Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Used Bookstore Treasure

Saturday morning I went downtown to have my hair done. As I was a few minutes early, I stopped into a nearby used bookstore to see if I could find any thing on my collectible books wishlist.

Now, this bookstore isn't the world's greatest treasure trove of rare books, but in the past I have found a few gems (to me) such as Osa Johnson's I Married Adventure with its iconic animal-print binding and Alexandra Stoddard's first book, Style For Living, in immaculate hardcover.

Usually I browse a number of sections (biography, women's studies, children's series, among others), but today I just popped up to the third floor to look at the jumble of fashion, etiquette and decorating books tucked into a little closet. Many of the volumes have been on the shelves since I first moved to the area: I've been eyeing four volumes of the Social Register from the 1970s for years but have resisted purchasing. Why would I need them? However, since I have a great interest in the 1960s Jet Set culture--think Slim Aarons--it might be fun to have them on hand to browse... Hmm. I'll probably break down one of these days.

I was seeing all the usual and I was about to leave, when I saw this sitting on the floor, propped up against the shelves:

Now, if you've read my post which includes my Amazon Wishlist, you know that I'm coveting The Best of Flair by Fleur Cowles. Flair was a magazine, edited by Fleur Cowles, published from February 1950 through January 1951. Twelve issues. It was special (also called "legendary" and "revolutionary') because of its pull-out-the-stops dedication to superb design and production values--you'll see why in a moment. Contributors included members of the top echelons of power and fame. Flair survived only a year, they say, because the incredible costs of its production brought about its demise. I've only seen it once before; when the re-print first came out, in the mid nineteen nineties, I was working in a bookstore on the Monterey peninsula and one of the other booksellers had ordered it for her mother as a Christmas gift. We opened it up and oohed and ahhed over the beautiful spreads and clever cut-outs.

So I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw "Flair" writ across the cover of this unassuming gray binder. Inside:

All total, the first six volumes (half the total tun), in incredible condition, of Flair. Bound together. And no price.

I had to hurry, and I thought hard. It had been a long time since I'd done any research on the magazine and at the time I wasn't even sure how many issues of the magazine were ultimately published. I knew the price of the reprint--of course as a librarian I keep a copy of my Wishlist in myFilofax--and I calculated furiously. After all I had a hair appointment looming!

Should I wait and research a price after my appointment? What could I afford to pay? (Not much...we're having our house painted and of course there's always those damn tuition bills!) What was it actually worth? How savvy was the bookstore owner?

I hastily determined that I wanted to pay $20, I would pay up to $50 and any more than that I would go home and do some research. I knew that the risk was once the bookshop owner had it in her hands, she'd have time to look into it too and that could be expensive!

I approached the counter with a polite smile and handed her the binder, mentioning as casually as I could that there was no price listed and could she tell me what it might be? She slowly ruffled through the pages and turned the binder over in her hands. "It look like it has book marks in it."

"Oh, no," I said quickly,"those are inserts. This particular magazine was well know for its inclusions!" She looked at me suspiciously.

Damn! She's been warned that this might be something special! I'm such an idiot, I thought.

She considered again. Finally, she said, "seventy-five."

Damn! Over my budget, but...

"Will you take fifty?" I asked. "How about sixty?" she replied. Done.

So here it is. From the Paris issue:

Look at the little cut-outs! Like an advent calendar!

From the Men's Issue:

A playbill is inserted into one issue:

A pretty fashion spread about roses:

Also from the Paris issue, a picture of (and accompanying article authored by) Evangeline Bruce, wife of the French ambassador, David Bruce. I first became enamoured with Vangie Bruce reading Leticia Baldridge's A Lady, First: My Life in the Kennedy White House and the American Embassies of Paris and Rome. Ms. Baldridge worked for the Bruces in the American Embassy in Paris. She wrote admiringly of Ms. Bruce, and I did some follow-up research. Evangeline Bruce is a renowned author in her own right, as well as being recognized as one of the foremost hostesses of her time. The Peak of Chic recently posted an entry on Evangeline Bruce's decorating style.


High Fashion:

Celebrity Profiles:

I now of course want to find the last six issues; I'm haunted as to if there is another binder somewhere and where it may have landed! I've set up a search in Ebay and I'm still trying to figure out what is a good price for these treasures. In the meantime, I'm loving everything about my find--the ads are as much fun to read/gaze on as the features--and I feel so lucky!

Now if only my luck holds out tonight for the Mega-Million drawing...


Anonymous said...

Wow!! What finds! you are super lucky! I'd love to stumble upon a nice copy of I Married Adventure. Enjoy! :)

Petunia said...

What a fascinating magazine it was! :)

M.Lane said...

Fantastic luck! I just love finding things like that. I'll keep my eye out for the other copies.


mamacita said...

The find of a lifetime! Oh, I am so jealous. It is on my wish list, too.

vicki archer said...

This is one of my favourite creations of all time and one of my most prized possessions. So glad you have managed to get this, xv.

AlwaysMe said...

How EXCITING!!! I love days like that! I hope you will consider scanning some more of your favorite pages for the blog.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Yay! I'm so glad that you snagged your book. I love old bookstores- ran into a few gems in London this time around...

Kelli said...

I am so happy to hear about your amazing find! Good things come to those who wait! :)
I haven't heard of this magazine until I read your post on Amazon a while back, they look divine and absolutely like little treasures.
So happy they are now chez toi.

Bee said...

What a treasure . . . I love that you found it so serendipitously.