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.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sixties Catalogue

     In 1973 Christopher Stephens published a catalogue of books for sale that became a classic. Three things made this catalogue brilliant:
            1.) the timing
            2.) a strictly disciplined focus
            3.) knowledgeable endorsement of the authors
The precept was a collection of books published by promising American authors whose careers had begun in the 1960s.

Chris had begun compiling names even before the decade was out. In 1969 he showed an early draft of the collection to the Accessions Librarian at the University of South Florida. The university bought the whole collection, getting a jump on young writers for their library.
Chris reassembled the books. He fine-tuned the collection. By the time the published catalogue came out, he had already sold the entire collection to a number of university libraries around the country.
Stephens was very picky about which authors to include. Most did not have the recognition they have today. Back in the early 1970s, other writers seemed like the new, most recent voices – authors like Saul Bellow (Dangling Man 1944), Norman Mailer (The Naked and the Dead 1948), J. D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye 1955), even Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises 1926).
The source of this catalogue’s big impact was the informed bet Stephens was making on these new authors. He stuck his neck out. These were substantial writers, had something to say, knew how to say it, and would continue to develop with time. Stephens predicted that these were the authors whose voices would speak in the future.
Some didn’t fulfill his promise, but remarkably, most did.
Later other book dealers put together similar collections. Some dealers weren’t as careful about the time parameters, putting in authors who’d published late in the 1950s or early in the 1970s. Most didn’t read all the books they listed. They did not insist on excellence in the authors and included some that Stephens had already dismissed as marginal.
Perhaps the difference between excellent and marginal is subjective. Chris Stephens didn’t think so.
That catalogue was active for almost all of the 1970s. Scouts carried back-order lists and Chris kept replenishing his supply of his Sixties Authors. They dominated our book shelves. Those were exciting times in the apartment. Always a good read only an arm’s length away. Those books were good company, even - when time was short and responsibilities long - just the spines.

Chris Stephens put a great deal of thoughtful time into his selection and assembled 154 dynamic writers who began their published career in the 1960s.

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