AT: With their reputation, I’m sure they will. Which provides me with a link, if you will, for my next question. I’d like to talk more about your father’s heritage in terms of all that he contributed to the lore of bookselling, the value of book dealing, and the value of books themselves.
MAF: One thing I think of immediately that is worth mentioning is that he had no fear of paying anything for what he felt a book deserved. He had no fear that he’d be stuck with things. He always felt that he’d buy on his nickel. And then he sold on his terms. He stuck by this philosophy his whole life.
Most of my memorable acquisitions could not have happened without a thorough knowledge both of books and of human nature; also essential was a belief in the values of rare books and manuscripts, a conviction about books as artistic and historical objects, and a willingness to gamble – because no matter how great the book, the eventual fate of a purchase is never certain. (p.xv).AT: Yes, I believe there’s a passage in his book where he talks about that: how it doesn’t matter what he paid for a book, what matters is the amount that he values the book at.
I had a conviction about values and my policy has been, from the early days of my career until now [circa 1977], to price a book at what I believe it to be worth. If a book is worth $500 I price it at that figure, whether I paid $40 or $400. This has drawn some criticism but I consider it the only fair way. Customers sometimes want me to pass my bargains on to them, to let them buy at half its value a book I acquired for quarter value. I refuse to do this. My good fortune, or lack of it, is not relevant. If I find a dollar bill on the street I do not sell it for 50 cents. (p.78).MAF: Yes, he did say that. I can see you’ve been a careful reader. [Looks at my much post-it-ed copy of Kraus’s autobiography A Rare Book Saga, which I’ve brought along just in case we hit blind spots in our conversation. As it turned out I never needed to open the book to find a quote and ask for reaction; such was the flow of our conversation that day.] That’s probably the most thorough treatment that book has received in some time.
I’d like to say some other things about my father. Not only did he have absolutely no fear of buying a book at any price he felt it was worth (he set a record in 1959 or 1960 for