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King’s Ransome

Philadelphia Library Acquires Rare Typescript of “De Profundis”

On a balmy Sunday lunchtime last Spring I found myself in the refreshment area of the prestigious New York Antiquarian Book Fair. The ambience and the food were very pleasant, which should have been a portent of the standards I was about to discover, had I not been obliviously more concerned with fitting in,

My café table had an inlaid chessboard and what alerted to me to how I fitted in was made clear in an early gambit. The kindly stranger opposite made the first move. “Are you a dealer or a collector?” he asked, with an air of inevitability that suggested a third alternative did not exist. As I was such a third alternative I decided to counter with the department store maneuver: “I’m just browsing.” It was a defense designed to replace the probability of being actually neither with the possibility of vaguely being either.

However, it soon became apparent to me, if not to my new friend, that even the self-imposed rank of ‘browser‘ wildly overstated my standing as a potential customer.

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