Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Brief History of Chris Stephens' Bookselling Establishments

Christopher Stephens bought, sold, collected, organized, and catalogued all manner of marvelous treasure as a youngster.
He opened his first actual store in 1965 in Mt. Carroll Illinois. It was part of a bigger venture. We were students at Shimer College. With 4 other students, Rick and Pat Pottinger and Barry and Gail Karp, we opened a coffee house. The Golden Shovel. The coffee house had a store. I made jewelry for the store. We organized art exhibitions. The others arranged the coffee house business. Chris ran the bookstore.
The second store was in our house, still in Mt. Carroll. Chris sold books to students.
When Chris graduated from college he sold his bookstore to the student government and brought his family to New York City. He got a job at Equitable Life Assurance but he was still really a book dealer. It only took a few years for him to drop the Life Assurance game and become a full time book dealer.

Golden Shovel - Mt. Carroll, Illinois 1965/1966
used texts and other books out of house
Benton Street, Mt. Carroll, NYC 1966/1967
Christopher P. Stephens, Bookseller Inc. (out of apt.)
75 Ft. Washington Ave 1968-1975
325 38th Street, NYC 1973 -
Madison Ave. between 33rd & 34th 1977 - 1978
Canfield Stephens 67th Street 1978
52nd Street NYC 1979 - 1981
7 Terrrace Dr, Hastings on Hudson 1981 - 1993 (out of house)
riverrun 1994 - present

Today is Chris' birthday. I first celebrated his birthday with him 44 years ago. He turned 22. I was almost 18. We were already married. So many book adventures, so many life adventures were still ahead of us. So many still are.
C., H.B. Love, L.

Monday, March 30, 2009


left April 1988 - riverrun
right January 2009 - riverrun

Isabel left today. We hated to see her return to Boston but she did leave the riverrun order table caught up. She pulled orders and wrapped packages all week.
Isabel has been a bookstore kid ever since she was born. For the first 8 years of her life, she lived in a bookstore. In a sense. Her father, Chris Stephens, ran his book operation from our home.

I worked outside. During Isabel's first year, I ran a new bookstore at Masters School in Dobbs Ferry. The school wanted to spruce up it's textbook distribution and I enjoyed widening the inventory to include trade books, posters, stationary and gifts. I went to my first wholesale show - the Stationary Show at Jacob Javits Center - in May 1986. Isabel was less then 2 weeks old. She came along. We had fun together.

When the new Masters bookstore opened in the autumn, Isabel was there. Each day I carried her to work in a basket lined with pink & white gingham. The students came to see her as much as to buy books.

The next year I left Masters and worked in heaven. riverrun bookstore. Frank Scioscia, Isabel's grandfather, was delighted to have her in the store with me. She toddled over the long red carpet and browsed the shelves.

Later still Isabel had her own little office in the back of riverrun behind some shelves. She bustled about in her private space, or came and helped in the main part of the store.

When Isabel was old enough, she went to school. The school bus picked her up in the mornings near our house. In the afternoons, the bus left her off on the corner of Warburton and Washington so she could walk down the hill to riverrun.

Isabel worked in riverrun in her high school years and during college vacations. She graduated last year from a Great Books college, St. John's in Santa Fe. Appropriate for a book store kid. Now though, she's taking pre-med courses in Boston.

Some say that being a doctor is a good job, a good life. But really. Can it compare to the satisfaction of working in a bookstore?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ed Young reading to children

      Ed Young - autumn 2008 - showing a class of students at Hillside School two versions of a single page of Wabi Sabi.  The illustrations are collages.  The first complete manuscript was lost.  Ed started over.  He assembled new collage materials and reworked each illustration.  When the second complete manuscript was in production at Little Brown, the first manuscript was returned to Ed.
     Wabi Sabi was selected as one of the 10 best illustrated books of 2008 by The New York Times.  It is a joy to look at.   The students always enjoy having Ed Young come to school to read his books to them.  This time they looked closely.  Each wanted to be the first to name the differences and the similarities in the page by page comparisons.
     Ed Young has a long association with riverrun.  Ed became friends with Frank and Mary Scioscia in 1966 when they moved to Hastings on Hudson right next to the Burke Estate where Ed Young taught tai chi beneath a palatial copper beech tree.  Ed and his girls have been friends with the Scioscia Family and friends with the bookstore ever since.   The family and the bookstore have been fans of Ed's ever since.

a truly marvelous interview & art show of Ed Young in a quite remarkable readers' blog

Friday, March 27, 2009


Not everyone likes pug dogs but those who do, like them immensely. Chris Stephens spent this morning with a woman who likes pug dogs immensely. She had pug books and porcelain pieces and visiting cards and postcards and paintings of pugs. She's moving to smaller quarters and wanted Chris to buy it all.

Chris liked the woman even though she pestered him to take more than he wanted and pay more than they were worth.

Chris did take more of the pug stuff. His imagination is always captured by collections that someone has lovingly assembled. Chris was particularly intrigued by the older postcards and visiting cards featuring pugs with bright little eyes facing our present from out of the past.

Marcy Heathman's pug site

pug dogs info website

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mary Stephens Hayes at riverrun

photo by Christopher P. Stephens

June 1994 - Metropolitan Book Fair

Mary Stephens, now Mary Hayes, worked at riverrun. She and Chris Stephens made a good team. Mary's grandmother, Mary Scioscia, came down to riverrun on Tuesdays. She sat at the desk across the street, at the original riverrun, and entertained friends and fans. On Tuesdays the two Marys ate lunch together in that bookstore. They laughed and chatted and talked books.
After lunch Mary Stephens returned to 12 Washington. She filled orders, wrapped packages, and went book buying with Chris. Mary was interested in the business and she had good ideas. She became especially interested in bindings. riverrun had plenty of handsome old bindings. They whet Mary's fascination with the craft. She wentto the Memphis College of Art because it had a masters program in book binding. She left riverrun and went south. Mary's plan was to become the riverrun book binder. In the end, she followed other talents, but she did come back to New York and worked in the bookstore again. She liked working with the books and the customers. Books and customers liked her too.
Mary didn't stay at riverrun. She tried different jobs at different companies.
Now Mary is in England. She works for Phaidon Publishers. Still books.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Conversation With Helen Barolini - Author

Helen Barolini moved from Italy to Dobbs Ferry NY in 1973, shortly after her husband died. "Here I was," says Helen, "a recent widow with three children. I got a job as a librarian at Masters School. I was able to live on campus and my daughter could go to school there. Had I done the right thing though? I didn't know.
"Then one day I was walking down the street in the village. A bookstore caught my eye. It was riverrun - or the pre-riverrun called Dobbs Ferry Bookstore. There, right there in the window, were my husband's books! It was as if he were saying, 'here I am with you.' And I knew then that I'd done the right thing in moving here. I'd come to the right place."
Helen went in and introduced herself to Frank Scioscia. They exclaimed together over the coincidence of her husband's books beckoning from the bookstore.
I have my own coincidence having to do with Helen Barolini. She and I are in the same literature club. One day last June I left the meeting early, left Helen and the others, to help a friend. I had a bag full of New York State regents exams and I took them out and started grading. There, right in the English regents exam was a charming excerpt from Helen Barolini's How I Learned Italian. I'd just left her and here I was reading her. She hadn't mentioned that her writing was in the NYS English regents for high school students all over the state to read and write about. I called the literature club meeting and told them.
Today Helen and I chatted about that regents last June. She hadn't known her work was going to be featured in the exam. She didn't find out until her brother called from Syracuse. Helen told me, "I called the NYS Department of Education and asked them why they hadn't let me know. But what was I thinking? Of course they couldn't let me know. No one could know. The students mustn't be allowed to prepare for the exam ahead of time."
We also chatted about reading at riverrun. After seeing her husband's books in the window, Helen Barolini became friends with Frank and Mary Scioscia. She became friends with the bookstore. Helen was there in the mid 1970s when Natalie Safir (then Natalie Polly) started a reading series called Pomegranate. riverrun hosted it. Poets and other writers read to an appreciative public over wine and crackers.
"That was quite a literary community we had there."

Helen Barolini's books: Their Other Side: Six American Women and the Lure of Italy, A Circular Journey, Rome Burning: Poems, Passaggio in Italia, Umbertina, Chiaroscuro: Essays, The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writings By Italian American Women, Festa: Recipes and Recollections of Italian Holidays, Aldus and His Dream Book, Love in the Middle Ages, More Italian Hours, & Other Stories

Antonio Barolini's books: Croton Elegies, The Mother Poems, The Long Madness, Nights of Fear, The Last Family Countess, The Memory of Stephen

Helen Barolini's website:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath's England

    Ted Hughes decided to sell the Sylvia Plath archive. Fran McCullough put Hughes in touch with Chris Stephens and Stephens arranged the sale to a university library.
    The special collections librarian was excited to get such a fine collection of papers for research. Chris flew to England to finalize the arrangements. He brought his family.
     That spring of 1975, we flew into London, hired a car and drove to Dover. The roads were narrow. Trees grew right up to the gravel. We wended our way to Ted Hughes' house.
     Hughes and his new wife greeted us. We came into the lovely house and sat in the kitchen. It had low ceilings, long benches by a long table and the very same stove. The new wife, his third one, made us lunch. Some people may have wondered at her marrying Ted Hughes after his first two wives committed suicide. I didn't wonder though. Ted Hughes was attractive. Back then he was compellingly attractive. Anyone would have been happy to be his third. Or fourth even.
     When we returned to NYC, I sat in our 17th floor on 38th Street and read his Crows aloud to myself. There were windows all around and a lightening storm was raging.  All that thunder and lightening in dark clouds was an appropriate accompaniment to Ted Hughes' poems.
      Like most women my age, I admired Sylvia Plath. It was thrilling to visit her kitchen, her house, her village. I could feel her poems in air of her house. 
      After lunch I took our three children out while Chris and Ted talked business. We strolled down the lane. We crossed a stone bridge over a river. Fields on either side were brilliantly green.  They beckoned.  We climbed a white fence.
    It didn't occur to me that the children and I were trespassing.  Little Mary wasn't two yet. She toddled happily in the grass. Michael and Greg romped far out into the field. It was a memorably idyllic moment.
     Suddenly young horses galloped over the hill. They came up almost up to us. The horses stopped short and cocked their heads and tossed their manes.
     Just a few years earlier an unexpected tangle with an aggressive horse at the Danbury County Fair sent me to the Danbury Hospital. "What's going on with those damned horses at the fair?" one nurse asked another. "They're biting all the damned tourists." This horse had been trying to to bite the baby in my arms. Luckily I'd whirled in time. No real harm done, except that the incident left me terrified of horses. I was appalled to see that I'd put my children in horse-danger again.
     We were surrounded. Attack horses blocked our way back. I gathered Mary and Michael into my arms and herded Gregory into the river. It wasn't too deep. The horses watched us splashing all the way across to the other side. We almost escaped. Unfortunately the far side was an island and the water beyond was too deep and swiftly moving to transit. I kept the children on the island, wet and cold, until the ponies grew bored of us and pranced away. We waded back across, trudged over the green, green grass and climbed the fence to the safety of the village lane.
     Ted Hughes was bemused by this adventure. He saw it as another instance of the Odd Americans. He advised me for future situations. "You do know, don't you, that water doesn't stop horses? They can swim."
     Ted signed some books to Chris. We packed ourselves back into the small English car and waved our thanks to the two of them. It was a happy afternoon. During the whole drive back, Chris talked enthusiastically about Sylvia Plath's papers.
    The promise of that afternoon didn't pan out. Olwyn Hughes, Ted's sister, stepped in as business manager and negated the deal. She said the university wasn't paying enough. She insisted that the papers go to auction.
     It was a problem. We were disappointed to miss out on the commission. Chris was devastated to have to renege on the university. He'd always relied on hand shakes and was appalled that a hand shake deal fell through. The university was gracious but they were disappointed too. It was a shame to have the papers separated instead of together as an archive. It didn't work out well for Olwyn and Ted either. At auction Plath's papers brought a fraction of the university's offer. It almost looked like there were no winners in this deal.
     Not true though. I was a winner. I'd emerged intact from a horse scare.  I met the handsome Poet Laureate of England and I'd eaten in the same kitchen where Sylvia Plath had lived.  And died.

Sylvia Plath's books: The Bell Jar, Poems

Anje Beckman's: Sylvia Plath home page

Ted Hughes' poetry books: The Hawk in the Rain, Lupercal, Wodwo, Recklings, Crow, Gaudete, Moortown Diary, Remains of Elmut, Mooses, River, Flowers and Insects, Wolfwatching, New Selected Poems 1957-1994, Tales From Ovid, Birthday Letters, Collected Poems

Ted Hughes' prose: A Dancer to God, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, Winter Pollen, Difficulties of a Bridegroom, Poetry in the Making

Ted Hughes also wrote children's books, edited anthologies and translated.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mancini wedding

Frank and Mary Scioscia at Pat McNiece and Tony Mancini's wedding. 1967
Pat was in publishing. Tony was a journalist. They were bright and confident and young. The reception was filled with literary enthusiasts.

new store

In the spring of 1975 Chris Stephens and Cass Canfield opened a bookstore on 67th Street between Madison and 5th Avenue.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Richard Kostelanetz

We had an exhibition of Richard Kostelanetz' work. Chris Stephens had purchased the stock from Something Else Press. The Kostelanetz books in the inventory brought Stephens and Kostelanetz together. "You should have an exhibition of my work," Richard told Chris.
Chris was happy to agree. We had an interesting book space in the garment district. It was huge - the whole 17th floor. We hung Kostelanetz' work from the ceiling down into the loft. Clever work it was. Kostelanetz combined sophisticated word play with bold graphics.
Richard supplied a list of addressees to receive an announcement of the show. He organized the guest list for the opening night party.
People came from around the world to that party. There were 250 guests. It was the biggest and best autor party we ever had. The guests were literary celebrities. They came because of Kostelantetz. And they came to such an unlikely place: Christopher P. Stephens, Bookseller, Inc - 17th floor, 325 West 38th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. No one minded the incongruity of location.
Kostelanetz had too much energy to just bask in the attention. He moved from group to group; his conversation moved from language to language. He brought guests around to show them his work and introduce them to one another. The talk was all avant garde books and art and happenings.
For months afterwards we received regrets from people not able to break away from (movie, deadline, interview, mountain climbing, high level political meeting) committments to come to the party. We'd been intrigued by his work from the beginning, but until this party we hadn't realized the extent to which Richard Kostelanetz is a star.
Kostalanetz' website: Richard Kostelanetz

Saturday, March 21, 2009


March 1989.

These are four fine book dealers:
Peter Howard, Serendipity Books - Berkley CA
Frank Scioscia, riverrun books - Hastings on Hudson NY
Chris Stephens, Christopher P. Stephens Bookseller - Hastings on Hudson NY
Oscar Graham, Detering Book Gallery - Houston TX.
These men talked books, compared stories and discussed points. They didn't really want to be interrupted for a snap shot, but indulged me.
Thanks again gentlemen, twenty years later.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Michael Stephens aka Michael Orick at riverrun 1988

In 1988 Mike was still Stephens. He had just graduated from high school. He was already a writer. In fact his aka name, Orick, was taken from a fictional charcater he'd created.
Michael had some Bookman characteristics like his grandfather and father. He considered setting up a bookstore, riverrun west, in California but other fascinating interests took up that time and creative energy: playwriting, acting, fatherhood, learning things.
Michael gets a big kick out of Collage Night. Every Wednesday night collage enthusiasts gather at his place and cut and paste. They can hear and smell the surf nearby but they scarcely notice. Each is completely engaged in his or her work. They're meticulous. The collages are art. In fact, the Collage Night gang has been invited to exhibit their work at the Dead Cow Art Gallery in Santa Cruz next month.
Michael has branched out from flat collages to collage pop-up books. They are splendid creations, but see? Books keep leaking into every aspect of his life. He moved 3000 miles away but he didn't get away from riverrun.

See collages by Michael (Blunktious) and other collage artists at:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Conversation with Stefan Kanfer - Author

Stefan Kanfer, pillar of riverrun, kept me entertained with good conversation on the train into the city today.
Shortly after he was married to May, they saw Holiday with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. The movie affected Steve.
Grant pushed away the handsome job offer tendered by the rich plutocrat and his daughter (the wrong one). "No," said Grant. "I'm not going to work right now. I'll take a year off and have a holiday. I want to take my retirement now, while I'm young and I can really enjoy it."
This sounded good to Steve. He and May quit work. They took a year off, had a holiday, and took their retirement when they were both very young and could really enjoy it. They found a great place to live in London and then after awhile went on to Paris.
"I got sick in Paris," said Steve. "Then we traveled to Switzerland and I recovered. We went on to Italy and lived in Florence. Back then, before the floods, masterpieces were out in public places. There were magnificent statues. You could touch them. No one did though. No graffiti. It was amazing to see all that art out in the open. We loved Florence."
They went on to Scandinavia where they sipped cherry herring and relished retirement. Steve wrote a play.
When the retirement was over they returned to New York. They had a couple of children, Lili and Ethan. Steve free-lanced. "It was uncertain work," he said. "One week you got $2000 - a lot of money back then - the next week nothing. Then the job at Time opened up and the rest is history."
A pretty glorious history too. Steve told about lunching with Sophia Loren or Paul Newman or Marcello Mastroianni. "It was always something interesting. Movie actors and politicians returned your calls back then. The Times had clout. Now it's different. The internet is killing the newspapers."
Steve and I talked about happy marriages.
We agreed that "call waiting" and "instant messaging" were too jarring to be worth it.
Steve bragged about his grown children. I guess we both did.
He related stories from his recent book tours. He discussed articles he was writing and his ideas for coming books.
I was sorry when the train pulled into Grand Central Terminal and the conversation was over. Steve was on his way to a writing discussion panel at the New School for Social Research. He was the biography expert.
Steve cocked his trademark hat and grinned. If Steve and Cary are typical, one thing about having your retirement young, when you can really enjoy it, is that the holiday spirit pervades the whole rest of your life. Steve went jauntily off to work.

Stefan Kanfer's books: Film 69/70, A Journal of the Plague Years, The Eighth Sin, The International Garage Sale, Fear Itself, A Summer World, The Last Empire, Serious Business, Groucho, Ball of Fire, Stardust Lost, The Voodoo That They do So Well, Somebody

Stefan Kanfer at City Journal:

Stefan Kanfer at Political Mavens:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

reading at riverrun

Elizabeth Hogan brought me this copy of 
Inprint magazine publishing the Pomegranate Series.
    Readers read at riverrun.  It's too bad that Dan Wilcox wasn't there that day to take photographs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

two riverruns

looking at 7 Washington Avenue riverrun through the windows of 12 Washington Avenue riverrun.

Monday, March 16, 2009


In an out-of-the-way corner of riverrun one might come across this certificate awarding Chris Stephens 5th degree blackbelt in judo.  He is a judoka.  He'a a blackbelt in books too.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Something Else Press

Something Else Press (1963 - 1974) was a strong publishing voice of experimental writing. The list includes major concrete poets and fluxus artists. Dick Higgins ran the press. His wife, Alison Knowles, indirectly helped him name it. When he offered her suggestions for the name of the press, she said, "No. No. Not that either. Name it something else." So he did.
All of the people involved with the press were creative artists. None was a business major. Higgins kept the press afloat with his own personal money but eventually the Something Else Press had to close down operations.
The press left an indelible mark on the experimental literay scene.

a wikipedia entry lists publications

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dom & Literary Magazines

Little magazines have quite an appeal. Unconstrained by rules necessary in big enterprises, an editor can follow an idiosyncratic vision. Chris Stephens has always picked up literary magazines – little magazines – in his book buying travels. He sorts though them and admires them and then packs them in boxes for storage somewhere.
In the 1990s, riverrun had a fabulous storage area. It was the north half of the fourth floor in an old brewery down by the Hudson River. There’s a duck pond in front of the building and trees all around. There were a lot of books and little magazines in that storage warehouse.
One day, back in the retail store, a new walk-in customer asked about little magazines. The customer asked one of the employees.
Chris Stephens, an erudite bookman long on knowledge but short on bedside manner, wisely leaves dealing with customers to the friendlier employees. This particular friendly employee didn't know little magazines. “Nooo,” said the employee somewhat vaguely. “No. I don't think we carry anything like that here. Sorry.”
Chris came up out of the back and introduced himself to the customer, Dominique Boer. Dom and Chris hit it off instantly. They talked Paris Review, Hudson Review, Poetry magazine, Partisan Review, Tri-Quarterly. They discussed older little magazine like Yale Review and Philadelphia Literary, and European little magazines. They went to the warehouse and opened boxes and talked books. It was a very happy time. A very happy friendship developed out of that first meeting over little magazines.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Summer Day at the Bookstore

1985.  Frank Scioscia in the doorway of riverrun.  He's just off the train from work at Harper's in the city.  No doubt a summer evening bocce game is in the offing.
Before Frank Scioscia rented the riverrun space for books, it had been a union hall for Anaconda Copper employees.  This connection appealed to Frank.  He felt solidarity with workers. Symbolic alliances like this meant something to him.  So did symbolism that mistakenly implied alliance.
     A distressing instance of this occurred in 1955 when he moved his family to San Gabriel California.  The neighborhood elementary school was named after Calvin Coolidge.   Frank could scarcely bear to have his children attend.  He would have preferred Eugene Debs Elementary School.  Or Samuel Gompers Elementary School.  Even, if it had to be presidential, Harry Truman Elementary School.
  Frank couldn't stand cool, reserved, conservative Cal.  In fact, if he'd been forced to make that choice, he would have preferred the name Sacco and Vanzetti Elementary School over a name that, however minimally, implied his endorsement of our 30th president.
     A union hall suited Frank Scioscia just fine. He and his sons, John and Charles, lined the walls with bookshelves.  Frank filled them.  On a summer evening like this one, he was delighted to stop into his union hall/bookstore and look over the books.  

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Exchanging Editions of the OED

Burt Britton worked at the Strand Bookstore for many years.  In the 1970s he took a partnership position managing a new bookstore, Books & Company.  The owner, Jeannette Watson, wanted a literary beacon and she had the funds to stock it.  She asked Britton to buy masterpieces.
     This was back in the days when even many trade publishers considered great writing sufficient reason to publish a book.  They kept those modern masterpieces in print to enhance their reputations.
     That was before the tsunami of Marketing Majors graduated from college and hit the employment agencies.  Those MMs overwhelmed publishing.   They burned the back lists.   They dismissed the value of literary prestige.  They were bottom-line obsessionists.  Fran McCullough (poetry editor and Sylvia Plath's editor) bemoaned the publishing changes taking place around her.  She said that the people who used to go into advertising were taking jobs in publishing. 
     In spite of developing changes in the publishing industry, Burt Britton established a rich inventory for Books & Company.  He ordered from university presses, small presses and trade publishers.   It was becoming the wonderful store for readers and writers that Watson envisioned.  Before Britton got through all the publishers, though, Jeannette Watson realized that her funds were being too rapidly drained.  She told Britton to slow down.   The great books weren't selling as swiftly as best sellers in other stores did.  ("well yeah, duh", a marketing major might have said.  Much as one might enjoy sneering at them, they aren't entirely wrong.) 
     Brittton had ordered many books from Chris Stephens.  In this situation he preferred to pay for books in books.  Did Chris want to take some at a good discount in exchange?  Chris did.  He'd always wanted the OED.
     And that's how Chris got his first set of the Oxford English Dictionary. Thirteen volumes.  He loved it.  He kept it at home and looked up words frequently.  Our children used that OED.   As each one left home, he or she brought along one of those tiny-print, 2 volume sets from riverrun.
     Last week Chris brought back 60 boxes from a house filled with good books.  The new expanded OED was amongst the treasures.  Twenty volumes.  It was kind of hard to give up the beloved old set with cream colored dust jackets and all those memories.   The new set looks good too, though.  And there are lots more words. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gregory P. Stephens - 1988

Now Greg is "Mr. Stephens". He teaches math at Hastings High School - the same place where he took math when he was a student there. Back then Gregory Stephens spent time at riverrun bookstore. Sometimes he worked there. Sometimes he hung out, reading or talking with his grandfather, Frank Scioscia.
Frank was delighted. Someone once asked Frank why he'd opened riverrun. He answered that he wanted the children who lived in Hastings to grow up in a town that had a bookstore like his. It wasn't really a full answer but it was a good one. And no doubt it was part of the fuller reason.
Gregory always liked books. He's still a big reader. He married a big reader and they have two big-reader daughters who live across the street from the high school and a few blocks from riverrun.
When Frank Scioscia retired from Harper Collins, his responsibilites were divided into 4 new jobs. At about the time of this photo Gregory took one of them. He didn't love the job. Probably Greg would have enjoyed it a lot more if either 1.) his grandfather was still working there too, or 2.) he'd been able to have all four parts. Even though that would have been 4 times the work, it would have also been 4 times the pleasure.
Greg gets plenty of pleasure in his current job teaching. He still drops into riverrun occasionally. He doesn't spend as much time there as he did in his youth, but several times a week he does play raquetball with the present proprietor.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

May and Stefan Kanfer

Great friends of riverrun, from the very first moment of the store's existence. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Canfield Stephens Books

photo by Jerome Frank, April 1978

Together Christopher P. Stephens and Cass Canfield opened a very classy store on 57th Street between Madison and 5th in New York City. The store was called Canfield Stephens Books.
Cass had led a life full of vivid adventure. He'd walked across China for example. Many of his best adventures were literary ones. Cass was senior editor at Harper & Brothers, later Harper & Row. He knew collectors, authors and publishing leaders as well as a host of interesting people in various fields.
Chris had a second floor store on Madison and 34th Street. He was 35 years old, struggling to sell enough books to pay the rent and keep buying more books. The invitation to join Canfield seemed an incredible opportunity. It was.
Canfield Stephens Books was an exceptional store. The books and prints were superb. It's a shame the store winked out of existence in just less than a year. The men had different goals and the weight of expenses made it difficult for all goals to be met.
It was great fun while it lasted. One of the best aspects for Chris was the friendly and fascinating association with Cass Canfield.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Book Foundlings

     Some mornings there's a box of books on the steps waiting.  Some one would have left it there during the night before.  The box-depositor just wants us to find a good home for the books.
     It's always hard to kiss one's books goodbye.

note:  The Catalogue of Collections was really posted today, not yesterday as this blog mysteriously insists. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Book Stacks

     Three new collections came in this week.   Usually a big influx of books can be housed across the street, at 7 Washington, so that the store at 12 Washington is able to keep a bit of floor space.  Today that side is pretty full too.

Catalogue of Collections 1975 - 1976

This catalogue has a brief description of each collection of books. The single folded sheet of hand made paper was used to whet librarians' initial interest. There was also a separate detailed catalogue for each one of the 28 groups listed.
The Catalogue of Collections itself is a work of art. It was designed and beautifully hand printed by Ron Gordon.

1. The New American Novelists of the Sixties
2. Modern American Poetry
3. Modern Firsts
4. First Books By American Authors
5. An Ian Hamilton Finlay Collection
6. Modern Literary Criticism
7. Latin American Literature in English Translation
8. Science Fiction and Fantasy
9. The Science Fiction Paperback Original
10. Modern American Detective Fiction
11. Cowboy Fiction
12. The American Indian
13. Cattle and Cowboys
14. The West and the Southwest
15. Latin America
16. Highway Transportation: The Development of Highways and Roads in North American
17. Africa
18. Mining in Mexico In The Nineteenth Century
19. Dutch Politics in The Seventeenth Century
20. Blacks In America - The Richard Hoffman Collection
21. American Jazz
22. Runs, Multi-Volume Sets, And Serials From Stock
23. Natural History
24. Science And Technology - History
25. Science And Technology - New
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Friday, March 6, 2009

Gene Laskowski

Gene Laskowski always enjoys a good bookstore. Here he is enjoying riverrun in June of 1988.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Old Oregon Bookstore - Preston McMann

Mac McMann opened the Old Oregon Bookstore in 1959 in Portland, Oregon.  The store had the good look of those great old stores.  There was a big section of square paned windows in front.  You could see through to the dark shelves inside.
     Mac's wife, Phyllis, often joined him in the store.
     Mac got into houses and bought fine book collections.  He browsed other shops and Salvation Army book tables.  Soon after Old Oregon opened, Mac found something incredible at a table.  It looked like nothing and it was priced to match.  Mac knew its real worth.  He bought it for pennies and sold it for thousands.  The Oregonian newspaper carried a story. It was big news.
     In those days, book dealing was a knowledge-intensive profession.  A book dealer survived and prospered on what he knew.  McMann survived and prospered for decades.
     Preston "Mac" McMann and Frank Scioscia were part of the lively book community in Portland after WWII, but the two of them were special friends.  The men continued their book friendship after Frank moved to California.  Their families intermingled for life.
     The photos show a post card from Mac to Frank.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

FAS - 1980s

The 1980s was a good decade for Frank Scioscia and riverrun. The bookstore was a hobby for Frank. He still worked at Harper (& Bros, & Row, Collins) marketing children's books. He liked his job there. He loved his hobby at riverrun.
Because it was a hobby, Frank was pretty casual about financial arrangements and about store hours. Pals came to the store and talked books. Pretty regularly Frank, Stefan Kanfer and Kevin Ettinger left the comfortable store - often leaving browsers alone there - to play bocce down by the railroad. Kanfer built a board game of miniature bocce for play in the store. Ecco bocce he called it. The indoor game didn't regularize the store hours but, during inclement weather, it did provide entertainment for patrons and proprietor alike.
Bocce and companionship contributed to the warmth of the store, but it was all those books and all those lovers of books that accounted for its magic.

Frank and Chris 1965

riverrun bookstore is the product two great bookmen.
Frank Scioscia opened the store on Washington Avenue in 1978. He ran it until he died in 1993. After a transition period, Frank's son-in-law, Christopher Stephens took over early in 1994.

Today their stints are even. Each man has steered riverrun for 15 years. The store is remarkable because of these men.

The men are very different and very much the same. Their styles and personalities differ. They are the same in their love of books. They read, but it's more than constant reading. Frank was an extremely knowledgeable bookman. Chris too.

The men were friends for 28 years. During that time they argued politics and applauded books. Their enterprises were separate.  They shared the joys of discussing incredible finds and showing one another treasures. Each was undaunted sifting through book rubbish for gems. Each was wildly optimistic about prospects of the next book call.

The picture was taken in January 1965, just after they met. Discussing points, book scouting, co-creating interesting collections, opening a series of bookstores culminating with riverrun - doing all this together was still in the future. That future was great.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Buying Books

Buying the books is always the most fun. Arranging them, cataloguing them, pricing them, selling them, processing shipment - those activities can't compare in thrill-quotient to buying books.

A call comes in. Maybe it sounds promising. The truth is, you can always convince yourself it's promising. In the mornings before the store opens, Chris follows up on those phone calls. He goes to homes with shelves full of books. It's a treasure hunt. Occasionally he finds marvelous books of great value. Often he finds good solid books that he'd like to have in the store.
There's another kind of treasure too. Book collections reflect the collector's interests. That ignites Chris' interest. He loves looking over the books, even when they are subsequent printings and commonly available. Sometimes the person who collected and read the books is still alive and eager to talk about books. Even if a relative or friend is arranging the sale, the reader/collector is a strong prescence in the collection. Those people are treasures too.

At 11:00, every single day, riverrun bookshop opens its doors. Before 11 though, Chris has usually gone treasure hunting and bought books. He's already done the part that's absolutely the most fun.