As you know, there are good and not so good days ‘working’ at the Oxfam bookshop in Petersfield – and today was a good day.
I am going to save the best bits to last, so you are welcome to skip.
Volunteers are always a scarce resource but we have a few, valuable, new ones and they are making such a difference.
They make my life a whole lot easier because they do things I mean to do but just haven’t time and, of course, the more volunteers, the less the chance we have to shut the shop when someone goes on holiday, or is ill, or has a better offer for an afternoon.
Today one volunteer did a sterling job of putting in date order the five crates books of the Institute of Naval Architects from 1940 to 2004 and logging the missing volumes so I can list them on the internet. (Should you be interested, £200 and buyer collects.)
Another volunteer said she liked sorting things out so I asked her to sort out the jumble upstairs on two shelves of travel books, natural history books and transport books – Steam Railways Past and Present should not be in natural history…..
After that I walked her round the shop and explained what was what on each shelf.
Now, dear reader, you might think that the shelves would be like a supermarket – here is history/baking goods, here is academic/canned vegetables, here is crafts/cheese, but it is rarely that simple.
We have no control over what is donated and we cannot have empty shelves so we are always juggling shelf-fillers and categories.
(Who’d have thought we needed to fill two shelves with books on mathematics and maths puzzles – but that is what we did when the Christmas goods were over and removed.)
I was worried that she would be overwhelmed and put off but at the end of her afternoon, she said, ‘I feel as if I have only been here 5 minutes and it has been hours, and there is so much left to do, this is great.’
That’s what I like to hear – someone who has found what they like doing in the complex business of running a bookshop and is planning on putting more money on their car parking ticket next week so she has longer to sort things out.
So, now to the bits that added a good feeling to the day.
Readers with a good memory will recall that some time ago at the bottom of a box of rubbish books, I found a book called The Square Book of Animals – a children’s book with lovely illustrations and which sold on the internet for £450.
Well guess what, at the bottom of another box of books a few days ago, I found something called The Rabbit Book by Charles Pettafor, and again I thought this might be worth something.
(Children’s books of some age that are not wrecked, scrawled on, and in one piece are often worth a bit – just because they have survived relatively intact.)
I looked it up on Bookfinder and Abebooks but couldn’t find any for sale. I looked it up on Google and found it mentioned, but non for sale.
Now that makes it rare.
So I called our excellent book specialist and said I had a tasty treat for him – I don’t ask him to come in all the time, just when I have something(s) I can’t price.
Usually, he can find its price and, usually, I am disappointed, but I am learning from his tuition and this time I thought it was a good find.
He came in and we looked at it. ‘It is pre Beatrix Potter,’ he said, ‘It is about a rabbit and look at the illustrations. Could he have influenced her? Could this rabbit have sparked her?’
Not according to Google – he was not listed as an influence in her.
But still, we had a book that people were looking for. We had a book which we thought had a small print run. We had a book which was a children’s book from about or pre 1900 in great condition with lovely illustrations.
We decided to put it on the internet for £500. I will let you know if it sells for that.
Some time ago I found a small glass vase and I mean very small, on the shelf out the back and it was very light.
I happened to be meeting that very same book specialist and he is also an archeologist and a trustee of the local museum and so I asked him whether it might be old.
(I love the idea of old glass – how can it have survived? How lovely that it was blown by hand as it were…)
Last time I rang him, I asked whether it had got information on whether indeed it was indeed old and he said – he couldn’t find it.
‘What,’ I cried, “ I wanted to buy that!’
‘OK, I will bring you another Roman glass vase instead’ he said.
And he did – how amazing is that….?
I can’t tell you how delighted I am with this.
It turns out that the local museum has the original and if that turns out to be real rather than a good fake, I will buy that too.
A good day or what?