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August 12, 2004



Excellent advice -- particularly when you're in the 'criss-cross the country' portion of your career. I have a huge amount of lit crit that, after fifteen years in the academy, has gone partially stale. But I'll never reget picking up good or even mediocre editions of obscure texts.
I have a stunning amount of Dryden, for instance.

Buy the expensive stuff at the remainder stores and used stores: the Oxford hardcover editions that cost 100.00 each.

Anthologies of plays and pamphlets are particularly good, since these things tend to get edited in waves.

Then again, there are always the books that I really should buy and haven't -- the only book by Greenblatt that I constantly use is the one I don't own. And there are the ones I can't afford: the Oxford edition of my playwright, which periodically shows up on ABE in places like Australia and South Africa, and costs upwards of 700.00.

Bill Tozier

If I may offer some minor additional advice (prompted by nine solid weeks of packing and moving four bibliomaniac households of myself, my mother, and her friends), which may be useful even to engineers, scientists, or others whose book-buying is profligate:

- Consider buying 12" x 12" x 16" book boxes by the 50-pack from Uline (do not consider for a moment substituting boxes scrounged from behind a supermarket). Standardization of size is your friend, a hobgoblin of the very little mind you will have left after packing, say, 120 boxes of indispensable volumes. These boxes, if voids between volumes and between their tops and the lid of the box are filled with crumpled newsprint, can be stacked four-high, labeled on three sides with detailed contents, and stacked on an industrial pallet in a basement or out-of-the-way room for many years with little danger of causing hurt. Or handed to movers to their great relief (since they will not have to pack the books) and yours (because the movers will not be obliged to interleave and crumple the pages, cock the bindings, break the spines and otherwise ruin your life and deal with the $8000 insurance claim you drop no their bosses.

As the boxes are packed, consider making a manifest. That way you can leave the stuff in stacks for months without qualms, as it sits there poised waiting for your time of need. And when such need arises, it will be like Christmas, a whole miscellaneous box-full of wonderful old books you haven't seen for ages.

- Do not scrimp when buying book cases. Standardization is once again your friend. IKEA. Or, for the smarter set, barrister bookcases.

- When buying a house, you should seek out radiant heat. Forced-air heat is a baneful source of dust. Books stored in a house with radiant heat are inevitably clean, dry, and well-preserved.

- eBay. Original and other early editions of most great works are available regularly on eBay, offered by people who have no clue of their proper antiquarian value and therefore sell them for a song. If you need (say) a complete English edition of Froissart, then set up an eBay search that notifies you whenever any listing contains that word. One may (one has) bought excellent readable editions (covered in dust and bird-lime, but who's finicky?) for a pittance.


wonderful advice, thank you so much! any tips for those of us who move country to country, and not state to state?

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