September 2013 Newsletter

For those not on our mailing list, here is a look at our latest newsletter. We’ve also embedded our latest new acquisitions list at the end of the post:


Another month has come and gone, and as always we have been busy booksellers. This past weekend we exhibited at the 41st Annual Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair. We had more dealers than usual this year, and enjoyed a record turnout of browsers and bibliophiles. Everyone seemed very pleased with the Main Street Armory, the new venue for this year’s event. Here is a photo taken by one of our colleagues of myself and my fiancee Kristine:

Booths were bustling with activity throughout the day as customers inquired about books on display, or asked questions about their own collections. We purchased a number of items ourselves, including a first American edition of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, a set of Shakespeare’s works in an attractive silk-lined publisher’s case, and a small collection of travel literature featuring decorative cover designs by A. & C. Black publishers.

Watch for these, and a number of interesting and scarce items acquired at the end of August, in next month’s newsletter. But first, have a look at what we have been working on for the last month:

New Acquisitions – Highlights

New Acquisitions – Complete

See a few things you like? Enter coupon code S10TWO013 during checkout, and when you buy three books you get another FREE! (Please make sure you have at least four books in your shopping cart, or the discount won’t work.)

Below is one of our favorites from this month’s acquisitions, a limited edition of Shakespeare’s complete works inspired by the famous Shakespeare Head Press edition printed in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon (commonly known as the Stratford Town Shakespeare).

The Works of William Shakespeare, in Ten Volumes – Shakespeare Head Press Limited Edition, #585 of 1000


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August Newsletter

I thought followers of this blog might enjoy seeing our monthly newsletter, so I have copied our August issue below in its entirety, and embedded a PDF of our most recent highlights catalog. Those interested in receiving our newsletter monthly, please visit our website at and complete the web form on the homepage.


Before I get to the usual fix for our loyal bibliophiles, I have some news to announce:

I have officially been accepted as one of the newest members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA). This is a respected trade organization which promotes professional and ethical bookselling, and sponsors several of the largest, most respected book fairs in the world. This is a big step in my career, and a bright spot in the history of Yesterday’s Muse Books. Big thanks go out to those who encouraged me to pursue membership, and to the other booksellers who were kind enough to give their time to be my sponsors during the application process.
And now to the rest of this month’s news:

The sidewalk sale we launched last month is going strong – thank you to everyone who has stopped out for great deals. For those who have not heard about the sidewalk sale – every Friday and Saturday through the middle of August, we will be offering bargain books outside our shop. All books are $1 each, or you can fill one of our bags for $8.

A big project we just began work on last month is the Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair, which I am co-organizing this year along with Franlee Frank from Greenwood Books. This year it will be held on Saturday, September 7th at the Main Street Armory. Check out the fair’s Facebook page for more details:

Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair

While you’re at it, drop by the store’s Facebook page to view our This Just In album – check it out regularly to find the latest deals.

Speaking of deals, in addition to the usual in-store coupon we include with our newsletters, here is a coupon for use this month on our website:

Enter coupon code A8TWO013 during checkout, and when you buy three books you get another FREE! (Please make sure you have at least four books in your shopping cart, or the discount won’t work.)

Here are links to our usual new acquisitions lists:

New Acquisitions – Highlights

New Acquisitions – Complete

This month we were lucky enough to acquire a signed first edition of Ayn Rand’s masterpiece Atlas Shrugged, as well as a sumptuously bound copy of Thomas A Kempis’s Of the Imitation of Christ. We also cataloged a few examples of early stock market material, a set of Theodore Roosevelt’s works, numerous books dealing with book arts and decorative arts, and a science fiction serial featuring the first appearance of Orson Scott Card’s Hugo Award winning Ender’s Game.


Below is the full highlights list:

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July 2013 Newsletter

At Yesterday’s Muse Books, we are in the habit of releasing a monthly newsletter detailing goings-on at the shop, and highlighting our most recent acquisitions. Below is our most recent newsletter:


This month’s newsletter comes a bit later – we wanted to make sure everyone had the time to relax and enjoy the July 4th holiday weekend.

This has been a great month for us. We revived our Musings blog, acquired some exceptional and important first editions, and launched our local weekend sidewalk sale.

For those who have not heard about the sidewalk sale – every Friday and Saturday through the middle of August, we will be offering bargain books outside our shop. All books are $1 each, or you can fill one of our bags for $8.

Our commitment to better book images has paid off by allowing us to better promote our stock on social media, our blog, and through catalogs. If you have yet to see our This Just In album on Facebook, check it out to find the latest deals.

For those interested in collecting, and purchasing books online in general, we have posted a number of helpful resources on our blog:

Condition Definitions

Identification of First Editions


Here are our usual new acquisitions lists, followed by a few samples to whet your whistles:

New Acquisitions – Highlights

New Acquisitions – Complete

This month we were lucky enough to acquire first editions of the two books shown below – the first the very first book published by the inimitable Dr. Seuss; the second is is a Pulitzer Prize winning play that inspired an award winning Broadway production. We also cataloged a nice collection of Rockwell Kent titles, and close to a dozen Philo Vance mysteries by S.S. Van Dine (mostly first editions). Have a closer look at the lists, as there is far too much to enumerate here…

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street First Edition

Death of a Salesman First Edition


Redoubled Efforts

After quite some time of not tending to my blog, I feel it’s time to give it another try. I realize now that, in previous incarnations of this blog, my attempts to post regularly were often hampered by excessive self-editing, a tendency to think that every entry needed to represent some significant contribution to the bookselling trade or the world. And while I’ll still try to make that the case whenever possible, I have come to understand that sometimes a quick post featuring a picture of one of the store’s resident cats, or a recreation of a slightly fragmented conversation between myself and an employee or customer, is not only acceptable, but a refreshing change.

With that in mind, I will dive into this again, with renewed resolve. Look for: the occasional book review; regular (but not religious) up-to-the-minute information on new arrivals; more extended commentary on highlights; informational articles about book buying, selling, trading, and collecting; reports on events in or around my shop, and throughout the trade in general; tidbits on literature, history, and local lore; and of course periodic musings in my previous style. Those who are familiar with our Facebook page know that we have a photo album called This Just In, which features photos of stacks of new inventory waiting to be shelved – I will be mirroring this here. I will also do my best to feature an interesting book from our stock in each post.

Watch for the occasional guest post by employees Robert Grenier and Neil Grayson, as well, though these will be infrequent enough to hide the fact that they are better writers than I. I’ll leave you with one of the cat photos I referenced earlier…

Ophelia, still a fan of her heated bed, even in summer.

Ophelia, still a fan of her heated bed, even in summer.


Jonathan Smalter, Bookseller
President, Yesterday’s Muse Books
Vice President, IOBA
Sellers of fine books in all categories, with specialties in:
Castles & Military Fortifications; Dystopian Literature
32 W Main St Ste 1
Webster, NY 14580


Published in: on June 26, 2013 at 12:23 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Why Bookselling?

I opened my bookstore two and a half years ago (December 2008), right smack in the middle of the ‘economic downturn’. Since then, I have had a number of customers ask me how I’m doing, some with concern, others as an accusation that I had made a huge mistake (some seem almost angry, which I have yet to understand). The concern is well-placed, as there are far fewer shops peppering the American landscape than in previous decades, and more close each month. I generally explain my reasoning behind opening the shop, and stress the fact that I sell online as well, and these business models support one another, each serves different clientele, etc., etc…

The recurrence of the question, though, has led me to some reflection on the topic, and it turns out that having a shop has very little to do with a desire to be successful, but a lot to do with the desire to be happy and fulfilled. I enjoy interacting with customers, determining their needs, and finding the right books to fill them. Sometimes I am unable to help, but I always stand a better chance of being useful if I am able to have a conversation face to face. And as it turns out, I have made some friends here. I have also learned what it means to be considered part of the community. I believe this is something young people often struggle with (I’m 29), and eventually figure out once they have started families.

Could I make more money traveling from estate sale to estate sale, auction to private collection, and doing away with the shop? Maybe. In fact, probably. Do I want to give up my shop because of that? Definitely not. Let me give an example of why:

Last week, a woman came in, in response to a call I made informing her we had an 1831 Bible. She is an American Civil War re-enactor, and is always looking for items to use in her reenactments (i.e., things that would have existed back then). The shop wasn’t busy, so I took the time to compile a list of what he had available in terms of pre-Civil War material — turns out we had quite a lot. I printed the list, and highlighted what I thought would be the most useful selections. I mentioned one in particular, a biography of a gentleman born into slavery in Virginia, who escaped, lived in a Quaker community in Canada for 40 years. The biography was printed in Rochester — my store is in Webster, a suburb of Rochester. Of course she decided she absolutely had to have this. In the end, she walked out with that, the Bible, and 7 Louisa May Alcott hardcovers — she plans to begin a personal collection of these. She was delighted, we had a great conversation about the 150th anniversary activities, and, quite frankly, the whole experience made my week.

Forgive a bit of a ramble there, but it goes to the point of this story, which is that this sort of interaction cannot be replicated digitally. Moreover, it is the sort of commerce I believe we have lost sight of in recent times, one which involved interpersonal relationships, trading and bartering, and a true sense that both parties were better off after the transaction. Sure, I am a merchant, and my customers are consumers, but what is more important than that to me is that we are all people. We are a community, and each of us have different skills, and the primary use of those skills, in my opinion, should be to better that community. This is not to say I don’t want to make money (Ayn Rand would get on my case!) — I also believe those who display the greatest ability in providing services to their community deserve the greatest rewards. But it is not all about how much money I make, or I might do it differently (see above).

This blog is my way of reaching out, in an attempt to develop the same sense of community with some of my fellow book-minded folks who may not live close enough that I can regularly enjoy their company. With luck, I will live a life surrounded by good friends who share my love of books, and happy customers to whom my reasons for opening a shop finally make sense.

Published in: on June 24, 2013 at 11:21 AM  Leave a Comment  
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My first blog

This is my first foray into the world of blogging. I decided to start this blog as a way to organize my thoughts, share who I am and what I do, and provide myself with something to do when I need a quick break from work or life in general.

Before I dive into all that, though, I suppose it would be helpful if I introduced myself. My name is Jonathan Smalter. I’m 27, and I live and work in Webster, New York, which is just outside of Rochester on Lake Ontario (about midway between Buffalo and the Thousand Islands). I grew up here, went to college here (Nazareth College of Rochester, majored in philosophy), and I currently run my own business here. It’s called Yesterday’s Muse Books. We sell used and new books, both online and in a new storefront that just opened up in December of last year. I know what you’re thinking — how is he making that work, given the current economy? Well, that will probably be a blog entry unto itself. For now, I will just give a rough outline of what led up to it.

Way back when I was 17 (I can’t believe how long ago that was now…), I got a job at a local bookstore. I had been working at the Chinese food department of our local grocery store, washing dishes. A step up, I would say — books don’t leave one smelling like grease and soy sauce. Well, I ended up loving it. Seeing all the interesting titles come in, seeing people excited to buy them, learning what sold and what didn’t, and why… it was all fascinating to me. I had always loved books, something for which I owe my grandmother great thanks. Stay tuned for a separate blog tribute to her, as well — she was an amazing woman, and unfortunately passed away in 2007.

Fast forward a few years — I’m attending college at Nazareth. Originally I studied communications, with an intent to pursue a career as an editor, or perhaps a journalist. The draw of the complex ideas of philosophy, though, pulled me in, largely due to the efforts of a particularly skilled professor. Again, a blog for another time. In any event, the more I studied philosophy, the more I discovered about myself, and the more I realized that occupying a rung on someone else’s ladder wasn’t for me. I needed to build one of my own. Luckily, my years at the bookstore had already prepared me to do what I believe I was made to do. What was better, my degree in philosophy shaped my view of life in such a way that I knew exactly how I wanted to do it — I didn’t want to just sell books, I wanted to share ideas, and inspire new ones. At the risk of sounding repetitive… a blog for another time.

So, I started selling books online, literally out of my closet. I bought books at garage sales, estate sales, ongoing library sales… anywhere I could find them cheap. I bought a few supplies. I kept everything in the closet of my apartment, a pretty crummy one that I shared with three friends who also attended Nazareth. I was so wrapped up with the work, though, that I barely noticed. Since then, I have slowly grown my inventory, slowly improved the quality of books I sell, and slowly honed the way I sold them. In December of 2008, after almost 7 years of selling online, I opened a store in my hometown, right on Main Street in the heart of the village.

The front entrance of our store, decorated for Christmas.

The front entrance of our store, decorated for Christmas.

It’s been a crazy ride so far, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Along the way there have been ups and downs to say the least, and you’ll likely be able to read about most of them. I can’t find the quotation at the moment, but I vaguely remember reading somewhere that a man can’t truly write his autobiography until he is dead… probably Mark Twain or someone with a similar flair for the absurdity of life. Writing this, though, I have to say that while there is truth to that, I have also realized that writing about one’s life can play a great role in how it is lived, and how much it is appreciated.

I hope this hasn’t been too long-winded for the blog format. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time. All the best until next time.

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