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, 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

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