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Brattlecast: A Firsthand Look At Secondhand Books

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Brattlecast #48 - Africa

A family wedding in Kenya inspires Ken to start reading about Africa-and thinking about the book collections that could be made up of works about this vast and varied continent. From the early exploration narratives of the 1700's to the novels of Ernest Hemingway and Isak Dinesen, the possibilities are almost as diverse as Africa is.


Brattlecast #47 - Books by the Foot

Books! They're not just for reading. They can lend atmosphere to a bar or hotel lobby, make your living room seem smarter, and even be hollowed out in order to contain a tiny gun. In this episode Ken talks about decorating with books: books as silent conveyors of knowledge and safety, books as status symbols, and even books as movie set decor (books from the Brattle have made cameos in a few famous films). Whether it’s 6,000 red books or a single exquisite leather-bound volume, books really...


Brattlecast #46 - Ken's Lectures

Did you know that Ken gives entertaining and informative talks about old books at libraries and historical societies all across New England? And then after the lecture he’ll stay to do free appraisals of the attendee's potential treasures? Check out Ken's schedule here to find out when he'll be in your neighborhood and listen to this episode to learn more about his public speaking career.


Brattlecast #45 - John Ledyard's Voyages

He voyaged with Captain Cook, escaped from college via canoe, and attempted to walk across Russia. But, most importantly for our purposes, he also wrote a plain looking, easily discarded book, some volumes of which contain an extremely valuable map. He's John Ledyard, the most interesting New England character you've never heard of and the author of Captain Cook's Voyages, the book we should all be scouring yard sales for!


Brattlecast #44 - Boston Latin

Founded in 1635, Boston Latin School is the oldest public school in the United States, and boasts many famous graduates, including Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, and Leonard Bernstein. One could build a collection consisting entirely of works by and about its illustrious alumni, as Ken suggests to one of his former Boston Latin classmates during a seemingly fairly raucous high school reunion. Plus, some tips on insuring your own rare book collection.


Brattlecast #43 - Alcatraz and Architecture

Ken goes over a variety of unusual items from his unique and lovely book shop, and reviews recent finds and adventures from his never ending book treasure hunt. We'll talk old-time turkey recipes, Victorian social media platforms, and a book that escaped from Alcatraz! Plus, The Brattle Book Shop has been featured in Architectural Digest; check it out here:


Brattlecast #42 - 23 Questions

What makes a book valuable? Is it age? Scarcity? How old is an old book? Which souvenir reprints consistently trick people into thinking they've got a million dollar antique on their hands? Are public libraries good? What unassuming volume does Ken ravenously hunger and thirst for? If I spill a glass of fruit punch on my book, is it cool to dry it off in the microwave? Answers to most of these questions and more, from Ken and a little pamphlet called 'Your Old Books'.


Brattlecast #41 - The Boxing Collection

Go a few rounds with Ken as he discusses some of the champions from a large collection of boxing books and magazine. It's a knock out exploration of the history of the sport, from the bare knuckles and unitards of the early 1800's to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. We'll also look at boxing in popular culture, including 'On the Waterfront' and (of course) 'Rocky'.


Brattlecast #40 - 1968

It was a year of violent upheaval and exuberant social change: 1968. Ken takes us there through a unique collection of books, letters, photographs, magazines, newspapers, and more, all to do with this tumultuous time in American history. It's a great example of an unusual collecting style but also an eerie and inspiring mirror of our present moment.


Brattlecast #39 - Everything and the Kitchen Sink

They took advantage of improved communications technology to sell a plethora of affordable goods to consumers across the United States, put local merchants out of business, and opened scores of enormous distribution centers. Sound familiar? It's not who you think, unless you’re thinking of Sears and Roebuck. We've got their old catalogs, which today serve as a nostalgic time capsule and a beautifully illustrated guide to the economic history of the average American.


Brattlecast #38 - Map Quest

Watch history unfold through some rare and collectible maps. Join Ken as he guides us on a journey through Boston's past, from George Washington's arrival on Washington Street to real estate sales in a trendy new neighborhood called the Back Bay. Find yourself in this week's Brattlecast.


Brattlecast #37 - Journal Journey

Ken talks handwritten journals and letters: what makes them valuable and how his team at the shop goes about researching them. We'll delve into a Caribbean voyage with a magical conclusion and a utopian community in bucolic West Roxbury, with a side trip to a certain famously far out festival of the late 1960's. Learn whether your journal might also have the 'write' stuff on this week's #brattlecast, an episode to write home about!


Brattlecast #36 - The Treasure Hunt

What goes through Ken's mind while he's doing his favorite thing (buying books)? This episode is all about the Brattle's buying process, from the first phone call to the packing and hauling. Learn why it's not very helpful to describe your collection as 'both fiction and nonfiction' and why flights of stairs are the bookseller's natural enemy. Also, for any Boston accent aficionados who may be listening, we have a delightful discussion of parking.


Brattlecast #35 - The Books of Christmas Past

Happy Holidays! In this episode Ken comes bearing gifts through which we can trace our culture's changing ideas about and images of Christmas. We'll unwrap collectible editions of legendary literary works by Clement Moore and Charles Dickens and use popular illustrations to follow Santa Clause's 'glow up' from a slender saint to the body positivity icon who sells us Coca Cola to this very day!


Brattlecast #34- Eccentric Characters

He's received a postcard from the South Pole, gotten into an absurd exchange with a member of Monty Python, and worked in close quarters with live grenades: it's all just another day on the job for Kenneth Gloss, proprietor of the Brattle Book Shop. On this explosive Brattlecast Ken talks about the wonderful weirdos and strange situations that have enlivened his years in the bookselling business.


Brattlecast #33 - A Wild Inferno

On this day in 1942 tragedy came to Boston in the form of the deadliest nightclub fire in history. The Cocoanut Grove's intentional lack of exits and extremely flammable Polynesian decor doomed 492 people, injured hundreds more, and changed the way we think about doors forever. Ken kindles our interest with a fascinating and scary personal scrap book of the fire and its aftermath in this blazing hot episode of #brattlecast.


Brattlecast #32 - A Monster That Eats Books

The story of our outdoor sale lot's evolution from a few small stands in front of the shop to one of the most photographed places in Boston! Learn all about the perks and pitfalls of selling books outside, all year round, in notoriously variable weather.


Brattlecast #31 - Old News

In this episode Ken shows off a bound volume of Harper's Weekly from 1863, and flipping through it with him is like peering into a fascinating time capsule from the Civil War era. Harper's employed some of the best journalists, artists, and photographers of the time, and in its pages eye-witness battlefield reportage and sentimental woodcut illustrations of homesick soldiers share space with advertisements for dubious health tonics and prosthetic limbs.


Brattlecast #30 - Treasures within Treasures

Today we've got an 1800's sailing log and a Civil War journal, both containing surprising passages which take them from standard to spectacular. Also, some tips on what to do with any handwritten material you'd like to get appraised. An episode to write home about!


Brattlecast #29 - The Big Book

Ken discusses a copy of The Big Book, inscribed by Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson. It's one of the most influential books of the 20th Century, and the unfortunate social stigma associated with it makes certain editions particularly rare. Learn all about it, one Brattlecast at a time.