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Books End Bookshop

“What a great name for a book store.”

That was my thought the first time I visited this Eastwood icon. Because while it’s a fun play on “book ends,” it’s also an obvious thought provoker: does a good book ever “end?” Sure, some books do get worn out, spine-cracked, dog-eared, and even moth-eaten. bi-fi But a good book, once read, lives on forever, in your memory. And an even better book is a treasure you discover while combing through stacks of used books.

Books End owner, Jim Roberts came upon his life’s work by happenstance. Almost like – a book! Roughly 30 years ago, his wife made a career move that brought the couple to Syracuse. While strolling James Street in Eastwood, they passed by a used book store with the proverbial “Help Wanted” sign in the window. Jim decided to apply.

A month later, he was hooked. So when the store’s owner, about a year later (1987), suddenly got word that the child she was seeking to adopt was ready, she sold the business to Jim, and it’s been his ever since. (That part reminds me of Dickens…)

The business model is deceptively simple: buy and sell used books. He also offers postcards, some sheet music, the occasional DVD or book-on-tape. But for the most part it’s 2 parts once-read, deeply discounted paperbacks and hardcovers, one and a half parts hardcover collectibles or out of print books, and one-half part rare, even antique books meant only for connoisseurs of fine and precious treasures.

His oldest book? He’s had one from the 1500s.

bi-3Most unusual or rare? Probably a Mark Twain first edition of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” (Which I read.) What made this book special, Roberts explains, is that some editions had the frog in the illustration jumping in a way different from the majority of the prints. Finding one of those – and recognizing it when you see it – is the art of the book dealer.

In fact, Roberts explains that the only way he can describe his craft is that it’s one of those “you’ll know it when you see it” arts. You learn from experience, pouring over catalogues, going to estate sales, reading (!) about writers, book runs, rare prints and unusual items.

Of course, given our area, he’s not likely to turn up an undiscovered Shakespeare folio, or a first edition of Bronte. He has handled a first edition of Butler’s “Book of the Saints,” and another book with Theodore Roosevelt’s signature inscribed in it.

But just because a book is old, he explains, it doesn’t necessarily have any value – unless, like me, you simply love to hold an old book, enjoy the scent of the paper and ink, examine the antique typefaces, and ponder who might have held it before. There were many books printed over the years, he tells me, that had meaning in their day – a collection of sermons by a then-popular minister, for example – that have ceased to mean anything to the modern reader. His job, his vocation, is to know the difference, and to be able to place the right value on both the purchase and resale of any book.

I asked many other questions about how books were valued: was a complete collection more valuable than a few books in a series? (Not necessarily.) Did an inscription harm or increase the value of a book? (That depends on both the inscription and the buyer.)
In other words, if you have books to sell, or would like to obtain something special for your collection: stop in the store. Jim Roberts, with his years of dedication and experience, is there to help.

Books End is open Monday – Saturday from 10AM – 6PM, and Sunday from 11:30AM – 5PM. If you do stop by I’ll be the one hunting for hard-to-find Nancy Drew Mysteries to complete my collection!bi-2

Nancy Roberts
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Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.