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The Times They Are A-Changin

· Fine Book Collecting,COVID-19,David Leventi,Donna Leon,Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan wrote this incredible tune back in 1964. I wonder what he could have written about 2020? Yes, times are a-changin here in Nova Scotia, and Atlantic Canada as well. Fewer restrictions, inter-provincial travel within the “Atlantic Provinces Bubble”. Restaurants and bars have no percentage restrictions, while maintaining appropriate distancing, and closing hours extended to midnight.


Bookstores are impacted as well – especially Raven & Gryphon Fine Books. Before we talk about selling, let’s talk buying. For over two months, I have not bought a single book for the business! And as a collector/dealer buying books is more fun than selling books. Well, maybe not, but buying is exciting. Here are photos of the dust jackets of two books just bought this week. The first book, has no printing on the front or the back of the dust jacket. Look at it – it is beautiful. Simply titled Opera it features David Leventi photos of famous opera houses from around the world, mostly taken from the stage looking out into audience seating. Included is the “Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts”, Toronto. The photo is, of course, the opera curtains. And look at the other gorgeous book.

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Turning to the sales side of things, we have not had a visitor to our book room in months. We have been selling on the internet which is great and valuable, but you don’t build client relationships like you do with people who come into the shop. This changes this weekend. And no more shady looking deals in parking lots! You may recall the musing where I met the customer in the parking lot of the bank where money was put on the hood of the car and books removed from the trunk. Well, guess what, this great customer loves the period of the Italian Renaissance. So, I sent an e-mail mentioning the two books noted above. I think she is visiting this weekend!

And in our messaging back and forth, our client commented “books do act as a comfort don’t they”. Absolutely. In my response, I said “I have three great books on the go”. Here are the photos of the dust jackets of the three books that currently sit on my bedside table. Most evenings, I read a little from each volume. It is my last meal of the day – appetizer, main course, and dessert!

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Also exciting, on Saturday, the day this musing gets posted, will be a first visit from a reader who saw our ad in the local “Masthead News”. He’s a history professor at one of our local universities. And when he confirmed the visit, he asked if we minded if he brought someone along who “is also eager to see what you have”. And the answer is…

Hopefully, one thing that will change soon, is the speed of postal delivery. It has been dreadful, but Canada Post has been communicating that the parcel volume is greater than that experienced during the Christmas Season and the distribution centres are maintaining social distancing in systems not designed for it. As I tell people though – “I have lived my whole life to now without that book, I can wait a little longer.”

I mentioned in an earlier musing about sending books to New York City. A buyer, contacted me to say he had not yet received his purchase, so I gave him the tracking number but also my litany re sloooow mail. The next day, he sent me an email stating not only that he received the book but that he was delighted with it. He was very particular in deciding whether or not to buy it. He wanted photos especially of the spine to see if there was any fading. He was replacing a book that had a spine that was slightly faded. He was happy and we exchanged e-mails a bit. I always insert a business card and to quote him “Smart-looking business card too!” Thank you, Gregory and Maria for designing that great logo. People love it. And this from one of the Department Heads at Christie’s, New York.

Speaking of slow mail, packages from the UK has been particularly tardy. In the spring, it took 6 weeks for a book to finally arrive. And today, I received a book from the UK that only took 36 days to get here. Look at the photo, the 7th Guido Brunetti book in the wonderful series by Donna Leon. I had some back and forth with the UK dealer, and after his last e-mail was a postscript stating “Andy, I forgot to mention that I like your distinctive bookseller name linking two mythical birds. Regards, Peter.”

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As Bob Dylan would likely say “that name ain’t gonna change.”

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