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Confessions of a Book Scout: Old Bookstores Have Been the Hunting Grounds of My Life

alex atkins bookshelf books“What is a book scout?” you ask. A self-confessed “book scout,” David Meyer author of “Memoirs of a Book Snake,” explains it this way: “Book scouting has been a pursuit of mine since my high school days. The term ‘scout’ is used in the antiquarian book trade to describe a person who buys old books to sell to old book sellers. [Meyer is being facetious here, books don’t necessarily need to be old; neither do the book sellers.] A dealer, operating a store or office with business hours, can’t obtain all his stock by buying at auction or estate sales or from people offering to sell accumulations of old books. Often the best books, the choice and rare titles which make up a good bookseller’s stock, are found in out-of-the-way places where a bookdealer hasn’t had the time to search.” And as any dedicated book collector will readily admit, the hunt for the elusive Holy Grail or the “unknown unknown” (the book you didn’t even know existed) is half the fun.

If you are a book lover you will definitely find a kindred soul in Meyer as he describes his passion for seeking out literary treasures: “Old bookshops have been the hunting grounds of my life. Also antique shops, Salvation Army, Goodwill and other second-hand resale shops, sometimes attics and basements, and just plain junk shops. No respectable dealer in antiquarian books would admit to visiting such places, but that’s where the book scouts, true treasure hunters that they are, usually go. It’s not the place that matters, its what you find there… The treasures that I have rescued are simply survivors in the sea of old books that washes back and forth across this country — through towns, cities, basements and attics, bookstores, garage sales and junk shops — books deserving of better fates.” Amen, brother.

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For further reading: Memoirs of a Book Snake by David Meyer

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