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, May 26, 2010

Barbara Morrow

Morrow is a scholar of classical Greek. She had fun composing clerihews for the Hastings on Hudson Literature Club Clerihew contest around great Greeks of old. She won the contest. riverrun offered a book prize. Barbara had as much fun redeeming the book prize as earning it. She spent an afternoon considering books. Her house is already full of books so she felt some pressure to be extremely discriminating. It was even fun being discriminating!

Was there really a poet named Homer?
Some scholars say definately no, sir.
The ancient bard
Is taking it hard.

The iambs of witty Archilochus
Were bawdy, scathing, and scurrilous.
He made a name
For his power to defame.

The lyrics of lesbian Sappho
Made all the girls tingle and gasp so.
In Athen sage Solon did cry,
"Let me learn her new song and then die!"

Euripedes'lengthy career
Was more than a little bit drear.
How tragic he had to die
Before winning first prize for The Bacchae!

The beauty of young Alcibiades
Set strong men on fire with desire to please.
So imagine his dismay
When Socrates turned him away.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


photo November 1979
Frank Scioscia moved his Dobbs Ferry Bookstore to Hastings on Hudson in 1978. He named his new store riverrun.

riverrun is an inviting store. On the day of this picture though, two of Frank's grandchildren preferred to read outside the store in the bright sunshine.

Mary, almost 6 in this photo, grew up and spent several years cataloguing books and organizing shows for riverrun. Michael, just turned 9 in the photo, is now the manager of riverrun. Like his grandfather and his father, Michael loves the store.

Back then riverrun was a hobby, not really a business, for Frank. He put considerably more money into the store than he took out. But it was worth it. riverrun was a hobby he truly loved. Everyone did.

Not a business and, after all, not a hobby either. riverrun was Frank Scioscia's calling.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Davy Crockett's Wild Sports in the West - 1837

This almanac chronicles some of Davy's wildest adventures. Crockett grapples with mighty beasts and rushes, headlong, into peril.
The pamphlet was published in Nashville Tennessee, more than 150 years ago, by "the heirs of Col. Crockett". It is dramatically illustrated by an artist who relied on rumor and imagination a bit more heavily than on strict observation.
Giant elks romp in the West for hunters willing to risk elk-revenge. The pamphlet includes humble little contributions to the field of natural science: Elks "are fond of the great forests, where luxuriant vegetation affords them an abundant supply of buds and tender twigs; or of the great plains, where the solitude is seldom interrupted, and all bounteous nature spreads an
immense field of verdure for their support." But watch out! "When at bay, and especially if slightly wounded, he fights with great eagerness, as if resolved to be avenged."

Crockett describes childhood entanglements with the fearsome alligators that lived near his home, breathtaking dangers with wild boar, panthers, and bear. He can parry attacks by fierce animals with scarcely an uptick in heart beat, but the one beast he just can't stand comes from the damned north:
"Of all the cursed Adam varments in creation, keep me clear of a yankee pedler. They swarm the whole valley of the Mississippi, with their pewter watches and horn gun flints, peppermint drops and essences. Although the greatest chaps in creation for brag and sarce, they always play possum when there is danger; and skulk out the back door and over the fence in no time."
No skulker Davy Crockett. That's for sure. The almanac describes with admiration a noble
mastiff defending ladies from mountain cats, a brave farmer turned on by his bull gone berserk, a man from Ohio who, being pursued by a black snake, through cleverness and dexterity managed to get the snake to tie itself into a knot.

The almanac also includes important regional information for foreigners - about the American rifle for instance. "It admits the ball being sent home from the very muzzle by a mere wad; and is further peculiar in there being no kind of attention to balancing the length and weight of the barrel by the size and make of the stock. Practice alone will teach you to hold it with ease to yourself. There is a great deal more coquetry displayed in the use of the American rifle; and the nicety with which an object may be struck at 50 or 100 feet by a knowing hand is undoubtedly extraordinary."
There are also survival tips gleaned from far distant and remote bits of the globe, like India. Basic almanac information, like high tides and sunsets and various other astronomical calculations for the year 1837, is also included.

The illustrations and suspenseful narratives and useful tidbits are so intriguing that, despite its limited relevance to the 21st century, I am sorely tempted to reprint this pamphlet. In case I don't ever get around to it, I leave you with this account by Col. Crockett himself for your use in case you want to cross a dangerous river unmolested by various varmints.
"Of all the rivers on this airth, the Mississippi beats all holler. Many a tough time have I had in swimming across its turbid waters. I always rubbed myself thoroughly with skunk's grease before attempting to cross. By this means I kept the alligators and wild cats at a distance as they can't bear the smell of this crittur."

His tombstone reads: "Davy Crockett, Pioneer, Patriot, Soldier, Trapper, Explorer, State Legislator, Congressman, Martyred at The Alamo. 1786 - 1836" more from American west
a collection of facts about the Mississippi River

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Harper & Brothers Publishers

probably 1950s
This curiously-styled photograph is likely taken at the Harper offices, then on 44th Street in NYC. I think these men make up the national sales force. Frank Scioscia is seated all the way to the right. I almost remember the name of the man seated next to him. But who are the others?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Joe DeVoy - Walking on Clouds

Joe DeVoy signed copies of his novel, Walking on Clouds, at riverrun yesterday. He doesn't really think of himself as a writer yet he says, although he does like to write.
Walking on Clouds was born out of a writer's block. "I was working on another story, a love story actually, but I'd come to a place where I didn't know what was next. I couldn't figure it out. I couldn't write anymore." Just when he was most stumped and frustrated, an entirely unrelated idea came to him. "It didn't have anything to do with the one I was writing. I kept thinking about the new idea every time I tried to continue the love story. My wife encouraged me. I developed the new ideas into this book."
DeVoy's wife is important in his life. "Family is the most important thing to me," he says. DeVoy's grandson was on hand at riverrun to see his grandfather sign books.
Joe DeVoy has lived through an experience that other writers haven't. In fact, he's lived through an experience that other people haven't. He once fell six floors down an elevator shaft. His legs were broken and crushed. I wondered if that terrifying and painful episode showed up in his book.
"No," he said. "Not in anything I've written. Recovering from something like that is slow and you can't do much of anything. It gives you a lo
t of time to think."
This novel is about something that requires a lot of thinking on the protagonist's part.

He has to figure out how what to do in an ethically complex situation.
Walking on Clouds by Joe DeVoy.