David Meikle, Archway Books



okay our next interview is with David Michael of archway books we're here at the Boston International antiquarian book fair it's November 17th 2018 and David how are you I'm good but my name is pronounced Miko Miko excuse me that's alright so if you were about the way it is then because it's Scottish and not German okay tell us something about your background your family mom and dad siblings with a what do they do for a living well my dad was a career army officer and my mother was a homemaker or faithful army officer's wife and all that stuff and I've got one brother he teaches American Studies at UT Austin always I mean not a lot actually we were more library people you know we didn't have enough money you know what yeah I sure was my Scottish father probably really who thought that you know you shouldn't spend money on something that you could get for free so that's a good I know there were a lot of books and a lot of history was kind of weird when I was a kid we moved around a lot and it always seemed like we were living somewhere where there was a lot of history like you know when I first sort of became aware of the past my dad was at the station at Valley Forge we moved from there to San Antonio so we used to go at Alamo all the time on the history we moved them from there to Fort Devens so then you know we were Lexington and Concord Boston all that kind of stuff and then in Germany for three years and my parents thought we should travel all the time and we do you went to Germany I was eight Berlin Wall went up a month after we got there so I think we're pretty real you know you have any trouble getting out oh no no we stayed there for I mean we weren't in Berlin we're I mean we were we were yeah we were in Karlsruhe it's doubts but Karlsruhe though place south for frankfurt frank it's a crazy place frankfurt it is my dad was back there when I was in college and so every summer I'd go there and I'd do some army scut work for a couple months and then travel around so when did you get involved in books uh actually the first old book I ever bought was in Paris book stalls when I was 11 years old and it was some English plate book on Byron the plates were all gone I found out after I got it home they'd all been RAZR doubt and they were probably being stolen sold in the same stall so gotta watch out for those book and Easter's yes I still haven't learned not to by defective books depends upon the rarity this is true and so when did you first start getting involved as a bookseller as a seller it was in 1989 I kept up an interest in old books I used to haunt bookstores when I was in high school not so much when I was in college which is at college I went to Harvard and I spent four years in the stacks of Widener basically and that was my education I mean just be student and but you know I would get some bee in my bonnet about something I wanted to find out about and I would just spend all my time in the stacks sitting on the floor of the stacks did you ever have an open shop I had I was involved in an open shop for 10 years basically I was in a job that I didn't really care about I was selling him supporting computers and somebody knew I was interested in old books and knew that the proprietor of the book Gilman Portsmouth was looking for a manager and offered me the job so I was booking for 10 years first couple years as an employee and then the last six or eight years as a partner and then the business started to change oh yeah yeah that's basically when the internet came in urban rents were going up I really didn't feel like just selling five dollar books and luckily I decided not to because you can't sell five dollar books anymore it's true so I went out on my own and basically it's been shows and shows in the internet ever since you see any people by appointment in their 20 years that I've been in the New Hampshire Booksellers Association brochure I think I've probably had about five people call me to ask for an appointment and I'll be the last three of them I didn't return their call it's hard to say I've always had an interest in old books I mean you know older printing older continental printing never really had the money to buy the stuff in that area that really sells but I still pick around the edges of that but lately from from traveling over the last 10 or 15 years in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe it's mostly things relating to sort of 18th and 19th century travel exploration started getting into photography a lot so sort of things where cultures intersect have always interested me a pretty good conversational German I read French we'll talk Greek for three years I can pose a lot of title page in just about you know especially where you know right with the internet and you know cut and paste out of oclc and you know that sort of stuff so yeah I can figure out just about anything I think and that's it's still an advantage I mean you know it's I've always my big hits have always been just something that somebody else couldn't read pretty much yeah it happens less and less it's more and more people well it's pretty good for Western languages but once you get away from that forget translating Japanese on google translate you don't speak a language every day what are some of the major things you see coming up in the book trade things have changed like you said one of the major changes the major changes I've experienced well as I said you can't sell a five-dollar book anymore I mean by which I really mean you can't sell a $35 book anymore I mean there were some books that I mean you we all know this yeah any time you saw one for ten dollars you'd buy it because you can you knew you could sell two weeks for 35 or 150 or whatever it just doesn't happen anymore I sometimes I feel that I won't buy anything anymore unless it's unique and when you're talking about an industry that really was founded on mass production that's a pretty strange way to be going who was some of the people who were sort of like mentors or helped you along or made life easy for you as a bookseller um sort of everybody in New England I mean just basically from coming to shows I mean I've you know with a few exceptions because of health or whatever I've done some fall show in the Boston area for almost 30 years now and that's traveling days through traveling it like around the world no no no I was in Spain a month ago for two weeks and luckily hit there's a there's a street Book Fair I mean it's an organized Street Book Fair every fall in Madrid I didn't even know it was there I spent two days there that's right whenever I go to Tokyo I mean I just yeah I go nuts I mean it's funny I've always thought there was a parallel but Spain I think Spain and Japan are a lot alike in a lot of ways and the thriving book trade in both places and on the street I mean well but you asked him what I kind of hesitated because you asked where I thought trade was going I have no idea where it's going I mean I you know you go through this for anything no one's ever gonna sell all these books I mean I look at my booth and I say who's ever gonna buy this stuff and then I look at everybody else's booths and that's the same question I know I don't know either but at some point you know you retire or die and then there's a whole bunch of stuff that has to be taken care of and if nobody knows what it is except you this that my wife has said and I've only been married for less than a year now and she keeps saying you know you've got to do something because none of us are gonna know what to do with this stuff it's true I mean people just put in their will now send my stuff to Sotheby's or send my stuff so toils or something like that oh I can't do that not they're gonna take my stuff the book trade today would you I still would absolutely it's because of various health and family issues for about the last five years I've been still been buying but I hadn't been selling very much I've been working hard at selling and I'm anxious to get back into it which is one reason I joined the Association I'm excited about getting going again so are you just gonna continue decide to go back to an open shop I still think about it I thought about it very seriously a few times in the last few years but no I think I'm too old so I'll be 66 next month was this your first marriage no no it was my my first marriage ended 15 years ago no no not 15 25 years ago and then I was in a serious relationship for almost 20 years and my partner died three and a half years ago and then a year ago I married the woman who had introduced my partner and myself what was the problem died of some disease cancer yes and then I went through cancer a year ago about two years ago my said you have oropharyngeal cancer let's say it's down here it's uh it's caused by human papilloma 'men papillomavirus HPV which I'll put in my pitch right here all teenagers should be vaccinated for it male or female it's not it's getting less and less unusual all the time so have you ever thought in terms of putting out a catalog I put out a couple catalogs 1517 years ago I'm thinking about it again I like to cowboy so my internet sales have always come from thorough catalog I've never been I've never courted any kind of institutional trade I was partly because having come from sort of the open shop model you were talking about mentoring I've never had never I've never asked anybody about part about you know how do you get into the institutional business partly because I figure people have their sources and that's like asking somebody their trade secrets I guess yes and not having to apprentice to anybody who did that sort of thing I never developed that kind of contact well any predictions David what do you think you think we're gonna you think this business is gonna last forever you think it's gonna fall apart at some point um I think is as long as all of civilization doesn't totally collapse and I think that's a more realistic fear every day but but then I don't know people been predicting doom for millennia so I think well I think we'll muddle through it will change not you know maybe some of the same old tastes so come back surface among some people I don't know it works yeah I mean it's 25 years it's gonna be all leather bindings out here I don't I don't think it will

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