Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Serendipity on a Bookshelf! Read On...

Though one trained in musicology may get to know what's out there, it's another thing to discover that which is out there, and knowledge may have nothing to do with a discovery; only pure chance.
And that is what happened to me some years ago.
On a clear, warm day during a vacation trip, I happened to come across a little building with a sign welcoming lovers of old books. And so I decided to visit, as I used to frequent many old book stores when active as a teacher and performer.
What surprised me was that there was veritably nothing on the shelves, except for a rather large collection of old railroad schedules in different states of wear - also the smell of fresh paint.
I saw a small office across from the shelves, with a youngish man sitting at a desk. I entered, whereupon the man welcomed me to look around at my leisure. He was friendly from the outset, and informed me that he had just opened up about a week prior, having decided to give up his profession as an engineer and escape into a world of lesser pressures.
He explained that there was very little he had collected, having just gotten in some books from an estate auction not far from his little establishment. Those railroad schedules were his own collection, which he decided to put on his shelves. He then invited me to browse, as he had some painting to do.
And so I commenced to look around, which I did for about a minute or so.
I then noticed the corner of what was obviously an old book, staring down at me from the top of one of the shelves. It was a large book, both in thickness and in outer dimension, and in good condition. I brought it down, and placed it on a small table nearby, opened it and was astonished to note that it was a book published in 1776, and written by a person of note who I believe knew Haydn and Mozart, and perhaps Beethoven as well. It was the first of four volumes, with a list of sponsors which included such luminaries as Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, one of the great composers preceding the Classical era in music.
After a moment or so in order to catch my breath, I took the book into the office, and asked what this book cost. The gentleman said that he needed to have it appraised first, and then he could offer it to me.
He asked if I could could return in a week, and I said that it would be rather inconvenient, as I would be returning home in a day (I must say that I was playing a kind of game with him, to see if he might release the book without appraisal, as it was apparent to me that he did not know what a little treasure he had in his little establishment).
He destroyed what little hope I had by stating that he intended to have it appraised within a few days, and would give me priority on the book.
And so I left, rather crestfallen, knowing that the appraisal would make this book much too expensive for me to even dream of purchasing.
To make a long story shorter, I did return a week later to witness the official demise of any hope that I still entertained, whereupon he astonished me by stating that because he had been so busy painting and attending to the other needs of preparing his book - store for a successful first summer, that he did not have a chance to have it appraised. He saw my disappointment, evidently, by asking me to consider a particular price; after all, he felt rather badly about my returning for seemingly nothing, and stated a price that absolutely floored me.
I made out a check with what must have been a trembling hand (I do not remember - it seemed like a dream to me), handed it to him, and left with this book under my arm. I DO remember that the walk from his little building to my car was the longest walk of my life.
I have often wondered if this gentleman became successful in his new venture? He most assuredly was less than successful in his encounter with me.
I have often gone by his place, which still has that original sign, but never did venture in, probably out of fear.
I wonder if he still is owner??



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