we keep a weather eye out for ‘Things That Fall From Books,’ indeed we have a collection of them: bus tickets, photographs, notes, shopping lists etc. So it was soon evident that the previous owner of these books had laid into the front of each a little slip of paper, often cut from an envelope, on which was pencilled a date (in the late 80s), a place, and a price (usually no more then 20p). It transpires that for years he had a dream that he would open and run a bookshop and throughout the 80s he bought books and placed them in boxes to be his stock when he opened the shop. Time passed. Life happened. Circumstances circumstanced, and I am sure he had a brilliant and fulfilling time – but he never opened a bookshop. And thirty years later his daughter has to sell the garage-full as a job lot to someone else’s bookshop.
It has been more than usually poignant processing these books for sale here, in our shop – not his.