Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2018 Issue

William Dailey: known by the friends that he kept

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William Dailey: a meaningful friend

    

It is okay, even fine, if as a life ends, few mourn.  Most people are neither well known, nor well understood.  Hell, we often don’t know ourselves very well so thinking that others understand us can be a stretch.  And because we now live longer, have multiple marriages, live in many places we now also have developed multiple identities.  People forgive slowly.  With new people, we start fresh.  Life goes on.

 

But it also happens less often that heart-felt grief is felt with the passing of a meaningful friend with whom friendships have lasted decades.  William Dailey, the book dealer, mentor and friend, who passed away recently, has been remembered and memorialized by men he encouraged, who found him interesting and his perspective, on life and books, valuable.  These men in the trade today speak to us about him.

 

Stephen J. Gertz

In 1999, William Dailey took in a dog that’d been hanging around his shop and provided the mutt with shelter and sustenance.

That dog was me.


I am devastated by his sudden, untimely death.


I’d known Bill since the mid-80s. I bought some books from him for my personal collection and resale as a budding dealer. As a dealer I turned out to be a great collector. In those pre-internet days I feared I’d never see those books again and was reluctant to sell them. I was so naive and ignorant.


1999 was the nadir of my life. I was unemployed, miserable, and in the midst of yet another financial crisis, this one truly dire. With painful reluctance I began to sell my collection to Bill, who I knew wouldn’t screw me. Soon, he asked me to catalog part-time; I knew the books I sold to him better than he did and he wanted that knowledge.


Not too long afterward, his two employees quit and he hired me full-time. It is no exaggeration to declare that he saved my life. Finally, I’d found employment that suited my temperament and interests. The depression that had been plaguing me lifted. I felt like a solid citizen again. More to the point, I’d finally found my place in the world and that world opened itself to me. I was at home.


The pay was not great but Bill was otherwise generous. Early on, he slipped me $100, telling me to get myself some new clothes. When I needed a computer, he fronted the money to me, an interest-free loan I did not ask for; he volunteered. There were many other kindnesses. He was free with his knowledge; I learned so much from him. Bill allowed me to grow in the trade, encouraging me to express myself, meet everyone, and become an associate ABAA member. He introduced me to local trade colleagues, not the least of whom was Michael R. Thompson who, over the years, became a close friend, mentor, and champion. It was because of MRT that the ABAA SoCal chapter was saddled with me as Vice-Chair and Chairman, a four year administration informally known as The Years of Living Dangerously Bookish.


We got on extremely well, our cultural tastes similar, our personalities complimentary. We took to calling each other, “Mr. Gertz” and “Mr. Dailey,” a wry tongue in cheek tip o’ the hat to British formality between employer and employee. We developed an arch code as running gag. Bill would declare that he was “going aloft,” which meant that he was going to take a nap in the loft in the shop’s back room. “I’ll be at my tailor’s” meant that he was leaving the shop to run errands. I’d inform him that “I must consult with my alienist” and he’d know I had an appointment with my shrink. Of course, I’d say that in answer to almost any personal question he asked. We laughed a lot.


A few years into my employment we needed an extra hand. One day, Ari Grossman walked in. Instant hire!


Bill bought the Hacienda in Desert Hot Springs. He trusted me to take care of the shop and business while he pursued his dream of becoming an upscale innkeeper, a squire in the sand.


When he decided to sell the building the shop was housed in and work out of his home, Ari stayed with him. I accepted an offer from David Brass. It was the end of an era in my life. We stayed in touch and sight but were on different tracks. We didn’t see each other often enough. I have nothing but precious and fond memories of Bill’s shop. I spent seven of the best years of my life as his employee. 


I have nothing but precious and fond memories of Bill, always much more than an employer. He was a great friend.

 

 

John Windle

 

It’s much too soon to eulogize him but I will say this, and you can quote me. “Bill had an eye for the unusual, the strange, the weird even, in books, art, and people. He wasn’t much of a shopkeeper but he filled their bookshop W & V Dailey (later Dailey Rare Books) with some of the most interesting books and artwork I’ve ever seen. He loved quirky stuff and quirky people and he totally lacked any filter that might cause the rest of us to exercise caution. His collections, his printing press productions, his yoga vegetarian Buddhist retreat motel, his home under a mountain in the desert, on and on all reflected someone utterly unconcerned with other people’s taste or judgments. He had a natural fascination with who or whatever came into his space without being especially attached to anything. He was also notoriously cheap... We were very close and I miss him more than anyone I’ve ever lost in my life.”   

 

Ari Grossman

 

I’m in the book trade today because of the opportunity and encouragement he provided.

 

While the encouragement and mentorship in the “arcana” of the book trade which William so freely offered was the foundation of my own ongoing antiquarian project, it was his friendship and example which have touched me most. Throughout a difficult and transformative time in my life, during which both my parents died, William helped me to continue the always uncertain movement in the direction of the Unknown. I found his ongoing quest for deeper understanding, and a renewed commitment to ‘that what is most important’ (Plotinus) both refreshing and inspiring. I always came away from our many talks with something to think about. I will miss him greatly.   

 

 

He was a man to remember and his life, one to celebrate.  To hear his voice a final time call his office:  323.658.8515.  The great currency of the rare book field is spirit.

 

His website

 

William Dailey Rare Books Ltd.

www.daileyrarebooks.com/  

323.658.8515     

 

Please add your comments 


Posted On: 2018-01-01 19:20
User Name: peterhay

Thank you, Bruce, for commemorating the passing of a great bookman and of a gentle spirit. Bill Dailey was generous with his knowledge and advice, and especially with his friendship. Having spent time with him in his and my shop, in the desert, in restaurants, and on some buying expeditions, the very last word I would think of in describing him is 'cheap'. Some dealers may deliberately overprice their wares to invite bargaining. Bill always put value on the relationship not just on the books. Along with all the others who remember him fondly, I shall miss 'sweet William' for the rest of my life.
Peter Hay
retired from Book Alley in Pasadena, California


Posted On: 2018-01-12 00:49
User Name: JohnWindle

For Peter and other readers: my comment about Bill being cheap was a JOKE. He was a free and generous spirit but he did hate to pick up the check. In the 45 years I knew him I don't recall him ever picking up the check when we went out! But that's just a way to lighten the grief so many of us feel at his loss.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
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    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
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