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.
Stillwell for most of her career oversaw the Annmary Brown Memorial / Library located on the campus of Brown University.  The Memorial contained the exceptional collection of incunabula formed by bibliophile and Civil War hero Rush Hawkins.  Hawkins founded the Memorial to honor his wife after her death in 1903.  He lived on for many years, hunting and gathering more books, and generally being an outspoken and cantankerous fellow, until he was hit by a car at age 89 in 1920 in New York City.  Stillwell recounts her serendipitous first encounter with Hawkins in 1909 at Brown University.  She was an undergraduate working in the library as an assistant to famed bookman George Parker Winship.
“One day I looked up to see a tall, handsome old man entering the room. ‘My name is Hawkins, General Hawkins,’ he announced. ‘Is Winship here?’ Mr. Winship was at the printers. Could I do anything?  Would he not wait?  ‘No, no, nothing whatever.  I wanted Winship.  I have no time.’
“With that he whirled about, but halfway across the room he picked up Edmund Lester Pearson’s Old Librarian’s Almanack [1909], which was lying on a table.  ‘Have you read it?’ he asked over his shoulder.  Yes, and I had found it very amusing.
“’Amusing!  It’s a regular sell.’  And drawing out a chair he began to read to me its rhymes and pungent sayings, chuckling to himself this while.  ‘A regular sell, a hoax that will fool the unwary, perhaps even some of the critics!  John Cotton Dana and Henry Kent were in on this, you know.  What a good time they must have had.’  And he laughed in such a boyish way that I forgot he was the imperious, white-haired General who had appeared in the doorway half an hour ago.
“It was a pregnant moment, but I did not know it.  Seated before me was General Hawkins of New York, for over fifty years one of the world’s outstanding collectors of incunabula, as the first printed books are called—a man so devoted to his wife that he recently erected a Memorial to her in Providence; a man who was notorious for writing frequent and furious letters to The New York Times about this and that; and whose reputation for swearing at his troops in Civil War days was so widespread that a pious aunt in Vermont gathered friends together to pray for the good of his soul.  And I sat there at ease, reviewing these facts in my mind; intrigued by this courtly and handsome old man; amused by his running comments and studying him with a quizzical eye—unaware that one day he would influence me, and in a sense control my activities, throughout my long life.”
The man Hawkins sought was George Parker Winship, a central figure in the world of rare books and special collections, who served first as librarian of the John Carter Brown Library (1895-1915), before moving to Harvard to oversee the Widener Library.  Winship mentored Stillwell.  She writes of him, “Mr. Winship, as I saw him, was essentially a teacher, a man of vision and keen perception.  He worked always for cultural advancement.  Everyone who came his way, from the most erudite scholar to a humble undergraduate, felt the eager touch of his helpfulness.  Without self-seeking or thought of personal prestige, he threw himself into every bookish project which he thought worthwhile and worked to carry it through.”
It was no coincidence then when the Bibliographical Society of America in 1904 funded its first major bibliographic undertaking, a census of incunabula in the United States, Winship became involved.  In 1919, the first edition of the Census was published with Winship writing the introduction.  The Census provided information and locations of 13,200 copies of 6,292 titles in both private and public collections.  Stillwell did not work directly on the first Census, but she had become thoroughly trained in bibliography by Winship while his assistant.
In 1917, Stillwell became curator of the Annmary Brown Memorial Library, selected personally by Rush Hawkins to oversee his collection.  She was awash in incunabula and learning fast.  When Hawkins died, his written will did not express his verbal intentions and the Memorial failed to receive the endowment he had promised her and the Trustees.  This created consternation and hardship for many years, but Stillwell remained at the Memorial.  Despite the difficulties, her expertise in incunabula continued to grow.  1925 would be a turning point.   She writes, “Mr. Winship came to see me in a state of considerable excitement.  He was returning from New York, where he had learned that a German commission, which had been at work on a project for the last twenty years or more, was planning to publish the first volume of a complete catalogue of all incunabula—the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke. . .  In New York, Mr. Winship had attended several meetings and luncheons where this project and the forthcoming volume had been a topic of discussion.  Everyone felt that the United States should be well represented in this record.  And everyone, so he said, felt that I was the logical person to undertake the job.   Some years before this, Mr. Winship himself had had a part in compiling the first Census, a tentative list of American-owned incunabula.  But the one now contemplated would require a systematic search for copies, the results of which should be fed to the Gesamtkatalog and also eventually published as a record of early printed books available in North America.  Knowing him as well as I did, I could see what a grand time he had had engineering all this and getting the New York group all worked up.  The one thing he wanted to know, they wanted to know, was would I undertake it?  This of course fitted in well with my scheme of things.  Also, as usual Mr. Winship’s enthusiasm ignited mine, and I agreed to take it on.”
The project would become almost overwhelming and consume Stillwell for fifteen years until the second Census was published in 1940, a date selected to coincide with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Gutenberg’s printing press.  She writes of the inherent difficulties, “The mail which had accumulated at the Memorial was something appalling, especially that relating to the Census.  Working with the letters en masse in an effort to sort them and to register the early printed books they reported, I became acutely conscious that something was very wrong.
“There was much new wealth in the country at that time.  The market was flooded with books from Europe.  New collectors were buying incunabula, but they knew little about what they had or how to report it.  Although they bought the books in veneration for their antiquity or for their beauty or quaintness, the new owners had never been ‘exposed’ to incunabula.  The knew nothing [bibliographically about them]. 
“In the reports from these new owners, author and title were fairly well stated.  If they chance to have kept a clipping from the bookseller’s catalogue from which a book had been ordered, this frequently proved helpful, especially when some bibliographical references were cited.  Otherwise—having no bibliographic tools at hand and being unable to cope with the originals—my correspondents innocently created ‘ghosts’ by the dozen (that is, editions that had never existed).  Since I now had several hundred correspondents, the effort to straighten this out became colossal.  It became in effect a case of tutoring by mail.
“I became convinced, therefore, that if an authentic Census were ever to be produced, I had first of all to publish a manual explaining in simple form the method of identifying incunabula, giving lists of reference books, and including lists and tables which would present a nucleus of essential information, for use if proper bibliographic tools were not at hand.  The selection of material which should go into such a manual became my constant thought. . . It was to be several years before I could make the manual become a reality, and in a form beyond my fondest dreams.”
Stillwell’s dream was realized in 1931 with the publication of her work Incunabula and Americana, 1450-1800: A Key to Bibliographical Study.  I was very fortunate to acquire many years ago the magnificent association copy inscribed by Stillwell, “To George Parker Winship, A tribute to the patience and skill with which he initiated me into the varied ways of booklore, Margaret Bingham Stillwell.” 

 Laid in are letters from Stillwell to Winship.  One dating Oct. 21, 1925, refers directly to the Census project, “Enclosed is a prospectus with which I planned to kill two birds—to announce the ‘Descriptive Essay’ and at the same time to call the attention of collectors to the fact that incunabula should be reported here.  I have had enough printed to be sent to each of the persons included in the first Census . . . I have a mass of material for the Census already and it keeps coming in all the time.  I tried Mr. [Harry] Lydenberg again but he again refuses to give space in the [New York Public Library] Bulletin.  That is a shame, I think, because the record could be so condensed and abbreviated that it would take but comparatively little space and the Bulletin is one of the logical places in which it might appear.  So now we shall have to look elsewhere.  What do you suggest?  How about the Bibliographical Society of America itself?  If the Census follows the plan which we made just before you went away—of coming out in sections following each volume of the Gesamtkatalog—the individual sections will not be so very long, and presumably only one a year.  I am ready now to roll up my sleeves and whip Section I into shape.”
 Stillwell was over-optimistic in regard to time frame but never flagged in her efforts.  Some of the difficulties she faced seem ridiculous today.  The Annmary Brown Memorial Library was not originally designed for daily occupation but as a memorial.  The heating system was inadequate, and Stillwell spent years literally freezing her butt off before the situation was corrected.  The first few years of her tenure the building did not even have electricity.
Of equal challenge was the lack of reference material for the Census.  When Hawkins died, his extensive reference collection was sold off as part of his estate instead of being transferred for use to the Memorial as planned.  The John Carter Brown Library reference copies could not be loaned.  But Stillwell persevered by borrowing material from the Library of Congress, Yale and Harvard.  She writes, “At the Widener Library at Harvard every possible aid was given me. . .  Here I would assemble the books as I went back and forth from the catalogue files to the shelves.  At the end of the day an assistant would help to carry the books to the charging desk and out to my car.  Much to my embarrassment, many of the books which I needed came from the shelves of the Cataloguing Room.  Mr. T. Franklin Currier, the head of the department and later the Assistant Director of the Library, was among the best friends the Census ever had.  He permitted me to take the books on an indefinite charge.  He would let the Library’s incoming incunabula accumulate to a point.  Then he would send me a little note, asking if I would kindly return the reference books for two weeks, at the end of which time—the new acquisitions having been catalogued—I might have them again.”
By a stroke of good fortune in 1934 she garnered a part-time assistant, Richard Currier, a recent Harvard graduate.  He helped with preliminary work for about two years until he was offered the Librarianship of the Harvard Club of New York.  This opportunity for Currier was to set in motion one of the most serendipitous meetings in bibliographic history.
Stillwell writes, “[Currier] had become acquainted, he said, with a junior at Brown named Frederick Goff, who seemed to be much interested in his work and might be willing to help me a little.
“So he brought his friend. . . to the Memorial.  And he was the youngest-looking junior I had ever seen.  But he also looked keen, alert, and ready to tackle anything.  His mother, he said, sent me her love.  This threw me back on my heels, until he added that before her marriage, she had been Amelia Seabury.  We had been classmates once upon a time, but I had lost track of her through the years.  So, I was happy indeed to greet her son.
“Thus I acquired on my ‘staff’ Frederick Richmond Goff, who was destined to remain with me during the four ensuing years; to go on to the Library of Congress; to become presently the Acting Chief and the Chief of its Rare Book Division; and to compile the Third Census of Incunabula in American Libraries, twenty-four years after my edition was published.
“In due course, he began to talk about post-graduate work for a Master’s degree.  ‘If I could arrange for you to receive credit for your work here,’ I asked, ‘would you like to major in incunabula?  I think it could be arranged quite easily.’  Then I explained that, for twenty years or more, it had been the custom of the Brown professors in certain departments—History, Mathematics, Education, Romance Languages and the Classics—to bring their students to the Memorial, whenever their studies could be appropriately linked with early printed books.  I would put on a special exhibition for them and slant my lecture in the direction of their subjects.
“As the same time, I always took occasion to discuss the invention of printing, the first printers, and the change which the art of printing had brought about in the world.  The result was that every once in a while an undergraduate or a post-graduate student would want to know more about these subjects, or would show interest in bibliographic techniques.  Even though I had no official connection with Brown, the University had allowed the students credits for such courses as I had given, in an several instances students had majored with me for the Master of Arts degree.
“If it could be arranged that he could receive credit also for his work on the Census, that would be ideal.  He would have his degree and I, meanwhile, would have a full-time assistant for a year.  The scheme worked well.  For his thesis he wrote a monograph on The Dates in Certain German Incunabula, which contained also valuable data on Saints’ Days, on the Roman calendar, and on variable New Year’s dates customarily used in Venice and other Italian towns.  It was published by the Bibliographical Society of America both in its Papers and as a separate.  And it is a valued bibliographer’s tool today.”
The separate of Goff’s work was one of the items I acquired on my recent Boston trip.  It was not just a copy but The Copy, presented by Goff, “For Miss Stillwell, to whom I am greatly indebted for introducing me to the interesting and fascinating subject of bibliography. F. Richmond.”

This stroke of acquisitive fortune sent a euphoric jolt through my system.  Can there be a better feeling for a book collector?  I particularly enjoyed Goff’s signing as “F. Richmond”—something I’ve seen in no other inscription of his until now.  A strong bond and friendship developed between Goff and Stillwell early on and continued throughout their lives. 
Stillwell had Goff as her full-time assistant and two other part-time assistants [Harold R. Knowlton and Edwin M. J. Kretzmann] that contributed to the effort.  She writes, “The three young men were buoyant and alert and, so it proved, excellent workmen.  We would never take a client’s word that he had the edition reported.  Instead, we would check everything against the bibliographies involved, to make sure everything was right, or—as the modern phrase is—that everything ‘clicked.’  Often there was some question, and much correspondence resulted.  On occasion we would take time out for a brief ice cream party, and the room would ring with merry laughter.”
Stillwell writes in detail of the trouble getting Goff’s position funded through a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies because of opposition to “grandiose projects” which had petered out previously.  She also records, “The Secretary of the Council of Learned Societies. . . must have belonged to the faction that mistrusted a project headed by a woman.  He sent me so many questionnaires relative to progress that the time consumed in compiling the required statistics became a serious matter.  Finally, I explained to Dr. [Waldo G.] Leland that, unless the questions stopped, I would have to relinquish the grant from the Council.  I do not know what transpired, beyond the fact that the harassment ceased.”
The Second Census was printed for the Bibliographical Society of America by the Southworth-Anthoensen Press.  Stillwell explains, “In the course of the project I made three trips to Maine, to the Anthoensen Press. . .  As I had devised a new format for registering the data, the type-setting involved new problems.  As a result of my Winshipian days, I enjoyed these excursions into the midst of the thudding and throbbing presses.  Having climbed to the top of a three-storied building, I would discuss with Mr. Anthoensen the type-selection and the spacing, while Mr. Skillings, his compositor, would set up specimen-sheets for us to see.  He was an expert workman, for he presently set the entire text single-handed and the book went through the press in seven months with minimum error.  The resulting format proved so satisfactory to its purpose that it was followed in the 1964 Census compiled by Fred Goff.  I understand it has been employed in Australia.  And I have used it in two books recently published.  Mr. Anthoesen’s personal attention to every detail illustrates Mr. Winship’s theory that intelligent typographical interpretation of a scholarly work is essential to its clarity and therefore to its usefulness.”
            Stillwell’s Incunabula in American Libraries: A Second Census of Fifteenth-Century Books Owned in the United States, Mexico, and Canada (NY: The Bibliographical Society of America, 1940) detailed “35,232 copies of 11,132 titles owned by 332 public and 390 private collections.  And of these 35,232 copies, 28,491 are owned by institutions, and 6,741 are in private hands.”
            This monumental achievement was not only a Census but also a holdings list as such a large percentage of the incunabula had a permanent home in institutions.  The identification of material in 390 private collections, with full cooperation of the owners, is also a remarkable feat.  The work was utilized by libraries, dealers, and collectors as a fundamental reference. 
            Stillwell would move on to other projects, but she continued to keep notes and updates regarding changes in the Census.  Soon after publication, Frederick Goff garnered the position of chief of the Rare Book Division at the Library of Congress.  It was Lawrence Wroth, librarian of the John Carter Brown, and a supporter of Goff and Stillwell, who made the recommendation of Goff for the post.  The young Goff’s career was off and running.  He recalled later, “[Wroth] served as my mentor for nearly 30 years” and “indoctrinated me in the disciplines and pleasures of bibliography as applied to Americana just as Miss Stillwell had introduced me to the reference sources for the study of incunabula.”
            Wroth and his assistants gifted Goff an appropriate send-off: a copy of Winship’s The John Carter Brown Library: A History (1914) inscribed by Wroth, “For Frederick R. Goff, from the staff of the John Carter Brown Library upon his departure for the Library of Congress.  With the affectionate good wishes, Jeannette Black, Marion W. Adams, Lawrence Wroth, 28 June 1940.”  I acquired this association gem in 2001.

            But a Census is never truly done, and in the early 1950s Stillwell writes, “A note came one day from Bill Jackson [William A. Jackson].  He wished to know when I could come to Harvard.  He wished to take me to lunch and he had a proposition to make.  So we set a date.  The proposition proved to be an invitation from the Bibliographical Society of America for me to prepare a new census of Incunabula in American Libraries, since my 1940 edition was very nearly out of print.  Many copies of fifteenth-century books had been coming into the country.  Other copies had changed hands.  It was high time, so the members of the Council thought, that a new Census got under way.  They wanted me to take over the project.
            “’Oh, no.’ I said. ‘Not again!’  And then realizing that I had spoken rather brusquely, I tried to soften my sudden vehemence.  ‘It is very nice of them to want me to take it over.  Please tell them I appreciate the invitation and am sorry not to accept.  In my opinion, the job should be done by someone younger than I.’
            “And after a moment I added, ‘The logical person, it seems to me, is Fred Goff.  He worked with me on the Second Census for nearly four years.  He knows all the ropes.  And being in Washington, he is strategically placed.  I would have to resort to all kinds of devices, as I did before, to round up the new collectors and to get their reports.  At the Library of Congress, he must be meeting new people all the time.’
            “’As a matter of fact,’ I went on to say, ‘some of the former subscribers have kept in touch with me.  Yale has been buying incunabula right and left.  Mr. Goodhart continued to report everything he bought, up to the time of his death.  I have these records and various others annotated and on file.  If they were turned over to Fred Goff, that would give him a good start.’
            “’Yes, but if you took on the work yourself, that would give you a head start, wouldn’t it?  It looks to me you already have the Third Census under way.’
            “’Oh, no, this is only the beginning.  From the way it is shaping up already, I can see it is going to be a big job.  I really think it needs a younger person.  Also, I am fairly close to retirement and that in itself would complicate matters.  As a matter of fact, I have two monographs, and possibly a third under way.  I could not handle anything more.  One I hope to finish before I retire.  The other two I plan to finish later.’
            “’Three monographs all going at one time?’ he said incredulously.
            “’That is a trick I learned from Mr. [Wilberforce] Eames.  He believed that in gathering data you should give priority to one topic but have two or three others in mind so, that, when you saw something pertinent out of the corner of your eye, you could jot it down. ‘Before you know it,’ he said, ‘you will have built up quite a foundation on each subject.’
            “’Trust Mr. Eames to come up with a good idea,’ said Bill with a chuckle, ‘but a rather strenuous one.’
            “So there the matter rested.  I do not know whether my suggestion of Fred Goff as the new editor of the Census was responsible for the invitation sent him nearly four years later.  A new President had come into office and there had doubtless been changes in the personnel of the Society’s Council.  So someone else may have come up with the same bright idea.  At any rate, I got my wish.  For Fred Goff’s accepted the editorship in January 1957; the annotated records which I had accumulated were sent to him; and with remarkable speed for so big a job, the Third Census of Incunabula in American Libraries was published in 1964, a volume of marked distinction which has already, in these fast moving time, found itself in need of a supplement.”
            Fred Goff himself clarifies his acceptance of the editorship in the introduction to the Third Census and in more detail in his essay “The Preparation of the Third Census of Incunabula in American Libraries” (PBSA, Vol. 64:3, 1970), “The publication. . . was first suggested to me by my old friend and colleague Curt F. Buhler, who at the time was Curator of Printed Books at the Pierpont Morgan Library.  This suggestion took the form of a letter dated 12 January 1957. ‘This is tentative,’ he wrote, ‘but sooner or later this matter will have to be brought before the BSA Council.  It concerns the Census which is about ‘O.P.’ [out of print].  Should we lay plans for a third Census?’ he continued, ‘Who is to edit it?  You are, of course, the obvious choice, but may not want to do it.  If you do not, alas, want to be the Editor, would you be willing to head an Advisory Committee to select an editor and to give him the benefit of your great experience?’
            “The matter did indeed come before the Council of the Bibliographical Society on 25 January 1957, and I was named the editor of the undertaking.  Meantime, of course, I had secured the approval of my superiors at the Library of Congress, who were willing for me to devote what free time I had to the proposed project. . .  Miss Stillwell in her characteristic cooperative spirit forwarded to me her files of the correspondence dealing with supplementary reports to the registrations recorded in the Second Census that had reached her.  Much useful information was extracted from these files.”
            Goff adds in the Acknowledgements to the Third Census, “My first obligation, of course is to Margaret Bingham Stillwell, under whose tutelage I served for nearly four years as an assistant in compiling the 1940 Census and in overseeing its progress through the press.  In 1958, all of the reports that had been made to her subsequent to the publication of the 1940 Census were turned over to me.  This carefully annotated record constituted an invaluable source of information for the new Census.”
            Stillwell’s mention of the need for a supplement to the 1964 Census was fulfilled in 1972 by Goff with the publication of Incunabula in American Libraries: A Supplement.  Goff had formally dedicated the 1964 Census to his parents.  This supplement volume was dedicated to Stillwell, “Teacher, Colleague, and Friend.”
            Lessing Rosenwald, the great collector of illustrated incunabula, among other areas, worked closely with Goff after Rosenwald gifted his magnificent collection to the Library of Congress.  He writes of Goff and the Census in his Recollections of a Collector (1976), “I made my first gift of books. . . in 1943 and we have been close friends ever since.  He has been a splendid advisor and had aided me in my collecting and in bibliographical knowledge.  I have seldom gone wrong in following his careful advice. . . Fred’s scholarship has produced a reference book which is not only invaluable and necessary; it also was of great aid in my learning about my books.  This work, Incunabula in American Libraries, is usually called the Third Census.  It is a book of 798 pages literally crammed with information.  I should like to pay tribute to this work by giving a short description of it.
            “The first census was in 1919 and was probably far from complete. . . The second census was compiled by Miss Margaret Stillwell, who is still writing scholarly articles.  Fred Goff followed Miss Stillwell’s arrangement, adding new titles that were not available to her.  If this volume were solely a checklist it would be remarkable, containing 47,188 copies of 12,599 titles.  But it is far, far more.  Each item occupies less than an inch of one column.  Through a system of easily translated code letters the following information is given: (1) The author’s name. {2) The Census number. (3) The previous Census number (if any). (4) Title. (5) Language in which the book is printed. (6) City where printed. (7) Name of printer (when known—or an attribution). (8) Approximate date of printing. (9) Format. (10) Exact references and locations were book is full described. (Sometimes eight or more references.) (11) Number of copies registered in the United States. (12) The location of each copy at the time the Census was printed.
            “In addition, there are concordances, where a copy known in certain reference books can be located in the Census.  Also, various indices that are helpful in locating a reference or a specific book, and other helpful and useful notes are added.  One stands aghast at such a labor and such accuracy.”
            Thoughts of Stillwell and Goff kept me excited despite the bad weather as Bill and I drove to the bookstore to follow my Boston Book Show lead.  We entered the store and met the friendly proprietor.  The books I sought were recently acquired from the library of former Brown University professor Roger Mathieson who had known Stillwell.  And there they were sitting on a table awaiting my perusal—I recognized the red cloth bindings immediately—Goff’s Third Census and the Supplement volume.  The Census was well used and the backstrip detached but I liked it all the more because of its bookish patina.   I opened the cover to the Census and my hopes were confirmed.  Penned on the front free endpaper in Stillwell’s hand was “Margaret Bingham Stillwell from Frederick R. Goff, 19 December 1964.”  A tremble and a hard moment to stay calm.  A cursory examination showed Stillwell had marked all the incunabula found at Brown University and the AnnMary Brown Memorial Library from Hawkins’ collection.  There were also some scattered notes.  I gently sat the volume back down, took a deep breath, and picked up the supplement.  It also was as I had hoped.  The inscription reads, “For Margaret Stillwell, the dedicatee, inscribed with affection by – F. Richmond.”
            I bought a few other things at the bookstore and had them shipped home.  But Miss Stillwell and F. Richmond made the trip back in my carry-on, wrapped securely in a favorite sweater.

Further reading:

Frederick Goff recounts his first meeting with Stillwell, the work on the Second Census, and their forty year friendship in his delightful essay published in the Gazette of the Grolier Club, New Series, 26/27, 1977.


  1. You made what might have been. somewhat dry subject utterly fascinating. Thank you.

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for reading and the kind remarks. Happy Holidays!

  2. It was a great generation of book people (and books). Your association copies, and the tale, elivens them. Thanks, Ron

  3. I’m in love with your Stillwell association copies. Perhaps you and I should chat sometime, because it seems we have similar interested. I’m a big Stillwell fan and a recent Brown graduate, and I’m lucky to have her While Benefit Street was Young inscribed to Lawrence Wroth, as well as her copy of the Annmary Brown incunabula catalogue from 1910.

    1. Hi Sean, yes, we should get to know each other. What's your email? Happy Holidays!

  4. This was fascinating! Although I've worked with and made references to "Goff" for over 30 years this was all new to me-- and filled me with deep appreciation forthe devotion and very hard work that went into this work. Very impressive! Thank you, Kurt, for such an engrossing post!

  5. Thanks, Mary! I appreciate you kudos and reading my blog.