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.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sixty Photographs - Alfred A. Knopf Sr & Jr

Alfred Knopf took photos of many of the intriguing people he and his wife, Blanche, had as friends and associates. Sixty of these photographs were selected to publish in the book, Sixty Photographs, which commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher. The book was published in 1975.

Knopf started his publishing company in 1915. He and Blanche, ran it as a family business until 1959 when their son left Knopf Publishing to to start Atheneum. At that time Knopf blended in, quite happily, with Random House.

I love this book. The front cover of Sixty Photographs shows A.A.K. himself, as a young man, seated comfortably in a meadow a few years before he founded his publishing company. The back cover shows him as an old man seated comfortably in a similar meadow. On the pages in between, Knopf gives us a treat. The photographs have the unstudied charm of the enthusiastic amateur photographer. Unpolished, they're more intimate. Knopf includes anecdotes to accompany each picture. They read like a conversation. You and he are flipping through the photos and he's recollecting the people and the circumstances. Sixty Photographs is a heartening glimpse of a mid-20th century world of literature and art and music and publishing and friendship.

This book is readily available. You can get one easily at your local bookstore or over the internet. We got ours from Pat Knopf.

In the late 1970s Alfred A. Knopf, Jr invited Christopher P. Stephens up to his house in Connecticut to look at books. Of course Chris went. There were lots of books, nicely arranged on handsome shelves. Chris expressed interest in buying a beautifully inscribed author collection. "Oh no," said Pat. "Those are going to my daughter." Chris ended up with 3 or 4 cartons of good books that weren't going to Knopf's daughters or son. He brought them back to Canfield Stephens Books.

Pat Knopf was friendly and easy to talk to, says Chris. They talked books. They talked publishing. Knopf had been in publishing since his infancy. Chris expected him to have tons of ephemera tucked away in boxes and drawers. Chris expected piles of papers on the floors and desk tops and bursting forth from cupboards. There was no evidence of any of this.

"Don't you have any junky stuff around somewhere?" he asked.
Pat was bewildered. "What do you mean?"
"You know," Chris coaxed him. "Galleys. Proofs. Letters from authors. Production correspondance."
Knopf dismissed it all with a wave of the hand. "I don't keep any of that. I throw it all out when I'm through with it."

Although Pat Knopf threw out much that Stephens would have liked to buy, Chris still left happy. He had some very fine books. He brought Sixty Photographs home for our personal bookshelves.
That volume had to get used to quite a different environment. At our house we do have a lot of junky stuff around.

Alfred A. Knopf 1892 - 1984
Pat Knopf 1918 - 2009

A brief biography of Alfred Abraham Knopf, Sr. by Columbia University

The Alfred A. and Blanch Knopf Collection at University of Texas at Austin

NY Times Obituary for Alfred A. Knopf, Jr.

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