Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2005 Issue

Passing of an Era: Mary Ann Malkin of AB Bookman's at 92

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A copy of AB Bookman's Weekly from the Malkin era.


By Michael Stillman

It was surely the passing of an other area in the rare book trade when Mary Ann Malkin died on August 1 at the age of 92. During the third quarter of the 20th century, Mrs. Malkin was on the pulse of the book trade perhaps as much as any other person alive. For the past three decades, she has lived a bit more quietly, a collector of books on dance.

For two decades, Mary Ann Malkin and her husband, Sol., ran AB Bookman's Weekly. It was the most important publication in the rare book trade. In the 1940s, Mrs. Malkin worked for R.R. Bowker, publisher of Publisher's Weekly. That magazine had a column known as the Antiquarian Bookman. A separate publication based on this column, known as Antiquarian Bookman, was spun off from Publisher's Weekly in 1948. Sol. Malkin was its editor. Five years later, Bowker sold the magazine to the Malkins.

For the next two decades, Sol. and Mary Ann Malkin owned and ran AB Bookman's Weekly. It was the hub of the bookselling universe. If you had rare, antiquarian, or other books to sell, this is where you advertised them. To a large extent, it was the only place to promote them. It was filled with books for sale. A collector might find books of interest there, but more likely it would be a fellow bookseller, looking for items for his or her collectors, who would be perusing the listings in AB Bookman's Weekly. You could also find wanted to buy ads along with the for sale listings lining the pages. The importance of this magazine to the book trade during this era cannot be overstated. It was the marketplace.

Time and personal circumstances change. In 1972, the Malkins chose to sell their publication. They moved on and so did AB Bookman's. Sol. Malkin died in 1986, but Mary Ann carried on as a collector. She built a collection of dance books which can now be found at Penn State University. She co-wrote a book about her collection which was published in 2003. Her collection is her legacy as Mrs. Malkin had no immediate survivors.

AB Bookman's Weekly survived for 27 years after the Malkins sold the business, though ultimately, Mrs. Malkin lived longer than the publication. Technology would turn the bookselling world upside down in the 1990s. A new resource, known today as the "internet," was just coming into existence. It would quickly connect the entire world with limitless quantities of information. For the book world, it started with online databases. These were limited access databases, where members, such as libraries or booksellers, could post items being offered for sale or titles wanted to buy. Only members could see the listings. Early on there was BookQuest, then Interloc. A few years later came the even bigger development, the listing sites. These were databases of books for sale that could be accessed by anyone, including and especially collectors. Abebooks quickly became the largest of these, followed by Alibris, the public successor to the once private access Interloc. The number of books posted for sale online quickly grew to the millions.

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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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