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.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lakeside Classics

Lakeside Classics are printed - one per year - by the R.R. Donnelley Company, printers. Richard Robert Donnelley founded the company in the 1864. His son started the Lakeside Classic Christmas book tradition 39 years later. The books are given away to clients and employees as Christmas presents. They are nicely designed and beautifully printed using the most modern printing technology.

Each year, each book reaffirms "the objective set forth by Mr. T.E. Donnelley who, as president of our company in 1903, wanted an example of a book which in taste and workmanship met the exacting requirements of the book lover, but which was printed on machines built primarily for the reduction of cost."

The Lakeside Classics fit the bill. They feel good in the hands. They are pleasing to look at. The paper is good. The print is clear. Indeed, the taste and workmanship of Lakeside Classics does entirely meet the exacting requirements of this book lover. What's more, the content quite delights!

Lakeside Classics tell the story of the American Old West, usually in the voice of someone who lived there and then. The series specializes in personal narratives of the American frontier.

For instance, Edward Abbott "Teddy Blue" lived a colorful cowboy life just after the Civil War. He and a lady journalist wrote We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cow Puncher. Teddy Blue ridicules the movies' fascination with two-gun cowboy gunslingers. "I punched cows from '71 on, and I never yet saw a cowboy with two guns. I mean two six-shooters. Wild Bill carried two guns and so did some of those other city marshals, like Bat Masterson, but they were professional gunmen themselves, not cow punchers."
There weren't many woman in Teddy Blue's territory. A certain preacher's daughter might have had an exaggerated religious influence because of her gender. Later she bragged to a neighbor about reforming Teddy Blue. "Ted?" asked the neighbor. "Why he's the wildest cow puncher in all Montana." Subsequent events demonstrated that the neighbor was more right than the preacher's daughter.

In Narrative of my Captivity Among the Sioux Indians, Fanny Kelly relates how she tried to save her daughter by coaching her to slide off the pony and crawl back to camp. Much later Fanny meets an Indian with her daughter's scalp tied to his belt.

Harriet Bishop McConkey was never abducted herself, but she lived through the Indian Massacres of 1862 and 63 in Minnesota. She was a careful observer. Dakota War Whoop tells the story.

I became quite attached to Billy Breakenridge reading his Helldorado. Billy worked on the railroads. He labored in a livery stable, fought in Tombstone, panned for gold and gambled. He rode cattle, joined the calvary, and served as a page in the winter of 1863 when the territorial legislature was in session. He took a job hauling liquor for a saloon owner through dangerous country where Indians and French renegades were looking to interrupt his deliveries. Breakenridge tells an entirely different version of the Chivington Massacre from those I've read elsewhere.

The content, as well as the craftsmanship, of the Lakeside Classics is remarkable. I was telling a bunch of literary pals about these books. They liked what they heard. Christine Lehner wanted to know if I'd read them all.
Read them all? Last month R.R. Donnelley Company distributed the 107th title. I've read 6 or 7 of them.

It's an intriguing idea though. It sounds like the making of a New Year's Resolution. Sure it wouldn't have the onerous component so critical to most New Year's Resolutions. It would, instead, be pure pleasure. Besides, it would take me 5 years, not just one because I'm a slow reader and I want to read a lot of other stuff too, for work and for fun. Nevertheless it is exactly my kind of resolution. I'm making it now: I resolve to begin a half-decade project of reading all the Lakeside Classics.

Want to join me?

riverrun sells Lakeside Classics:

Besides asking questions, Christine Lehner writes a very entertaining blog. I recommend it:

interesting history of the companies leading up to RR Donnelley and Sons Company:

Chris Stephens' Lakeside Classics Checklist with bibliographic information but no content annotations. That's what I should add in 5 years.

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