When COVID struck, classics alumnus Taylor Posey made a financially strategic retreat from Irving, Texas to Asheville, North Carolina, he had no idea that he was about to take the first concrete step to achieving his dreams.
Posey, a former adjunct in the University of Dallas Classics Department, was hired to help a friend close down The Captain’s Bookshelf, a rare books shop of 45 years standing. With ten years of bookselling experience and, as he puts it, “a book buying problem,” Posey jumped on the opportunity to acquire inventory of his own.
That’s how he started the Irving Book Company.
Posey has always loved books, but not as a collector, or even really as a seller. Selling the books is partially his way of filling a necessary, book-related craving in his life, and partially is a stepping stone towards his ultimate goal.
“I didn’t, and still don’t quite intend to be a bookseller. What I intend to do ultimately is to publish,” Posey said.
Posey has long been disappointed with the poor grade of ragged, old or sleazy new versions of his favorite books, or the kinds of books that students need. The matter and form, he said, should be matched.
But for most of us, high quality books are difficult to find and are even more difficult to afford.
Posey collected the highest quality books he could from The Captain’s Bookshelf, and continues to add to his stock of over one thousand books. Posey continues hunting down beautiful or rare books from other sellers, collecting them in one place and selling them in unconventionally-helpful ways. He recently sold a signed first edition of Seamus Heaney’s “Beowulf” to a UD student who inquired about the book, but could not afford to pay the full price immediately.
Posey held the book for the student for a month, enabling the student to collect the funds for it.
Yet, the books which Posey currently acquires, since he specializes in quality and first editions, will unavoidably continue to be comparatively expensive.
According to Posey, first editions are usually the highest quality in terms of editing, typeset, and durability. These often are worth up to $300 dollars, and much more for older publications. For most people, the standard implied by a first edition is not realistic for more than perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime purchase.
That’s why Posey’s collection of first editions is more than a collection.
The “telos” of the Irving Book Company, according to Posey, is reissuing books that are crying out to be republished in beautiful, affordable copies.
At least 10% of each sale goes towards starting a press. Posey hopes that the Irving Book Company will begin to print books as its full-time operation and will move the resale business to an auxiliary position.
For now, Posey has about a dozen book publications in the works, with a focus on reproducing first editions of classic works, most of which are in the public domain. Instead of $300, he hopes to be able to sell these books for about $30.
He wants to print books in the old Vitruvian triad, “Venustas, Utilitas, et Firmitas,” which Posey said means, “‘charming, helpful, and solid books.’ Almost nobody does that.”
Posey’s first publication, a collection including previously unpublished writings by and about Robert Frost, goes to print in May of this year.