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There were many things stolen, and eventually Mr. [Bernquist] of the library and other people
got the goods on these people and sent them to jail. Even after they came out of jail, they continued to traffic in stolen books, but only in a very minor way. They didnít certainly make a business of it; that is, they trafficked in it only in the same way, only to perhaps a larger extent than most of the other booksellers on Fourth Avenue; namely they would not inquire too deeply into the stolen books. Perhaps this is the time when I should mention my tale of Benny Bass, who at that time was a poor little thing and had this bad bookshop.
Heís the one who has the Strand Bookshop, and itís a great success. At that time Benny Bass was a poor thing on Fourth Avenue trying to make a go of it. At one time during this period, Iíve forgotten the exact date, I was quite friendly with him. I used to lend him five dollars, which he would give me a check for, and the check wouldnít be any good. It was always that small a situation with him.
In the long run I would get paid or take books, or something like that. Whenever it was something like that, you knew you could always get books that were worth that much. If a check werenít good this time, why, it would be good the next time, or something like that. It didnít ever amount to anything.
One day he came to me and said that he had been indicted for the theft of a large collection of law books in new condition, which he had bought. If he hadnít sold them himself, he was accused of receiving these stolen goods. And would I come down to the court and testify to his good character. I said I would. Well, I went down, and, when the case came to trial, the city prosecutor produced the evidence, showed the books, and Ben said that he hadnít known that they were stolen. The cityís case was that these books being new, and being in quantity of this sort, and being expensive, and being only published the year before, would normally have to be understood to have been stolen, and that a man of this sort should know that they were stolen. So I was put on the stand and, apparently, was there both to testify to his good character and also to be as a witness about this matter. The prosecutor, as it turned out, foolishly asked me did I not think that a person who had been in business as long as Mr. Bass would recognize these books as stolen books -- to which I was able to say "no," because during that period books were remaindered very quickly, and a book a year old could very easily be a remainder, and the price he had bought them at was not zero but a price which would be a normal remainder price for that kind of thing. Therefore, it was perfectly possible that Mr. Bass would not know that they were stolen but would think that they were remainders.
He was acquitted. It did not come to jury trial. The judge acquitted him at once after the witnesses had testified. He was supposed to return the books, but there was no turpitude involved. Bass was very pleased, of course, about all this, and the two of us came up on the subway together. We got to the subway, and he turned to me and said, "You were just wonderful. After you finished talking, I was almost convinced myself that I hadnít known that those were stolen."
In the same building, or the next building to Lathrop Harper on West Fortieth Street, was one of the most respected firms of rare books, particularly first editions, in the country, James F. Drake. Mr. Drake I never met; he was already quite old at that time. The two sons continued the business during my period, and I got to know them fairly well. They were pretty much stuffed shirt kind of persons, but they were both members of my book club, so I got to know them all right. Their names were James H., instead of James F., and Marston Drake. Marston was also called "the colonel" in the same way that Captain Cohen had been called "the captain." I imagine he had been a colonel somewhere at some time. They were both rather dull people, in the same sense that most of these booksellers were dull. Their stories were always about what book they had bought at such and such a price and sold at such and such. They were interested only, really, in first editions, and mainly in modern first editions. They didnít know anything about early books at all and, I donít think, too much about other things. But they were considered quite expert in their field and were great purveyors of Galsworthy, Kipling, Stevenson, and others. They apparently had some very good customers for Kipling, at least, and had sold some great collections of Kipling. After Marston died and James was pretty moribund, I used to go there fairly often and see the stuff. It looked like a pretty bad collection of stuff, but it was always supposed to be, as in the case of Goldsmith, that somewhere or other there were wonderful things. After they both died and the shop was liquidated ó they moved first over to East Forty-first Street before liquidation -- it was sold to University of Texas, having been appraised by Laurence Gomme. Laurence Gommc would never say how much he had appraised it for. Laurence Gomme is one of the doyens of the book business, and heís still alive at the age of eighty-eight, or something like that. He was with Fred Thoms for a long time and in business for himself. He is another man who is a good bookman
but a terrible bookseller. And he was never able to make a go of it himself. Heís one of the people that we always feel that... Eleanor always felt that he didnít know anything anyway. Actually, the only thing was that, since he had an English accent, which he had preserved for sixty years, that having the English accent and being old, people assumed that he knew something, when actually he didnít at all. Iíve never discovered whether it was true or not, never will discover it.
INTERVIEWER: What happened to Drake? Texas bought it?
GOLDWATER: Yes, Texas bought it. There was no possible point in Texas buying it, since there wasnít a single book in that whole thing that they didnít have. It was completely crazy. He did have one Gutenberg leaf that everybody wanted because it had either the Ten Commandments on it or the Sermon on the Mount, or something like that. It was one of the leaves which, if you wanted a particular leaf, that was the one you wanted. I offered him a thousand dollars for it and was rejected. I donít know eventually what he got for it. That was simply packed up as a whole. Boy, was that a bunch of junk! By the time they died, there was nothing left really. They hadnít been buying for many years, really. They had just been sort of living on it. The Galsworthys still remained, and the Kiplings still remained, and some of the Stevensons still remained. A few late Cathers, and that stuff, John Masefield... there were fifty John Masefields, and they had them on the shelf at a dollar and half. But nobody bought them, even at a dollar and a half. These were mint first editions in dust jackets. I think I did buy a batch of those. I think when he said I could have them for half price I did buy fifty of them, or something like that.
INTERVIEWER: Texas paid a lot of money for that shop. I donít know how much.
GOLDWATER: Well, we donít know. Unless we find out some day, weíll never know. But, whatever they paid, it was too much. It was just crazy. I donít think the stuff was worth five thousand dollars, except maybe for that leaf.
Schulteís Bookstore, number 80 Fourth Avenue, was one of the largest shops in the city, and also one of the older ones, started about in the 1890s or early 1900s. Theodore Schulte was a vestryman or member of the Grace Church, and the Grace Church owned the Schulte Building. It had a very large basement, very, very large main floor, and balconies. It still does. It was generally a good secondhand bookshop. Itís the kind of place where, if you were coming to New York and just had time to go to one place, this was the place youíd go, because the prices were reasonable, and the quantity of material was very large, indeed. Schulte died during the thirties, and the shop was taken over by his main employee, whose name was Phillip Pesky, who was a horrible man. Well, of course, that was very offensive to me, but nowadays I wouldnít mind that so much. It was just the way he was. Anyway, he was a fairly good bookseller and kept the thing going quite well. After he died it was taken over by his son Wilfred, who was one of the nicest people there ever was in the book business, but he didnít know anything about books at all. He was a very good salesman and was always able to convince people that, whichever Britannica he had, whether it was the eleventh, thirteenth, or fourteenth, was the very best Britannica. He never looked inside of them, but he did have the proper salesmanship approach. I think he may have gotten it from the original Britannica salesman himself. The shop continued for many years and is still there, but it went downhill after the older Peskyís death.
It was mainly that Wilfred didnít understand the question of cost accounting and didnít understand how much wasted effort he was putting into very small things, that every book that was sold didnít need to have any special record of that particular book, but simply that the book was sold for such and such a price. But his bookkeeping was meticulous. He had a full-time bookkeeper, just to keep record of each book that was sold, and made sure that, after a book was paid for, it still had its line underneath it, showing that particular account was finished.
If he didnít sell it or didnít have it or didnít have it on hand, he kept a record for everybody. This was really very good. Everybody liked him for this, and, at the beginning, most of us also did this because we felt that was the way the book business was. In a sense, as a social work, that was what the book business was for, namely to help somebody who wanted an out-of-print book find an out-of-print book. But, since we were buying these books for, say, fifty cents or a dollar and a half, and selling them for two and a half to five dollars, the amount of time which was involved in finding these things never at all compensated us. Most of us discovered this after a while and simply wouldnít do it. Wilfred never discovered it, to the day of his death. Even after I explained it to him a few years before his
death, he simply said that it was impossible for him to change this. He just wouldnít and couldnít do it.
The way Wilfred was able to keep going during the 1940s and 1950s after his fatherís death and into the early sixties was by a very peculiar kind of bookkeeping, which showed that he was still perfectly solvent, when the fact was that he was bankrupt. He had very good contacts which had been built up by Schulte and his father with Ivita Van Doren as the reviewer for the Herald Tribune, and reviewers for other magazines, and with Time magazine, and so on, which was very good for him. He also had great contacts with large libraries with duplicates and many places. But, when it came to getting cash or having cash available, he would borrow from the Pesky estate, which was substantial, or from relatives, or from the bank, or from friends like myself.
We would be supposed to take our money out in buying books from him at half price, or something like that. Well, for a while, one would be able to do that; and, after a while, one wasnít, because there wasnít enough good stuff to do it. He would always have some big deal in the offing, which was going to pay for everything, and sometimes they would come through. Eventually, however, the way he was able to keep going was by simply not paying Ivita Van Doren and these other people, but simply owing it to them. Ivita Van Doren, fortunately for him, died about this time, and nothing ever happened about that. So he continued to think that he was solvent. When I got a chance to look at the books later on, when the estate was asking me to see if I would take it over, I discovered that the way the thing was solvent was that, although he owed forty-odd thousand dollars in actual debts for book purchases or for actual loans (in most cases loans) and only $125 in the bank, or even less. The way the situation was made to show solvency was that he had goodwill worth $20,000 and books on the shelf worth $30,000. Actually, the books on the shelf werenít worth more than $5,000 or $6,000, in my opinion, and the goodwill wasnít worth anything at all, since what goodwill means is ability to make money in the book business. And that wasnít proved. The money was also borrowed from his employees, who would either take part of the salary and be owed the rest -- their whole salary wasnít very much; as a matter of fact, I donít think he ever paid anybody $100 a week, including himself -- but sometimes he would actually borrow money from them which they had saved or gotten from other sources. He himself tried to take out $50 a week and was successful in doing that most of the time. But sometimes he was unable to and simply lived on what his wife made as an employee of Stuyvesant Town.
This is in the late fifties and early sixties. The final situation with the Schulte business, or almost final, was that, still thinking he was perfectly solvent, he made his one and only trip to Europe in the early 1960s and bought a great deal on credit there, including a very large batch of bindings at about a dollar and a half apiece, which he was going to sell for two and a half to three dollars when he got back. He got back, and the books came. They werenít in such good condition as he had hoped. During the unpacking of the books, which took a considerable number of weeks, Wilfred suddenly died and left the problem of paying for these books to his successors.
The estate cast around to see what was going to happen to the shop and, among others, approached me to see if I would first buy it and later on take it over for nothing. Although I was tempted to do this, I, fortunately, with the aid of my wife, was able to reject it, because I saw that the whole thing was a losing proposition. I did gather some ideas about who else might take it over, such as Eugene Schwab, who was a great entrepreneur, or Argosy, or Haskell Gruberger, all of whom might have been able to put something over on libraries or something of that sort. But they all rejected the idea, and eventually it was taken over by the employees and lately bought by Dave Butler, one of them. Within the last few weeks, however, things have come to such a state that he is offering the shop for sale at $50,000 for the alleged 120,000 books, which I suppose is a true case, which is less than fifty cents apiece. But, in my opinion, they arenít worth more than five or ten cents apiece on an average. However, a library still might be able to buy them and make a good thing of it. Just a few days ago, Dave called me very urgently and asked me first to lend him $1,500, then a $1,000, both of which I rejected, and finally $700, which I foolishly, I think, lent him, with the understanding that I could take books that I wanted at half off marked prices. However, I went with great care with Bill yesterday, and we chose all the books in the shop that we could want at all. They only came to $133, so I still have a good deal of money to get out of this, and I donít know what the future holds.
Theyíre paying $700 a month rent. Well, itís worth it for the space. Itís just that they canít afford it. Theyíve got these five employees, all of whom are getting paid almost nothing, but still something.
And then there are other expenses which they canít do, so the situation has not improved. Itís simply going on in the same way as before. It is the only one which is still surviving in the same place that it started. It may have started just after 1900.
The people uptown were Ernest Gee and the Gannons, both of whom specialized in sporting books. Gee died in the late fifties, I think, but I never knew him. The main Gannon, Thomas Gannon, I didnít know; I knew the sons William and Ambrose. I donít know what eventually happened to them.
E. Byrne Hackett may have originally been uptown, but when I knew him, he was at 55 Fifth Avenue, the same building opposite Dauber and Pineís, which also housed Baker and Taylor Company. Byrne Hackett had been a very expensive and very high type of bookseller. He had started shops in Princeton and in New Haven, both of which failed. He was asked to leave one of the places or the other (Iíve forgotten which) because of his technique of getting the youngsters to buy expensive books and then suing the parents for payment. This apparently he made a good thing of at either Princeton or New Haven -- Iíve forgotten which -- but it was frowned upon by the authorities because apparently there was a good deal of high pressure involved. He was asked to leave, but I think, actually, he would have failed in either of those places anyway, and maybe did. He came to New York. He was a member of the Old Book Table, but that was before my day, and was considered one of the old scoundrels, along with Wells and Rosenbach. When I met him, it was during the Depression. I went up there and was astonished at what beautiful books he had. There may still have been employed there at that time Michael Papantonio and someone else, but I wouldnít have know them then.
INTERVIEWER: What was this place called?
GOLDWATER: The Brick Row Bookshop. I do remember going along the shelves and seeing among the Lewis Carrolls first a copy of The Hunting of the Snark for ten dollars, then a reprint of Alice in Wonderland for a dollar and a half, then the correct first edition of Alice in Wonderland for sixty-five thousand dollars, which he had bought at the Kern sale in 1929 and had paid so much for it that he was never able to dispose of it. That is what it was marked. I donít doubt that he would have taken less, but that was what it was marked. I think he had paid twenty-odd thousand dollars or more for it. I remember that quite well at that time. I always remember that I was able actually to buy some books from him at that time -- books on Haiti or Negro or something like that -- because he had other books which were perfectly reasonable in price. His shop was taken over by somebody else, who simply moved it from New York down to Texas. His name is [Franklin] Gilliam.
A man that was quite nice was Gabriel Engel, who was really a violinist by profession. He was never a great violinist and eventually decided he would like to be in the book business instead. So he went into first editions very modestly and had an office on Union Square, up in the building there, with his wife, and made first-edition catalogues, always at low prices. His first editions were always honest, and he was completely honest about his materials. He was interested in the posters of the l900s and 1910s period and was one of the main purchasers over at the Pratt store when Pratt went out of business, because Pratt had a lot of those things. Besides little magazines, he also had first editions of Harold Frederic and people of the 1890s and early 1900s, particularly these posters and all kinds of broadsides and throwaways for Stephen Crane and people like that of the period. Engel was very nice indeed, and we were all sorry when he died of a heart attack some years ago. His wife continued the business and may, for all I know, still have some of the books left. If she does, she works from her house instead.
Dauber and Pine -- Sam Dauber and Nat Pine -- started business a good many years before me, probably in the early 1920s. They may have been on Twenty-third Street earlier --I think that they had been somewhere else before they moved to Fifth Avenue -- but the whole time I knew them, they were at number 66 Fifth Avenue, between Twelfth and Thirteenth streets. They had the rather nice shop which was small and a very large basement, which was well arranged, and they also for quite a period of time had another basement around on Thirteenth Street, which could be reached only by going around into the street. They had a very, very large stock, and they always knew their business quite well. They also knew something about it, which was to hire good people. So, for a very long time, they hired a man named Charles P. Everitt, who was, aside from Wright Howes, the best Americana man in the country, or was known to be. Also, sometimes along with Everitt, they had as a cataloguer a man named Sam Loveman, whose job was entirely that of cataloguing. He had a flair for description and for exaggeration and for inserting erotic overtones into almost any book, which
was very, very successful. And their catalogues were notorious for this kind of description. Everybody would say, "Oh, thatís a Dauber and Pine catalogue" or "Thatís Sam Lovemanís descriptions."
It was a big business, and they are famous for the case of having found an Edgar Allan Poe Tamerlane and had given somebody a dollar for it, later on having sold it, I think, to Owen D. Young for seventeen thousand or twenty-seven thousand dollars, whereupon the man who sold it to them came around and complained. They told him to go chase himself, and he went and committed suicide. They are famous for this adventure. Iím not sure of the exact figures in these cases, but Iím not far off.
Dauber lived to a ripe age but died a few years ago. Pine is still alive and is running the shop, along with a woman who has been there practically forever. Dauberís son Murray, who didnít want to be in the book business, went over to the Spanish civil war, came back, and seems to be a little bit touched, but not much. Thereís something a little bit wrong, although itís a little hard to place it. I suppose you could possibly place it as shell shock or something like that. Heís quite nice. He didnít want to be in the shop at all and, while his father still kept it, he went into business for himself and sold books by mail from an office in the Broadway Central Hotel down on Broadway. After his father died, he was persuaded to go back to the shop again. He had been down there even before his father died, doing cataloguing and staying out of the way of everybody. After his father died, he went back there and is now the full-time person in the basement.
Yes, their contacts were always very good. They got the Joel Spingarn library, and they got a lot of stuff that we would have said they had no business to get. I have been calling the place moribund for quite a while now, but itís the longest moribundity that Iíve ever seen. Every once in a while, there will be an infusion of a new library having been bought. They do have plenty of money, and they can buy stuff, and they do buy stuff.
Their catalogues are all right. I always think that this is the last gasp, but actually they are keeping going. There were many times when they didnít have any money, and at those times they were left first by Everitt and then by Loveman, each of whom went into business for himself -- Everitt quite early, during the Depression actually.
Everitt continued for many years. He first had a shop of his own upstairs on Fifth Avenue and later a shop of his own upstairs on Fifty-ninth Street, above where Swann was having his first book auction. It was during that period that I got to know him fairly well. I always liked him, and I would listen to what he had to say a great deal. One of the things which he had to say was, "My shop is in my head." People would know that he was a great Americana expert, would go to his shop, and would find 150 books, and would say, "Whereís your stock?" He would point to his head and say, "Right here. I donít need a stock, because I know where to sell the books." It was due to this that I was always able to say, "All these books on the shelf are mistakes," because thatís what he would have considered them. Only a mistake was on the shelf; every other book was sold.
He had a fabulous memory, and he also just knew where to sell everything and knew everything about everything. His book, Adventures of a Treasure Hunter, is not terribly interesting because, again, he tends to emphasize, "I bought a book for such-and-such a price and sold it for such and such." But, in general, that was the way he was. It was he who, during the 1930s, probably about 1937 or 1938, after he had left Dauber, had no money, actually no cash, and came to me, a poor, miserable creature; because somehow or other it was known that I did keep cash on hand. I always kept cash on hand, and he borrowed from me whatever I had, which couldnít have been very much, I suppose -- two or three hundred dollars. While it was pretty astonishing -- of course, not many people knew about it -- but it was astonishing to anybody that Everitt would have to come to me for money. But yet he did, because he had no cash, and I did have cash.
It was slow paying, but he did pay me back. Later on I became very good friends with his employee. He had an employee a little later called Harry Alper, and it was from Harry Alper that I learned how to whistle trills using my epiglottis. Heís the only person who ever knew about that, because I thought that you had to whistle a trill with your tongue. But he said no, if you can get to learn it, youíll be able to do it this way. He was able to do it beautifully, and after I had some practice, I was able to do it too. But I can only do it within a certain range. On the other hand, I can only do the other with a certain range too, so one of them had to supplement the other. But it was very good, and it opened up a new vista of whistling to me.
Everitt isnít still alive, but he didnít die too long ago. It was probably eight or ten years ago, I guess. But Loveman, of all people, is still alive. He is very old. I saw him just yesterday on Fourth Avenue, looking at the stands to see what he could pick up as a sleeper. Heís still in business. He calls himself the Bodley Bookshop, and he has always called
himself that when he was in business for himself. He continued the business of putting out catalogues with these descriptions which were sexy, but that sort of failed lately because he had to make a non-sex book sound like a sex book. Nowadays it wouldnít matter much. Heís a homosexual, a very famous homosexual, and was always surrounded by these young boys. But, as he got older, they took advantage of him and did terrible things to him. They would steal everything from him and eventually took his name. Thereís a Bodley Gallery now which is run by some of his ex-boys. Theyíve taken his name, and the little Negro boys would just steal from him right and left and take advantage of him. They would treat him terribly, simply kick him around and do any old thing.
Maybe eight or ten years ago he started a little shop on one of these streets -- on Sullivan, I think it was -- not McDougal, but one of the ones east of McDougal. They would simply steal him blind, he would simply not have anything. It was just terrible. He was a friend of Hart Craneís and wrote at least one book on Hart Crane. Then he had some letters of Hart Crane which were published. But he did all sorts of things. He was a swindler in many unusual, very amusing ways, and I was involved with him in some of these. I donít deserve any credit for my part in this, although, since they were more amusing than they were crooked ... Iíll tell at least one or two of these.
When I was in England in the late fifties, I bought a hornbook which was made of leather. It had a leather cover and sort of transparent horn over the piece of paper which had the hornbook material on it. It looked very old. But the man who had it, which was Mr. [Howes], wanted only three pounds for it. So I knew that it was not a real, original hornbook. I said, jokingly, "I assume this is original." And he said, "Iím not saying anyting about this at all, the price is three pounds." I brought it back to America and found out somehow or other later on that there was a man near Hastings who was making these. When Loveman came around, as he did very often, looking for material to put in his new catalogue, I showed him this hornbrook. I said, "Maybe youíd like to catalogue this." He correctly did not ask whether it was real or not. He simply said, "How much do you want for it?" And I said, "$75." He thought that was all right. He wouldnít buy it outright, of course. He only catalogued things and later on paid for them if he sold them. So he took it from me, and in due course I got his list in which he had catalogued it as "eighteenth-century American bornbook" for, I think, $175 or $250. Well, in the first place, we didnít know what date it was. And, in the second place, we certainly had no idea that it was American. An American hornbook for that period would be worth not $150 or $175 but almost whatever you could get -- for it might be worth in the thousands. In fact, Iíve never even heard of one. I donít doubt that they exist and that the New-York Historical might have one. So I said, "Gee, Sam, you say eighteenth century? You donít know what date it is." He said, "Well, it doesnít have any date on it, does it?" I said, "No." And he said, "Well, couldnít it be eighteenth century?" I said, "I suppose." He said, "Leather certainly could be eighteenth century." And I said, "Yeah, I suppose." He said, ĎThat horn -- you canít tell how old that is." I said, "No." He said, "And, after all, you didnít open it up to look at the paper, so you donít know how old." He said, "I donít know why it canít be eighteenth century." So I said, "All right, but American, Sam? I bought it in England." He said, "You mean itís not possible for a hornbook to have come from America to England?" So I said, "Yes, I suppose so." He said, "Well, then?" He sold it. I donít pretend any great virtue in this transaction, but I thought it was pretty amusing just the same.
Then there was one thing that I got from Thornsís employee Vanover when Vanover was getting very old. He sold me a lot of little odds and ends of things. His name was Charles Vanover. He was an employee of Thoms and Eron, but later on, after Thoms and Eron disappeared, he was a scout by himself. He still had a few of Thoms and Eronís customers; he became very broke toward the end. I bought up some of his stuff, and one of the things he had was a poem printed on toilet paper by Rudyard Kipling. There was an original poem written by Kipling and printed on toilet paper, and you couldnít be sure that this was not right. The only thing was that the chances were very little and, again, I gave that to him to catalogue.
There were some fancy things of that sort. There were a good many facsimiles of things which looked right. In one of the sets of Stevensons, for instance, there was a facsimile of one of the pamphlets he printed in Samoa. That is very scarce, and the facsimile is quite good. The only way you can tell itís a facsimile, I think, is not on account of the paper but on account of the fact that it has a place for stitching where theyíve stitched it to sew it into the book. So this sometimes is palmed off by Loveman and others as the original.
Thatís the kind of thing he does. Also, I think that he once came into possession of a great batch of
John Keats bookplates, or Shelley, Iíve forgotten which. And so, whenever he gets a book of that period, he always catalogues it and says either, "with the John Keats bookplate" or, more likely, "from John Keatsís library." Iíve forgotten which he says, but he always does that. Thatís been going on for years. Heís a good old scoundrel, and we all really like him a good deal.
Well, not too many more. Carol Cox was a man who was a very good merchandiser. His original shop was 125th Street. Later on he moved downtown and had a large place on Park Avenue at Thirtieth Street, between Thirtieth and Thirty-first streets. Then he had a big shop on Fifty-ninth Street, opposite Argosy. He was a man who also didnít like Jews very much, but he liked the Negroes even less and felt very unhappy about having to move from Harlem, which had been his home. He became a wholesaler and supplier to libraries, and I bought great quantities of books from him. He also had regular books, first editions. And, whenever he had a collection of fifty or a hundred cookery books, he would call Eleanor up and she would come and get them. After he moved out of Fifty-ninth Street, the building was pulled down. He moved to a loft at Twenty-fourth Street, which went all the way through on Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth streets, an absolutely tremendous place. But something happened to him both physically and financially, and his place was taken over by an idiot who, however, had a lot of money, and who continued to call himself Carol Cox Book Company. Carol died in hospital under circumstances which I donít know, and the man simply owned the business. I never knew what the circumstances were. He eventually sold a large proportion of them out and moved, first over to Ninth or Tenth Avenue and then eventually to Jersey. The Carol Cox business still exists, but itís a wholesaling business to libraries.
Arthur Swann had a bookshop, a high-class bookshop, in the mid fifties in the same building or nearby with Gabriel Wells and other people of that sort. I think I visited the shop once, but I donít remember for sure. Later on he went out of business, probably failed, and became the manager of the book department of Parke-Bernet, or at that time with the American Art Anderson Galleries. He was supposed to be a scoundrel. I never liked him, and he certainly must have been a scoundrel because of the cases that are known about his collusion with Rosenbach and so on in selling the famous Tom Jones to Owen D. Young.
Itís a rather long story which is hard to make brief. This copy of Tom Jones was sold to Young for a very high price as being original boards, uncut, and so on. Young found out about itís being wrong and demanded his money back. Rosenbach wouldnít take it back; he never would do anything like that and always tried to put everybody else in the wrong. But the position of Rosenbach was such that either he was ignorant about the situation, which he would have denied with both hands, or he was crooked, which he would also deny with both hands. There was no third way out of it, because he had sold this thing as being perfect, although it was known where the book came from, exactly how it had been doctored, where the missing leaves had been put in, exactly where the boards came from. The whole story was known from beginning to end -- whose set it had been, how much it had brought at auction, and so on. Swann was in collusion with Rosenbach in this matter, I believe. Other similar cases were known.
Arthur Swann died in harness at the Parke-Bernet Galleries, and then his material came up at sale later thereafter and brought a high price, strangely enough partly because it was called the Swann sale, even though everybody knew that he was the wrong guy. Still, it was known also that he cared about books and that, whenever he saw a copy of a book of which he already had one, he would always keep the better copy. This finally was the best copy which came up, and that was true. This was quite late -- late fifties or early sixties. It was a quite recent sale.
Max Sparber was a book scout. He used to go along Fourth Avenue daily and pick up sleepers. He was interested in Judaica primarily but would buy everything, and was a great quoter in the AB or before the AB, the Want List, and before the Want List, PW. He had a club foot, and he never had a shave. He was sort of a fixture on Fourth Avenue, going along there day after day with his club foot and without a shave. He lived in Brooklyn with his mother. Nobody was ever invited to his house, and nobody ever saw his stock. Everybody resented very much the prices that he would quote things at. He would sometimes quote things as high as four or even five dollars when other people were quoting them at only a dollar or a dollar and a half. People would say, "Max, does anybody ever buy them?" And heíd say, "Well, not very often, but I always do feel that, if I sell one-fourth as many and charge this much, why, Iíll be just as well off as anybody who sold four copies at a dollar." Well, he was right, but he was a little before his time. So he never really made much of a go of it. Later on he was in the hospital, and his sister didnít know what to do
with him. I was then interested in getting some money from the Antiquarian Booksellers Benevolent Fund for him, but I was not shrewd because they came to the hospital -- Haskell Gruberger, who was disliked by everyone, including by Sparber, but who persuaded Sparber to sell him his books in case he died. He did die, and Haskell Gruberger got his stock of books. We always felt rather bad about that. As a matter of fact, this Antiquarian Booksellers Benevolent Fund, which was mainly Mr. Wormserís brainchild, has been fed until it now has tens of thousands of dollars in it, and it is administered by some very high-class types like Mr. Walter Schatzki, Mr. Harold Graves, and Mr. Richard Wormser; but they administer it to such a degree that they never give out any money at all. I have gotten money from them [for destitute booksellers] about five times, so I shouldnít be the one to talk. But I believe that almost nobody except myself has ever gotten anything from it. I got money for Sparber, for Harry Carp, for Bill [Barnette] of New Brunswick who had been victimized by Mr. Rizick in some of Mr. Rizickís early days, for Max Besant of Haiti and of New York, and for one other person whom I donít remember just now. But I donít think that, outside of those people, the fund had given money to half a dozen other people in the whole twenty or more years of their existence. They keep on building up the fund, for some purpose as yet unannounced, hoping that someday there will be some holocaust in which they will be able to use it -- maybe hoping that or maybe hoping not. The idea is simply to have a fund. I said that this is ridiculous, and so for the past years I havenít given anything to them, and I think anybody else is crazy to give it to them, too. Theyíve been able, actually, even with my things and the other few things theyíve given, to live entirely on income and never touch the capital at all, which was not the original intention.
There were two Robertses in the book business -- R. F. Roberts, who was John Kohnís first partner, except they werenít quite partners, when John had a shop at 37 West Forty-seventh Street, after he left Argosy, which he called The Collectorís Bookshop. On the top of the letterhead there was "John S. Van E. Kohn." Then there was a line, and underneath the line there was "R. F. Roberts," so that you could see that there was quite a differentiation between the two partners. He was a very good bookman but a terrible bookseller. He was all right as an investigator and as a checker-up of things.
He would come down and look over those tens of thousands of playlets that I had, and he would finally pick out twenty-one as being of interest. Then he would take them up to 37 West Forty-seventh Street, and he would work on those. He would find that three were possibly by American authors. Then he would find out that one of them really was by an American author and who it was. This was very important, and, therefore, you could charge $17.50 for it instead of $3. It would have taken him maybe a week of time to get this, and it would be very much worthwhile, except in a business way. Later we tried to get him jobs at various places where this wouldnít make any difference. John got him a job at Scribners to work on the, I think, Hemingway or other material which was in the Scribners archives -- the proofs and that sort of thing. I think he worked with Randall there, and that was fine because he didnít have to account for his time; it was all research, and the business aspect of it didnít matter. He was a real drinker. He was always in a fog. He was one of the people who had the greatest sense of humor of anybody we ever knew in the book business. He was very, very funny with sort of a dry, cynical humor, and about himself, as well, when he was in Rikerís Island, whichever island he was kept in where he still probably is or is again. He would write amusing letters about himself. I think heís still there, if heís still alive, which I think he is. John sort of gave him up. John lets people go more than I do. Heís more like Eleanor -- whatís the use of my being made unhappy? I think John tends to feel like this. When he gets a letter from Roberts, he doesnít really feel he has to go and see him, whereas I would feel, "My God, Iím involved; Iíve got to go and see him."
The other Roberts ... I donít think his real name was Roberts, but he was always called Roberts. He always called himself "Nostradamus, Jr." He had a shop down on Canal Street, and he was one of the earliest ones to go into this silliness of horology and occult, foreseeing, and so on. He published an edition of Nostradamus and was always involved with language of the hand, phrenology, and so on. He had a big shop there, was very cheap, and it was good fun going down there. Eventually the thruway coming out of the Holland Tunnel kicked him out. I guess he died; I never heard from him later on.
Moe [Murray] Gottlieb originally worked for Dauber also. Dauber had a good many people working for him as cataloguers. He had a fellow named Joe Levine, also, who came and worked there. I guess Ben Swami also worked for him for a while. Gottlieb then went into business for himself
at number 69 Fifth Avenue, which was between Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets, and had quite a good business there in Americana. He was a good bookman and a good bookseller. Later he discovered that he could make more money by being in the medical business. He never had any medical training whatever, but he simply discovered that nobody was doing early medical books. He went into it and made a great success of it.
Something should be said about Simon Gould and his son Raphael. Simon Gould was a man who never did anything honest in his life. He became quite wealthy during the early 1920s by being the one who promoted Coué with his "Day by day in every way Iím getting better and better." He published that and promoted it. He also was a vegetarian and ran for president on the Vegetarian party several elections. The American Library Service was so well known as being crooked that somebody going to Europe and coming from America would not be able to get any credit because of the name of the American Library Service. I had that experience more than once, somebody saying, "No, I cannot do any business with you, since the government itself does not pay its bills." Upon inquiring what this was about, I discovered that it was the American Library Service which had ordered material and simply not paid for it. Mr. Gould had more systems of not paying for something than anybody you can possibly imagine. I will give a few. He would order books and then not pay and, when being pressed, would simply not answer. If the amount was small, eventually the seller would give up. Sometimes he would do the same thing and would continue not to pay until he was sued. He then would still not do anything until the final moment came when he might have to pay, and in that case he did. He would order books from people and then, when they would ask for payment, he would say he had not received them. Since most people did not insure books, there was no proof of this, and he never had to pay in this way. He would send out books to people with a bill, even if they had not asked for them, and then dun them. A certain number of people would pay in this way. His rule was never pay until you have to. Something might happen. There might be, for instance, a world war which would take place. Or the person might die, or the person might lose his accounts, or the person might think that he was wrong. In this way, he was able to accumulate a vast stock, paying almost nothing for it. After he died, his son Raphael took over the business and still is in it. Raphael became a great power in the Ethical Culture Society, which we always thought was kind of amusing, and moved up to New City in New York, where he continues to run the business, but not in the same way his father did. Not long ago I was called up to New City to look at some material and found it was Raphael Gouldís discards. But among this we found correspondence from his fatherís day verifying all the things I have just said.
One thing which infuriated Leon [Kramer] particularly, although it could have infuriated anybody else who had the same situation, was that one day one of Leonís customers called him up and said, "Iíve just received a very interesting list from American Library Service. It seems to be very similar to your material, although the prices are about three times as high." He read the things off to him over the phone, and Leon discovered that what Mr. Gould had done was to take Leonís catalogue and simply triple the prices in them and offer the books to this man as if they were his own stock. He had all sorts of things. He was a very imaginative person.
He would write to the various embassies and say that he had a collection of material on their country. He didnít have anything at all at the time, but, as soon as they answered, then he would go out and get them. This, of course, is a perfectly legitimate kind of thing. He would do legitimate things if that was the only way of managing, but he was very imaginative and quite successful indeed. Eventually, not having paid his bills at the New York Times, at the Want List, at the Antiquarian Bookman, at the Publishers Weeklv, and so on, he was not able to adveruse in any of the normal outlets and had to keep on finding new outlets -- the New Republic, or the Nation, or the Progressive, and so on. Finally, I believe no single place would take his ads. Although he saved a great deal of money because he had been advertising them for some months and in some cases for years without paying, eventually he had no exact place to advertise which would reach any large audience.
In my early days I was introduced to [Guido Bruno] -- I keep forgetting whether his name was Giovanni Bruno or Donald Bruno -- anyway, he wasnít burned at the stake. He had a bookshop on Fourteenth Street, and he was one of the first introducers of the little magazine into the Village and was a typical Village character. When he died, his stuff came up for sale; that was the early 1930s, and it was one of the bases I had for building up my little magazine collection. A lot of the stuff which he published, which was done, for instance, by Djuna Barnes and others, is now very rare and expensive, but we donít find it around very much. He had a publication which was called Bruno's Weekly and then Bruno's Magazine, and then he also had a great many little monographs which were published there. One of them was a John Reed thing. He was one of the ones who did publish and be a bookseller at the same time. He was typical of Greenwich Village for that period.
Downtown there were a couple of bookshops which specialized in Judaica, Hebraica, usually in Yiddish, in Hebrew, and in Russian. Of these, the very largest was Max Meisel down on Grand Street, who had an incredibly vast stock and continued on for many years. I didnít have too much to do with him because I didnít speak Yiddish, and I wasnít really handling Russian books at that time. But Leon Kramer was down there all the time, and when he died, his stuff came on the market. It was mostly bought by a [Biederman] who was over on Second Avenue, and when Biederman went out of business, I bought a good part of the Russian material. This was a case where I found a great many Russian pamphlets published in 1905 and 1917, which were just wonderful. I had three hundred of them in my car and left them overnight. When I came there in the morning, they were gone. They were things which were worth many thousands of dollars to the right person, who in this case was me -- nothing at all to anybody else -- and the person who took them probably was greatly disappointed when he found what he had. We scoured the trashbaskets in the neighborhood but couldnít find any, and they never appeared on the market, as far as I know. This was fairly late; this was only about ten years ago.
In midtown there were a couple of people who lasted for more or less a great length of time. One of them was named [Leitendorf], whom everybody called the Manados Bookshop, manados being the old Indian name for Manhattan. He specialized in first editions. He and I got on the outs for some reason which I donít remember, and we didnít speak to each other for several years, but eventually we made it up. Usually I got on the outs for something which some people wouldnít have considered very strong but which I was very bitter about. That was usually something like the one I got on the outs with Peter Smith of the National Bibliophile Service. I think that Manados did the same thing, and I think one other person did the same. Peter Smith phoned me and asked if I had a certain book in stock which was in my field, Negro. I did, and I said it was $7.50 and he could have 20 percent off, which was $6. So he thanked me, and he bought it from me. Then later I found that he had sold it to my customer at $6, having taken no profit for himself. I wrote an article about that in the AB under my pseudonym C. Emptor, in which I bitterly excoriated this kind of thing. I had already explained to him over the phone what the trouble was about this, namely that he takes my book, which I have given to him at $1.50 less than I would normally sell it for, and sold it to my customer at a price which I would not have sold it to him for at all, makes me out to be too high, makes himself out to be a great guy, and, at a cost of $1.50 to me, spoils my sale and makes himself fine. It is understood in the book business that, when you give a discount to a dealer, you give it to him so he can make a profit, and only so he can make a profit -- not for any other reason. He didnít see this, so we were on the outs for a great many years, until finally he moved away to Gloucester. Since that time weíve been on perfectly good terms, since Iíve never seen him again.
Heís a reprinter. He was the first one who made a business of being in the out-of-print-want. list business. Heíd send around his employees, usu-
ally employee, to every shop in town with his long list of wants, pick them up, and then ship them out. He advertised in all the papers, saying that he could get books. Now, of course, this is a very well-known kind of thing, although lately itís been going down somewhat because the profit isnít sufficient. He was the first one to really make a big thing out of that. He was a very good bookseller in that respect.
It was in the thirties; it would have been after the thirties. One of his employees,Jack [Weiss], became disaffected with him and came to work for me for a while and then went up to Syracuse or Rochester -- I always get those mixed up -- and has a book-shop there even now that heís had going there for almost thirty years.
Uptown also there was David Moss, who, with Martin Kamin and Martin Kaminís wife, ran a bookshop which mainly specialized in first editions and then in dance and later on became the Kamin Bookshop. David Moss was, I believe, a sweetheart of Miss [Frances] Steloff long, long ago and is supposed to have committed suicide by diving off something and hitting a rock. The reason I say supposed to be a suicide is that it seems like a strange way to commit suicide, and it may have been an accident. This, I donít think has ever been established. The Kamin Bookshop lasted for years and years after that, and Sally Kamin was the great dance expert until quite recently. All the people are dead now, but I think the shop still exists in some form or other as a mail-order business.
J. Ray Peck was a rather nice man who had a shop on East Fifty-first Street near the subway station, a beautiful shop. He cared about first editions, and he had two daughters, each of which was stupider than the other and each of which was nicer-looking than the other. After he died, the two daughters kept it going for a while, and then the one daughter. Eventually it petered out. There were a few places in midtown that you could go and find sleepers or first editions at low prices. I never quite found out how he made a living out of it, but most of these people had some small income besides which kept them going in some way.
The Staegers, father and son, had the shop called the Cadmus Bookshop. The older Staeger was a horrid man and very, very good Americana man. The Cadmus Bookshop dealt entirely in Americana. You could go into his shop, first in the Fifties and later on on West Forty-sixth Street where they moved, and youíd find both father and son [Samuel] there. He always called his son "Son." The father would always have his hat, and usually his coat, on -- no matter what the temperature outside, no matter what the conditions. The reason for this was a strange one. He had hurt himself at some time years before and had insurance on which he was collecting. It was for complete disability. The consequence was that he was not supposed to be working, but, actually, he was the one who was in charge of the shop. However, he always kept his hat, and usually his coat, on in case the insurance company should send an agent in and find him there, at which time he would always have just come in to visit the son. He did this, I should say, for fully twenty years that I remember, possibly even longer. He was always there and always had his hat and coat on. I donít think that the insurance company did ever catch him, because the place flourished for all this time, in spite of the fact that the son was a very horrible person also. It was about then, the story goes, after the older Staeger died, they went to the burial and said that they couldnít bury him until somebody said something good about him. Everybody stood around and stood around until finally a person was able to say that, compared to the young man, the old man was a lovely person, at which time they were allowed to bury him. The young man continued in business for quite a while, but he apparently drank a lot and eventually is supposed to have had to go to an institution and, for all I know, may be dead. The shop disappeared from Forty-sixth Street, having gone downhill little by little and stuff being sold at low prices until it simply petered out.
Whitman Bennett was the man who was a real expert in American first editions and wrote a book called American Colorplate Books, a bibliography. Strangely enough, he came from a good old American family and in a sense was very intelligent and very well read. He was quite illiterate as far as writing is concerned, but he managed to put this book out, which is about the only thing thatís been done on it. He had two sons, Josiah and another whose name I donít remember, who used to work with him. It was both a bindery and a repair place and a first-editions place. He also made a great collection of aeronautics. The son Josiah went to work for Scribners later on and is now the second in command in the Lilly Library at Indiana University under David Randall. The other son, I think, disappeared. The father finally died at a very, very old age, just a few years ago, having been senile for quite a while, however. The bindery still exists, and I think itís called Bennett Book Bindery. If I didnít mention this before, Bennett is the one who used to joke with me about first editions which were in fine condition. Bennett is the one who got hold of me
SOURCE: "New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater" [interview], DLB Yearbook, 1993, pp. 139-172.
Back to Part One
A Memorial Tribute to Bill French
Finding Aid: University Place Book Shop Papers, 1968-1988
All praise to R. Dunaway, Bookseller...
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