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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Do you have the courage to say what your auction and the other recent auctions of the last 60 days have taught you?

I suppose you need the book selling community but it seems clear to me that Reese and Lan routinely took advantage of you by selling you imperfect books and less than fine examples in many instances. The ONE good buy you made - the 1613 Champlain - paid for all of your mistakes. And he only gave you that opportunity because the person he bid for on the book couldnt afford to keep it. And of course two obsessed collectors bid the book to its correct value.

All the books that Michael Sharpe bought from Heritage are another example of how a leading dealer took terrible advantage of a naive collector obsessed with titles with no idea of the importance of condition. The books that he is now putting up at auction consistently do horribly.

And sadly it appears that the leading book collector today - Jay Walker - would be better off blind for all the mistakes regarding condition that he is making.

Of course you were brilliant turning a horrible situation for yourself into a public forum on the honesty and integrity of Lan and Reese forcing them (using compliments in your introduction) to bid on your books in a terribly thin market. You are a genius for doing that because they will choke on their purchases with serious collectors in very short supply. Only you could have come up with such an elegant solution. You have enslaved me with this stroke of genius.

You might be interested to know that Jay Kislak was the under-bidder on your Champlain because he has a rather substantial home in Maine. He does understand quality because he surrounds himself with experts. But it took him 40 years to understand this. His stroke of genius was to persuade the Library of Congress to take his collection generating a massive tax deduction.

So it seems to me that the next big step should be some kind of grading system like there is for stamps and coins. You are already the greatest purveyor of information in this field that ever lived. Do you dare take the next step? I hope to God that you do. And someone like Massey or Dorothy should be the chief rule maker with a salary of $200,000 a year. They are two incredibly honest people who see the truth. And, of course, Kate Hunter who works with me also is in their league. It is heaven being able to learn quality from them.

The reason that we never did business is that I was taught for FOUR years at Yale to only settle for the best quality by the staff at the Yale Libraries. It was immediately clear to me that you loved the story behind the book (just like my mentor Boise Penrose) and were not as interested in condition. There simply was no way that you could resist paying 60% of my prices for books that were 90% as good as mine. And yes I saw that clearly. But everyone else understood your flaw clearly selling you less than perfect books for what appeared to be "bargain" prices to you. I have never had any interest in that. It is like playing tennis with the net down - not very sporting at all.

Of course you are right to love the historical importance of the book more than the condition. That is the sign of good mental health. I, on the other hand, am obsessed with PERFECT condition, original color, original bindings and full margins. And everyone knows that any "obsession" requires the ministrations of a psychiatrist to excise. So I salute you for following a path that speaks to your superb and uncomplicated mind.

It is my hope that your next campaign is to teach new collectors why prices differ. Do you dare?

I give you permission to print this letter to start a debate. And I would also sign a letter indemnifying you from any law suit that resulted from your actions. It is time that this pit of vipers is exposed and you achieve immortality in this field.

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