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, May 19, 2009

S & S and Ultramarine Publishing Company

Christopher Stephens started Ultramarine Publishing Company as a rescue operation to keep good books in print.
The precursor to Ultramarine was a short-lived book operation Chris started with Vine Smith. Chris and Vine were in their early 20s. They worked, and also played various high jinks, at Equitable Life Assurance Company on Avenue of the Americas in NYC. They were smart (too smart really) and energetic (too energetic really). They weren't that well suited to the insurance game. Chris was already leaning away from the steady paycheck of a wage earner, and toward the financial volatility a full time book dealer.
Chris talked Vine into investing in remainders with him. They started S & S Books.
"The big S, the first one, was for Stephens," says Chris. "The little S was for Smith."
Chris was enthusiastic. He immediately bought plenty of good books with their investment capital. Vine got nervous. He wanted out.
Chris started Ultramarine with the S & S Books inventory he bought from Vine.
But why did he call it Ultramarine Publishing Company?
"I named it for Malcolm Lowry's book, Ultramarine," Chris says.
Ultramarine was published in 1933 by Jonathan Cape Publisher in London.
"The book didn't sell well. Copies were stored in a London warehouse but like everything else in London, the warehouse was bombed during the war. The books burned.
"Then serious interest in Lowry developed later and Ultramarine became a legendary rarity. Always very hard to find."
So many books from Chris' Sixties catalogue were being remaindered. He saw Ultramarine as a way to save them. Save them from bombs and fire and book-grinding machines.
"Deserving books should stay in print," says Chris.

Ultramarine Publishing Company has 3, and almost 4, missions or projects. The first is keeping in print books that have actually been published and dropped by some other publisher. The second is publishing beautiful first editions of books that come out simultaneously with a trade edition from some other publisher. The Ultramarine first editions are very limited, signed by the author, and hand bound by Denis Gouey - fine binder. The third is producing inexpensive yet highly valuable author checklists and bibliographies for collectors.

Obviously this is where I should include a link to the company web page. Alas, it doesn't exist. Even if you google Ultramarine Publishing you get an assortment of listings, some us and some entirely different publishers with the same name.
Okay. Yes. I'll get right on this. I'll see what I can do about setting up an Ultramarine Publishing Company web page and trying to reconstruct a title list. It will be my summer project.

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