Saturday, January 15, 2022

Every Book Its Story

KZ's Office / Cataloging Room.  Wife afraid to enter.

I’m cataloging a few of my recent acquisitions.  They usually arrive one at a time and the backlog is manageable, but this last year has been a deluge.  I’m way behind in bringing order to the chaos.   Stacks of book everywhere in my office: desk, chairs, table.  But with the big exception of pamphlets, I can find what I’m looking for as needed.  My in-house catalogue goes light years beyond an orderly list-keeping: most of the items are association copies and each one merits at least a brief explanation that often expands with research into a mini-essay.  But this is part of the fun for me—story upon story to discover, expound, resuscitate.   I find time when I can to catalog, usually in the evenings and sometimes during the day when work is slow.  It also can be an excuse when yardwork is required or a welcome respite when life takes a stressful turn.  The results of this thirty plus year pursuit of biblio-bliss is a current file of 1,112 pages in 10 point type, and 755,027 words. 
            The bookseller Dorothy Sloan, one of my early mentors, encouraged me to catalog my collection in some form.  Thankfully, I listened, which has not always been my strong suit.  Someday I’ll polish this mighty beast of a document up and formally publish it.  But for now, the catalogue remains open on my computer screen 24/7, always beckoning me to add to it – to feed it new and exciting acquisitions.   And believe me, I do, and I also back the file up to the cloud with religious regularity.
              So, what of it the last couple of weeks?  What books and stories have found the top of the stack to input?  They range from blockbuster associations to more minor items in my biblio-opera.   Come along and catalog with me and get your mind off an upcoming meeting, a thankless task, or an irrational person.   
Title-page of "original"

The book I now hold in my hand is Edmund Pearson’s playful hoax The Old Librarian’s Almanack: A Very Rare Pamphlet First Published in New Haven, Connecticut in 1773 and Now Reprinted for the First Time (Woodstock, Vermont:  The Elm Tree Press, 1909).  Published as The Librarian’s Series, No. 1, edited by John Cotton Dana and Henry W. Kent, two prominent bookmen, the tongue in cheek Almanack received a few serious notices at first—that is until people started reading it closely.  The prospectus states: “Only two copies of the pamphlet are known to exist and no previous reprints have been made.  It presents, somewhat in the style of Poor Richard or the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the opinion and counsel of the librarian and book lover of 140 years ago.  It is of interest to the librarian today for its striking contrast with modern ideas of library administration.”  I’d say. 
            Pearson’s preface provides a convincing biographical sketch of the “author” Jared Bean, the librarian for many years of the fictional Connecticut Society of Antiquarians, “who never accepted the results of the American Revolution” and retained his allegiance to King George III.  “He believed with Sir Thomas Bodley, that a librarian should never marry, and he died a bachelor.  His character is so well displayed in his Almanack as to require no other description.”
            One example, among many, of Jared Bean’s long list of rules, lists, and instructions:  “Let no Politician be in your Library, nor no man who Talks overmuch.  It will be difficult for him to observe Silence, and he is objectionable otherwise, as well.  No Astrologer, Necromancer, Charlatan, Quack, nor Humbug; no Vendor of Nostrums, nor Teacher of false Knowledge, no fanatic Preacher nor Refugee.  Admit no one of loose or evil Life; prohibit the Gamester, the Gypsey, the Vagrant.  Allow none who suffers from an infectious Disease; and none whose Apparel is so Gaudy or Eccentrick as to attract the Eye.  Keep out the Light-witted, the Shallow, the Base and Obscene.  See to it that none enter who are Senile, and none who are immature in their Minds, even tho’ they have reach’d the requir’d Age.”
            The text has just enough veracity to ring possible, but the “advertisement” at the end of the almanack is a glowing red flag for those taken in so far: “A Sure and Certain Cure for the Bite of a Rattlesnake Made Publick by Abel Puffer of Stoughton” with a long description of application, including this, “Then require the Sufferer to move his Limbs about, at first slowly, now with increasing speed, till he do thrash them about with all the Vigour and Rapidity in his power.  After this, let him rise, and run in a circle, or nearly so, first giving him to drink half a glass of Jamaica Rum.”
            This was Pearson’s first book, followed by a couple of novels, a number of excellent books about books including Books in Black and Red (1923), and most remembered nowadays, books on true crime, including Studies in Murder (1924) and The Trial of Lizzie Borden (1937). Bibliographer Michael Winship introduced me to Pearson while in I was in library school. 
            Presentation copies of The Old Librarian’s Almanack are rare.  I discover this example the old-fashioned way on the shelves of the Lyrical Ballad bookstore in Saratoga Springs, NY during our summer trip to the area.  I recognize the spine label immediately from a distance and soon ease the thin book off the shelf, open the cover, ever hopeful of an interesting association—and damn if isn’t inscribed.  A gleeful, private moment that all collectors share, and I give it a possessive squeeze.
            The association is not obvious, and the cataloging research requires us to dig more than anticipated –but success!  My description:
Inscribed, “For Miss Cobb (whose picture I have seen) with advice to be an Old-Fashioned Librarian – for she will never be an Old Librarian.  E. L. Pearson, Dec. 27, 1909.”  Bookplate of Marguerite Buxton Cobb (1888-1971).  Only the second presentation copy encountered, dated well before Pearson formally acknowledged authorship.  This awkward inscription hints at a young writer smitten by a pretty photograph.  I miraculously located two photographs online of Cobb in the 1910 yearbook Microcosm of Simmons College, Boston, MA.  She graduated from Central High School in Washington, D.C. and attended the School of Library Science at Simmons, being very active in student activities, including President (of her class?), President and Secretary of Student Government and in the Vice-President Guild.  Cobb married Edgar Whittington Adams (b. 1885), an electrical engineer and patent lawyer.  I haven’t found evidence of her utilizing her library degree.

            This book is an example of weighing time versus reward.  I have many items to catalog, some more important than others, and often I must draw an end to my research and move on.  Yet, the characters of the story have been identified and the book is once again alive, perhaps waiting for another (or myself) to expand the story later.
            This same recent trip to upstate New York also yields treasures at Willis Monie Books in Cooperstown.  Nicole and I are among the few that skipped the Baseball Hall of Fame nearby to go to a bookstore. I certainly wouldn’t have found this next item in the Hall of Fame gift shop.  It is plucked along with a couple dozen others from Monie’s expansive books about books section.  The store, run by father and son, contains a massive, open-shelf stock that is jam-packed and well-seasoned.
            My find comes from the library of Marcus McCorison (1926-2013), librarian and later director of the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in Worcester, Mass. from 1960-1992.  McCorison was one of the noted bookmen of his time and helmed the AAS admirably, expanding the collections and promoting scholarly access to one of the great libraries of historical material in the country.
            After McCorison’s death, the AAS received over 300 boxes of McCorison’s library as a gift.  Much of this was his reference library.  The AAS culled what they wanted, and the rest was sold—some more expensive items at auction but most going to Willis Monie Books.  The AAS had also approached me to buy the bulk of what they did not want.  It was too big a pie for me to swallow.  However, I did purchase numerous McCorison association items from Monie via their online listings, and I also bought a selection of items directly from the AAS. 
            I never met McCorison in person, but we did become friends through an unlikely connection. In 2000, he was clearing shelf space by selling a few early Grolier Club exhibit catalogues on Ebay.  I bought them, and it wasn’t until we exchanged information after the sale that I realized who he was!  A very pleasant correspondence ensued which continued until his death.  Shortly after our initial contact, I found a copy of his book The 1764 Catalogue of the Redwood Library Company at Newport, Rhode Island (1965) inscribed to Edwin Wolf, a close friend of McCorison. Wolf, the legendary bookman best remembered for his Rosenbach biography, later served as director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, a sometime rival to McCorison and the AAS for acquisitions.  Who could resist sending it on to McCorison to be re-inscribed?  (I didn’t mention who the original recipient was to heighten the surprise.)  He inscribed it to me on Christmas Day, “Dear Kurt, this brings back happy memories!  I must have signed it first at Edwin’s home. Now—to you—Marcus A. McCorison, 25 Dec. 2000.”  I am pleased to report that I was eventually able to acquire a batch of material inscribed from Edwin Wolf to McCorison along with the manuscript of a eulogy given by McCorison for Wolf.
            All these thoughts are swirling as we enter Willie Monie Books on that cheerfully sunny day in late August, no hint of the afternoon rainstorm soon to come, but safely ensconced inside among the tomes when it did.  I anticipate that not all the McCorison books have been listed online and I am right.  Interspersed among the general books about books section are several McCorison items including a book by Clifford K. Shipton, Isaiah Thomas: Printer, Patriot and Philanthropist 1749-1831 (1948).  Isaiah Thomas founded the AAS so McCorison having a copy is appropriate.  It is inscribed to him by someone named Ted.  Time is short and lots of shelves needed to be searched, so I don’t examine my finds closely, rather: stack, repeat, stack, repeat, lug to checkout counter hours later, please ship them, thank you, and their arrival in two boxes after returning home; open excitedly, skim, preliminary sort, more stacks, and I’ll catalog them as soon as I can.
            The Shipton book on Isaiah Thomas does not take long to research and sends a sudden shock through my system akin to installing a car battery cable improperly.  Shipton was the AAS director before McCorison and went by the name of Ted.  Here is a mighty association copy that I almost overlook on the shelves in Cooperstown.  (And a shudder to imagine a general reader buying it and spending the evening in his / her bathtub absorbed in the biography, and oops, the book slips from their hand as they reach for a glass of wine and it gets a splash, but no matter, it served its purpose and will soon be placed in the donate to the library box or, egads, the recycle bin—such are the nightmares that sometimes haunt me.)   But I don't overlook it.  And I hold it now.  Mentorship, friendship, and the passing of the torch can hardly be represented better.  My description:
Inscribed by Shipton, “For Mark, whom I chose to follow in Isaiah’s footsteps [followed by small drawing of footprints], Ted.”  Bookplate of Marcus McCorison. 
            The footprints by Shipton in the inscription are a nice touch.  Phillip Gura writes in The American Antiquarian Society 1812-2012 (2012), “To become librarian of the American Antiquarian Society was McCorison’s dream job.  As he put in a letter to his new supervisor [Shipton] when he was initially hired, he still had ‘an aura of disbelief’ about his good fortune.  Seven years later, when McCorison was named Shipton’s successor [in 1967], Councilor Walter Muir Whitehill claimed to be ‘very happy at the thought, in fact, I would be very unhappy and irate at any other thought.’  McCorison remembered his ‘apprentice years’ fondly.  During that time he learned ‘a great deal’ from Shipton, with whom he had ‘a close and very gratifying relationship.’”
            McCorison wrote a moving tribute to Shipton in the AAS Newsletter and contributed an extensive checklist of his works to the festschrift Sibley’s Heir: A Volume in Memory of Clifford Kenyon Shipton (1982).


            I have many McCorison books with interesting stories, however, we (me) are attempting to stick to recently cataloged items—one more of which also deserves mention.  The book is Ricky Jay’s The Magic Magic Book: An Inquiry into the Venerable History & Operation of the Oldest Trick Conjuring Volumes. . . (1994), inscribed to McCorison and signed by Jay and the book’s artists. 
            Ricky Jay (1946-2018), famed magician, wrote extensively on magic and its history. Jay collected rare books and manuscripts, art, and other artifacts connected to the history of magic, gambling, unusual entertainments, and frauds and confidence games. The AAS, while under McCorison’s leadership, hosted an exhibition drawing upon Jay’s collection published as Many Mysteries Unraveled: Conjuring Literature in America 1786–1874 (1990). (Where did the McCorison copy go?) The crème of Jay’s collection was recently sold at Sotheby’s by my friend Richard Austin, head of rare books and manuscripts, and Selby Kieffer, his highly regarded associate for $3,835,694.  The colorful catalogue is online, but I wanted a printed version and got it. (It has introductions by David Mamet and Steven Martin.)  How much longer will printed catalogues be produced?

            I can state that it is uncommon for me nowadays to find important material in bookstores that I visit.  Most of my best material is acquired online.  This next example I hold was not found in a bookstore, however a book I located in Asheville, NC on the shelves of Battery Park Books directly resulted in its purchase.  Before we dive into specifics, a word about the store.  The general mood is set upon entering—it is located in the Grove Arcade, the first American indoor shopping mall, a 1920s era masterpiece of design and detail, lovingly restored.  The bookstore is also a champagne and wine bar.  Disconcertedly, tables spaced closely among the bookshelves are filled with visitors and tourists sipping the fruit of the vine, gayly munching on charcuteries and similar offerings.  I’ve never had to squeeze behind / around seated drinkers with excuse me’s and sorries to hunt books before.  
            I find respite on the quieter second floor.  My wife Nicole is also upstairs, diving deep into the architecture section.  I wander around.  To my amusement, I find in the farming section a signed copy of Bill Reese’s bibliography Six Score: The 120 Best Books on the Range Cattle Industry (1976).  The adjacent hunting and fishing section catches my eye with an inordinate number of 19th century bindings / offerings.  It becomes apparent that the store has acquired a solid collection of sporting books and has not taken the time to research them properly.  I can’t resist buying two books, one of which leads us to our story.  The book is Henry Thomas’ The Rod in India: Being Hints How to Obtain Sport with Remarks on the Natural History of Fish, Otters, Etc. and Illustrations of Fish and Tackle (Mangalore: 1873).  Yes, I know, quite obscure (but rare!) and why would I want that?  Well, because it bears the bookplate of John Gerard Heckscher, one of the great American sporting book collectors.  I don’t have anything representing Heckscher in my collection and that is reason enough, I reason. 
            I returned home and dutifully cataloged the Thomas.  I also search online for any inscribed Heckscher items.  I fish one out of the great biblio sea – and a fine story emerges involving a duel and early baseball. 
(John Gerard Heckscher).  “Ellangowan” editor.  SPORTING ANECDOTES. London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1889.  352 16 [catalogue] p. 8vo. Blue cloth, spine stamped in gilt.
Bookplate of Heckscher.  Inscribed, “E. B. Talcott, with John G. Heckscher’s compliments, Dec. 16, [18]98.”  Tipped in is Heckscher’s calling card with the note, “Very sorry this book is not in better condition but I fancy the sporting stories will amuse you.” 
            Donald Dickinson writes of Heckscher (1835?-1908) in Dictionary of American Book Collectors: “As a sophisticated turn-of-the-century New York clubman, Heckscher owned racehorses, took an interest in yachting, and formed a large library of sporting books.  He specialized in works on fishing, particularly those with engraved plates and watercolors.  He owned all four early editions of Walton’s Compleat Angler, a nearly complete collection of the sporting classics by English novelists Robert Surtees and Pierce Egan, Audubon’s Birds of America, and a large assortment of dueling literature.  A small portion of his library was dispersed at Merwins in 1906, but the major part did not come on the market until after his death.  The sale of the first edition of The Compleat Angler to Daniel B. Fearing brought the estate $3,900, the highest price paid during the season for a single volume.  Although Heckscher’s private life was somewhat chaotic, as reported in the New York Times in October 1905, he was known as a gentleman and a connoisseur.  Heckscher’s sporting library was one of his chief ornaments.”
            I being curious pull up the NYT article.  Heckscher at age 70 “but very well preserved” had secretly married his third wife the year before, a young widow “who was very handsome and accomplished.”  The article recounts with relish that earlier in his life a rivalry with a best friend over a young lady led to blows and eventually a full-blown duel!  (Note the “large assortment of dueling literature” referred to above.)  Neither man was injured but his friend won the day and marriage.  Later this couple divorced, and Heckscher, ever the patient hunter, eventually took the woman as his second wife.  
            The recipient, E[dward] B. Talcott (1858-1941), early owner of the New York Giants baseball team and young Wall Street financing whiz, was a fanatic baseball fan and sportsman.

I am fortunate to have booksellers and book collectors who scout for me while on their own hunts.  Mighty bookman Joe Fay, formerly with Reese Co. and now a partner in McBride Rare Books, spots a heavily annotated copy of Merle Johnson’s
High Spots of American Literature (1929) in John Bale Book Co., Waterbury, CT.  Joe’s text message to me goes bing! followed by a picture. I answer posthaste.  He does not buy the book and resell it to me, but simply passes me onto the proprietor, Dan Gaeta, whom I had recently interacted with, and I order the book.  But Joe knows that a good steak dinner awaits on his next visit to our home.   The book I’m holding is well-used but sturdy.  I have a number of association copies of the title already, including Johnson’s own working copy (the High Spot of High Spots!), but there is always room for one more.  I am fortunate in my research and find a very helpful article in a Bernard Shaw Studies Annual of all places.  It provides a brief but illuminating story that conjures the imagination of the collector’s lair.  My catalog description:
  Lafayette Butler’s copy with shared references to items in his library mentioned herein.”  - note by Butler on the front free endpaper.  Extensively annotated throughout.  Many of Butler’s copies were signed / inscribed, letter laid in, etc.  He records condition, special features, occasional prices paid / provenance.   On the rear free endpapers he has written a detailed list of his holdings noting that he owned at the time 88% of the titles mentioned within (169 of 191).  A fine example of a “working copy” utilized by an advanced collector to record / build his collection. 
            Lafayette Butler (1887-1975) was an industrialist and resident of Hazelton, PA.  Stanley Weintraub recalls a visit to Butler in his essay “The Lafayette L. Butler Collection,” in the 2000 Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies: “In 1957, LaFayette L. Butler, then seventy, noticed a Sunday newspaper piece about my work on Shaw -- possibly the first, ever -- and wrote to me. He had a lot of stuff I might want to examine, he offered kindly. Hazelton was about three hours from Penn State, a rather easy drive even before Interstate 80 shortened the time, and I took up his offer to visit, sometimes taking a colleague or a grad student with me. Later, even my daughter, Erica, came along to play Butler's big grand piano for him, freeing me to explore the holdings crammed into the three levels of the large frame double house -- long runs of first editions, musty and often more interesting books, and files of manuscripts, mostly on late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century writers. By then Butler had become nearly blind, but stubbornly still collected. The visits did not make a Shavian of Erica, but I owe parts of several books, and some articles, to my work at the Laurel Street hoard. After Butler's death in 1975 his son Charles followed testamentary instructions and arranged for the Bertrand Library at Bucknell to receive several major collections from the Butler archives, the largest, perhaps, those on Shaw and on other Irish writers.”
            The Bertrand Library Special Collections reading room is named for Butler.  They record, “After his death in 1975, Butler donated several other manuscript collections and first editions from his extensive Fountain Lawn Library, including the works of George Bernard Shaw and early folios of Shakespeare’s plays.”
Butler's note, thankfully recording the provenance

This last mention of Shakespeare and Folios leads us to the oversized pamphlet that sits cozily next to me on my desk.  To win it, I had to do some recent flexing at auction.  I found the item via the rarebookhub search system which monitors my saved wants that appear at upcoming auctions (subscription required).  Thank you, founder Bruce McKinney. 
            No more suspense-- the pamphlet is A.S.W. Rosenbach’s A Description of the Four Folios of Shakespeare 1623 – 1632 – 1663-64 – 1685 in the Original Bindings.  The Gift of Mr. P.A.B. Widener and Mrs. Josephine Widener Wichfeld to the Free Library of Philadelphia in Memory of Their Father Joseph E. Widener. (1945).  This an inscribed example and quite rare thus.  The auction house, Alan Blair Auctions / Emerald Ventures in Richmond, VA, is unknown to me.  A quick review of their site shows their focus is typically stamps.  A seasoned collector or dealer immediately smells bargain when an out of the way auction house offers material not in their specialty.  The answer is yes and no, hit or miss, and not as likely in the internet age.  But I am hopeful.  The books and autograph letters come from the collection of the omnivorous collector Dr. O. O. Fisher of Detroit.  Fisher died in 1961 and most of his vast library was dispersed.  (You’ll read more about him soon enough in my description.)
            I identify not only the Rosenbach but also a few other items of interest in the sale including a H.P. Kraus catalogue inscribed to Fisher and a couple of letters by noted bookmen.  The Rosenbach comes up first in this online only auction.  I sense trouble as there are multiple bidders early.  But I wade in full tilt at the end, thrashing my sword, auction fever running hot, and knock down the pamphlet for about double what I’d originally wanted to pay.  Irritated but thinking clearly, I do not cede the field on the other items I am chasing because of a blown budget on the Rosenbach.  I stay in the hunt and secure all the rest for bargain prices, thus acquiring a fine lot of material at a reasonable price, albeit a much higher total overall than anticipated.  Welcome to the mindset of a collector.  In retrospect, I think the Rosenbach ran up in price because of the Shakespeare connection, not regrettably because of the presentation by the great Rosy.  So, here it is as I described it moments ago:
Inscribed, “For a real collector of Shakespeariana, Dr. O[tto] O. Fisher, from A.S.W. Rosenbach, Feb. 18, 1947.”  Penciled annotations by Fisher.
            Dr. Otto Orren Fisher (1881-1961), a Detroit doctor, was a renowned book and manuscript collector who at his death had assembled a collection of some 20,000 items in many subjects.  He was a graduate of Miami University, Ohio in 1909.  In 1949, he gifted the university his own set of the Four Folios of Shakespeare.  Their library website records, “The crown jewels of that envied collection, arrived in Oxford, Ohio, on Oct. 7, 1949, flown there personally by Dr. Fisher in his private plane. The gift he carried for his alma mater was simply too precious to be trusted to anyone else.”
            It does not appear that Fisher acquired his Folios from Rosenbach, but Rosenbach knew a serious collector when he saw one, thus the inscription.  It is also quite possible that Widener’s gift in 1945 to the Library Company of Philadelphia recorded here by Rosenbach inspired Fisher’s own donation to his alma mater in 1949.  Information about the Fisher Folios is available on the Miami of Ohio University library website.

And would our cataloging extravaganza not be complete without an Ebay find?  It turns into a two-for-one biblio special.  I buy for a modest sum a well-worn copy of a California classic and Zamorano 80 title, Soule’s The Annals of San Francisco (1855).  This example belonged to none other than Robert E. Cowan (1862-1942) famed bibliographer and bookman, and author of A Bibliography of the History of California (various editions).
            I admit to being pretty stoked about this find.  But why stop there?  I search for other available copies of Soule out of curiosity and find a beauty in the stock of Nat DesMarais, Portland, Oregon bookseller.  The condition is superior in original cloth, the price reasonable, and the provenance spectacular.  I have a soft spot for women collectors, and this is an exciting addition to the collection.  My description, just cooked and still warm:
(Jennie Crocker Henderson).  Frank Soule, John H. Gihon, and James Nisbet.  THE ANNALS OF SAN FRANCISCO.  NY: D. Appleton & Company, 1855.  824 p. Frontis, plates, illus., map of San Francisco, folding map of the Southwest showing areas explored and surveyed by Bartlett’s Boundary Commission (complete).  Large 8vo.  Original blindstamped cloth, front cover and spine stamped in gilt.  Notes:  A superior copy of a book typically found quite worn / incomplete / rebound.  This copy was offered in Howell Catalogue 50 of the Crocker Henderson collection, item 791.  Cowan I, p. 219, Cowan II, p. 601, Graff 3901. Howes S-769. Sabin 872268. Zamorano Eighty 70. Sloan, Volkman Collection of the Zamorano 80, no. 70 with essay by Gary Kurutz.
Bookplate of Jennie Crocker (Henderson).
            Jennie was born in San Francisco and spent much of her life in Hillsborough, California, just outside of San Francisco, adding much appeal to this copy.
            Bookseller Warren Howell sold her famous Californiana collection in Catalogue 50 (five parts), 1979-1980.  His father John Howell had also sold books to her and her brother beginning in the early part of the 20th century.  Warren Howell writes in the introduction to the catalogue, “The library. . . is the last of the great collections of Californiana to come on the market. . . A granddaughter of Charles Crocker, who was one of the celebrated ‘Big Four,’ and the sister of Templeton Crocker, who founded the California Historical Society, Jennie Crocker naturally developed a strong interest in California history and culture in general, and in the history of the Central Pacific Railroad in particular. . . [she] decided to create a definitive collection of important California material on her own . . . .
            “Following her marriage to Malcolm D. Whitman in 1912, Jennie Crocker moved to New York, where for the next twelve years she actively increased both the size and the scope of her California collection.  She acquired material both at auction and from the most prestigious American rare book dealers of the time: Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, George D. Smith, and Edward Eberstadt in New York, and John Howell in San Francisco.  While Jennie Crocker was actively collecting Californiana, her brother Templeton was busily doing the same.  They often bought from the same dealers.  A friendly rivalry developed between brother and sister, as they found themselves frequently bidding against each other for particularly choice California items . . . . [Howell tells a couple of entertaining stories including Jennie outbidding her brother at auction for the first book printed in California, the famous Manifesto of the Mexican governor Jose Figueroa, printed by California’s first printer Augustin Zamorano in Monterey in 1835].
            “The scope and the depth of this superb collection cannot be over-emphasized.  In addition to the Gold Rush journals and Bret Harte material already mentioned, the collection is strong in nearly every area of California interest.  From the earliest European voyages of exploration to the emergence of the Golden State as an integral component of the modern American political and economic system, virtually every subject of importance is covered.” 


We’ve been cataloging now for quite a while.  If you’re still with me straight through, kudos.  If not, I am hopeful the other readers simply have become so inspired to catalog their own holdings that they’ve taken a temporary respite from my essay.  Any other reasons will not be contemplated.  And with this I’ll conclude, the outside world rudely intruding, my cellphone ringing insistently, and my stomach growling. But I’ll be back to cataloging soon—there are lots more stacks here.


  1. As always, fascinating. I don't remember, in the past, many references to bookstores. This is a welcome addition to your essays' subject matter.

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for reading and commenting. It was great to be able to visit some interesting bookstores for a change this past summer. The pandemic has certainly slowed down travel and the bookstores near me are nothing to write about.

  2. Kurt, thank you for another wonderful lunch break. Your dive into each book as it work through it is not just educational but very entertaining as well. Care to share a secret- is your catalog a word doc or a self written database? Would love to see it published one day- your drive for association items appears unparalleled.

    1. Hi. Thanks for your kind comments. I must say my catalog is in a simple Word file. 30 years ago there were databases available, like Filemaker Pro, but their now crude systems didn't allow for very good looking print outs and I didn't like the way they inputted. The Word file allowed more straightforward entry and to produce better printed versions. I can use the keyword search to find things so not usually an issue. Would I use a database nowadays for more flexibility if I was starting out? Yes, but I was too far in to change course.

  3. There is an art to inscribing a book, and these inscriptions are so charming! Have you done a post on the cleverest or most beautifully written ones? I also love the Jenny Crocker bookplate. I can remember a recent auction where I fell prey to the newbie error of blowing my budget, and then not staying the course! Have regretted it ever since.

  4. The photograph of your office makes me feel much more comfortable regarding how quickly my collection of 1,200 photo books has grown. Your posts are always enjoyable. Thank you for sharing your stories. Documenting meetings and friendships made through collecting is critical to the cultivated experience. Your account of attending the 2012 California Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena has really gotten me excited to attend the Book Fair Oakland February 11-13. I was fortunate to attend my first California Fair in Pasadena in 2020 and then attended my eighth New York Antiquarian Book Fair a month later just days before everything in America closed down. Fortunately I bought a lot of great photo books at both Fairs. My re-entry into the traveling to shows again was Paris Photo a few months ago in November. I probably visited 30+ bookstores in Paris and found all kinds of wonderful things throughout the city and especially at the Paris Vintage Photobook Fair. If you're in Oakland in February, I hope that our paths with cross. It would be fantastic to meet you and share some stories. All the best, Joe Hughes from Boulder Colorado.