Featured Exhibitor: Peter L. Masi
For over forty years Peter L. Masi has been entrapped in the world of antiquarian books. Located in Montague, Massachusetts, Masi has issues over 200 catalogues of antique books featuring primarily non-fiction.
“I’ve always been interested in old things,” Masi said. “When I was in high school, I was going to tag sales and setting up at flea markets.”
Masi solidified this interest in college where he studied the history of books. Later, Masi would land an internship with the Library Company of Philadelphia before joining the American Philosophical Society and eventually working as a conservation technician in the rare book department.
While working for the philosophical society, Masi would browse book seller catalogs, like Antiquarian Book Weekly, where fellow readers would send in book “want lists.”
“Occasionally, I’d find a book I had,” Masi said. “I started sending out little postcards saying, “I have this book, I’ll sell it to you for this much.’”
From there, Masi would begin issuing catalogs and, in time, attending book fairs.
“Forty years later, here I am,” Masi said. “Still doing this, still selling books.”
Masi sells a fairly wide range of works with some emphasis on technical books, relating to anything from engineering to cooking, and humanities, including religion or education. Additionally, he stocks 19th century American children’s books, a personal interest.
“I got fascinated by them,” Masi said. “I got to know the field when I was working in Philadelphia.”
Another fascination of Masi’s is general ephemera. From pamphlets to postcards, Masi has garnered a wide collection.
“I am eternally fascinated by minutia,” Masi said. “These tiny things often have great interest for me if there’s something unusual about them.”
Many of patrons share this sentiment. Author Wendy Woloson even consulted with Masi and referenced his collection for her book Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America.
“I found a lot of stuff for her over the years,” Masi said. “[Woloson] is a long-time customer and friend.”
Assorted ephemera are a big seller for Masi, especially at book fairs. While engaging with customers and buying books for himself play a big role in the book fair experience, Masi particularly enjoys chatting with fellow exhibitors.
“With [book selling], a sort of one-dinosaur-operation as I call it,” Masi said, “You usually spend a lot of time alone; so [book fairs] are a great social opportunity.”
Peter L. Masi and his assorted collection will be at the Northampton Book Fair in the Northampton Community Arts Trust during the first weekend of December.