Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2018 Issue

William Dailey: known by the friends that he kept


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.




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>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 7. Ritter's unusual sun-dial world map, 1607. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 16. Fascinating Japanese satirical map published prior to WWII, 1932. Est. $1400 to $2000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 30. Newton's 2" miniature terrestrial globe, 1833. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 318. Braun & Hogenberg's first plan of Moscow in contemporary color, 1575. Est. $2750 to $3500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 346. One of the most decorative 18th century maps of Malta, 1680. Est. $1200 to $1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 412. The first printed map devoted to the Pacific in full contemporary color, 1589. Est. $8000 to $10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 425. Rare set of celebrated explorers of the New World, 1592. Est. $1900 to $2300
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 436. Two superb miniature atlases bound in one volume with 98 maps, 1682. Est. $5500 to $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 445. Part IV of de Bry's "Grand Voyages" by Girolamo Benzoni, 1613. Est. $2000 to $2500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 447. Tallis' "History of the United States of America" in six volumes, 1850. Est. $1500 to $1800
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 448. Mallet's miniature military masterpiece, 1672. Est. $1400 to $1700
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Malcolm X, Autograph Letter Signed, from prison, 1950. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Letter from Moses Walker, an enslaved Georgia man, to his mother at another plantation, 1854. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Signed cabinet card of Frederick Douglass, albumen photograph, Boston, circa 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Placard from the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike, 1968. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b><br><i>The North Star,</i> volume 1, issue 27, Rochester, NY, 1848. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Hand-tinted tintype of John Brown, circa 1860. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster signed & inscribed by Huey Newton, circa 1967. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Album of aerial views of the march on Montgomery, taken by federal troops, 1965. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster for the SNCC, photograph by Danny Lyon featuring John Lewis, circa 1962. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <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>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
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    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
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