Sign In | Register

An interview with TristanBooks

Biblio checks in with TristanBooks to learn more about their book business, collecting interests and more! To view and shop their inventory, click here.


When did you get started in bookselling?

Just to be clear, I'm a book collector who does some part-time selling. I began collecting Fantasy, Horror and some Science Fiction hardcover first editions circa 1990 because I didn't care to read the paperback versions. At first I didn't know anything about first editions, first printings or signed copies. I also found I disliked the book club editions. Eventually I taught myself where to find great hardcover editions of books and signed copies. I became enamored with many of the UK editions because often their cover art was superior to US editions, particularly with Stephen King and Clive Barker books published in the 1980's to 1990's. Often I acquired books which later I didn't really care for, many of which were small press and limited editions, so I began selling some of my collection circa 2000 on eBay.


What drew you to bookselling?

Mainly I had too many books, some of which were no longer of interest. I asked several dealers to buy my collection but was turned down flat even before they had heard what titles and editions I owned. When I began posting on eBay in the early 2000's, many of my items sold very quickly and often for more money than I had paid for them. I probably would have received only about 20 to 25% of the money I received from my eBay sales if I had sold my collection wholesale to a bookseller.


Did you have any mentors in becoming a bookseller?

Not specifically, although some booksellers mentored me as a collector. Most of what I know I taught myself. A couple of things I have learned over the years which I try to share with new collectors. Don't collect for monetary value, collect for love. Collectible book prices go up and they go down. If you a buy a book believing it's a "good investment", you may be disappointed if the market decides it's not as desirable. I collected editions which attracted me, which were not always the "first editions". Collect what pleases you for yourself, not what the marketplace thinks are "sure" investments as few are.


What are your specialties as a dealer?

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror first and UK editions and limited editions, small press and signed-limited editions, and some antiquarian books printed circa 1540 to 1900. I collect early-printed books, circa 1500 to 1760, and I do have a few of these kinds of books for sale.


What's the most amazing book you've ever sold?

A Geneva Bible printed in 1569 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Geneva Bible is an English Bible translated by English scholars in the 1550's who feared they would invoke the wrath of Queen Mary I. (It's not a German or French Bible even though it was created in Geneva.) The very first editions of the Geneva Bible were printed in Switzerland and are extraordinarily scarce. The copy I had sold within 24 hours of posting, and even with some facsimile pages, including the main title page, it sold for $5000.


What is your favorite part of being a bookseller?

Allowing people to have some amazing material for prices which are quite reasonable. My prices are generally lower than a lot of other booksellers. I use the money to buy items I desire.


Do you have an open storefront or have you in the past?

No, I only sell online


If so, do/did you have any bookstore pets?

N/A


What is the funniest / strangest / scariest thing that ever happened in your store?

Since I don't have a shop, I can't say anything about what happened there. I did once have an interesting buyer complaint. He received a book he had bought from me online in perfect condition, that wasn't the problem. He was upset that some of the bubble-wrap bubbles had popped! I always use bubble-wrap to wrap my books, again I come at it from a collector's pov, and I guess he wanted to reuse my bubble-wrap, but couldn't because too many had popped! I guess some people just have very high expectations...


What is your favorite bookshop (other than your own)?

In the SF Bay Area, I like Argonaut Book Shop, John Windle, bookseller, Brick Row Bookshop, and Moe's Books in Berkeley.


What do you personally like to read? Collect?

Today I collect early-printed books, printed circa 1500-1750, although I still buy the occasional fantasy book, sometimes a limited edition. I still read and collect Jack Vance, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. I like some of the early Arkham House imprints. I am reading more early literature, such as by Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Dante, etc. I also read newer books on Medieval and Renaissance history and culture.


What's your favorite book you personally own? Would you sell it, if the price were right?

I have two. I own a 1612-13 King James Bible, one of the first editions in the small quarto size which I had a bookbinder recently rebound, and a 1611-17 mixed state of the works of Edmund Spenser, also rebound relatively recently. Both of these books I found dis-bound for relatively little cost. Because I feel strongly these were brought into my physical reality via the Universe, God, or the Book Gods (your choice of deity), I am not enthusiastic about selling them. I ended up investing about 20% of their current market value but I have no intention of selling them.


What one book would you buy if price were no object?

A Shakespeare Second Folio of 1632.


If you were stranded on a desert island and could bring three books, what would they be?

Spenser's Works including the Faerie Queene, Complete Works of Shakespeare, and Jack Vance's Dying Earth. If I could add a few more, I would add my King James Bible, and the Harry Potter books in the British editions written in the original British English, not the Americanized versions.