illuminations at the Dyson Perrins Sale, where he broke the record for illuminated manuscripts by paying 60,000 pounds for the Apocalypse, (now worth much more of course), but he also had a wonderful nose for smelling out collections.
AT: And he pulled off the remarkable feat of being a successful book seller not once but twice, once in Europe and then again of course in America. That in itself is quite an accomplishment.
MAF: Well, in Europe, he really had a modest business. It was during the depression, and he had no large bankroll to back him. Luckily, this country welcomed so many European immigrants and many of them – at least those in the same business – knew and helped each other.
AT: Which leads me to another point: your father seems to have been an incredible businessman and one capable of both mentoring and being mentored by the right people at the right time. This in and of itself is quite a skill.
MAF: My father really saw himself as a book dealer/mentor/educator. One thing a lot of people don’t know is that he liked to take young people under his wing, just as he had been taken under the wings of people older and wiser than he was when he was young. He liked to sell slow moving stock to young book sellers. As I have already said, he was extremely good at sniffing out large collections. But he’d want the cream of the collection, the stuff at the top, whereas in almost every large collection there is a range of material including some material that goes “to the back of the truck.” He would often sell this “back of the truck” stuff – it was still good, just not high enough quality for him to deal with – to young specialists, who would use it to build up their own stock.
AT: Permit me if you will to ask you a question about stock. How hard or easy is it for you to acquire stock or collections of the range and quality that you require?
MAF: Well I must say that when I first started here [in 1962], it was easier to acquire stock and collections. Now it’s more difficult. [Mr. Lipton nods.]
AT: Is that because, in your opinion -- as has been said -- most of the great collections are already in private hands or in institutional settings?
MAF: On the contrary, I think or rather know that there are still a lot of private collectors. Some are avid collectors and others are what I’d call investor-collectors. It’s a matter of whether they are educated and bond with their books.
AT: How do you help them [the collectors] go through this process?
JL: We sell reference books and advise people on buying reference books. [Bruce] McKinney [private collector and President of AE] is an example of that.