Book Review: MORE Adventures of an Antiquarian
MORE Adventures of an Antiquarian Bookman
By Harold Nestler
208 Pages, $20, $2 postage/handling
13 Pennington Ave, Waldwick, NJ 07463
How do you top a best seller? Write a sequel. That's what Ephemera
Society of America member Harold Nestler has done with MORE
. . . a follow-up to his 2001 self-published limited edition Where
Did You Find That Adventures of an Antiquarian Bookman.
Where Did You Find That was a best seller only when compared
to Nestler's previous titles, but fame and fortune weren't the goals
of his 2001 effort, nor of MORE.
Nestler figures he earned about 25 cents and hour with the first
book in this short series, but the real reason he's worked so hard
recording his remembrances of 50 years in the business is to keep
the "Golden Age of the wonderful antiquarian book business"
from being "overwhelmed by the onslaught of the impersonal
computer and the Internet."
He laments the decline in interaction among dealers, collectors,
and librarians and opportunities to tell good stories and share
knowledge face to face. It's those good stories and recollections
that Nestler has preserved on paper in this often stream-of-consciousness
The book is divided into chapters covering most aspects of a dealer's
business life from traveling to issuing catalogs, to wrapping and
shipping books. For instance, there's the tale of a two-pound shower
head forged in the shaped of the Liberty Bell that eventually made
it into one of Nestler's book catalogs and sold. Honest! He also
has added chapters that contain dozens of stories and recollections
on books and ephemera on Early American Life and Industry, the Revolutionary
War, Indians, and other topics.
Nestler recalls a quite involved tale about the path followed by
the rare Cherokee Spelling Book of 1819. When the book came
to market in 1974, Nestler and Connecticut dealer and collector
Rockwell Gardiner were the winning bidders. While sorting through
the collection, Nestler put a price of $125 on the book. Gardiner,
who was awarded the Society's Maurice Rickards Award posthumously
in 1988, said he felt it was worth at least $235, even during the
depths of a recession. The pair sold it to a Tennessee dealer who
later sold it to a customer for $1,200. When Sotheby's auctioned
the owner's library in 1999, the book sold of $50,000.
Wrote Nestler, "Rocky Gardiner and I made money on it at $235.
The dealer in Tennessee made a lot of money on it $1,200
or more, and the beneficiaries of the auction sale did very well
At two and a half pages, the tale of the Cherokee spelling book
may be the longest passage related to a single topic in the entire
book. Nestler jumps from story to story almost paragraph by paragraph.
At one point, he details a 19th-century broadside promoting chiropractors
then jumps immediately to a paragraph about a 1940 article on the
history of the enema published in the Bulletin of the History
of Medicine. You may never know what's coming next, but keep
reading and you're guaranteed to find something Nestler has pulled
from his deep pool of experience that will strike a sympathetic
As he writes in the book's introduction: "In this mind-numbing
world of impersonal technology, let us keep alive the marvelous
essence of the Antiquarian book world that has brought joy to countless