Featured Exhibitor: The Country Bookshop
The Country Bookshop in Plainfield, Vermont has been servicing book-lovers since the 1970s. Owner Ben Koenig regarded bookshops with high importance since his high school days. Growing up in New York City, Koenig remembers walking by used bookstores on Fourth Avenue, knowing if he needed a book, it would be somewhere on that street.
“I’d go into store, and the owner would say, ‘Oh yeah, I think we have that book,’ and he would grab a ladder and pick the book off the shelf,” Koenig said. “I thought it was like magic that they could do that. Now of course, I do it all the time.”
The journey started with an ad in a hobby magazine: one dollar to learn how to be a book scout. After getting an informational booklet and joining their subscription service, Koenig began selling books from his personal library before participating in book auctions. By 1974, the Country Bookshop opened.
“I had a vision of what a used bookshop should look like,” Koenig said.
Housing between 60 and 70 thousand books, the shop covers all subject areas and also stocks vintage prints and other paper ephemera. The shop also specializes in signed books, folklore, and folk music.
“We have a larger section of folk music than you’d find in most places,” Koenig said.
A guitarist, Koenig has always been interested in music, specifically folk music. This interest extended into folklore, and you can sometimes find the Country Bookshop working with the American Folklore Society.
Many of the Country Bookshop’s items, music and books alike, are purchased from household auction. Recently, Koenig bought the entire library of a household in Burlington, Vermont. An ex-librarian had passed away, leaving behind a diverse selection of books. Though it wasn’t the unique typography books or signed Robert Frost stories that were remarkable to Koenig—it was the care the books had received.
“He was extremely interested in the condition of books,” Koenig said. "Not only rare books [excite me]. It’s beautiful books. I like to sell books in great condition to other folks.”
Koenig plans on bringing some books acquired in this auction to the Northampton Book Fair which he looks forward to attending.
“Of course, I’d like to sell books, but aside from that, there is a group of booksellers that go to these book fairs,” Koenig explained. “You get to talk to other booksellers about the things they are bringing and learn an enormous amount about the history of books and book cover and such.”
“I have faith that the book people will come out and buy a few books or talk books,” Koenig said. “I’ll be happy with either.”
Ben Koenig and the Country Bookshop’s collection will be at the Northampton Book Fair during the first weekend of December in the Northampton Community Arts Trust at 33 Haley Street, Northampton, Massachusetts.