Oak Knoll Offers Titles from<br>The H.P. Kraus Reference Collection
By Michael Stillman
Oak Knoll Books is noted for its catalogues of books about books. This month they have put together a particularly noteworthy one. Oak Knoll purchased much of the reference material available at last fall’s H.P. Kraus auction, and it is this material which highlights their 254th catalogue, “From the Reference Library of H.P. Kraus.”
H.P. Kraus was one of the most important booksellers in New York for over half a century. Emigrating from Europe just before the War, Mr. Kraus set up shop in the 1940s, and his store was at the forefront of American bookselling until it closed last year following the death of his widow.
Quality and importance were the hallmarks of material Kraus carried. His bookshop was truly the place to find the best of the best. What particularly distinguished Mr. Kraus was his research. He put together one of the best private reference libraries ever assembled. The volumes in that library far exceeded the number of books he had for sale. After the shop was closed, the library was put up for sale at Sotheby’s. One of the largest buyers at that sale was Oak Knoll. This is not surprising since Oak Knoll is America’s premier dealer in bibliographies and similar reference material. However, while much of that material was sold in combined lots at the auction, buyers may select the individual titles of interest to them from the Oak Knoll catalogue.
Much of what H.P. Kraus offered for sale was European and very early, so this was reflected in his reference library. There is a heavy concentration of titles in German and French, as well others in Italian and Spanish. Some will seem a bit esoteric to most collectors. However, for those with interests in specialized collections, this reference material will be of great interest. And just a note before moving on: this catalogue also includes related items not from the Kraus library. Kraus items include a commemorative book label which indicates they came from the Kraus collection.
While this material is focused on research rather than entertainment, we’ll start with an exception. Item 130 is John Payne Collier’s Notes and Emendations to the Text of Shakespeare’s Plays from Early Manuscript Corrections in a Copy of the Folio, 1632, in the Possession of J. Payne Collier, Esq. F.S.A. Forming a Supplemental Volume to the Works of Shakespeare by the Same Editor. Collier was a 19th century Shakespearean scholar and his finding of contemporary notations on Shakespearean plays must have excited great interest at the time. It included changes in lines and directions for many of Shakespeare’s plays. The problem was that it was all a fake. Collier forged the notes in apparent attempt to assure a “correct” understanding of Shakespeare. When published in 1853, Collier’s claims immediately drew their critics, but Collier prevented anyone from obtaining more than a cursory look at the “corrected” folio. However, when the Duke of Devonshire, the book’s possessor and Collier’s patron, died in 1858, the book was passed on to the British Museum. A full examination then revealed the notes were made in a hand contemporary with Collier rather than Shakespeare, and the truth was finally established. Priced at $275.