Friday, December 20, 2019

Miss Stillwell and F. Richmond: The Recording of Incunabula in America

Margaret Stillwell

Frederick R. Goff

The recent ABAA Boston Book Show at the Hynes Convention Center presented an array of delights to tempt even the most jaded book men and women. The brisk cold outside contrasted with the fervor of the book hunters within.   I looked, I mingled, and when I could resist hunger no longer, I ate a meal at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant nearby.  The calorie count displayed next to the menu items read like the prices in a nicely stocked dealer booth: 2,000, 1,800, 2,400, 1,200.  The friends eating with me—Joe Fay and Bill Allison—paid no heed, and I was on a biblio-vacation so damn the low salt diet. We poured over the extensive menu like one would examine a good bookseller catalogue; with astonishment and delight.  I knew we were done for when we ordered the cheeseburger eggrolls as an appetizer.  The food was surprisingly good but the book talk was even better.  We staggered out after polishing off the obligatory cheesecake dessert.  I wondered if the hotel gym had a Stairmaster. 
            This brief introduction only touches on what was for me a satisfying and varied trip.  I found several biblio items for my collection, particularly from exhibitors Willis Monie and Brattle Bookshop at the main show, and from Peter Masi and Roselund Rare Books at the “shadow fair” held Saturday a few blocks away.  But the most interesting acquisition originated from a bookstore.  It was the result of a serendipitous encounter with a fellow collector who was conversing with ABAA bookseller Michael Laird.  Laird, a long-time friend, texted me at the show from his booth and told me come over pronto.  The collector he was speaking with mentioned he had been visiting New England bookstores.  One of them had a few biblio-association items outside of his collecting area.  He described them to me.  I was indeed interested and grateful for the tip.  I soon after called the store to confirm the basics and with Bill Allison, my wingman for the trip, set out the next day to examine the books in person.  It was a rainy, cold, dreary drive of an hour and half each way—a day most normal people would stay put-- but not a collector in vigorous pursuit.
            This leads us to Margaret Stillwell (1887-1984) and Frederick R. Goff (1916-1982), pre-eminent rare book librarians and bibliographers, most noted for their work with incunabula: books printed before 1501.  Stillwell flourished, not without considerable struggle, in a male-dominated biblio-world.  She records her triumphs and travails in Librarians are Human: Memories In and Out of the Rare-Book Field 1907-1970 (1973) quoted within.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

"The Greatest Collector of Books the World has Ever Known"

Henry E. Huntington
Stupendously miraculous things can happen to a book collector without warning. On an unseasonably hot October day the package arrived, signature required, and I wasn’t home.   The mail delivery notice was stuck firmly to the front door and I didn’t recognize the sender’s name from any of my recent book purchases.  My faithful mail lady greeted me the next day.  I said no I hadn’t gone to the post office to pick up the package.  So, we arranged for delivery, talked of her pending retirement in two weeks after thirty-six years of service, and I became a bit wistful.  Would the next mail person be so package friendly?
            But I’m getting ahead of myself and miracles have beginnings.  I first spotted the object of my desire in a Dawson’s catalogue in 1996.  The venerable Los Angeles antiquarian firm had acquired portions of the library of Edwin Carpenter, Jr. (1915-1995), historian, librarian, bibliographer, and notable book collector.  Carpenter was associated with the Huntington Library much of his career.  He collected a wide range of subjects.  His favorite was bibliographic association copies—a kindred spirit!   He had a special affinity for Henry Wagner, Henry Harrisse, and Wilberforce Eames, for example.  Carpenter talks at length about his career and collecting in Ruth Axe’s interview Education of a Bibliophile: Edwin H. Carpenter published by the Oral History Program at UCLA in 1977.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Serendipity to Booked Up: An Associative Mailing Label

For the past seven years the heavy box has held miscellaneous issues of The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America.  The material falls within my collection’s gray area: worth keeping and dipping into for reading / reference but not worth taking up shelf space.  So occasionally the box and others containing similar material get shuffled around for one reason or another.   Today was such a day.  Sweaty, hot work in the attic.  A pause and wipe of the brow and a glance at the label on the box.  Lo, we have something here!
                The mailing label is addressed from Peter B. Howard (d. 2011), iconic rare bookman in Berkley, California to Larry McMurtry at his store Booked Up in Archer City, Texas.   What the box originally contained is unknown.  I utilized the box among others to pack my winnings after the McMurtry auction of stock in 2012.
                This unusual association item brought back memories.   I spent time with the idiosyncratic and brilliant bookseller Peter Howard during several visits to his shop, Serendipity Books. He was a prime driver over four decades of modern literature collecting, both books and archives, issuing catalogues and developing major collections.  Larry McMurtry I know less well but I enjoyed a couple of entertaining discussions with him, particularly at the well-publicized 2012 auction of an estimated 300,000 volumes of stock from his sprawling book emporium in Archer City.  Illness issues and a lack of a book heirs drove his decision to sell.  He continues as a bookseller but in a much more streamlined mode.  McMurtry is most famous as a writer but he has bought and sold used and rare books in huge gulps over an extended career as bookseller and book scout.   I’ve written previously about both men in the essays linked below.
                The mailing label deserves preservation.  It represents two well-known American bookmen plying their trade.  It conjures the imagination of the exchange. It’s ephemeral and displays well.  And if one adds historical perspective, how many similar associative labels from years ago survive?  But I’m not here to provide justification only a few thoughts.  I carefully remove the label and place it in a mylar sleeve, a story to a share.

Peter Howard Post

Larry McMurtry Post

Monday, July 22, 2019

Stoic if Not Muscular: A New Path in Bookseller Descriptions

Often it is best to finish one’s cataloging before  beginning Happy Hour.  A bookseller friend brought these descriptions to my attention.  The dealer is fortunate to possess two copies of W. L. Distant’s A Naturalist in the Transvaal. (London: R. H. Porter, 1892).  Each copy has its own merits and so both have been separately described.  The descriptions utilize verbiage seldom, if ever, encountered in rare book cataloging. Whether this New School will take hold and invigorate the staid descriptive processes of the Classic Model remains to be seen.  Let me share them now for your enjoyment and edification.  Cheers!

Copy One
Hardcover. Condition: Fair. No Jacket. 1st Edition. This enthusiastic, energetic book is generally in fair condition. The colour plates - all complete - are startlingly fresh, detailed and vibrant. The binding is stoic if not muscular. The cloth cover has been age and storage marked and worn. There are many wear marks to the extremities. The back cover is much marked by storage. The spine is also worn and has pull depressions to the head and foot. The front and end papers are much discoloured by age. The seams to the spine are cracked through to the stitching. However, although pliable the binding is holding pages firmly. The paper trim edges are marked by storage and age. The condition of this vigorous and wonderfully entertaining and informative book inside is complete, clear and clean of annotations. Page 127 has a triangular page edge tear. There are aged marks along the binding edges throughout the book. The body of the text though is clean.

Copy Two
Hardcover. Condition: Very Good. No Jacket. First Edition. 277 pages plus five coloured plates (complete). A pleasingly comfortable copy. The boards have some shelving wear about the edges and corners, some scuffing, storage marks. The spine is sunned and rubbed from handling, there is wear to the head and foot. The seams are worn,but have been repaired. The gilt titling is placid. The illustration is clear and evocative. Within, the contents are agreeable. The frontispage (tanned) has a previous owner signature. There are some few age-related marks and spots fore and aft. Otherwise, the contents are clean, clear, certain, confident, congenial, conscientious, fresh-faced, gratifyingly healthy.

Run! The Book Description Police are Here!

Friday, July 19, 2019

We Are Many

I’ve been collecting Latin American Literature for thirty years and I like to keep an eye on the market.  An ABE online want notifies me of signed Pablo Neruda items.  A purportedly inscribed copy of We Are Many (London: Cape Goliard Press, 1967) popped up for sale the other day.  The bookseller was in England and the price ca. 250 US.  Quite a deal if true. But alas, the inscription is a facsimile found with all copies in wrappers.  The front wrapper and reproduced inscription on the rear wrapper is as follows:

Rear wrapper facsimile

I took a minute to send a friendly note letting the bookseller know it was a facsimile.  I expected no reply.  However, I got one in short order.  The bookseller wrote:

Hello Kurt,
Thank you very much for your contact overnight via Abe – and your helpful advice re facsimile text on the rear cover of the 1967 Cape Goliard 1st edition of the above book. Very timely. I have received an overnight order for this item from a customer in CA 91730 and I will mention my omission of the facsimile nature of the text to him before concluding the sale.

I was appreciative of the response and glad to help.  However, not only was the book mistakenly described but also someone in California ordered the book looking for a bargain and apparently was as na├»ve as the bookseller.  This got me thinking about the whole scenario.  How does a bookseller mis-identify an item and then top that off by massively under-pricing it under the assumption it is authentic?  How does a buyer (collector or dealer, presumably?) plunk down a quick $250 on an item without doing a little homework of their own?  Are there lessons to learn here?   

I pulled up available copies of the English edition of We are Many to see if other booksellers mentioned the facsimile inscription.  The wrappered issue was printed in an edition of 1,400 copies so the book is fairly common.  The US edition published the following year is of similar design and has the facsimile inscription.  There are approximately twenty-five copies of the various issues present.  A copy like the one offered by the mistaken bookseller can be had for $25-50. 

Presumably, you’d be an excited bookseller to find an inscribed Neruda item.  You’re not going to dartboard a price.  You’d hopefully take a bit of time to search for comparables, right?  You run the same online search as I did or some version of it.  A couple of sellers mention the facsimile inscription.  One copy appears early in the list when sorted by price ($19) and the description clearly states “There is a print of a signed note in English - in Neruda's handwriting - to Ted Hughes, on back cover. 

The bookseller disappointment would now be palpable and understandable.  Typically, this would result in the book being placed back in the general bin or cataloged at a modest price.  But somehow, this doesn’t occur, and the bookseller begins to formulate a price assuming the inscription is authentic.

 If one takes a few seconds longer and scrolls down through available copies they will encounter another issue of the book in hardcover limited to 100 copies signed by Neruda and the translator.  Now there’s a book! -- or relatively speaking at least in comparison to the regular unsigned, wrappered issue.  Multiple copies of this signed issue are available for $1,000 +.  It is not rare, but it is expensive.   

The bookseller holds in his / her hands an example in wrappers with an apparently unique inscription mentioning Ted Hughes, etc. and can see (or should) that the basic signed, limited edition goes for over $1,000.   And they somehow arrive at a price of $250.

But all is not on the bookseller.  The buyer also apparently didn’t take a minute to investigate this bargain.  Do they really trust that the bookseller’s description is sound when the item has been woefully underpriced?  Are they a beginning collector who has not studied their area of interest? Or are they a generalist / reseller who thinks a steal is in order? Perhaps the 250 price is McMoney after a good day on the stock market and the book a gift for a spouse or friend and no worries about whether it is right or not.   

I don’t know the answer and I probably won’t know.  I’m simply passing on the experience to allow my readers to ponder and have it serve as a reminder, a lesson, or a point of departure on a longer discussion.   

Pablo Neruda. “Nothing More” (from We Are Many)

I made my contract with the truth
to restore light to the earth.

I wished to be like bread.
The struggle never found me wanting.

But here I am with what I loved,
with the solitude I lost.
In the shadow of that stone, I do not rest.

The sea is working, working in my silence.

Monday, July 15, 2019

With Neither Rhyme Nor Reason?

Recently arrived is Colton Storm's With Neither Rhyme Nor Reason?  (Bloomington, IL: Scarlet Ibis Press, 1974).  The essay was originally delivered as an address before the Friends of the Milner Library On the Occasion of Their Spring Meeting, 7 May, 1973.  The address was published in an edition of 300 copies.  The other copies I've seen for sale or cited were in wrappers.  This example is in hardcover.  What percentage of the 300 examples were hardbound is unknown but apparently small.  But that is a collector talking.  More important is the essay itself.  Storm was a rare bookman for over forty years and had an uncommon command of words.  It is a pity he didn't write more.  His most well-known publications are an Invitation to Book Collecting (1947), co-written with Howard Peckham, and as the compiler of  A Catalogue of the Everett D. Graff Collection of Americana (1968).

His thoughts on book collecting have given me unexpected pleasure this evening.  I'd like to share the end of his address:

"Book collecting, the pursuit of a passion, can be an expensive avocation, or it can be a pleasure enjoyed with no great cost save in human energy.  But whether it is a game played in the grand manner, or as a simple pastime, the collecting of books as treasures is deeply satisfying to the active mind.  The man who is alive to all that moves about him in this complex world cannot complete his day's occupation, remove all thought from his mind, and become quiescent; he must employee his unceasing need for mental & physical activity either in a continuation of the day's business or in the pursuit of a wholly diverse hobby.  The rewards of book collecting are very great.  The uncultivated mind is an asset neither to its owner or to its owner's associates.  Be generous to yourself and your friends--be a book collector."

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Book Hunter's Bibliocatechism: Part Two

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.  For Part One see

26.  This collector claimed 160 acres of government land in Oklahoma based on his mother’s Creek Indian bloodline.  The land turned out to be oil-rich and he was a millionaire before he turned twenty-five.  His collection of art, books and manuscripts on all phases of Indian culture became a well-known museum.

a)  Edward Ayer
b) Thomas Gilcrease
c) Everett DeGolyer
d) Thomas W. Field

Bonus fact:  His wife was the winner of the 1924 Miss America contest.

27.  In 2019, she became the first woman to head the Christie’s NYC book department following in the steps of such prominent bookmen as Stephen Massey, Francis Wahlgren, and Tom Lecky.  She is:

a) A. N. Devers
b) Heather O’Donnell
c) Christina Geiger
d)  Gigi Austin

28.  The infamous Titanic disaster took many lives including a book collecting prodigy who died at age 27.  He was planning to attend the next session of the Robert Hoe auction in NYC.  His grief-stricken mother built a great library at Harvard in his honor.

a)  Harry Widener
b)  Henry Folger
c)  John T. Rockefeller, 3rd.
d)  Pierpont Morgan, Jr.

29.  One of the foundation collections of the Humanities Research Center at UT-Austin was acquired in 1958 (second batch in 1964).  This mighty collector assembled a spectacular library of modern literature including association copies, manuscripts, and letters by James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Beckett, Shaw, and many more.  He is little known because his collection was absorbed into the institution.

a)  Richard Oram
b) T. E. Hanley
c)  Robert Lee Wolff
d)  Thomas Staley

Bonus fact:  His second wife was an exotic dancer who became deeply interested in the collection over time and wrote a racy autobiography late in life.

30.  Called “Lefty” by friends, this charismatic collector immersed himself in eighteenth century English life via Horace Walpole.  For fifty years he gathered all things Walpole including printed works, manuscripts, letters, books from Walpole’s library, portraits, drawings, architectural designs, and artifacts.  He also gathered similar material of Walpole’s contemporaries.  The massive collection is housed in Farmington, Connecticut under the auspices of a major university close by.  It is an essential research stop for anyone researching 18th-century English life and letters.

a)  Robert H. Taylor
b)  James Harden
c)  Wilmarth Lewis
d)  Chauncey Tinker

31.  She had a fondness for John Keats above all, forming a major collection of his works and writing an in-depth two volume biography of the poet.  However, her 12,000-volume library (gifted to Harvard) also contained important book, manuscripts and letters of many 18th and 19th century authors including Hardy, Austin, Bronte and Ben Johnson.  In her own time, she was better known as a writer.  Who was she and what was her best-known genre?

a)  Margaret Fuller, journalist
b) Emily Dickinson, poetry
c)  Amy Lowell, poetry
d)  Gertrude Stein, novelist

Bonus fact:  She once graced the cover of Time magazine, reading a book.

32.  He was an early champion and collector of Joseph Conrad and authored Fishers of Books, a first-hand view of the fevered collecting excitement of the 1920s.  He also compiled a bibliography of Booth Tarkington.  Pummeled economically by the Great Depression, he became disenchanted with expensive high spot collecting and later focused more on his writing.  He had a lengthy career as editor of Country Gentleman, Ladies’ Home Journal¸ and World’s Work.

a) Richard Curle
b) Barton Currie
c) Christopher Morley
d) Barton Roscoe

33.  She trained under Wilberforce Eames and George Parker Winship.  She mentored a young Frederick Goff.  Her area of focus was incunabula, but she wrote on a variety of bibliographic subjects. She was long-time librarian of the Annmary Brown Memorial Library at Brown University.  Her autobiography Librarians are Human is one of the underappreciated gems of biblio-literature and is filled with entertaining vignettes of many well-known bookmen and women.

a) Henrietta Bartlett
b) Belle da Costa Greene
c) Margaret Stillwell
d) E. Miriam Lone  

34.  This renowned urologist and teacher built several important book collections but his most notable focused on Leonardo da Vinci.  He worked closely with bookseller Jake Zeitlin who supplied many of the gems over four decades.  His library of Vinciana was gifted to UCLA.

a)  Herbert E. Evans
b)  Elmer Belt
c)  John F. Fulton
d)  Harvey Cushing

Bonus Fact:  He was a pioneer in sex reassignment surgery.

35. Formed over forty-five years, this extensive collection documenting women at work contains well-known examples of women’s history and the arts complimented by a wide range of material produced by women “scholars, printers, publishers, laborers, scientists, artists, and political activists.”  In 2015 the collection found at home at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library.  The collector who assembled it is:

a)  Lisa Ungar Baskin
b) Dorothy Sloan
c) Priscilla Juvelis    
d) Mary Hyde

36.  His recent untimely passing sent reverberations throughout the rare book trade.  He apprenticed with Jake Zeitlin before opening his own book shop in partnership with his then wife.  The two printed twenty-five titles under their Press of the Pegacycle Lady in the 1970s.  Although an expert bookman in many areas, his Sixties roots were exemplified by his formation of important collections on psychoactive drug related literature and Vegetarianism, now at Harvard and the Lilly Library, respectively.  Later in life he bought and renovated the Hacienda Hot Springs Spa in Desert Hot Springs.

a) William Dailey
b) William Reese
c) Michael R. Thompson
d) Frank Klein

37.  His Principles of Bibliographical Description forever changed the field of bibliography drawing many disciples and not a few detractors.

a) Charlton Hinman
b) Philip Gaskell
c) William B. Todd
d) Fredson Bowers

Bonus fact:  He was avid breeder of dogs and judge at dog shows, his first book being a handbook on dogs.

38.  This collector was chairman of Ginn & Heath publishers and built a world-class collection of textbooks including manuscripts, incunabula, primers and hornbooks, now at Columbia.  He authored two well-received books based on the collection, The Education of Shakespeare and The Education of Chaucer.   He also presented a large library of Italian literature to Wellesley College in memory of his wife and formed an extensive library on the French and Indian War. 

a) George A. Plimpton
b) John Shaw Pierson
c) William Speck
d) Winston Coleman

Bonus fact:  His grandson was a notable journalist, literary editor, and sports writer.

39.  His father avidly collected Stephen Foster.  He decided to pursue a much wider field, using many of the “most famous” biblio-lists as an outline to construct a formidable collection with exceptional holdings in literature, Americana, medicine, and science.  The collection became the foundation for one of the great rare book libraries in the United States. 

a) Henry Folger
b) Henry Huntington
c) J. K. Lilly, Jr
d) Walter Beinecke

Bonus fact:  He underwrote the funding for Jacob Blanck’s Bibliography of American Literature.

40.  Thomas Streeter ranks high on any list of legendary book collectors, but he was also a formidable bibliographer, authoring the monumental Bibliography of Texas 1795-1845 based on his own collection.  The auction of his Americana library at Sotheby Parke-Bernet from 1966-1969 was a landmark sale.  However, his Texana collection was not included.  Where did it go?

a) University of Texas-Austin
b) Alamo Research Center, San Antonio
c) Beinecke Library, Yale
d) Retained by the family and viewable by appointment

41.  The Grolier Club of NYC formally began admitting women members in 1976.  (Although women gave guest lectures as early as the 1890s.)  The first woman to serve as president of the Grolier Club (2002-2006) was this Churchill collector.

a) Mary Hyde
b) Anne Lyon Haight
c) Susan Jaffe Tane
d) Carolyn Smith

42.  At age 11, he purchased from the Henkels auction house an illustrated edition of Reynard the Fox.  Admitting afterward he was insolvent for the amount, owner Stan Henkels laughed, put him on a payment plan, and proclaimed he was “the very first baby bibliomaniac to come my way.”  He would later be instrumental in building some of the greatest collections of the 20th century and leave his own collection to establish a museum.

a)  Henry Huntington
b) A.S.W. Rosenbach
c)  Henry Folger
d) Lathrop Harper 

43.  His family business catalogues were groundbreaking and world renowned.  His book collection of early illustrated books and prints was arguably equal to the professional fame.  He would gift the Library of Congress his collection of books but retained it during his lifetime and added to its holdings.

a) William Clements
b) William Andrews Clark
c) Walter Beinecke
d) Lessing Rosenwald   

Bonus Fact:  The family business, Sears, rivaling the size of Walmart and Amazon in its day, has descended into bankruptcy and dismemberment.

44.  He was a prominent book collector who made a fortune as a Broadway producer during the Twenties only to lose all of it in the Depression.  He also published several distinguished literary limited editions via his Watch Hill Press.  In the 1930s and 40s he became known for his writings on fine foods and wine.  David Randall in Dukedom Large Enough recounts how he acquired and sold the collector’s books, a story not without adventure and tribulations.  Randall notes that “the reason [he] stored his library was to keep this asset from his creditors, as I found out when I tried to sell it.”

a) Crosby Gaige
b) Mitchell Kennerley
c) Harry B. Smith
d) Jerome Kern

45. This champion water skier in his youth rose to prominence in the accounting field.  His collection of Baskerville printings and biblio-material, particularly his auction / private library catalogues, are world-class.  He has printed many pamphlets and ephemera on his private press for over fifty years.  He also has the ex-Folger Library Hinman collator in his dining room.

a) William B. Todd
b) William P. Barlow, Jr.
c) Thomas Tanselle
d) Michael Winship

46.  A transplanted Englishman, he was a prominent Bay Area book dealer for decades.  His autobiography Infinite Riches captures his humor and personality along with telling many fine book stories.

a) Peter Howard
b) David Magee
c) John Windle
d) Jeffrey Thomas

47.  This rare bookstore was established in New Haven, Connecticut in 1915.  It has had three owners including E. Byrne Hackett, Franklin Gilliam, and the current proprietor, John Crichton.  The shop’s various locations in its illustrious history include Princeton, New York City, Austin, Houston, and San Francisco.

a) Heritage Book Shop
b) Howell Books
c) Brick Row Book Shop
d) Serendipity Books

48.  Rising to prominence as a Texas novelist and man of letters, relatively few people know that he has been an avid bookman since his days at Rice University.  For many years he owned used /rare bookstores in Washington, D.C. and Houston.  Later, he bought entire bookstores en bloc to establish a massive book emporium located in Archer City, Texas.  In 2012, citing health concerns, he auctioned much of the stock off.

a) John Jenkins
b) John Graves
c) Larry McMurtry
d) Dan Jenkins

Bonus Fact:  His private library, housed in his residence, once the country club of his hometown, holds a reputed 30,000 volumes.   

49.  An expert in detective and mystery fiction, he has published and edited many volumes in the field. He is the proprietor of the Mystery Bookshop in New York City. His massive private collection of first / important editions, numbering almost 60,000 volumes, is housed in his chateau in rural Connecticut. 

a) Peter Stern
b) Jim Pepper
c) Dan Posnansky
d) Otto Penzler

50.  He was an avid fisherman and published a well-regarded history of angling and its literature.  He is more well-known for establishing a famous bookshop whose logo was “Anything that’s a book.”

a) Charles Goodspeed
b) Walter M. Hill
c) Lathrop Harper
d) Peter Howard


26. b
27. c
28. a
29. b
30. c
31. c
32. b
33. c
34. b
35. a
36. a
37. d
38. a
39. c
40. c
41. d
42. b
43. d
44. a
45. b
46. b
47. c
48. c
49. d
50. a

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Moving Experience

The smell and feel and heft of books, time to move, only a mile away, the same neighborhood, and unexpectedly a new home called to us and we answered, empty nesters now, this an updated home with more room, better views, but what of the books some 7,000 strong, overflowing the old house’s master bedroom, the former kids’ rooms, the game room, the half bath, and closets and I couldn’t let movers touch them, no sir, and I’m still twenty-something mentally and I will move them myself, all of them, and it will be fun and a fine workout but time waits for no man, and I pack, and arrange, and lift, and push forward and the steep stairs push back and thirty boxes turns to three hundred and damnit my huge bottle of ibuprofen is the only thing separating me from incapacity and hospitalization but it’s worth it I swear to myself and each packed box tingles and thrills as thirty years of closely curated finds reveal themselves once again and I can’t remember them all but I do rediscover most as they fill my hands and I pause over and over to dip and touch and recall finds hiding in top shelves of bookstores, dealer catalogues, auction houses, and a furniture store, and I remember friends and acquaintances, a world of rare book hunters, some still close and others gone until Book Valhalla’s reunion and sadness and happiness as memories flow and I realize my book centered life is a people centered life and immersion in books can be almost overwhelming at times, almost, and I think about this as my breath is short and my dolly creaks under a stack of boxes, and I figure out even as a liberal arts major how to engineer 27 boxes in my Korean-born SUV, the rear tailgate not quite secure, but again I rationalize I’m only a mile away to the new house and I dodge youngsters playing in the street and wonder if they’ll even know what a book is as sweat drips and my sight is blurred and I barely miss my octogenarian neighbor walking his hot dog and I realize I almost took out one of the old school readers who may not know a rare book from a paperback but he knows a book and I coast gingerly into our new expansive driveway hoping not to shake a binding or twerk a fragile, wrappered copy, and this is only the delivery part and does not include my new expertise at assembling IKEA bookshelves that take the place of those dreamed of custom shelves that somehow never happen as the extra money goes to books and not to shelves and my priorities of a collector bubble up and I think fleetingly of the exotic sports car that could have been mine had my tastes not run to books and then I’m okay because someday I might sell some of these books and buy a sports car which is as likely as a unicorn, but the sun is shining, the air pure, and it balms the spirit as I precariously balance wants and needs and how my mind does wander when hot and tired and then it’s time to carry those boxes gently and lovingly up that damn flight of steep stairs to the new game room that is now properly a library and then the idea to put everything in alphabetical order worms into my brain like mad cow disease and instead of a couple weeks of moving it becomes a couple of months, and the organization takes the form of dozens of stacks and piles and temporary shelves and god knows what saturate my full mind as the mass is organized and all else is forgotten and the spouse wonders what sanity is left and I pause long enough to give that boyish look that is both cute and exasperating to the loved one and more time is granted for the folly and glory of a book person at full intensity, and miraculously order emerges, despite pause after delightful pause, and my reflexes sharpen as I ninja to keep half shelves from falling over and any book baby that is fragile is given extra attention and I realize more dust jacket and mylar covers are needed and this proposed task is daunting but the idea warms like the bourbon and Coke being sipped from my thermos, not to hide the drink but because it leaves no rings on books or shelves, and as my new library takes shape, the pain, the mental juggling, those pleasant distractions of work and family, melt away leaving a glorious ensemble of bookish delights to surround, fortify, please, intrigue, and sooth, each tome a person reaching from finality, and I grasp carefully one close and dip again or anew, and my biceps are taut as youth, and I can’t await my first book visitors to the new home and as this passionate thought provides stimulation, I notice, forlornly, that available shelf space in the new home is not what I had hoped and I worry once again, but it passes and somehow, I’m ready for more and no one is surprised.

The Upstairs Library
The Master Bedroom Library

Visitors this month.  Move it and they will come.

Very Fine collectors Bill Fisher & Douglas Adams with The Batman (and me)
Kevin Mac Donnell, Mighty Twain Collector & Scholar (and noted Dealer)

Old friend & former colleague Richard Austin, Director of Books & MSS at Sotheby's NY.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Featured Item VIII: The Zamorano 80. Food, Fellowship & Books

THE ZAMORANO 80: A SELECTION OF DISTINGUISHED CALIFORNIA BOOKS MADE BY MEMBERS OF THE ZAMORANO CLUB.  Los Angeles: The Zamorano Club, 1945. Foreword by Homer D. Crotty.  x [1] 66 p. Folding frontis., plates.  8vo. Rust brown cloth, front cover and spine stamped in gilt, dust jacket. Limitation: No. 190 of 500.

Inscribed, “For Crosby Gaige, fellow explorer in the realms of typographia and culinariana, with warm regards. Phil Townsend Hanna, June 17, 1946.”
                The selection committee consisted of Phil Hanna (1896-1957), whose earlier work, Libros Californianos, or Five Feet of California Books, served as inspiration, Leslie E. Bliss, Robert E. Cowan, Henry R. Wagner, J. Gregg Layne, Robert J. Woods and Robert G. Cleland.  Homer D. Crotty was the “moderator.” He recounts the somewhat contentious selection process in the foreword.  It took the men a flurry of list making, lively discussions, and two full-fledged dinners to hash out the final eighty selections.  One hundred titles had been the goal but better eighty heartily agreed upon then one hundred that would include lukewarm choices.
                Presentation copies of this influential book are scarce.  The recipient, Crosby Gaige (1882-1949), was a prominent book collector who made a fortune as a Broadway producer during the Twenties only to lose all of it in the Depression.  He also published a number of distinguished literary limited editions via his Watch Hill Press.  In the 1930s and 40s he became known for his writings on fine foods and wine.  He and Hanna shared a common interest in the culinary arts as well as books.  Each formed large cookbook collections.  Gaige was president of the New York Wine and Food Society and Hanna secretary of the Wine & Food Society of Los Angeles.
Gaige’s now mostly forgotten autobiography Footlights and Highlights (1948) is a surprisingly fine read (ghost written by bookman John Tebbel) but devotes only one chapter to his collecting and publishing. David Randall in Dukedom Large Enough recounts how he acquired and sold Gaige’s book collection, a story not without adventure and tribulations.  Randall notes that “the reason Gaige stored his library was to keep this asset from his creditors, as I found out when I tried to sell it.”