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, February 26, 2010

riverrun is open

What a lot of snow! Branches and trees are down everywhere. Electricity has been knocked out of our house and our wider neighborhood. But riverrun is open.
Streets are blocked by trees and yellow police tape. The snow plows - somewhat feeble in these conditions - have not even touched Washington Avenue. There is high gaiety in the street as kids sled down the steep hill and throw snowballs. The sidewalks aren't shoveled yet but riverrun is open.
Four different local Starbucks, where one might have indulged what is apparently a real addiction, are closed. All are located on major commercial streets which have had some of the snow pushed aside by the struggling plows. Yet, riverrun used and rare bookshop, on a sled-filled side street, is open.
It hardly makes sense given that the store still closes occasionally for lunch. Even when it is open and we're here, in various situations the store telephone rings unanswered. Customers are often left alone to browse in the store across the street. Yet despite the casual attitude in some aspects of business, Christopher Stephens - and now Michael Stephens too - take great pride in keeping the promise: riverrun is open 365 days a year.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Samuel R. Delany - Sci Fi author

Samuel R. (Chip) Delany
photo by Christopher Stephens 1979

Chip Delany has been nominated for award after award. He won 4 Nebula Awards and 2 Hugo Awards for excellence in science fiction writing. Delany is a giant in the science fiction community. Delany's editor and friend, David Hartwell, is another giant. The two of them are extra tall at conventions and award ceremonies and in the hearts of fans.

One day in the 1970s Chris Stephens was visiting David Hartwell at Arbor House. Chris browsed the upcoming Arbor House list for especially attractive titles and found The Bridge of Lost Desires. Hartwell talked up the book.

Stephens arranged with sub-rights at Arbor House for Ultramarine Press to bring out a simultaneous, special, beautifully bound, limited, first edition. Delany liked the idea too. He asked that it include illustrations by a friend, Greg Frux. So it did. Frux did 7 pen and inks that were bound into the Ultramarine edition.

Later Ultramarine put out another special edition of Delany's Hugo Award winning autobiography, The Motion of Light and Water. In this book there was an original signed Greg Frux frontispiece in each copy.

These books and others sold well and were widely read. Samuel R. Delany was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2002.

interview of Samuel Delany
Samuel R. Delany information - very complete
home page - brief biographical notes + partial bibliography

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some Science Fiction Awards and Organizations

drawing copyright 1975 L. Scioscia Stephens

The Hugo Award is given annually in several categories. The award is presented at the WorldCon by the World Science Fiction Society - WSFS. WSFS is a group loosely organized to sponsor annual conventions and the prestigious award, named for Hugo Gernbsback of Amazing Stories fame.
Prize selection is done in an interesting way. WSFS is a grassroots organization. Nominations for the Hugo come from members all over the world. Nominations are tabulated and the 5 most oft nominees are returned to the general membership for a second-round vote.
Hugo Awards homepage
World Science Fiction Society homepage lists world conventions

Nebula Awards winners are nominated and selected through vote by members of the Science Fiction Writers of America, SFWA.
Nebula Awards homepage
SFWA homepage

An impressive array of authors make up the Grand Masters award list. When Damon Knight died in 2002 this award was renamed in his honor. The Damon Knight Grand Masters Award is presented at the Nebula Awards Dinner by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Damon Knight Grand Masters Award

Locus Magazine is a trade magazine for the science fiction community
Great information about almost 50 awards on a Locus website
Locus Magazine Index of awards by Mark Kelly

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Love, Pearl Bailey

This signed snap shot, from a houseful of books and other interesting things, is purported to be Pearl Bailey. Maybe. This doesn't resemble the woman in careful studio shots - most notably the photo (below) when she was 15 years old - but candid photos do reveal something different.

When Pearl Bailey was a teenager, she entertained in Scranton where Frank Scioscia, a teenager at the same time, was busy reading books and playing cowboys.

Bailey lived a full life. She married 3 times - the last time for life. She won awards and acclaim as a singer, dancer, actress, and television personality. She was interested in cooking, in the United Nations, in politics. President Nixon named her "Ambassador of Love". Bailey campaigned for Gerald Ford. (interesting youtube of her talking about Ford below).
Pearl Bailey's father was a minister and she went back to school, herself, in her 60s and got a degree in theology from Georgetown University.

Pearl Bailey wrote 6 books:
The Raw Pearl
Talking to Myself
Pearl's Kitchen
Duey's Tale
Hurry Up, America, and Spit
Between You and Me

32 photos of P.B. at
photo of Bailey and her husband, Louis Bellson
filmography, recordings list, and personal appearances
brief bio at Mystic Games
YouTube of Bailey talking on behalf of Gerald Ford's continued presidency in 1976
black classic
at 15 in Pensylvania
a great YouTube video of Pearl's brother, Bill Bailey, tapping

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bethany Beach Bookstore

Bethany Beach Bookstore sells new books just steps from the sand on the beautiful Delaware seashore. Waves crash nearby. Gulls swoop. And readers stop by.

They have a very nice inventory. Some of it is oriented toward the fast-read/light-read vacationers, because after all, when you're on vacation at least part of your reading consciousness is distracted by the surf. There are plenty of good books for kids.

I like to think of children taking a break from frolicking on the sand to do a bit of reading.
Perhaps because this area is so close to Washington D.C., there is a very solid political science section.

In the summertime the bookstore is surrounded by the bright gaiety of beach merchandise spilling out onto the sidewalks from the many boardwalk shops. In February those stores are closed.

"How do you stay open all year?" I asked the pleasant woman behind the counter. "Well, there's plenty to do to get ready for the big crush of summer readers. And we keep like to keep up to date with the NY Times best sellers. There are active readers living in the area - a lot of retirees. And two book clubs meet in the store. And we mail out telephone orders to loyal summer customers."

Several customers came into the store while I was there, looking through the appealing shelves. Above the shelves there are about 40 framed pictures of different authors giving readings at the store. It's gratifying to know that summer resort customers and reading locals can keep a serious bookstore open year around.

The pleasant sales lady told me that Bethany Beach Bookstore belongs to the Independent Booksellers Association and also carries their recommended books. I like to put in a plug for independent book dealers. Although frankly, I also like to put in a plug for Amazon and for gigantic chains as well as my own beloved favorites - the used bookstores of the world.

Here's what I think: wherever you are buying a book, you are doing a good thing.

New York Times Bestsellers
Independent Bookseller site
ABA American Booksellers Association

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Otto brings book packages and takes book packages. Transportation is an important part of the book business nowadays.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monroe Wheeler - Publisher

photo by Christopher Stephens 1979

Monroe Wheeler walked into Canfield & Stephens Rare Books too late. The store was closed. The books had been sent to auction. Chris Stephens was dismantling bookshelves.
Wheeler looked around. "What's going on here? Are you remodeling?"

"I have some books."

He certainly did! He pulled 6 books out of a battered leather briefcase that didn't go with his sharp suit, white shirt and nice tie. The books were beautiful ones from Harrison of Paris Press.

Monroe Wheeler and Barbara Harrison published Harrison of Paris books from 1930 to 1934.

Some of the books Wheeler pulled out of the briefcase were limiteds or super limiteds. Chris wanted them. Monroe wanted to sell them. For cash.
Stephens explained the situation. Canfield & Stephens was disbanded and he didn't have sufficient personal cash in his pocket. Wheeler agreed to accept Chris' personal check "this once".

"I have lots more books in my apartment," said Wheeler. Monroe Wheeler lived with Glenway Wescott in an apartment on 51st between 2nd and 3rd Avenues - just around the corner from the closed Canfield & Stephens. There were handsome glass-covered bookshelves in the apartment and they were handsomely filled. There was one copy of each state of each Harrison of Paris publications on the shelves but there were plenty more tucked around the apartment. There were stacks of books in manilla envelopes or wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.

Again and again Chris Stephens put cash in his pockets and visited the book paradise. Stephens bought multiple copies of Venus and Adonis and The Typographical Commonplace Book and Hacienda and The Wild West and others.
Aesop's Fables was illustrated by Alexander Calder. Harrison of Paris did a special edition of 50, each with an original Calder drawing slipped in. After Chris had purchased several of these, he came to realize that the drawings were not put into a book until it was purchased. Wescott and Wheeler had a big folder thick with Calder drawings. Eventually Chris was allowed to select his drawing each time he bought another Fables. He thought it quite a grand thing to browse through that folder of Calder drawings.

Monroe Wheeler was old when Chris Stephens met him, but he was lively and sharp. He could remember details about the books and the people involved. He remembered, for instance, about H.T. Lowe-Porter's shabby translation of Thomas Mann's A Sketch of My Life.
Monroe and Wescott were appalled. The translation was sloppy and graceless. What could they do?
They could translate. The two of them worked on it together. They kept the respected Lowe-Porter name as the translator, but not the translation that they didn't respect. They used their own.

Harrison of Paris press list
Frognall Dibdin's book blog
biographical notes on Monroe Wheeler
1988 NY Times obituary for Wheeler
1987 NY Times obit for Glenway Wescott
Glenway Wescott Personally a biography - book
Alexander Calder web site