There are a very few things I hate about the used book biz.
Perching atop that short list like a fat, sleek buzzard is the reality that the best books you see are nearly always the result of tragedy. People with interesting libraries love books and it takes the stern efforts of
hardship in all its angular forms
to pry favorites
There's a fellow, a customer of 30 years standing, who over the past several months has been bringing in armloads of unusually good art & design books. The first few batches were nice but not special- uncommon, but things we do see now and then. The sort of books someone with a quality library might let go to free up shelf space, or because they had multiples, or had picked up a better book on the subject. His next few loads were mostly good stuff with a couple of gems- things that I knew he wouldn't sell in normal circumstances, like a hardcover Virgil Finlay book he'd bought when the shop was still over on Broad St.
This morning was the clincher, a tall stack of books and every one a treasure. I talked with him a bit and he's in some sort of financial pinch. I did my best to help him out, but retail is unforgiving- as the saying goes, "you don't make your money when you sell the book, you make your money when you buy the book." I did what I could, but that's little enough for someone in real trouble. Over the last few years we've gotten some fantastic books from people who were losing their houses, who were dealing with the financial disaster of being gravely ill in a country beset by rapacious for-profit health care. And, always, from the relatives of the departed.
But the world is rife with tragedy- there's nothing to be done, aside from treating sellers and their books with dignity.
While typing the second paragraph of this post a lady came in to ask after a book- her boyfriends grandmother had died, a relative had brought her books in without consulting him and there are some he wants back...sigh.