I never cease to be amazed at what I find at library sales. Today I dropped by the Mid-Manhattan, and within a few minutes had found (and, of course, bought, for a total of $3) a dictionary of Romansch (Oscar Peer’s Dicziunari rumantsch: ladin–tudais-ch, Lia Rumantscha, 1962) and a textbook of Moroccan Arabic (Henry Mercier’s L’Arabe par l’image: textes ethnographiques, Les éditions la porte, Rabat, 1946). Neither was in the foreign-language section; I just have a nose for these things. And for an extra dime I couldn’t resist a copy of Quotations from Chairman LBJ (Simon and Schuster, 1968), a true relic of the age (and of my youth).


  1. I had the best book-bargain spree of my life a couple of years ago on Queen’s Day in Amsterdam where I was wandering around with my Dutch girlfriend Nina. Being wonderfully mercantile folk, the Dutch celebrate by selling things, and Queen’s Day unites two great interests of Netherlandish folk – selling stuff and tidiness.

    Small children clear out their cupboards and learn from a young age just how retail is detail by standing on the street selling their junk at whatever price it takes to move it while wearing bright orange clothes and being cheerful.

    For one guilder [around fifty cents] at one stall I picked up a Belgian cartoon book, an English overview of Islam [very good, the Pelican paperback] and a 3rd book I forget. A few minutes later, at a four-for-one-guilder stall I got the best chess book I’ve ever read, a wonderful Lawrence Durrell novel [Tunc], a lovely paperback history of French painters, and a change-your-life-through-visualisation book. So each of those was around twelve US cents.

    “Ha!” said Nina triumphantly as we left the second stall, “You were obviously ripped off at the first place!”

  2. Great story! (I hope the sequel doesn’t belong on Mil Millington’s page…)

  3. I hate bargain books, it’s bargain shelves I need.

  4. In what sections did you find them?

  5. Oh, I think the Arabic was in Literature and the Rumantsch in… New Arrivals, probably. You just have to wander around with your senses keenly alert, quivering like an eager retriever.

  6. Is tudais-ch a cognate of tedesco?

  7. Must be.

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