This week I stopped by one of my favorite bookstores, Skyline Books. Skyline Books is a cozy little used bookstore near Union Square that’s packed with good books at good prices.
One reason I love used bookstores is that they don’t have everything. It’s always fun to go in and see what you can find, what they have that day. It’s satisfying to come out with the only copy there of a book by one of your favorite authors, that you got for 1/3 of the original price.
While browsing the fiction, I noticed they had a lot of old modern library editions of many classic authors – everything from Faulkner to Austen to Voltaire. When I took them down to look at them closer, I saw that they all had a bookplate inside, and had all belonged to someone named “Allen V. Miller.” “Allen Miller” in some books, others used the middle initial. Some were handwritten, some were typed. Some had his entire Brooklyn address included. He had several different bookplates, one version was actually the Bookworm print that I just bought myself.
Well, I don’t know exactly why Allen V. Miller’s books were sold to Skyline Books. My guess is that he died, or maybe had to be taken to a nursing home and his family had to condense his belongings. Or maybe he’s still alive and well and just needed money (wouldn’t be shocking in this economy). Or any number of other reasons – he may have just gotten sick of them and not wanted them anymore.
However, I sort of doubt that he didn’t want his books anymore. He had a wonderful collection, and they were in good condition but were obviously read and loved. And he put bookplates in them! Super cute.
Regardless of the reason why his books were there, it made me both happy and sad. Happy that Allen Miller existed, and that he loved books. Happy that he put bookplates in them. Happy that I could be standing there looking at them. Happy they’ll get passed along to other readers who will enjoy them. Sad that they were no long with him, for whatever reason. I am a giant nerd.
I was incapable of leaving without one of his books. It took me a while to decide which one I wanted, but I finally decided on The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It didn’t have my favorite bookplate in it (the Bookworm one was in an F. Scott Fitzgerald book, and I already owned that exact edition), but that’s ok. It actually had the silliest bookplate – a cute little nature scene with raccoons. I love it though, and I was really happy I could own a part of his collection. At least one book from his collection now has a new home.
Here’s to you, Allen Miller.
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