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, May 21, 2009

Rare American Books

Almost 75 years ago a William Targ put together a list of what he calls "the scarcest and most valuable native books, books that should be worth anywhere from $50.00 to $25,000.00".  He tells us these books "represent the cream, the choicest of all American rarities."
     Mr. Targ includes helpful lessons for the novice book collector. He explains terms dealers use to describe books and encourages beginning book collectors and scouts to look in the trunks in their own attics for these treasures.
    The list is fascinating.  The first American rarity listed is Account Of The Treaty Held at Albany With The Indians Of The Six Nations.  It was published in Philadelphia in 1746.  Mr. Targ is reaching pretty far back.
     For some he gives contemporary details. He lists John Eliot's Bible in the Algonquin language and notes that a 1661 first edition of the Eliot New Testament sold for $825.00 in 1934.  This was one year before Targ's list came out.
     Bret Harte's 1873 edition in wrappers of Mliss: An Idyll Of Red Mountain sold for $950.00 in 1930.
     When I first met Chris Stephens, he was a big fan of Stephen Crane, and especially admired Red Badge of Courage. Targ lists it and gives information about how to tell the first state of the first edition.
     He includes 3 authors from his own century, Ernest Hemingway, H.L. Mencken, and Christopher Morley.
     Too bad he didn't look into his future-scope.  He could have advised his readers to carefully wrap up Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald  and put those books in the attic trunks they were emptying.  We'd love to find them now.
     And our future-scopes?  What relatively common books should we be tucking away in our attics to delight the book collectors of 75 years hence?

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