AT: This brings me back to a question that I asked in a different way earlier in this interview. What do you think will stand as Dr. Rosenbach’s legacy in the world of book dealing and collecting?
MB: Well, here I’ll defer to Harper’s Magazine, which about a year and a half ago wrote a piece in which they said something to the effect that every American university library should have a statue of Dr. Rosenbach outside it to commemorate Dr. Rosenbach’s contributions to the world of Special Collections.
Dr. Rosenbach was a tremendously important dealer. He was instrumental in building some of the great institutional collections in the U.S. And he was instrumental in building these great institutional collections through working with private collectors. He straddled the private collector/public institution line.
Many eulogies of Dr. R were published after his death; the last eulogy will never be finished. The hammer of an auction sale, the enthusiasm of a collector, the acquisitiveness of a librarian, and the salesmanship of a dealer add to it whenever great books are bought or sold. Social changes ended the era which A.S.W. Rosenbach personified. There will be no more Huntingtons or Morgans or Folgers; there will be no more men who can build huge libraries of that kind in their own lifetimes. But there is less need for them now, for a wealth of resources has come, and continues to come, to America. In less spectacular, but no less important, ways will the building of collections go on. Dr. Rosenbach believed in the importance of rare books for scholarship and in the pure joy and excitement of collecting. That belief prevails in public and private collections throughout the country. That was Dr. R’s greatest sale.AT: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the Museum and its collections before we draw this conversation to a close?
MB: Just that the collection is eclectic. There are many individual categories in which it could conceivably grow. This is not a question.