Warmly Inscribed

Book people are crazy, and I say that as an outside observer. After finishing Warmly Inscribed: The New England Forger and Other Book Tales, I realized that I am not a book person. Or rather, I am to book people as garage sale shoppers are to antiquers. It's not just that I lack the commitment; I also lack the batshit-crazy gene that makes you willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a single book.

Warmly Inscribed is one of those semi-nonfiction, semi-narrative books which allow the friendly characters of the authors to feed you information about a subject in small doses. It's similar to armchair travel, and I think it's the easiest way to serve yourself a dose of nonfiction. In Warmly Inscribed, authors Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone travel to antiquarian book fairs and rare book dealers around the country, researching everything from great public collections, to the effect of the internet on the rare book business, to the story of one notorious signature forger. It's a fascinating little trip through the microcosmic world of book people.

Although I will never be willing to shell out for a first edition, this book did add a few more destinations to my list of places I'm going to have to visit before I die (the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library, to name a few). Plus, they mention the Tree of Diderot, which I hadn't heard of before but which is how Thomas Jefferson organized his personal library. I might follow suit someday.

The Goldstones have written two previous books about the rare book world, but I haven't read them. I'm not sure this is the best one to start with, since one would assume that their really primo material got used up in the first two. Still, I enjoyed it, and it's especially useful if you're interested in buying rare or out-of-print books online and aren't sure which service to use.