Friday, January 02, 2004

I've got a free evening here, so I'll tell you an exciting story from the world of used book dealing and then I'll post a film review.
So, the library of a man who was the son of a man named Fredrick Samuels recently fell into my hands. Fredrick's father was Captain Samuel Samuels. To most of us that's a funny name, but to students of nautical history Samuel Samuels was the captain of The Dreadnought, one of the great clipper ships of the 1800s.
The first thing I pulled from F.S.'s library was a book by Samuel Samuels because it looked old and the binding was slowly being warped by a large stack of papers that were stuffed into the front of the book. The book is From the Forecastle to the Cabin by Samuel Samuels published in 1887. The papers include lyrics to a song written by Capt. Samuels about The Dreadnought (sorry to say no music though,) a program for a "women's liberation play" from 1920 by "Mrs. Frederick Samuels" (which made me smile too,) an old postcard of what appears to be the ship called Granada, several pages of notes from a speech on somebody's life (I assume Capt. Samuels) which includes notes like "Big Ben Marshal of Salt Lake killing man along side of me in hotel doorway" and "Order of Enoch" (and the masonic references snowball from here), an old, beautiful photograph of Capt. Samuels in his captain hat, a letter from Samuels to his grandson that includes a description of his "new Chinaman" of whom he says "knows English and I can understand him, not a very good cook," an instruction manual for merchant marines penned by F.S, a sadly mutilated pamphlet by F.S titled "International Boycott as a Solution of the World Peace Problem," a photo of a painting of The Dreadnought by F.S, and Capt. Samuels' obituary from 1930.
Many other books in the library from that period are signed by the authors to various people in the Samuels clan. The most recent owner of the library had an Irving Stone inscribed to him, which impressed me. So this afternoon I'm putting these books online and I pull out another one.
This was a book called The Man John D. Spreckels by Austin Adams. I research prices and copies are scarce, but I figure I'll put it up for sale at around $40 or so. On the title page I find, written in pencil, "See page 137." On page 137 I find a hash mark next to a paragraph that lists Mr. Spreckels friends and associates. In the list is Frederick Samuels. Neat.
So I get out and do some research to find out who Mr. Spreckels was. What I learned is that Mr. Spreckels was a very very rich man who basically made the city of San Diego, much like and at around the same time Anton Sutro made San Francisco. Spreckels made the railroads, pumped millions into the city, and owned a fleet (aha! Ships!) He died in 1926. In San Diego today there's a John D. Spreckels Theater, a Spreckels interchange, a bunch of other Spreckels namesakes scattered liberally around the city.
Oh, and the John D. Spreckels Masonic Lodge.
Having satiated my infolust, I went to put the book online. Remembering the papers in the other book, I flipped through the Spreckels book and something caught my eye. In a strange place, upside down on the back page, was an inscription. It reads, "To my loyal and trusted employee F.S. Samuels with the compliments of John D. Spreckels."
In gorgeous handwriting. The book was published in 1924, two years before Spreckels died.
So now I don't know what to do. I'm sitting next to a stack of papers, a book from 1887, and a book from 1924. The whole stack next to me is composed of more than books and papers. They comprise pieces of history (if it's one large one or two separate pieces I'm not sure.) They're historical documents. I may well have one of a dozen or so books signed by John D. Spreckels, an influencial man who built a city. Pricing could be mearly pleasing to astronomical. And it's one of those things that I'd almost like to be able to choose who I sell it to.
Makes me feel kind of small but also kind of equalized with the great men of history. Here they end up on my shelves.
I'm going to endeavor to find out more about all the people I've mentioned here and I'll keep you all posted. I'll try and refrain from making it sound obsessive, but my passion, I'm told, is difficult to curb.

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