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.

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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment