I was diddlying around Gloucester the other day, the last New England day where going outside didn’t leave one gasping like a goldfish on a carpet, and ducked into Bob Ritchie’s Dogtown Books. (named after an abandoned inland settlement on Cape Ann) Dogtown Books takes the term hole-in-the-wall quite literally. I found it ‘deliciously squalid’ but not in any unkempt way – there are shelves everywhere but the ceiling and the aisles are not for the corpulent. Some may find that unsettling, personally I find overstuffed bookstores like overstuffed chairs, easy to sink into and damn hard to pull oneself out of.
One of the best reasons to choose a brick and mortar afternoon over cruising the internet is the chance to find something you didn’t know you were looking for. When’s the last time you got overly excited about a book listing on the internet? My goody for the day is an old book of bookselling poetry by an old dead New England bookseller:
The Weathercock Crows. Romaine, Lawrence B., 1901-1967. North Middleboro, MA: Weathercock House. July, 1955. 102 p., illus., 20 cm. Sketches by Emily Monsarrat.
They pile, they stack, they crawl around the floor,
They block the windows, fireplace and door,
They squeeze in cracks that no one knew were there,
And climb upon your wife’s most cherish chair.
And yet these printed pictures of the past
Have you and me so tehered to the mast
That we submit, as to no other guest,
Until they drive us to that last long rest.
Lawrence B. Romaine (1900-1967) was an antiquarian book dealer, who bought and sold rare books, manuscripts, trade catalogs, and other Americana. Romaine was recognized as the leading expert in the U.S. on trade catalogs, and was the author of A Guide to American Trade Catalogs, 1774-1900 (New York: R. R. Bowker Company, 1960), the standard reference work in this field. Romaine spent approximately 30 years collecting over 41,000 trade catalogs from the 19th and early 20th centuries, on every imaginable product from agricultural implements, clothes, medical and surgical instruments to weathervanes and windmills. The bulk of his collection focused on machines, tools, engines and other hardware used in agriculture and manufacturing industries.