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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Christopher Stephens at home entering books into the computer, and comfortably surrounded by books. Stephens' Conrad collection is in the glass shelves to his left. Chris admires Conrad tremendously.

bio Joseph Conrad

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Forrest at the Poets' Corner

Forrest Orick, of riverrun, went to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to hear a friend sing.
Forrest was fascinated with architecture and history. At the Poets' Corner he memorized each quote.

The Poets' Corner was set up in the cathedral in 1984 and "Dedicated to American Literature". Important American poets and fiction writers are added as time goes on. There is also a Poets' Wall at the cathedral where all poetry offered is accepted and posted.

poets org on Poets' Corner
home page of the cathedral and schedules of cultural events it sponsors
a different kind of poets' corner with photos and info and more

Monday, March 29, 2010

Horace Greeley - publisher - editor

Horace Greeley was a man of his century - the 19th. Westward expansion, slavery, American industrialization, reform and social idealism - these were the big issues of the times. These were Greeley's issues. He was for the first, against the second, watchful of the third, and a wholeheartedly active participant in the fourth and fifth.

Greeley came to NYC when he was 20 years old. He started several newspapers before he launched the enormously influential New York Tribune in 1841. The newspaper was his megaphone. His interests were far reaching and he had opinions to spare.

Greeley made a home for his family in Chappaqua. The town is bucolic still, 150 years later. Beautiful but apparently not a happy household for him. He called his home Castle Doleful and often stayed nights with his newspaper in the bustle of the city.

The country was young in Greeley's time. He and his New York Tribune helped to shape it.

biography from Tulane
breathtaking letter to Greeley from Lincoln - August 1862
biog of Greeley by Universalist/Unitarian

First Day Cover - Horace Greeley

A first day of issue is the first day that a new stamp is released. Often a special stamp is released in a significant city before it is available in post offices around the country.

A first day cover is an envelope, like this one, celebrating the new stamp and postmarked on the first day of issue from the city where it is first released. Stamp collectors like first day covers. It's kind of like a first state first edition.

This first day cover with the new Horace Greeley stamp - released and postmarked on February 3, 1961 - was sent from Chappaqua because Greeley lived there with his wife and children in the mid 1800s.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

King of Come

His Majesty, Togbe Akati II Djidjilevo, King of Come, Benin and representing Watchi Royal Dynasty of Benin, Togo, and Ghana - shown here with LSS of riverrun bookstore

photo by Ange Ahoussougbemey 3-25-10

Located in West Africa, Benin is a country about the size of New York State. Strong cultural allegiances operate across country borders.
Benin and surrounding countries were part of the prosperous and powerful kingdom of Dahomey in the 1400s. European colonialism rearranged boundaries in the 19th century.
Benin became independent from France in 1960.
Benin is a republic. Elected representatives work to effect a productive government and a healthy, educated, and prosperous populace.
Many traditional leaders work for the same thing. King Togbe Akati II Djidjilevo belongs to the National Council of Kings and served as Secretary General of the Organization of Kings and Queens of Africa. He travels to promote peace organizations. He is an impressive blend of traditional and modern.

B & N, NYC

Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue between 45th and 46th is obscured by scaffolding. So is the dramatic French Building.
Inside, behind the scaffolding, the bookstore is just what you would have expected. This is what some people dislike about B & N and what others like most.
I always enjoy an hour or so browsing the books. True, it isn't the same as an independent bookstore, reflecting an individual's tastes and quirks. Nevertheless, it is a very good hour or so and I'm happy to know that there are Barnes & Nobles all over the place, and they continue to be just what I would expect, even behind scaffolding.

(The photos below also fit into the loosely defined riverrun blog theme as they were both taken near the lions on Fifth Avenue, from the NY Public Library steps.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fin at riverrun

So often houses with lots of interesting books have lots of interesting other things as well. Chris and Michael visited such a house recently. They brought cartons of good books back to riverrun. They also brought back a splendid ostrich-feather hat.
This elegant little hat, made during a time when it was still considered okay to combine animal bits with high fashion, evokes the innocent grandeur of that period.
Fin Stephens models this hat for us here at riverrun, enhancing the store with a sheen of glamour heretofore missing.
Fin is the latest addition to the Stephens clan; to the riverrun family. She's great. Usually working without special headgear, Fin catalogues books, fills orders, hefts boxes, organizes shelves, arranges merchandise, and fields customer queries.

Fin and Michael Stephens moved here recently from California. They've been working hard at riverrun. They are revamping the store on the north side of the street.
We plan to have a Revamp Party soon. We want to celebrate Michael’s and Fin’s new visions for riverrun northside. Late spring maybe or early summer. Come join us. I'll post the date when we know it. We'll have wine and pretzels.
Fin might wear the ostrich-feather hat.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

H.L.Mencken Playing his Piano

The latin quote inscribed on the photo by Mencken means "Life is Short; Art endures". Or something like that.

10 + pages of Mencken quotes - some serious - most humorous, the biting kind

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Some time ago a friend asked me to close my eyes and imagine a certain scene.

"Suppose," she said, "that you are walking along somewhere and notice a key on the ground. You pick it up. You've never seen this key before but you recognize it at once as your own."

Rather an odd supposition.
"Study it."
I complied. I hefted the weight of the imaginary key in my mind. The friend asked me to describe it in detail. I told her about the metallic composition, the color, the design on the head; about the shaft and the teeth of the key. It was fun.

When I opened my eyes, she said, "You know the symbolism, don't you? You have just described your secret ambition."

I had a secret ambition? Who knew?

I do not like locking things up. I don't lock my house or car or diary or heart. Yet I do sort of like keys.

The other day I stopped into riverrun and made my way over to the blue chair. Right in front of the chair was a box full of keys. There were bundles and bundles of keys.

"Wow, where did you get these?"
"I always buy keys," said Chris.

I sorted happily through the treasure box, threading the best ones onto a piece of string.

As I was getting ready to leave both Michael and Chris rushed in to advice me against taking the string home. "You already have too much stuff at home."

True, but I'm disregarding their helpful advice anyway and this is why:

It is uncommonly satisfying to hold a handful of secret ambitions.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy Birthday General MacArthur

Really General Douglas MacArthur's birthday was a couple of months ago - January 26. A family in this area - a family with lots of books and other good stuff recently transferred to riverrun bookstore - this family sent MacArthur birthday greetings during the 1950s. He sent back a gracious reply each time.

MacArthur was part of a distinguished military family. He was born on a base. Douglas, the third son, graduated from high school with awards for outstanding scholarship and deportment.
Young Douglas MacArthur's award for scholarship doesn't amaze me, but the one for deportment does. Slightly.

MacArthur went to West Point. Ulysses S. Grant III was a classmate. Both were offspring of famous generals and therefore, in some kind of twisted logic, both were victims of unusually brutal hazing by upper class men. They survived. (Not everyone did.) MacArthur graduated from West Point the same year my grandmother was born: 1903. He was sent to the Philippines.

MacArthur was not burdened with racial prejudices. In that time and in that place, he was one of the very few in the army not so burdened. Army policy and everyday social actions were shaped by it. MacArthur followed his own vision in this matter. In all matters. Although out of step with his peers and superiors in his attitude toward Filipinos, through other strengths and various heroic deeds, he was recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Douglas MacArthur spent some time serving in Japan under his father, General Arthur MacArthur. A little later he was assigned to the Army Engineer School in Washington DC as part of the training for promising officers. President Theodore Roosevelt requested his services as an aide in the White House from time to time.

In 1914 MacArthur was part of an advance guard scouting in Mexico for armaments possibly being shipped to Germany. He was assigned to help arrange transportation for U.S. soldiers, in case war broke out between Mexico and USA.

As far as transportation went, MacArthur found plenty of rail cars for the men, but insufficient locomotives to drag those cars down the track to wherever the action might be. He sniffed out a lead and followed it to adventure fraught with peril. In the end it was successful. He found 3 locomotives. He found trouble too, but with brilliant courage and impressive marksmanship, he escaped it whole.

Many thought Douglas MacArthur deserved more medals. The Big Brass Higher-Ups decided No. The single key fact that the adventure, however ultimately successful and valuable in the end, had been undertaken without permission from MacArthur's superior officer, was more than sufficient reason, they thought, to make official recognition a poor idea.

MacArthur distinguished himself with bravery, intelligence, dedication and independent thinking in World War I.

When that war was over, he served as the Superintendent of West Point. He devoted himself to widening the scope of the education the young officers received. He went back to Philippines. He served as president of the United States Olympic Committee for the Amsterdam Olympics of 1928. He continued to live a colorful and interesting life both in and out of the military.

MacArthur had been retired from the army when FDR recalled him to active service in 1941. He carried his trademark characteristics - cool hard intellect, fervent patriotism, exceptional abilities, and supreme confidence in his own perceptions and conclusions - into World War II. A famous highlight was his promise to return to Bataan in 1942 and the return itself in 1944.

In the end, General Douglas MacArthur was the United States representative to whom Japan surrendered in 1945.

MacArthur oversaw the occupation of Japan after the WWII and was on the spot during the Korean War. His continued extreme independence finally tangled up with the United States Constitution.
He disregarded President Truman's determination to limit the scope of the Korean War. Truman wished to avoid possible collisions with China or USSR. MacArthur was convinced Truman was making a mistake. Truman dismissed MacArthur.

Whatever the right or wrong of the strategy in Korea, I value civilian leadership of the military so much that I think MacArthur was in the wrong to challenge it. Many disagree.

During the last years of his life, there was an annual shin-dig at the Waldorf to celebrate his birthday. More to the point, hundreds or thousands of ordinary citizens sent him birthday cards.

To many Americans, MacArthur was a perfect hero.