The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 50, July 1946 - April, 1947

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HERBERT FLETCHER
A BOOKSELLER leads a restrained and defensive life. If his
client wants to talk about centrifugal pumps or Icelandic
string-figures, he is assumed to have at his command at least
twenty minutes' conversation on, and a passionate interest in,
either subject. Perhaps he has just recovered from absorbing
an oration by an authority on, and collector of, dentures of the
early antiphlogistine period, but he must listen. Showing off is
less profitable than controlled attention.
It might have been expected that a paper from me would be
on bookselling, but I have elected instead to put emphasis on
some strictly Texas book publication. Anyway, the book busi-
ness gains by retrospection. Today it is surrounded by sub-
versive forces, innocent to the eye but stifling to the trade.
Twenty years from now, the dealer in old books will, I am
sure, be offered almost nothing but shiny, unread book club
books. Even now, if we dealers buy a Packardful of books
from the swanky blue-chip district or a tow-sackful from a
negro ward, we often get the same kind of books, equally
untouched.
Over half of my forty years in the book business have been
spent in Houston and Texas. Houston does not seem to be rated
as a particularly good book town, but at least in one year out of
every ten it is admittedly the largest city in the state, and its
citizens have broad, big-city viewpoints.
Sometimes the viewpoint is almost too broad. I bought a
private library last year from the estate of a millionaire, and
the inventory disclosed that the buyer had paid $10,000 for a
set of Elbert Hubbard and $25 for the works of Victor Hugo.
In the effete Northeast it befell me to sell books to the im-
mortals. I remember Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson,
Agnes Repplier, and Owen Wister particularly. But I would
not barter the association for having known Thomas Watt
Gregory, Clarence Wharton, Mrs. Hally Bryan Perry, and Lou
Kemp. And I can think of nothing that might induce me to
leave my adopted state.
In 1936 Sarah Chokla wrote an article for the Southwest

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 50, July 1946 - April, 1947. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101117/. Accessed October 1, 2014.