Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2005 Issue

Dawson's Book Shop: Celebrating their 100th Year

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Catalogue No. 1, December 1907


Research libraries, university and institutional, soon emerged as the firm's largest and most consistent customers as the instinct to develop collections of disappearing material became a widely held passion. Books and ephemera remained accessible and affordable and institutions looked to experienced dealers to help them find it. For Muir and Glen this was the same business their father had developed only aimed in a different direction and it marked the family's ability to adjust to changing times. Well into the 1980s libraries would remain a crucial component in the customer mix. During those years Glen would issue two groups of publications: The early California Travel Series as 50 volumes between 1951 and 1961 and the Baja California Travel Series as an additional 50 volumes between 1965 and 1992. Edwin Carpenter, of the Huntington, would co-edit the second series and these publications would become collectible in their own right.

During the second generation the world changed and Dawson's changed with it. Where European material had been the inventory Ernest relied upon, for the sons, American material emerged as primary. What libraries sought to buy and Dawson's sought to supply was Americana and increasingly western Americana and the two long series on California solidified Dawson's role as a primary source in this field. For Dawson's the ability to add scholarship fit the firm's changing personality and the increasingly close relationship to educational institutions.

Books age better than people and in time Glen and Muir retired. Muir passed away earlier this year at 83 while Glen, at 92, remains sharp and is still interested in the world of books.

Today responsibility for steering the ship through the next transition rests with Michael Dawson, Muir's son, and the options and possibilities are daunting and intriguing. What is increasingly difficult is to reconcile Dawson's, as defined by its history, with the world of books as framed by society's changing relationship to reading, books and collecting. The internet of course is the heat under the pot but books, as collectible artifacts, would be under pressure in any event to yield time, money and space to the more complex life styles that people today lead. Some people still read in the easy chair, settled in by the fire, and absorb the complete thoughts that the best books express. But such people are fewer and they are older and increasingly moving past their collecting primes. For Dawson's the challenge is to connect with the next generation.

Today this transition is underway and it is taking more than books to get it done. For the past ten years Michael has been using the building his father and uncle built in 1967 to showcase photography that has become, through the lens of gifted photographers, a bridge between the printed word and the visual world of television and movies. And Michael is finding a willing audience that values it.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>

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