Saturday 26 May 2012

Review - Ray Safford: Rare Bookman

Exhibiting 15 Feb - 13 April 2012
Last post I mentioned that a review of this book appearing in the Spring 2012 issue of the Bookplate Journal prompted me to order a copy from Oak Knoll Press, and I am pleased to say the decision to do so did not disappoint.  Authored by Mark D. Tomasko, this short biography and catalogue of the life and artifacts of Scribner's bookseller Ray J. Safford (1866-1930) offers a tremendously interesting insight to the world of books, bookplates, dealers and collectors during the Golden Age of rare book and literary buying and selling in America.

Ray Safford, avid collector, buyer and seller, was considered one of the United States' most knowledgeable subject matter experts in the book trade at the turn of the last century.  Employed by Scribners for nearly four decades, he rose to become head of the retail department where he was both witness and party to several landmark book sales.  This included the sale of a Shakespeare First Folio in 1903 among other things.  Safford's life was also enriched by the many people he came into contact with, as well as the many friends he made over the course of his long and distinguished career.  He was good friends with Frank Nelson Doubleday, for example, the legendary publisher.

In addition to a short biography, the book includes a catalogue of Safford's papers, photos, and ephemera in the private archive of the author, as well as elaborations on some of the highlights of his career.  The book itself, as one can expect from Oak Knoll, is superbly designed and produced.  Soft cover, 6x9, and perfect bound (stitched), the 84-page volume includes many sepia toned and full colour illustrations of book covers, bookplates, and portraits.  Very reasonably priced at $15, this is a worthy addition to any private library.

This month has been devoted mainly to reviews of new bookplate related literature, and not so much about bookplates themselves.  My apologies for this, but a good collection or interest deserves a good reference library to explore it further, so I want to give relevant books and journals some attention to.  Until next time...


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