[ModLib] a question

robert watling jr. rewatlingjr at gmail.com
Thu Feb 21 12:36:09 EST 2013

Interestingly, my Modern Library collecting began with William James'  
Varieties of Religious Experience too. I belong to a group which counts  
that book among it's root sources and I'd never read it. I asked a friend  
to loan me a copy and the book he gave me was a battered Modern Library  
edition. He inscribed it for me so I know it was July, 1991. I read it  
through a couple of times and by the third reading I started to feel I was  
beginning to understand it. Later I recommended it to another friend who  
found a Modern Library copy with dust jacket. I liked the jacket so much I  
had to find one of my own and that was the start of it. Now I have about  
three hundred volumes in my collection. Not many by the standards of this  
group but I'm impressed. Most of mine are Blumenthals but I recently have  
added about fifty pre-Blumenthals including one with a jacket. I got  
thirty four of those in one purchase. I have two signed Modern Library  
copies, Christopher Morley's Parnassus On Wheels and the Illustrated  
Confucius signed by the illustrator, Jeanyee Wong. So that's my story. I  
pick up any I find foraging around but try to focus on things I really  
want when searching on ebay. I can always find a few at Powell's and also  
the County Library bood sale. I have lots of other books but the Modern  
Library books are my passion. Thanks for the question and expecially to  
Scott for your reply. For me James was a good place to start...Robert  
Watling Jr.

On Thu, 21 Feb 2013 09:06:15 -0800, Scot Kamins <kamins at modernlib.com>  

> On Feb 21, 2013, at 7:02 AM, Bryan Tinkle wrote:
>> So a follow up question what was your first ML book that got you  
>> started?
> I love telling this story, so thanks for the opportunity. I have this on  
> the website already, but here it is again. WARNING: Much Text Ahead!
> One day in late November of 1993 I walked into a bookshop on San  
> Francisco's Castro Street looking for a copy of William James' Varieties  
> of Religious Experience. The proprietor, a scholarly looking middle-aged  
> man, told me in a British accent that he had a copy in the Modern  
> Library edition.
> "Modern Library? What's that?" I asked skeptically, expecting him to  
> steer me to some absurdly expensive leather-bound tome, when a Penguin  
> paperback would do me nicely. I had just rejected a new copy I found in  
> the Crown Books chain a few doors down that would have set me back  
> $13.95—for a bloody PAPERBACK, for Gawd's sake, plus San Francisco's  
> ruinous 8.5% sales tax. I'd be damned if I'd pay even more in a USED  
> bookstore. (Up to this time I had rejected the concept of buying used  
> books, not wanting who-knows-whose eyetracks cootieing up my books. But  
> I just wanted the James for a quick-and-dirty research project, and  
> $13.95 for a PAPERBACK, well, that just was over the top!)
> He pointed to a wall opposite his checkout desk. "About the middle of  
> the wall," he qualified," next to his brother," indicating the  
> neighboring six titles by Henry James. He went back to his paperwork.
> The wall was his Modern Library section. It held several hundred copies  
> of books 6 1/2 to 8" tall, most with some variation of a running  
> torchbearer on their spines. There was something familiar about these  
> things, something nostalgic and friendly and strangely attractive.
> I took down the James. About seven inches tall and five wide, it fit  
> comfortably in my hands. "This is a nice book," I thought as I    leafed  
> through it, noticing the readable type and -- well -- the substantial  
> nature of the thing. It felt like it could last a while -- not something  
> I usually notice or care about.
> The price printed on the front flap was $1.65, but written in light  
> pencil on the half-title page was $7.95. "Hrumph," I muttered. "Quite a  
> markup, and it's used at that. Damned booksellers. Worse than coin  
> dealers. It's cheaper than that ripoff paperback, though."
> I started to bring the James to the counter when it struck me. These  
> books that were so familiar -- I remembered them from school! I turned  
> back to look at the shelves and was struck by the variety. Novels, short  
> stories, poetry, drama, biography, philosophy, history, politics,  
> essays, art, music, sociology, psychology, religion, and more--nearly  
> the entire gamut of human knowledge.
> I turned the James over and read the legend "The Best of the World's  
> Best Books". These were the books I used to buy in prep school and  
> college because they were so cheap. Hard back books at paperback prices.
> I handed the book to the proprietor. "These are becoming quite  
> collectable, you know." No, I didn't know, I said, but I could see how  
> collecting them would make a nice hobby. "I think so," he said, smiling  
> for the first time. "I've written a little book about them," and pointed  
> down to the small pile of privately printed paperbacks in front of the  
> cash register. "The Modern Library Price Guide By Henry Toledano" graced  
> the cover.
> I bought the James but passed on the Guide. A week later I bought the  
> guide and spent an additional $75 in Henry Toledano's store on nine more  
> Modern Library books. I was hooked for sure.
> Scot Kamins
> ......................
> It's all sandcastles ...
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"Sometimes, life is very simple,
but it is we two-leggeds, we who
are thought to be smart that make
it complicated." 	

--Larry P. Aitkin, CHIPPEWA

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