of the most extensive private reference collections that I have ever seen. Lining every nook and cranny of this large floor (which also contains desks for some of the bibliographic staff) are Sotheby’s catalogues going back to the nineteenth century, the last ten years of Christie’s catalogues (the rest are elsewhere, but rest assured they have them), old dealer’s catalogues, every sort of bibliography, specialized and general, that you can imagine, German and French auction records (they use the CD-Rom version of American Book Prices Current so as to save valuable shelf space), the standard Americana references (Sabin, Church, etc.), European Americana references, biographical dictionaries, the British Museum catalogue, and lots of references in foreign languages, some ancient, some modern, covering just about every region throughout Europe and just about every time period. As a librarian I am astounded. I can’t even guess at the number of reference works contained on this floor, but together they comprise a stronger bibliographic reference collection than just about any mid-sized academic library would have to offer.
Over my ogling of their reference materials, I learn that H.P. Kraus, Inc. does do a steady business in selling reference works, although of course they only offer up duplicate copies for sale. I also learn that Mr. Kraus had assembled a substantial reference library in Austria and that he had to totally rebuild it once he arrived in America. He certainly did a fine job.
We progress by elevator to the third floor, which is totally unlit when we enter, giving it an eerie effect. When the light switch is dramatically flicked I see what looks like the remains of a very proper New York Park Avenue apartment: a long wooden dining table covered with a red tablecloth, some chairs, a chandelier. Mr. Lipton informs me that “this is where Mr. and Mrs. Kraus lived during the week,” but that it is now used mostly for openings and parties. As with the other floors there is a back room. This back room yields, amazingly, still more reference material. There are book dealing memoirs, ancient encyclopedias useful for ironing out or understanding eighteenth century doctrinal disputes, Judaica encyclopedias – the list goes on and on. I have long since stopped keeping track of reference titles and simply gasp at the abundance and specificity of this material.
I am informed that the fourth and fifth floors contain mostly more reference matter. At this point I am nearly overwhelmed, until Mr. Lipton pops the question to me in the elevator as we head back to the ground floor: “Would you like to see the vault?”
Would I like to see the vault? Is the Pope Catholic? I would like nothing more, but hadn’t dreamed of asking even though I noticed it facing us, taunting me, during our entire conversation downstairs. Quickly we disembark on the ground floor and head for a rear corner of the back room, where there sits one of those ceiling to floor very imposing looking metal bank vaults. I feel as if I’m at the door of Fort Knox. I just stare, thinking that Mr. Lipton meant literally “Would you like to see the vault” (i.e., from the outside), until Mr. Lipton says to me: “Wouldn’t you like to come in?” Of course I would, but I