The book business is a tough racket and the proof of this statement everywhere. Many people try their hands and most make some money. A few make a career of it, a very few make it to the top. Ken Nebenzahl is one of the few who has made it both as dealer and collector and continues to ride the high surf all the way into his eighties. The clock and responsible judgment lead him a year ago to plan his exit and retirement and he then entered into a contract with Christie’s to handle the dispersal of his and his wife Jossy’s personal collection of important atlases and high points from their remaining inventory. On April 10th, in New York, in what can only be described as a gaudy event, Christie’s will conduct an evening sale to send his material on to the next generation of collectors. Mr. N, at this for going on sixty years and a member of the Grolier for fifty-five, will labor on, his mind sharp but know that the dispersal has been handled properly. It turns out, as it should, that his love of and regard for family trumps his passion for the material.
His sale will almost certainly be the most important book and map sale of the year and may well rank among the very important sales of the decade. It will not be the largest, as measured by lots, but will include many exceptional examples, the type of which is rarely offered for sale. Mr. Nebenzahl, it turns out has acquired not only the exceptionally rare but often the exceptional copy. In this he shared a connoisseur’s perspective with another renowned bookman, H. P. Kraus and in this sale his judgment will be on clear display. Lest anyone think this means more of this level of material will magically soon appear, it’s most unlikely. The best examples of books and maps are beyond rare, something the elite and experienced understand. Inevitably this will be their sale and the opportunity to acquire material that performs differently from mainstream rarities in the years ahead. Great examples invariably do well, the exceptional with a great provenance even better.