A Podcast on Books & Ephemera ~ with Ben Koenig of The Counrty Bookshop

country bookshop outside

Ben Koenig of The Country Bookshop (in Plainfield Vermont), and one of the founding members of VABA, was recently on the Mark Johnson Show, talking about books and ephemera, and the joys of bookselling. You can listen to the 45-minute podcast that aired on March 20, 2014 here: http://blog.markjohnsonshow.net/2014/03/20/32014-ben-koenig-books-and-ephemera.aspx

The Mark Johnson show airs weekdays, 9-11 am on WDEV FM 96.1  AM 550.

c2014, VABA

Stephen Fovargue’s A New Catalogue of Vulgar Errors ~ Debunking Urban Legends of the 18th Century

Written by John Waite, John Waite Rare Books, Ascutney VT

Urban legends, our digital age term for “popularly-held mistakes,” have been kicking around since the rise of the first city, so every age and metropolis needs its Snopes.com to set the record straight. Writers of the Enlightenment fancied themselves slayers of superstition and ignorance, and the straightforwardly titled New Catalogue of Vulgar Errors, published in 1767 by Cambridge fellow Stephen Fovargue (d. 1775), offered itself as one such corrective to the “man of sense” who might be mistaken in many things. “Error is easily fallen into [and] in the disquisition of any Point, there are numberless wrongs, but there is only one Right,” Fovargue declares.

The errors he has in mind are principally those concerning “natural Objects, and the Phaenomena which daily present themselves to our view.” They are as practical as loading a “fowling piece,” drying hay in the sun, or guessing what a field dog is up to when he points. Some have to do with climate, weather and geography; some concern errors related to music and musical instruments, still others with medical procedures such as bleeding. One section is devoted to ghosts and apparitions; several have to do with education, writing and poetry. Fovargue even takes Londoners down a notch in their mistaken derision of country people, which must have guaranteed his book would not be found fashionable. However, he also wisely sidesteps questions that “may interfere with any religious Tenets, it not being the Intention of the Pamphlet to deprive Men of their Rest, by tearing from their Consciences those fixed Protestant Principles of Religion . . . which they and their Ancestors have long and peaceably enjoyed.” No sense stirring up too many hornets.

To the errors themselves! Or a few of them, anyway.

VIII. “That the Violin is a wanton Instrument, and not proper for Psalms; and that the Organ is not proper for Country-Dances and brisk Airs.” A case of prejudice on both counts, according to the writer, and how could one not agree? The violin, “commonly made Use of at Balls and Assemblies . . . has annexed the Idea of Merriment and Jollity to itself” while the organ, being a heavy and fixed instrument, “is not convenient for Country Dances” but is made use of “in most Churches . . .” Nevertheless, the violin is “capable of great Expression, but especially it is most exquisitely happy in that grave and resigned Air, which the common Singing-Psalms ought to be played with.” On the other hand, “nothing can be more adapted to the Performance of a Country-Dance, than an Organ.” Anyone who grew up listening to rock n’ roll or blues during the 1960s and ’70s would have to agree, as few sounds are more go-go than a Hammond B-3 organ booming through Leslie speakers. Dance to the music, Mr. Fovargue!

XV. “That there is now, or ever was, such a Science as Astrology.” Accusing ancient and idolatrous “Egyptian priests” of deceit, Fovargue praises his Britain where people have the “refreshing Liberty of hearkening to Reason, and of thinking as they [do] like best.” Continuing very much like an 18th century Rush Limbaugh, he reminds readers that “if thou didst live in some Countries, thou wouldst find, that thou must either think as others please to dictate to thee, or else keep they Thoughts to thyself . . . I tell thee, Reader, though art happy in being a Native of a Country where though art not deceived by the false Science of Astrology; and where anyone who understands it . . . will show thee as much of the Real Science of Astronomy, as thou desirest to learn . . . well knowing, that it will be a Means to give thee a more sublime Notion of the Supreme Being; for the more thou dost contemplate the vast Machinery of the Heavenly Bodies . . . the more thou wilt be convinced of the immense Contrivance of Him who laid the Foundation of the Heavens.” Deists could embrace the reasonable sounding notion of the clockmaker universe (“intelligent design”) while scoffing at the idea that planets and stars had any influence “upon the Lives and Fortunes of Individuals.”

XVIII. “That the Way to make Boys learn their Books, is to keep them in School all Day, and whip them.” Okay, that’s an error?

XX. “That teaching Boys Bawdy Books, will make them religious Men and good Clergymen.” Who would have believed it? But Fovargue’s issue here is whether young scholars should be “suffered” to read such a “Master of Intrigue, as Ovid; or some of the Odes of such a Libertine, as Horace.” Fovargue recommends instead “hardy Diversions, which are generally followed by Youth, such as Hunting, and the like, [that] can ever keep them in Health.” The constitutions of Englishmen, he writes, “will not endure any such Excess of Pleasure, as the Italians are able to sustain more easily.” Obviously, the Cambridge scholar never attended a football game, nor does he seem to have had any friends in the book trade. My apologies, but as far as the indulgence of vice goes, your average Englishmen is a world-class competitor.

XXXII. “That Negroes are not Part of the Human Species.” Slavery was practiced in the British Empire at the time of the book’s publication and to his credit, Fovargue delivers a rebuttal to this widely-held sentiment. He calls it a “Creolian error” by which he attaches the mistake particularly to Creoles who, you will be pleased to recall, were persons of European descent who were born in the West Indies or Spanish America. He got it right: the sentiment is racist. “The passive Appearance of these unhappy [slaves] at their Work, which sometimes resembles that of a Horse in a Mill, gives Master Tommy Sugar-Cane an Idea, which is the Cause of an Opinion, that a Negroe is Part of the Brute-Creation, and therefore ought to be thrashed. But indeed, Master Tommy, if I had the Care of thy Education, I would teach thee a more reasonable Way of Thinking.” He reminds “young Gentlemen” that the “Works of Nature are neither better nor worse either for your Approbation or Disapprobation of them” and he argues that education will show the true ability of Africans: “Let him have Instructions in Music, you will find that his Genius is greater than your own; teach him to fence, his Activity and Stratagem will surprise you. In short, instruct him in any Science, and he will discover a Capacity.”

Noteworthy too is Fovargue’s “Introduction,” in which he takes a moment to instruct 21st century internet users in the niceties of attribution. He points out, in what must have seemed like a wrist-slashing moment, that the third error in his book is “one which Sir Thomas Brown has taken Notice of; and it must be acknowledged, that the inclusion of it here was a Mistake.” He offers an excuse, of course, but owns up to the mistake (the accusation certainly was plagiarism) and almost apologizes.

All in all the book is an admirable effort, if a tad didactic for contemporary taste. But when wasn’t that the case?

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John Waite Rare Books
PO Box 6, Route 5
Ascutney, VT 05030
802-674-2665

You can follow John on his Tumblr blog here: Floating Copy, where this post originally appeared on June 26, 2013.

c2013, VABA

VABA offers free appraisals at the Burlington Book Festival! ~ Sept 22 and 23, 2012

Visit our free book appraisal event at the Burlington Book Festival!

From 11am to 3pm on September 22nd & 23rd, the Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association will be offering free appraisals at the Burlington Literary Festival. Present will be Ben Koenig of Country Bookshop in Plainfield, Mark Alexander of Alexander’s Rare Books in Barre, Donna Howard of The Eloquent Page in St. Albans, and Mark Ciufo of North Country Books and Kathy Roberts of K Roberts Fine Books, both in Burlington.  For more information about the festival, visit www.burlingtonbookfestival.com

Hope to see you there with some of your treasures!

[Posted by Donna Howard of The Eloquent Page]

 

2012 Summer Bookfair ~ Floorplan of Exhibitors

The VABA Summer Bookfair is less than two weeks away! To date 41 exhibitors have signed up.  If you are a book or ephemera seller, there is still time to register for a booth by contacting Garry or Karen Austin at mail@austinsbooks.com or 802-464-8438

You can view the floorplan of the fair and the list of this year’s exhibitors by going to the following link —

http://www.vermontisbookcountry.com/summerfair

See you at the fair!

Join Us for the VABA Summer Book Fair ~ August 12 ~ Brattleboro, Vermont

The Vermont Summer Book Fair Returns To Brattleboro
and highlights new features!
The Vermont Summer Book Fair, inaugurated over 30 years ago  by the Vermont Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association (VABA) gathers 40 plus dealers in fine old books, maps, ephemera, manuscripts, postcards and paper to the Withington Skating Facility at Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro, Sunday, August 12, 2012. Fair hours are 10am to 4pm.
This year’s fair features the “Ten Minute Symposia”, a series of impromptu dealer talks. Hourly, designated dealers will discuss an aspect of the old book business, collecting, or their particular specialty in the trade. Each talk will be held in the respective dealer’s booth and will be followed by a Q & A session. We encourage all interested visitors to join in and ask the questions that may have intrigued or puzzled you about old & rare books and related subjects.
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Ben Koenig of The Country Bookshop, a frequent contributor to WCVT FM 101.7 Classic Vermont will be one of our speakers as will Garry Austin of Austin’s Antiquarian Books in Wilmington VT, a specialist in all aspects of Theodore Roosevelt material. There will be a schedule in the Fair program.
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VABA is also proud to have with us this year the Philadelphia Printshop and Don Cresswell.  You will remember this affable individual from his many appearances on “The Antiques Roadshow”. Don will be sharing some behind the scenes “Roadshow” stories and will be taking your questions as part of the “Symposia”.
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Directions:
Just off Exit 2 of I-91, on Rte 9, The Park complex is identifiable by the local landmark of the Creamery Covered Bridge. Plenty of parking surrounds this well-lit spacious exhibition arena that is home to the Brattleboro Winter Sports Program and events like the “Home Show”. At the Vermont Summer Fair you will see names that you recognize from the the New York, Los Angeles, or Boston ABAA shows, however you will also find some dealers that exhibit only regionally. Some come from as far away as Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and others travel from New York and all our neighboring New England states and Canada. They will all be bringing their fresh material garnered from auctions and attics, barns and book sales, housecalls and pickers. The variety of the dealer offerings will be amazing. Of course you will find books in almost any subject, but the ephemera, maps, autographs, documents, photographs, post cards, prints, and exotica are head turning.
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Whether you are an experienced or novice book collector, a librarian or an archivist, a scholar or an academic, or are simply interested in books and the book arts in general, you will find something to your taste. We invite you to visit the fair, explore the booths, and purchase the treasures on display. Listen to a discussion, ask a question or two and enjoy the show. Show hours are Sunday, August 12, 10 am to 4 pm. The show admission is $5.
Posted by:
Garry R Austin
Austin’s Antiquarian Books
PO Box 730
Wilmington, VT 05363
802 464-8438
c2012 VABA