Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Book Hunter’s Bibliocatechism: Part One

The general inspiration for this “bibliocatechism” came from John T. Winterich’s Collector’s Choice (1926), a gathering of essays offering advice to book collectors.  He devoted a chapter to his own bibliocatechism of fifty questions.  His was more weighted to general literary topics than this.  I thought a version focusing on rare book hunters would be an appropriate homage.  The questions are wide-ranging within the subject and carry no theme beyond whatever came to mind.  May this entertainment stretch your biblio-knowledge and provide a few moments of pleasant distraction.  Answers are found at the end.

1.  This exceptional prodigy bookseller authored a senior thesis at Yale about the 19th-century American rare book trade entitled Winnowers of the Past: The Americanist Tradition in the Nineteenth Century.

a)  James Cummins
b)  Donald Heald
c)  Terry Halladay
d)  William Reese

2.  A prominent book collector of J. Frank Dobie, ranching material, outlaws, and other Western subjects, he decided to give up collecting after about thirty years and transitioned into a successful book dealer.

a)  Jeff Dykes
b)  William Allison
c)  Ollie Crinklemeyer
d)  A & B

3.  Flamboyant and controversial, this rare book dealer was also a professional poker player and died under mysterious circumstances.

a)  Ray Walton
b)  Fred White, Jr.
c)  Michael Parrish
d)  Johnny Jenkins

4.  When this writer and collector authored a syndicated newspaper column entitled, “Do You Have a Tamerlane in Your Attic?” someone actually did.  The woman attempted to reach him about this Poe rarity but could not and instead contacted Boston bookseller Charles Goodspeed.

a) John Winterich
b)  Frederick B. Adams
c) Vincent Starrett
d)  Elmer Adler

Bonus fact:  The Tamerlane was sold by Goodspeed to Owen D. Young and now is in the NYPL.

5.  Well known as a dealer, collector, and scholar, this Mark Twain enthusiast has assembled the best collection of Twain material in private hands.

a) Stephen Hamilton
b) Kevin Mac Donnell  
c)  Shelley Fishkin
d) Harriet Elinor Smith

6.  A now prominent collector unexpectedly bought a copy of Poe’s The Raven and Other Poems (1845) in 1987 at The International Fine Art & Antiques Show, NYC.  The purchase would ignite a collecting fervor that would result in the finest Poe collection formed in recent memory.  The collector is:

a) Camille Paglia
b) Susan Jaffe Tane
c)  Rebecca Rego Barry
d)  Sarah Jeffrey Tate

7.  In 1989, a recent University of Texas graduate strode confidently into the Harry Ransom Center looking for a job.  There were none available.  But he did garner an internship soon after that resulted in work in the rare book trade, an auction house, and later real estate.  The collector and writer founded the following website in 2011:


8.  Washington Irving was greatly assisted in the writing of A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828) by this pioneering book dealer in Americana:

a) Henry Stevens
b) Obadiah Rich
c)  James Lenox
d) John Carter Brown

9.  David Randall partnered with this rare bookman in the 1930s-1940s while working at Scribners in NYC to issue a number of groundbreaking bookseller catalogues:

a) Percy Muir
b) Bertram Rota
c) John Carter
d) Michael Sadleir

Bonus fact:  Randall would go on to become the first director of the Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana.  J. K. Lilly, Jr. had been one of his best clients.

10.  During the famous 1911 Robert Hoe Sale two Gutenberg Bibles were sold, one on vellum and one on paper.  They were acquired by Henry Huntington and P.A.B. Widener, respectively.  Who were the dealers that purchased them at the auction?

a)  A.S.W. Rosenbach and Maggs Bros.
b)  George D. Smith and Bernard Quaritich
c) Charles Goodspeed and Ernest Dressel North
d)  None of the above

Bonus fact:  Robert Hoe’s son, Arthur Hoe, also a collector, was the underbidder on the paper copy of his father’s Gutenberg Bible.

11.  A. Edward Newton’s famous book, The Amenities of Book-Collecting (1918), captured the spirit of his age and inspired countless collectors thereafter.  How many printings of the original edition were there?

a) Eight
b) Two
c) Fourteen
d) One

Bonus Fact:  The book was also published in a Modern Library edition in 1934.

12.  This influential bibliophilic club was formed in 1884 by a group of collectors and bookmen.  The club is still in existence today and continues to issue publications and host exhibitions:

a) The Rowfant Club, Cleveland
b) The Caxton Club, Chicago
c) The Grolier Club, NYC
d)  The Club of Odd Volumes, Boston

13.  She began her rare bookselling career with Warren Howell, worked for John Jenkins, and then went on her own, rising to prominence in a male-dominated field.

a)  Dorothy Sloan
b)  Valerie Urban
c)  Leona Rostenberg
d)  Ellen Dunlap

Bonus fact:  In 1994, she transitioned into a successful auctioneer of rare books and manuscripts.

14.  This prominent early 20th-century woman rare book dealer was the wife of a Chicago bookman and lived in two houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

a)  Estelle Doheny
b)  Alice Millard
c)  Phoebe Cates
d)  Mrs. Frank Leslie

15.  This famous bibliographer authored two children’s books illustrated by Louis Slobodkin.

a) Merle Johnson
b) Fredson Bowers
c) Jacob Blanck
d) Charlton Hinman

16.  The Grolier Club of NYC was a men’s only club until the 1970s.  In part because of this policy a group of prominent women collectors and rare book librarians formed their own club.  It was called:

a) The Hiawatha Society
b)  The Society of Women Collectors
c)  The Hroswitha Club
d)  The Blue Bindings

17.  John Payne has just published his groundbreaking work Great Catalogues by Master Booksellers (2017).  Over thirty years earlier he authored the standard bibliography of this American writer.

a) John Steinbeck
b)  Eudora Welty
c)  Henry James
d)  William Faulkner

18.  Bookman and bibliographer Merle Johnson is remembered for his High Spots of American Literature (1929) and American First Editions (1929, 1932).  He also excelled professionally as a:

a)  Printer
b) Photographer
c) Illustrator
d) Papermaker

19.  The recent death of this prominent bookseller brought much sadness to the book trade.  Before he became a bookseller he formed a great collection of A. Edward Newton.  He was:

a)  Robert Fleck
b)  Franklin Gilliam
c)  Jack Tannen
d) Jack Bartfield

20.  J. Pierpont Morgan’s famous librarian and first director of the Pierpont Morgan Library was Belle da Costa Greene.  Fairly recently an unexpected revelation came to light about her.

a)  She wrote romances under a pseudonym
b)  She had a baby by Morgan’s son
c)  She was African-American
d)  She was gay

21.  Bibliographer and collector Ramon Adams, author of Six-Guns and Saddle Leather (1954) and The Rampaging Herd (1959) was in this profession before injury derailed him:

a)  Football player
b)  Violinist
c)  Tennis player
d)  Auto racer

Bonus fact:  Adams made his living as the owner of Adams Candy Factory in Dallas, wholesaling to retailers like Neiman-Marcus.

22.  Librarian and bookman Randolph Adams would have a prominent career as the first director of the William Clements Library at the University of Michigan.  A serendipitous meeting with this librarian got him the job via a glowing recommendation.

a) George Watson Cole
b) George Parker Winship
c) Herbert Putnam
d) Louis Wright

23.  This collector and shipping magnate spared no energy or expense pursuing and gathering American literature. He wrote, “After many years of intensive collecting—I use the word advisedly as I calculate that during forty years of devotion to this pursuit I have acquired an average of 250 items per week, 1,000 a month, 12,000 per year—I walk along hundreds of feet of shelved books and manuscripts in cases, and as I pause before many individual items I am amazed at the number that bring to mind some special circumstances connected with their acquisition.”  

a)  Parkman Dexter Howe
b)  C. Waller Barrett
c)   William E. Stockhausen
d)  Owen F. Aldis

Bonus fact:  The collection was preserved and is now a cornerstone of the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia.

24.  George Parker Winship, head of the Widener Library at Harvard, taught this class in the 1920s-30s on rare book appreciation that fostered many prominent collectors and bookmen. (Who often later became patrons and donors to the library.)

a)  Fine Arts 5E
b)  Appreciation of the Printed Book 3C
c)  Book Arts 10B
d)  Bibliography 4F

Bonus fact:  He also taught the class for a number of years to women students at Radcliffe College, later absorbed into Harvard.

25.  Nicolas Basbanes, author of the classic A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (1995) and other prominent biblio-writings, was originally inspired to write A Gentle Madness after:

a)  A drive in his XKE Jaguar to the American Antiquarian Society
b)  Interviewing the infamous book thief Stephen BlumbergiHig
c)  Attending the Legacies of Genius exhibit celebrating Philadelphia libraries
d)  Selling a collection of modern literature to raise funds for his daughter’s wedding


1) d
2) d
3) d
4) c
5) b
6) b
7) b
8) b
9) c
10) b
11) a
12) c
13) a
14) b
15) c
16) c
17) a
18) c
19) a
20) c
21) b
22) b
23) b
24) a
25) c


  1. A perfect score! If 0 can be considered perfect...

  2. No judgement here! Just glad you took the time to make a stab at it. Thanks for reading.

  3. Which of the people mentioned above lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house?

    Where was the house?

    In which FLW style was the house designed?


    1. The answer to No. 14 is "b" and I'm sure you can take it from there-- she lived in two FLW homes. If anyone else I mentioned lived in a FLW house I'm unaware of it.

  4. Are you sure that he put together his AEN collection before going into bookselling? His first collection was of a famous author of fiction...and I think that that was the collection he sold at that time...but I've been wrong before.

  5. He began collecting Newton when he first graduated from college. I'm sure he added to the collection in the early days of his bookselling. He writes that Newton's "essays on book-collecting struck a responsive chord and played a part in my exchange of a chemical engineering career for that of a bookseller" -from "A Note from the Collector" in Oak Knoll Catalogue 86 (1986).

  6. How does one get a copy of "Great Catalogues by Master Booksellers"?

  7. Funny that John T. Winterich’s Collector’s Choice was the catalyst for this piece. I found a copy of that book a few years ago with the leather bookplate of Alfred Sutro (one-time president of the Book Club of California) opposite the ownership signature of Russell Train (who donated an amazing collection of African exploration to the Smithsonian).

  8. The Sutro-Train provenance is an interesting one. The most unusual copy I have is not one inscribed by the author but rather from Los Angeles bookseller Ernest Dawson to bibliophile Francis P. Farquhar, “To Francis P. Farquhar, If you score 500 points on the Bibliocatechism (see page 183) I’ll send you a rare tome with my comps. Your Friend, Ernest Dawson, May 15, 1928.”