Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gunnar Hansen, Texas Chainsaw Massacre Legend and Bookman

Gunnar Hansen (1947-2015), famed for his portrayal of the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface in the classic horror film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), died last week of cancer.  His agent called the character, “one of the most iconic evil figures in the history of cinema.”   Yet Hansen in real life –all 6 - 4 and 300 pounds of him – was a writer and poet at heart—and a bookman.
While in graduate school at the University of Texas, Hansen took a bibliography course from William B. Todd (1919-2011), one of the most noted American bibliographers whose wide-ranging interests spanned Richard Nixon's Watergate transcripts to literary forgeries.  Hansen and a couple of fellow students, inspired by Todd’s enthusiasm, decided to play a little biblio-trick on him.  Douglas Adams, collector of literary forgery material, was the first to identify the item that linked Leatherface to Bill Todd and the rich bookdom of the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas.  I’ll let Douglas (and Gunnar) tell the story from here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Twenty-Five Years of Book Collecting: A Look Back and a Look Forward

This is a talk I gave at the Book Lovers' and Texana Collectors' Breakfast, March 6, 2015, Texas State Historical Association Meeting, Corpus Christi.  A rare appearance for me in jacket and tie.  Thanks to the TSHA for recording the talk.  This footage does not include the fine introduction and post-talk comments by John Nau, TSHA President and collector himself, who I'm occasionally bantering with as he sits off-camera.


Friday, May 1, 2015


Charlton Hinman with a Hinman Collator in the background

Hinman’s Own Annotated Set with Correspondence and Notes Laid In
Charlton Hinman.  THE PRINTING AND PROOF-READING OF THE FIRST FOLIO OF SHAKESPEARE. Oxford: At The Clarendon Press, 1963.  2 vols. xvi 507 [1] + vii 560 p. Errata slip in vol. 1. as issued.  Frontis. in each vol., plates, illus.  Large 8vo.  Blue cloth, spine stamped in gilt.

Charlton Hinman’s own set with his annotations on approximately 100 pages.  Laid in are four sheets and ten notecard slips of autograph notes regarding corrections and emendations, citations to other research, and miscellaneous information including a list of people to receive complimentary copies and a brief outline of major references of analytical bibliography.  Also laid in are thirteen pages of correspondence dated mainly 1964-1965, including six TLs’s with Hinman’s carbon TL replies.  Correspondents include Prof. S.F. Johnson of Columbia University, Akihiro Yamada of Shinshu University, Dr. J. Shafer of the Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat, Arthur Humphrey of the University of Leicester, and Giles Dawson of the Folger Library.  Dawson, the curator of books and manuscripts at the Folger, was instrumental in assisting Hinman with his work.  All but Dawson’s letter deal primarily with errata found in the book by the various correspondents.  Dawson’s three-page TLs concerns Staunton’s photolithographic facsimile of the First Folio published in 1866 as well as personal news.
One of the monumental works in the history of bibliography, and the greatest achievement in the field of analytical bibliography.  Hinman, using a collation machine designed by himself and inspired by his service in WWII intelligence, did a page-by-page comparison of over fifty copies of the First Folio at the Folger Library. The results published here changed not only the entire nature of Shakespearian scholarship but also heavily influenced the general course of bibliographical studies.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


J. Frank Dobie 1888-1964
J. Frank Dobie.  GUIDE TO THE LIFE AND LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHWEST.  Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1943.  111 p. Illus. 8vo. Light-grey printed wrappers.  Notes:  A handful of copies were issued hardbound.

Inscribed, “Dear Fred Rosenstock, This is the first edition.  It was given away by the Univ. of Texas Press.  The trade printing was made from identical plates by Southern Methodist Univ. Press.  Frank Dobie, Oct. 12, 1952, In Denver.”  Checkmarks and annotations throughout.
                Dobie was a regular customer of Fred Rosenstock (1895-1986) one of the top Western Americana dealers in the country who had his store in Denver.  
Donald Bower writes in Fred Rosenstock: A Legend in Books & Art, “In 1952 Fred arranged a lecture tour for Dobie that included the University of Colorado, the University of Denver, Colorado State University and Colorado State College at Greeley. ‘About five hundred people attended his talk at the University of Denver,’ Fred recalls, ‘and his subject was on the psychology of Western animals—mostly the coyote.  The lecture lasted one hour, but he was so fascinating it could have gone on all night.  The audience was mesmerized.  I remember that he had a big pocket watch, like the railroad men used to use, and he would pull that out and look at it from time to time.  He stopped on the dot of one hour and no amount of applause could make him go on.’”
                “After Dobie returned to Texas he wrote an article for the San Antonio Light, in which he referred to Fred Rosenstock’s Bargain Book Store: ‘It is crammed with old books, some very rare . . . A person can learn an enormous amount by looking through books that he does not actually read.  I incline to judge the civilization of a city by its bookstores—or by their absence.  A genuine bookstore is far more than a house of merchandise.  As an asset of civilization, it is in the same category as public libraries.’”
                “J. Frank Dobie, while not a collector in the technical sense, put together says J. E. Reynolds, a noted bookseller [see next copy below], ‘with loving care the greatest collection of books on the range livestock industry ever assembled by a private individual in this country.’  Dobie bought books from the Rosenstocks for many years, usually writing a letter and attaching a list of the titles he was looking for” (p. 139).

Dobie. [another edition].  GUIDE TO LIFE AND LITERATURE OF THE SOUTHWEST. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1952.  viii 222 p. Illus. 8vo. Medium brown cloth stamped in dark brown, dust jacket.  Notes:  2nd edition, “revised and enlarged in both knowledge and wisdom.”  First published in 1943.

Inscribed, “Jack Reynolds -- I like to be quoted -- Frank Dobie, a su casa, 2/25/56.”  Bookplate of Dobie.
                Bookseller Jack Reynolds knew Dobie well.  Laid in is a newspaper clipping describing a pamphlet issued by Reynolds, “For Christmas greetings to their friends [in 1958], Mr. and Mrs. Jack Reynolds of Van Nuys, Calif., printed and mailed an appreciation of J. Frank Dobie written by Lawrence Clark Powell.  Reynolds is a rare book dealer; Powell is head of the UCLA library and a writer and editor.  They are friends and literary admirers of Dobie, whom Powell calls the ‘best Southwesterner of them all, and. . . the givingest man I know,’ both in his books and in person.”
                Reynolds is quoted in Donald Bower’s biography, Fred Rosenstock: A Legend in Books & Art, “’J. Frank Dobie, while not a collector in the technical sense, put together says J. E. Reynolds, a noted bookseller, ‘with loving care the greatest collection of books on the range livestock industry ever assembled by a private individual in this country.’”  

Dobie's Paisano bookplate in Reynolds' copy

Thursday, January 22, 2015

You Know You’re a Serious Book Collector When . . .

The insurance value of your book collection is greater than the value of your home.

You will skip watching any sporting event to attend a Book Fair.

You have a separate credit card just for book purchases.

The high balance on your book credit card “doesn’t really count."

You fantasize more about books than the opposite sex.

You realize you may never see that rare book again but you can always make more money.

You sell your piano to make room for another large bookcase.

You can’t wait to get the kids out of the house so you can use their rooms for books.

You quietly worry about the structural integrity of your home.

You can scout bookstores all day long and forget to eat.

You have a tumultuous relationship with your postman.

Most of the emails you receive are “want matches” from book sites.

Much of your day revolves around checking these want matches.

You often have books sent to the office instead of your home.

Book dealers send you advance catalogues.

Book dealers extend you credit.

Book dealers take you to lunch.

Auction houses send you complimentary catalogues.

You have experienced auction fever.

You can spend hours going through dealer pamphlet bins for fun.

You examine the decorative books at furniture stores in hopes of a find.

Guests grow silent in amazement when they walk through your book-laden home.

Your master bedroom is full of books.

You have book shelves in your bedroom closets.

A library space is the most important element to consider in buying a home.

You fantasize about building a separate book house on the vacant lot next door.

You buy the lot next door and build a separate book house.

You spontaneously cheer or curse when you win or lose an Ebay auction.

Your vacations feature book stores and book dealers.

The perusal of a fresh bookseller catalogue takes immediate priority over anything else.

You spend your free time reading old bookseller catalogues.

You order book jacket protectors and rolls of protective mylar in bulk from library suppliers.

Your spouse is now convinced that books are a good investment.

You are a bit embarrassed to bring a guest to the house who is not a book person.

You own multiple copies of your favorite rare books.

When someone asks how you are doing you reply, “Very fine.”

You begin to believe in a Book Deity.

That long sought after book finally arrives and time stops and the angels sing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Three Book Trade Veterans and a Collector Speak at the Houston Book Fair

The Houston Book Fair was held this past Saturday, November 8th at the Printing Museum.  One of the highlights was a panel discussion.   Collector Kurt Zimmerman and three veteran rare book dealers discuss their backgrounds, share book stories, comment on the current state of the trade, and answer audience questions.  The three dealers were Bud Plant, Peter Stern, and Dennis Melhouse.  A volunteer at the Museum filmed the discussion.  It's worth a view.  Get out the popcorn.

Houston Book Fair Panel Discussion

Stern, Plant, and Melhouse will each have booths at the ABAA Boston Book Fair this upcoming weekend.  Peter Stern has contributed a timely essay on the ABAA blog, "Boston: Characters in the Rare Book Trade."

Peter Stern. Boston: Characters in the Rare Book Trade

Two other relevant blog essays by Rusty Mott & Joyce Kosofsky are also recommended.

Rusty Mott. Recollections of the Boston Book Fair By a Lifer

Joyce Kosofsky. Changes in the Boston Bookstore Scene

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Grand Experiment

“He jumped. He jumped and I couldn’t stop him,” my wife said frantically to the ambulance driver, “He was out of his mind.  My God, he was out of mind.”
            I was strapped down in an ambulance, unconscious and injured badly, paramedic hovering, as it bounced and sped to the hospital.
            But I’m getting ahead of myself.  It had all started off a month earlier so serenely, so innocently, so risk free.  And I must credit no one but yours truly with the idea: an idea that manifested itself over thirty days into a dangerous, terror-filled biblio-ride with unforeseen consequences.