Paying Tribute to an Honorable Legacy: A Visit to the Firm of H.P. Kraus, Inc.


Item 20 in Catalogue 185, Schoener, Terrae descriptio, 1515

if you go back to his roots as a book seller in Europe. And so I’d like to focus this interview on Mr. Kraus’s legacy and also still discuss H.P. Kraus’s current place in the bookselling world, for you are very much in the present as well as the past. In fact, if anything you are a bridge between the prototypical old bookselling traditions of early twentieth century Europe and America and the bookselling traditions of today. I’d like to explore that place and that juxtaposition. And so now, after my long speech, I’d like to turn to you, Mrs. Folter, to start this conversation about H.P. Kraus’s place in history as well as its pace in the present.

MAF: Wow. Why don’t we just start with introducing ourselves and thanking you for coming here and wanting to do this story. [Business cards are exchanged and titles are affixed to names.] We’re happy to cooperate with AE and we were frankly glad when AE approached us about including our Catalogue #185, which commemorates the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the New World, in the AE Bibliographic Database. [Editor's note: AE subscribers may access the Kraus Catalogue #185 by searching the Bibliographic Database in the Advanced Search mode and entering "Kraus" in the Database Source field. The records are accompanied by images.]

AT: Is there anything you’d like to say about this catalogue, which AE greatly appreciates your making available to our subscribers?

MAF: Just that it’s a comprehensive one focusing on the anniversary of Columbus’s discovery that is still being used by researchers to this day.

AT: As are many of your catalogues, which are legend in the book business.

MAF: Thank you. [Momentarily excuses herself, so conversation continues between AT and JL.]

AT: Now that we have some time together, maybe you can tell me more about what you do here and what your specialties are.

JL: Certainly. When I first came here I dealt mainly with manuscript material. My specialty is the history of science as reflected in manuscripts. But I soon started dealing with books as well. Now as a bibliographer I do a bit of everything. This includes being in charge of our computer system, which we use amongst other purposes to retrieve our books, as they are shelved according to space rather than by any other sort of order. But they all cross reference in the computer and that’s how we find our material. That’s one of the reasons we discourage browsing in the shop and encourage client appointments: browsing can be frustrating as the shelves are seemingly in disorder, although they’re in order to us. By meeting with us in an appointment setting we can discuss your interests beforehand and have some books or book descriptions ready for you to look at when you come in.

[MAF reenters and our talk shifts.]