In the mid-1980’s our mutual love of books led us to a love of used and rare bookstores. We became regulars at all the used bookstores in the Atlanta area and vacation meant visiting rare bookstores as much as we could. While we built a personal collection of spiritual related writings and classics, we developed friendships with a number of rare bookdealers. In time, we began to hear there stories and how they started in this, for us, attractive endeavor. In the summer of 1987, this led us to conclude that we would like to venture into this little business activity ourselves and over the next few months we began developing plans for how we would actualize this inclination.
At this time, a friend of ours became enamored with the writer Hamilton Wright Mabie, an early Twentieth Century popular writer on art and literature. We too became brief fans of Mabie, both to read and to pursue in our used book haunts. Among Mabie’s essays is one titled By The Way. The gist of this essay was that the benefits of any artistic activity, or really any endeavor, comes from the activity itself, not the product, “What is good and great comes by the way.” As we appreciated this concept and thought it an appropriate reminder to hang on any new pursuit, we also were attracted to the multiple potential meanings of the phrase “by the way.” So we had the moniker for our ‘business.’
In the fall of that year, James had the opportunity to go to New Zealand for two months, for his job. Elizabeth, already thinking she wanted a new career (she was administrative assistant to the head of the Emory Clinic, at the time) and not about to miss this the opportunity to visit down-under herself, decided to quit her job, tag along to the other side of the planet, and think through what she wanted to be when we returned to the Northern Hemisphere. We lugged along a case of books related to Psychology and PhD programs, as her first thought was to go there. However, while in New Zealand, and on a vacation trip to Australia, the bookselling bug took fully and Elizabeth resolved to focus on it full time on our return.
(See related post for text of Mabie’s essay)