Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2012 Issue

Bob Emerson, 90

Bob was born on April 6, 1921 in Elmore, Minnesota. His father was an educator and the family moved when Bob was very young, first to Joliet, Illinois and later to Scarsdale, New York. Bob graduated from Scarsdale High School in 1937 and the following year he took a train to Yellow Springs, Ohio to attend Antioch. He thoroughly enjoyed his freshman year there, but his father accepted a professorship at Cornell and the family moved to Ithaca. Bob and two of his sisters graduated together in the Class of 1941 at Cornell, all three elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa.
 

During World War II Bob was hired by the company that built what became the Cairo International Airport. During this period he joined the R.A.F. and spent what he always considered 3 of the most interesting and adventurous years of his life. Not long after the war ended he moved to Manhattan which he had fallen in love with during high school. In 1949 he issued his first catalogue, offering for sale a collection of books by and about Swedenborg, which he sold for a friend who had used them in his doctoral research. Later that year his second catalogue focused on Gertrude Stein and her circle. Nearly 50 years later at the Akron Book Fair Bob purchased back the very copy of Stein's "Paris, France" which he had sold in 1949. Laid in the book, by the collector Porter Welch, was his original catalogue, which he enjoyed rediscovering. 

Bob married Dorothy Critchley in 1957 and they eventually moved from Manhattan to Connecticut, first Lakeville and later Sharon, in the Litchfield Hills.  In the 1970's, Bob and Dorothy owned a new bookstore, The Sharon Book Center, and in addition operated a mail order used and rare book business with a specialization in Geology. Bob joined the A.B.A.A. in 1978 and, at around the same time he and Dorothy established R. and D. Emerson Books in The Old Church, at 103 E. Main St. in Falls Village, Connecticut. It is this great book store which booksellers throughout New England and the Northeast and beyond enjoyed for 30 years. Bob and Dorothy sold “fine books in all fields,” and during those years regularly participated in the A.B.A.A. Fairs in Boston, New York, California, Washington, and Chicago.

In 2002 when Dorothy's Alzheimer's required that she move to a care facility and she no longer recognized Bob, he made the decision to move to Columbus and join in partnership with A.B.A.A. member Ed Hoffman and his wife, Tina. This was not an easy decision or undertaking for someone at 80 years of age who had just come through the exhausting emotions of “losing” a spouse to Alzheimer's. Bob showed inspiring courage and grace in establishing a new life for himself in Columbus. He moved 3 semi-trailers of books, his extensive reference library, and his cat Katie and eventually took up residence on the second floor of Emerson-Hoffman Rare Books where he continued working in and loving the book business up to and including the last day of his life.

As one of Bob's colleagues put it so well, "He had an easy smile accompanied by a polished intellect."  Bob had many friends in the trade and he was an enormously positive influence on many of the younger dealers he came into contact with. He will be greatly missed. 

Rare Book Monthly

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