This post will be a little different. My standard procedure with VAIW has been to become enchanted with a photo of earlier Vancouver, see if there is anything new to say about the image and/or the image-maker, do as much research as I can on it, and then write up my findings here, assuming there is anything to tell.
This time, I’m going to begin with a book that enchanted me. But I’m not going to wait until the end of the process to write up my findings, Instead, I’ll take the slightly riskier approach of presenting my findings as I find them, in the form of a log.
Wednesday, July 5
Whereby I am Enchanted
At the end of a morning of photo-making downtown with my photo pal, I stopped in at The Paper Hound bookshop – something I do at least once a week. I was rooting around the stacks, looking for something I hadn’t before seen. Something that might inspire a post for VAIW, or simply renew my enthusiasm for reading and learning new things.
I wandered down to a section that I’d never looked in before. It was provocatively named “Oddballs, Eccentrics, and Singularities”, if memory serves. Something like that, anyway.
I didn’t see much in the single-shelf section that was of interest to me. I had pawed through most of the volumes and was about ready to move on to another section. But before I did, I pulled out a pale brown volume. From the spine, I could see that the book was called The Book of Roberts. Author: Roberts. Nothing more, except for a little ornament indicating the publisher was Ryerson Press.
“Hmm,” I said to myself, “Probably just a variation on Roberts’ Rules of Order that somebody’s misfiled.”
But I opened it up, anyway, to be sure. The title page read as follows:
Comprising certain small
incidents as recalled by
one of them and here set
down for the first time
With a foreword by
Basil King, an intimate of
BY LLOYD ROBERTS
THE RYERSON PRESS
Okay. Plainly not Roberts’ Rules. It looked to me like a family’s biography as told by a member of that clan. According to the overleaf page, it was published in 1923.
So far, I wasn’t remotely interested. A book about a family called Roberts and that lived, in all likelihood, in Toronto or somewhere east of there was unlikely to have much grist for Vancouver As It Was.
I flipped through the slender volume (only 147 numbered pages; it felt to me like someone had only recently cut the pages, and as though it had never been read from cover to cover. Not a good sign!
Then my page flipping yielded something else. There was a little pamphlet that had been inserted in the book at some time. I will reproduce the pamphlet’s cover here in situ, as i found it within the pages of The Book of Roberts.
A glance at the pamphlet told me that it had been designed for “lecture recitals” in Toronto that had been presented by Theodore Goodridge Roberts (presumably one of the Roberts clan described in the book). The front of the pamphlet was a bit of mess. There was TGR’s signature, apparently, another signature of a “St. John poet” called “A. W. Pound”, and yet another of someone called “M. Eunice Barr”. The reference to The Vancouver Art Gallery (in its earlier location in the 1100 block of Georgia Street) scrawled on the pamphlet’s cover, had me doubly intrigued. It looked to me as though T. G. Roberts had spoken at Vancouver in addition to Toronto (and perhaps in other locales), but that the Vancouver sponsor did not have enough cash to justify printing a location-specific pamphlet.
Yes, I was intrigued. Not ready to buy the book, yet, but intrigued.
I decided to play a silly game which I’ve sometimes played in bookstores in the past. I would guess the figure that the seller wanted for the book, and if I was right, I’d buy it. If not, I’d leave it on the shelf for some other sucker.
I decided that the book was worth very little. I chose a figure of $9. I flipped to the front of the book where I knew the price would appear in pencil. $30?! What the . . . ? My heart sank.
I wanted the book now, probably more than I would have wanted it if it had been marked at $9! This is why I referred to my little price game as ‘silly’; I knew that I was perfectly capable of ignoring the rules of the game if I so wished. And I was close to so wishing in this case! Not quite, yet, though.
I walked up to Rod, one of the proprietors of the Hound.
“Rod,” I said, “You need to persuade me that this tiny volume is actually worth $30.”
He reached for The Book of Roberts and began flipping through it, much as I had done moments before. He noticed the pamphlet, as I had.
“I’ve no idea” said he. (This wasn’t going quite as I’d hoped.) “Let me have a look in our computer record and I’ll see if there are any notes there by me or perhaps by Kim.” (Kim is Rod’s business partner). A few seconds and multiple keystrokes passed and he said “I just see an obscure note about autographs inscribed on the pamphlet that’s inside the book.”
Hmm. I’d been hoping that there would be something that Rod could tell me that would make more rational my decision to buy the book (which by then, I now realize, I’d already made). But he wasn’t cooperating.
Then Rod added another piece of info: “I see here that the book has been on our shelves almost since we opened.”
“Okay,” I said, withdrawing the cash from my wallet, “It’s time it had a new home.”
The Book of Roberts lies on my desk, now, its secrets still safely tucked up within. But, I hope, not for too much longer!
Until next time.