Monday, February 29, 2016

From bar backs to hardbacks

...The hunt for volumes overflowing with this type of detail is what makes Thomas Posey tick. A longtime bartender who's traded in bottles for bookends, the Point Breeze resident uses social media to fill a specific literary niche: If you're in the market for old, rare food-and-beverage books, "The Book Slinger" is your guy.

Posey began a restaurant career in his native Northeast Philly before moving downtown in 1999. In 2001, he was bartending at Pod when a friend asked if he'd be interested in part-time work at Center City's Bauman Rare Books.

The prominent multicity firm counts authors, celebrities, U.S. presidents, and foreign dignitaries among its clients. Natalie and David Bauman have made their name buying and selling precious historical artifacts - think leaves from an original Gutenberg Bible ($60,000) or Lewis and Clark's travel journals, complete with hand-drawn maps ($250,000). Posey, a history major at Temple, jumped at the opportunity, picking up shifts on days he wasn't mixing cocktails.

He juggled both jobs until 2014, when he went to work with the Baumans full-time. But that didn't mean shelving his intellectual investment in cooking and cocktail culture. Learning the ins and outs of the business gave him a particular set of skills he applies to the fertile world of collectible vintage food and drink texts.

As an inventory distribution specialist at Bauman, Posey acts as an intermediary between his employer and auction houses, private estates, and fellow book dealers. But tracking down books is just part of the job. He also has an eye well-trained to spot quality, including specimens that are phony or fudged - a fake author signature or cheap cheats like pulling pages from a younger book to stitch into a first edition.

"I learned what to look for, what books had value, and why they were important," Posey said.

Though Bauman's inventory focuses on multiple areas of interest - politics, religion, sports, arts - food and drink weren't a major focus until Posey assisted with the construction of a stand-alone culinary-theme catalog featuring first editions of cocktail godfather Jerry Thomas' Bartenders Guide (1862, $9,000) and legendary food writer M.F.K. Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf (1942, $750).


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