The Passing of the Second Bookend: Madeleine Stern Dies at 95
In the 1940s, women's assigned role was in the house, not the shop, yet they defied the customs and mores of the day to become very successful in what was still regarded as a man's world. Ms. Stern helped found the New York Antiquarian Book Fair in 1960. In 1972, Ms. Rostenberg became the first woman to serve as President of the ABAA. Their careers became the subject of a musical play recently put on by the New Jersey Repertory Theater, Bookends.
When Ms. Rostenberg died two years ago, we looked back to comments they provided in 2000 to RBM, an American Library Association publication. We will do the same now with the passing of Ms. Stern, as they understood the eternal appeal of books, one which bridges the gap between the past 500+ years of printing and the internet age. The issue they addressed is what value is there in old books any more when their texts can be placed in full on the ephemeral pages of an internet website? Write Stern and Rostenberg, "Nothing in cyberspace can convey the character and substance of the original. It is the original that embodies the past and transports the past into the present." Their point is that the original, unlike the electronic copy, is itself a part of history, just like the events it describes. It's a distinction not all will see. History can be learned from words and images, without touch and feel. Those who can learn fully this way will not be book collectors, and that is all right. However, for others, being in the presence of that piece of paper which is itself part of history raises their connection to the past to a different level. Madeleine Stern was such a person, a... we wish to say "bookman," though we know we shouldn't. As such, she leaves countless heirs, though her official obituary may say no immediate survivors.