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Monday, December 31, 2012

Lucky 2013

Another year, another Pistil Books Collage Calendar!  This year's calendar is hot off the presses and features artwork by Amy, Sean, and Nathan, made from old books and ephemera.  The artwork reflects its sources, of course, and we had a lot of old art auction catalogs, as well as broken discarded library books and other books that have been damaged in some way.  Sean favors a 1950's male nudist book called Mountain Men that had pages removed by its previous owner, no doubt for pin-up purposes.  Nathan mentioned that he hopes there won't be too much nudity for his mom...
Our calendars also have literary birthdays, holidays, and moon phases, with plenty of room for penciling in important appointments.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cool Cultural Artifacts

I've been taking a lot of book photos lately, using the keen photography setup Sean constructed for me over what doubles as our packing table.   Here I can use the specially designed tripod that swings out from the wall to take horizontal photos of books laying flat on a table.  I've been impressed by how cool vintage book covers look when photographed.  I use the term "vintage" pretty loosely - the books shown are from the seventies and eighties and reflect the aesthetics of their time.   


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vintage Holiday Books

We have some very cool vintage holiday sheet music and books for sale.  I love the bright colors, especially the blue in this book:
This one has bright, full page colorful illustrations by Swedish-American illustrator Gustaf Tenggren, known for his Arthur Rackham influenced fairy-tale style.  With simplified piano arrangements by Inez Bertail.  44 pages.  Some of the songs included:  Silent Night; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing.

Some more holiday items can be found here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Beautiful Old Bindings

Here are some examples of beautiful old bindings published in the late 1800's, most by the

 Faded, but silvery.

The Pathway of Promise:  Words of Comfort to the Christian Pilgrim

 Stories of the deeds of valor of the heroic children of France:
"To suffer for their beloved France, to die for her, has been a sacred privilege to these youthful patriots, rather than a thing to be shunned and abhored."  The boy on the cover is about to be dropped from a balloon onto the battlefield...
Lovely bookplate inside the Little Soldiers of France.

Samson is buff!

This one has a passion flower and lily design.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Recycled Blank Journals

Kam, Troy, and I  have been busy making blank books and journals out of old library books and school books.    The first step in the process is to take apart the old book, using an exacto knife to carefully remove the text block, then comes cutting blank pages of the same size and thickness.  The fun part is choosing pages from the deconstructed book to leave interspersed amongst the blank pages - these are often illustrations, or pages with cool ex-library marks like a perforated name stamp.

A stack of books with their new blank text blocks.
After the paper has been cut, Troy glues the blank pages together (perfect binding) using a metal brush to rough up the paper fibers before applying PVA bookbinding adhesive.  He also drills holes along the edge of the binding and sews the text block for added strength, adding decorative headbands and ribbon bookmark
Here's Troy with his headbands and ribbons.  

Finally, Kam and I glue the newly formed blank text blocks back inside the old bindings.
Kam gluing the book back together.

You can see our finished results on our Etsy page, as well as on our own website.

Here's a journal made from a 1938 gardening book.

Ever thought of writing your diary in shorthand?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar

I attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS), a week-long intensive course on all aspects of bookselling, last month thanks to a scholarship from the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America).  The course was held at Colorado College and was taught by a faculty of ten people (but only one woman), including several rare book dealers, a couple of special collections librarians, an internet bookseller, and  Terry Belanger, University Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia, who started Rare Book School. The faculty were very generous with their time and knowledge, happy to answer questions, and even spent the lunch hour each day continuing the discussions begun in the classroom.  They were paid an honorarium of $500 to teach for the week, which was jam-packed with information ranging from the technical (websites, databases, photography), to the somewhat academic (how to collate a book from the hand press era -- well, that was academic to me, because that's not the kind of book I have handled), to personal stories of how each faculty member found their way into the world of books.  The experience of spending a week with around forty other booksellers was fun and worthwhile.

I have to say I was initially wary of the word "antiquarian," as the books we sell at Pistil are not rare, though we do have some hard-to-find titles.  "Antiquarian" doesn't necessarily mean books that are particularly old, rather it refers to books that are collected as objects, rather than books to, say, read.  Antiquarian booksellers sell to collectors rather than mere readers; for instance, they might sell modern first editions that are valued for their pristine condition and/or provenance.

One of the faculty members, David Prendergast, of  Stick Figure Books, actually has an online bookselling business, whereas the other bookseller faculty only make 10 to 20 percent of their sales through the internet.  David Prendergast himself referred to his business as "commodity bookselling," which made me think of widgets.  I personally think that books have the most inherent value when they are read and used.

Two points emphasized many times during the seminar were the importance of specialization, finding a specialty and learning about the books in that field; and "active" as opposed to "passive" bookselling:  for example, cultivating customers and selling to them via book fairs and print catalogs, rather than only listing passively on the internet.   We carry a general stock at Pistil, but we do have areas of emphasis that are largely a result of our physical location here in the lovely state of Washington:  Northwest regional history, Native Americans, natural history, do-it-yourself.

Inspired by my CABS learning, I created a list of 50 books on the theme of "The Birds and the Bees," some books on nature and human nature, and today posted the list to the Ex-libris listserv, which is used by librarians and booksellers.  I was hesitant to post there at first, after watching the list (okay, lurking)  for a few weeks and seeing antiquarian booksellers post their lists of books in the hundreds to thousands of dollars price range, but screwed up my courage and did it.  As a result,  I received one order from my list this afternoon, for a $35 zine, and one inquiry from a blogger asking if she could link some of my images on her blog:  Awesome Archives.

Friday, August 31, 2012

My Job at Pistil Books by Kam M

Kamposer at work.

My job consists of cataloging and pricing sheet music. My favorite part of this job is being surrounded by shelves of interesting books and people.  Oh, and the beverage service. I have a classical music background, so if a piece says TTBB, I know what that means and can price accordingly.  For this I went to grad school.

I am paid in gastronomic currency as well as cash money and book credit.  Amy and Sean are what you would describe as laid-back bosses.  On-time is a relative concept.

Currently I am reading Thomas Kinkade (really), RL Stevenson, Zane Grey, Unamuno, Stephen King, Mona Simpson, Galsworthy, and Goethe.  The good stuff balances the garbage.

So far “The Adventures of the Prancing Piano” is a stand-out among the books I have seen at Pistil, and I’ve seen a lot.

Lunch break at Pistil Books.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pistil Outdoor Book Sale 2012

Pistil Books had our annual outdoor book sale yesterday, offering close to a thousand books culled from our shelves (making room for more!) for one and two dollars.  I spent the past week, along with Kam, our newest staff person, pulling books for the sale.  The selection was pretty good, about two-thirds non-fiction of all sorts to one-third fiction; lots of great books that are just "too common" on the internet market.

Our first customer of the day was Jon Strongbow, a longtime Pistil customer and friend who brought us the gift of a signed copy of The Ocean of Time, his beautiful dreamlike publication featuring realistic (and surrealistic) drawings of Seattle locales.

Lots of friends came by to hang out, catch up, and drink lemonade and beer.  One group largely made up of current and former Pistil staff discussed mushroom hunting while another group of motorcyclists caused my eyes to glaze over with their bike talk.
"The mushroom was this big!"

A young man dressed all in black, a vegan, was happy to purchase a copy of the classic eighties book Knitting Wildlife.  He thought he could get his sister to knit him a sweater from the patterns in the book, perhaps the "Extinction is Forever" cardigan.


Sean and I enjoyed looking through the titles people had chosen as they brought up their stacks of books to purchase.  As one woman handed me her pile of three books, she asked, "Do you have to look at them?" rather irritatedly.  She had Sexual Perversity in Chicago sandwiched in the middle of her small pile, upside down.
A customer's stack.    

Kneeling in the stacks.

Tim proudly wears his Pistil T-shirt.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

True Anatomy

From our Etsy shop:

True Anatomy - A Visual Chart of the Actual Workings of the Human Mind

True Anatomy - A Visual Chart of the Actual Workings of the Human Mind
True Anatomy - A Visual Chart of the Actual Workings of the Human Mind True Anatomy - A Visual Chart of the Actual Workings of the Human Mind True Anatomy - A Visual Chart of the Actual Workings of the Human Mind True Anatomy - A Visual Chart of the Actual Workings of the Human Mind True Anatomy - A Visual Chart of the Actual Workings of the Human Mind
A colorful 5 1/2"w x 8 1/2"h multi-layered chart of of the true workings of the mysterious human mind. See into the subconscious where speed boats, roasted turkeys, light bulbs, hammers, death cap mushrooms, toads, tractors, and small squirrels influence your dreams and actions. The human psyche revealed in this surreal collage made from cutting up books!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pistil on Etsy

After a hiatus of several years, we have again started selling some items on, the selling site for crafts and vintage items.  Here we are selling our recycled journals made from old library books, vintage children's books, and collage cards which feature collage art made by Sean and I the old fashioned way - scissors, Exacto knife, glue stick and.... cutting up old books.  The cards are a mere $3.

I must say I like the way the Etsy storefront shows the thumbnail photos of our books and cards - quite the colorful array.  In the future we will be adding more cards - including block printed cards, and possibly some original collage artwork and assemblages.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


This weekend I went to an estate sale with my friend Tim.  We were planning to go garage saleing, but this being Juneuary in Seattle, it was too rainy for outdoor sales.  Sometimes sales advertised as "estate sales" are really just misnamed yard sales with small piles of crap, the sellers not realizing they have to be dead to really qualify for the more esteemed term.  This small modest house in the Queen Anne neighborhood was the real thing.  There's something a little creepy and sad about estate sales:  the literal contents of a person's life-- drawers, closets, shelves laid out for strangers to rummage through and worth only pennies. Since the estate sale was held now, in 2012, you know the person was alive fairly recently, but often their possessions seemed to have stopped changing after a certain date, in this case 1978.  So much bright polyester.   I went straight to the bookshelves, which were pretty much filled with junk, but interesting junk, nevertheless.  For instance, a pamphlet published by Reader's Digest about "Joe's Man Gland."  Lots of beat up religious titles, nonfiction pocket books from the sixties, a cool children's ex-library book from the fifties on America's Heritage from the Ancient World, that I actually bought.  The books' owner was one of those people who leave lots of little scraps inside their books:  coupons, lists, notes, a paper butterfly.

The best find, though, was the Official Program:  Treasures of Tutankhamun which was exhibited at the Seattle Center in 1978 - and which is once again exhibiting in Seattle (and there's a really cool giant Anubis statue outside the downtown train station).  I remember King Tut mania from around that time period.  My fifth grade classroom had a decorated plywood box the kids were supposed to crawl around inside with a flashlight (like archaeologists!), answering questions the teacher had stuck to the inside walls with thumbtacks.  And who could forget:

King Tut (King Tut)
Now when he was a young man,
He never thought he'd see
People stand in line to see the boy king.
(King Tut) How'd you get so funky?
(Funky Tut) Did you do the monkey?
Born in Arizona,
Moved to Babylonia (king Tut)....

This program was published by The Weekly, a Seattle tabloid that still exists.  Besides the official program information, it's filled with ads for local businesses with Tut-themed graphics and copy.

 This publication is an example of what is known in the bookselling world as "ephemera":  "From the Greek work ephemeron, meaning something that disappears quickly. Examples are: manifestos, broadsides, programs, menus, tickets, playbills, etc." (Abebooks' Glossary)


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sustainable Capitol Hill

I've been a fan of  Sustainable Capitol Hill since it started a few years ago, but I haven't participated in very many of their activities, mainly because I just don't like going to meetings...  Recently, however, Sustainable Capitol Hill has started a book group and it's a lot of fun.  The group met for the first time last month at Bluebird creamery (a meeting with ice cream and beer!) and threw around ideas for books to read on the theme of sustainability.  We decided to read What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth by Wendell Berry which we discussed at the June meeting, and we are currently reading Seattle and the Roots of Urban Sustainability by Jeffrey Sanders for the next meeting.

The book group meets the first Thursday of every month, 6 to 8 pm, at Bluebird, 1205 E. Pike Street.

Here are the other books on our prospective reading list so far:

Berry, Wendell
Bringing it to the Table

Bryson, Bill
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Capra, Fritjof
The Hidden Connections: Integrating The Biological, Cognitive, And Social Dimensions Of Life Into A Science Of Sustainability

Carson, Rachel
Silent Spring

Diamond, Jared
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Edward Abbey
Desert Solitaire

Eisenstein, Charles
Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition

Fukuoka, Masanobu
One Straw Revolution

Hawken, Paul
The Ecology of Commerce

Jensen, Derrick
The Culture of Make Believe

Klein, Naomi
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Lappe, Frances Moore
Diet for a Small Planet

Schumacher, E.F.
Small is Beautiful   T

Monday, May 28, 2012

You Can Be Healed

I found this nondescript little black book at a thrift store: You Can Be Healed by Clara Palmer, published by Unity School of Christianity, Lee's Summit, MO, 1950.  This is a book about the body and its functions written from the point of view that the body and everything it does is pretty miraculous, with some very reasonable and common sense advice on healthy living, including promoting vegetarianism.
For example, about "Your Intelligent Liver," the author tells us:  "There is no laboratory in the world where a greater or more painstaking work is done than that which is carried on within your liver. It is helpful for you to know something of the functions of your body in order that you may work intelligently with them instead of thoughtlessly working against them.  Have you ever joyously thought of your liver in terms of appreciation for the good work that it does for you?  It is a tireless worker.  It is constantly abstracting certain materials from the blood and converting them into new substance that can be appropriated by the body for its upbuilding or eliminated from it when its purpose has been accomplished."

What interests me most about this book, however, is not the book itself, but the notation left behind by a previous owner:

"Tonsillitis:  To heal tonisilitis I use the testicles of a rabbit and the (sometimes) inside of a perches mouth.  (Sometimes the grayling chicken is very helpful in these cases.)  (Also in cases where a new life has no testicles) from having had tonsils removed before death.)  The penises of men that I have used instead of my size they are larger is a fish (not a tarpon are the larger sword fish as these are what is found in the caskets or on the horses) but this smaller sword fish I use for sizing men's penis is a replica of the ram's penis which normal size for now the use of extremely large fish has caused many monstrous abnormalities such as I have seen in Ronnie Fields, etc."