Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2003 Issue

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

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Courtesy of H. P. Kraus

Another nice purchase that we made was that we bought the remaining Horblit collection, which consisted of books on the history of science and navigation. There were about 800 books in all and they yielded a good cross section of scientific manuscripts and printed books.

Frankly, the best place for interested parties to check out the high spots of our stock is on the internet, on the sites we mentioned earlier in this conversation.

AT: [Looking at watch.] Well, I can see it’s getting late and you two have given me a generous and ample amount of your time. Is there anything you’d like to say about H.P. Kraus, Inc. or about the book business to our readers that hasn’t already been said?

JL: Just that it’s a very traditional business. The ways in which it changes are only in terms of the kinds of materials that we deal with. As certain fields become unavailable, we move on to other, newer fields.

The manner in which our business is carried on is as it was in the Renaissance. The internet is just a means of communication between people. But the way our essential business is carried out is just the same as it was before the internet, only now we have this new tool for communication at our disposal as well. The way the business functions is the same as it always was.

THE TOUR:
At this point Mrs. Folter excuses herself as she, naturally, has work to attend to. Mr. Lipton offers to give me a tour of the premises and I jump at the chance – I have been eagerly eyeing their shelves ever since I arrived some two hours ago. We start with the ground floor – the floor we’re on – where I learn some surprising pieces of information. These include the facts that the conversation we’ve just completed has taken place in what was Mr. Kraus’s private office, and the astounding fact that the shelves – which are literally stuffed to the brim with vellum and calf and morocco bindings – contain books arranged in size order: to find a particular title or author or subject one must rely on the staff’s memory and their crack computer cross-referencing system. Then I learn a third and to me, most shocking, detail: all of H.P. Kraus, Inc.’s stock is contained on the ground floor of this five story building. (This stock is supplemented by what’s kept in their interior metal vault, which we’ll get back to later, and by what’s kept off premises in a safe deposit box or boxes somewhere.)

The implications of this are stupendous. Although there must be literally thousands of books and manuscripts in stock on the ground floor, this means that the majority of the other floors contain reference materials, I surmise. It turns out that my guess is correct. When we get to the second floor (we take the in-house elevator) I am toured through one

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Adam Smith, <i>Wealth of Nations,</i> first edition, descended from William Alexander, London, 1776. $70,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> George Gershwin, photograph signed & inscribed with autograph musical quotation, <i>An American in Paris,</i> 1928. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Friedrich Engels, <i>The Condition of the Working Class in England,</i> first edition, NY, 1887. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> <i>Bury St. Edmunds Witch Trials,</i> first edition, London, 1682. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Robert Rey, <i>Estampes,</i> complete portfolio of 12 wood engravings, Paris, 1950. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Archive of 47 letters by Enrico Caruso to a lady friend, 1906-20. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Books of Hours in Flemish, Netherlands, 15th century. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Jack Kerouac, <i>Doctor Sax,</i> deluxe limited edition, signed, NY, 1959. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Walt Disney, signature on title-page of Ward Greene’s <i>Lady and the Tramp,</i> first edition, first printing. $3,000 to $4,000.

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