Sarah Faragher was born in Bar Harbor, Maine, in 1967. She grew up downeast in a house full of books, worked at bookstores during and after college, began buying and selling used books in the mid-1990s. Seven years ago, she opened her own used bookshop, Sarah's Books, in Bangor, Maine. While not selling books, Sarah collects book trade labels. She has something like 800 of them, and we talked about her collection and the book business in the following interview.
ephemera: These are such elegant pieces of book-related ephemera. I'm such a fan of old books, especially book-related ephemera like bookmarks, flyaways, bookplates, and these tiny labels of yours. Tell me about how this collection started.
Faragher: As soon as I began haunting used bookshops on a regular basis, I began noticing these diminutive book trade labels often found attached to the endpapers of old books. They caught my eye because of their combination of small size, unique design, meaningful subject matter, and all-around general bookish delightfulness. I did nothing more than merely notice them for several years, then I started setting them aside, and finally I hit some sort of critical mass threshold and realized I was beginning to actively search for them, and in fact loved them and wanted to collect them. I also collect books about books, so collecting booksellers' tickets seems like a natural extension of that.
ephemera: Some of my favorite reads have been books about books. What challenges to you encounter in collecting book tickets?
Faragher: Deciding when and how to remove a ticket from an old book is a tricky business. If the book is of value, the ticket is part of the book's provenance and should stay in the book, obviously. Doubly so if the ticket is a binder's ticket on a fine binding, versus a ticket from a particular bookshop. I usually remove tickets only from run-of-the-mill used books, or damaged books, and luckily most tickets I see are affixed to very common books--usually novels and belles lettres from 1900-1940. Sometimes the glue is so old that a ticket will simply lift right off, but usually tickets must be coaxed with a bit of damp cloth laid over them long enough to release the glue. Once a ticket has dried off, I note the date of the book it came from on its back, in pencil.
The other major obstacle to collecting tickets is of course the price of the used books they come from. I've seen lovely book tickets in very expensive books, but I have yet to spend a lot of money for a single ticket, though I still covet a fine one I saw a few years ago, from Venice, in a lovely old Venetian travel book. Most tickets I've found have come instead from dollar bins and sale shelves at other people's used bookshops, or from the old fiction sections at friends-of-the-library book sales.
ephemera: The Venice ticket sounds like a beauty. There's always one that gets away. What are some of your favorites currently in the collection?
Faragher: Some of the book-shaped tickets are among my favorites, but I also like some of the plain text-only tickets, with an interesting typeface or color. I like their understatement. I also love some of the particularly tiny tickets. I always wonder if the bookdealers themselves were self-effacing or modest, if their tickets were this unobtrusive. I enjoy the many variants of certain tickets, as particular bookshops changed their addresses, or reprinted tickets in different colors or styles, often over several decades.
ephemera: What advice do you have for fellow book ticket collectors?
Faragher: Don't get discouraged! Sometimes I go for months without acquiring anything at all. Then one day I'll randomly come across a spectacular ticket in an otherwise lackluster book. Or a packet of tickets will arrive in the mail from another collector. Between those times, my delight is reawakened my simply browsing in my collection. I try to take pleasure in what I have, instead of fretting about what I don't have. My collection stands at about 800 tickets right now. But I know one collector who has nearly 20,000, so I know I have a long way to go - in fact, a lifetime, I hope!
ephemera: Speaking of books, are there any on this topic that you recommend?
Faragher: There are a few helpful books available on the secondhand market: Booksellers Marks by Larry Dingman; and Ticketed Bookbindings from Nineteenth-Century Britain by Willman Spawn and Thomas E. Kinsella. And these two items are available new: Book trade labels at the American Antiquarian Society; and Questioni de etichetta by Piero Piani (Edizioni Libreria Naturalistica, Italy 2002). The latter is mostly color reproductions, so don't let the fact that the two pages of text are in Italian stop you from getting it - the pictures are great. The one website I recommend above all others is Greg Kindall's Seven Roads: Gallery of Book Trade Labels.
ephemera: How do you house the collection?
Faragher: I keep my collection in two stamp stock albums from Lighthouse. One album is for U.S.A. tickets and the other for non-U.S.A. I organize by country, state/province, and city. I keep a pair of stamp tongs handy for moving tickets around, and I also have a bookbinder's spatula (or lifter) that I bought from Talas to help me gently remove tickets from books.
ephemera: Thanks, Sarah. This is a delightful area of ephemera to collect. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in answering my questions.
Search Abebooks for the books listed in this interview.