By Abby Tallmer
For half a century H.P. Kraus has been established at 16 East 46th Street, New York, in a five-story brownstone amid the skyscrapers of mid-town Manhattan. This small cultural oasis epitomizes the world of rare books whose inhabitants need, as well as scholarship and knowledge, the persistence and intuition of a good detective. In the words of the firm’s late founder, life in this field of rare books “involves research carrying one back through all of recorded history, across the world, and into just about every human activity.”INTRODUCTION:
Some of the most magnificent achievements of Western civilization in the form of early manuscripts and printed books have passed through our hands. Treasures such as the Hours of Catherine of Cleves (Morgan Library), the Rothschild Apocalypse (Cloisters, MMA), the Giant Bible of Mainz (LC), the Gutenberg Bible and the Shakespeare Folios; libraries such as part of the enormous collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps, the princely library of Lichtenstein, and much of the ducal one of Arenberg. One rarity which eluded Hans Kraus all his life was finally acquired by the firm in 1991, and a copy of the 36-line Bible, much rarer than the Gutenberg Bible, is now in the W.H. Scheide library at Princeton.
As well as early manuscripts and incunabula, our stock includes European books on a variety of subjects from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, early Americana, maps, and bibliography. We issue three or four catalogues yearly in different fields, and are always pleased to assist new collectors in those areas. (Text from undated pamphlet issued by the firm.)
In all of the annals of book dealing, there is scarcely a story as dramatic and triumphant as that of H.P. Kraus, founder of the highly esteemed New York based firm H.P. Kraus, Inc. Mr. Kraus is sadly with us no more (he was born in Austria in 1907 and passed on in the U.S. in 1988), but his legacy is more vital and alive than ever. He left behind one of the most respected antiquarian book firms in this and many other continents and his business continues to flourish under the wise guidance of his loyal partner and widow Hanni, 83, and his daughter Mrs. Mary Ann Folter, who was personally trained by one of the keenest minds in the book business, that of her father’s. Together these knowledgeable and strong women, aided by a top notch bibliographical staff, maintain and expand the firm that was started in the U.S. some decades ago. [Editor’s note: AE learned with sadness that Hanni Kraus passed away at the age of 83 on 13 January 2003, just days after this interview was conducted. We extend our condolences to