Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Book catalogues times two

I've been trying to blog all damn day, and customers keep interrupting me. What's an introvert to do. Quickly, then, another catalogue from the dusty back shelves, an early offering from Oak Knoll, The Alida Roochvarg Collection of Books About Books, Parts I and II, Catalogues Number 10 and 11:

I think I need not say that reading these makes me perspire, faintly but persistently. I suspect from sheer greed. Sad, I know. Item 81, for example, an inscribed first edition in jacket of W.Y. Darling's The Private Papers of a Bankrupt Bookseller (Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh 1931). Or Item 93, David Garnett's worthy paean Never Be a Bookseller (Knopf, New York 1929), a limited edition in wraps. Or Item 241, a lot of 49 assorted Trade Cards Issued by Booksellers, Bookbinders, and Publishers. Oh, that would go so very nicely with my collection of booksellers' tickets.

Alida Roochvarg was a collector who decided to sell her collection because she had nearly everything in the field. All of Thomas Frognall Dibdin, all of A. Edward Newton, lots of rare association items and signed items, many with letters from famous booksellers and librarians tipped in, and she simply ran out of things to acquire. She says, in the introduction to the first volume:

"Sadly, even with all the trading up a little, broadening a little, deepening a little, I found that I was able to add only one or two books a month to the collection. That really wasn't enough activity for a true bibliomaniac. So, the time had come to think of sending the collection out into the world."

I read through these catalogues today, and she has every single book in my own collection, and many many more besides. And my copies of these books are a bit tattered, mostly unsigned, many lacking jackets, some even ex-library because that's the only copy I've ever seen, whereas her copies are fine in fine jackets, signed and inscribed, the works. If I still drank, I'd raise a glass and toast her: To Alida Roochvarg! Oh, by the way, I only have the first two catalogues (listing 973 items). But there were six in all, and an index volume to boot. My, my.

Hi Sarah -

I learned the book trade and book collecting at the feet of this wonderful person. I worked for Alida in the 1963-72 period, both full and part-time at The Paperback Bookseller. She introduced all the employees who professed an interest, to the fine world of collectible books, especially her own world of bibliophilia. I bought the single volume catalog of her book collection (contains all 6 pamphlets) just because..... and I wouldn't part with it for anything.

She was wonderful - cantankerous at times, but extremely generous with her time, her knowledge, her money (she always fed the staff at meal time - altho we had to do the pickups at the fast food places)and always books. She went to book fairs and brought back signed firsts for those who wanted them and made special effort to distribute books she didn't want or wouldn't sell to staff who enjoyed them.

Her father, Doc (Sol Roochvarg) also taught us about collecting specifics, as did Myron, her brother who was librarian in Commack NY for many years.

Unfortunately, I lost touch with Alida and her family when we moved from the east coast to NM in 1981.

Finding the listing of her catalogs was a way to reestablish contact.

My wife and I are avid readers - collect mystery, fantasy, and SciFi first works of authors - and also books about book collecting (now where could I have learned that....). I also collect Ann Beattie, Anne Tyler, Anne Rice, Anne McCaffrey (funny that they're all Ann(e)s) amongst other authors.

You can contact me offline at primebookslv@cox.net if you have any further memories of Alida.
Thanks for the wonderful story. I'll email you. I'd love to have the whole set someday. I got these first two from a dealer I know who was retiring and let me paw through her old book catalogues when she dismantled her shop. I'm so glad to hear that Alida Roochvarg was a mentor to you. I toast her again.
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