The last of the great salt-trading people


The NYTimes has a nice\"Story on a woman in Africa who still deals books the old fashioned way.

Oddly enough, there can still be romance in being a bookseller, an embattled yet ennobled calling these days. More accurately, let\'s say there can be passion and adventure in trafficking in books: buying, selling and bartering them, rather like dealing for salt along the old trade routes. A woman who owns a bookstore in Cape Town, South Africa, does just that. She bargains in books and jokingly refers to herself as \"the last of the great salt-trading people.\"

So in the profession of independent booksellers, which is filled
in fact and myth with people who think of themselves as selfless
evangelists, I was struck with one who could be called a true
literary explorer, if not revivalist. She is Henrietta Dax,
proprietor of Clarke\'s Bookshop. In a pickup truck or car she
wanders southern Africa, the lands south of the Zambezi River, as a
sort of Marco Polo of books. Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana,
Angola, Lesotho, Swaziland and, of course, South Africa. Dax buys
books at each stop with cash or through barter, books that are
indigenous to the land she\'s in, and then sells them to customers
throughout the world.

Her clientele includes collectors and governments and
universities. \"I have standing orders from a number of American
universities,\" she said. \"Yale says it will buy everything it can
get that is published in Mozambique and Namibia.\"

Usually when she leaves on her journey, the space under the
canopy of her pickup truck (or the back of the car, whichever she
happens to be using) is empty. But sometimes she takes a pile of
titles, mostly South African, to use in certain places to barter
for other books. This is particularly true in Mozambique, where the
buyers and sellers most often want books, which are hard to get,
not money.