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Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion Paperback – June 1, 1998
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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In their introduction, Rostenberg and Stern write: "Several readers inferred ... that our relationship was a Lesbian one. This was a misconception. The 'deep, deep love' that existed and exists between us ... has no bearing upon sex." With that out of the way early on, the two recount the stories of their lives in alternating sections. And oh, what lives they've had! From identifying some of Louisa May Alcott's previously anonymous early writings to traveling the world in search of rare volumes and pamphlets, they have done and seen it all. Successful antiquarian book dealers Rostenberg and Stern undoubtedly are, but as this memoir makes clear, their greatest accomplishment just might be that rarer commodity of friendship that lasts a lifetime. --Alix Wilber
Top Customer Reviews
Now in the dusty corner of bibliomania, I have found two more authors who are willing to share their joy of discovery with me. They even have a name for it: 'Finger-Spitzengefühl'--"the electrifying alertness to what is unusual or important in an early printed book. When 'Finger-Spitzengefühl' is coupled with serendipity, the gates of paradise open for the dealer in old and rare [books]."
Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern share their "thrill of the chase and the joy of the find," as well as a seven-decade-long partnership in life--"the partnership of 'Faithful Friends' who share 'a deep, deep love.'"
I have to admit I had trouble getting into this book. I read some of the earlier pages six or seven times because I kept falling asleep and losing my place. However, once the authors were out of childhood recollections and into the chase--first of all for the works that Louisa May Alcott had published under a pseudonym--then I was hooked.
These authors have illuminated many once-obscure corners of history through their curiosity and devotion. They deplore collectors who pursue rare books as an investment, much as I would deplore a physician who is in practice 'only for the money.' Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern have devoted their lives to the search for the old and rare, and their love, curiosity, and wisdom show through on almost every page of this book.
active in the antiquarian book trade for fifty
years. They are true friends, who grew to love
and respect each other as they grew in their
knowledge of old books and in their abilities to
find them. They wrote this book together, but
retained their separate identities by each
writing her own story until their stories became
the same. Thus we get Leona's history from
childhood until her dramatic failure to win her
Doctorate from Columbia, and Mady's story
through her Masters degree and first biography
of the early feminist, Margaret Fuller.
At this point, the two have met and realize that
they share a love of books and a lack of interest
in marriage, although both have been courted
by many. They are both devoted to their
families, but Mady gives Leona the necessary
nudge that forces her to hang out her "shingle"
as "Leona Rostenberg-Rare Books". Both
women show a rare independence of spirit and
interest and because they each write with
verve and enthusiasm, all this personal history
reads like a good novel.
Now the business is launched and the rest of
the book is happily spent recounting their
sleuthing adventures in old book stores in
Europe and American, founding and enjoying
the American Association of Antiquarian
Booksellers and generally having a wonderful
time supplying books to universities and
collectors. They make is sound very easy to
find a sixteenth century book that no one
recognizes, buy it for $2.Read more ›
I expected to be interested, and was rewarded with a page turner that I was reluctant to put down. The dedication with which the authors pursued lost works of the printers' art, and unravelled conundrums of history make marvellous reading.
If you love literature, as I suspect most Amazon book customers do, than you'll enjoy this most unusual duo.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a book about old and rare books, and the two women who spent their adult lives finding them and bringing them to the light of the modern world. Read morePublished on April 19, 2014 by Lenora G.
I loved this book. I have an interest in bookbinding and have done it for 20+ years so this has a special appeal for me. Read morePublished on February 11, 2014 by Sally Kaufmann
Enjoy 2 women who have a passion if life... books. It's good these women know the art of sharing, as well.Published on December 25, 2013 by sungrass
As a bookseller, and a lover of books, I enjoyed sharing the stories of Leona and Madeleine, and only wish I had been able to meet them. Read morePublished on September 17, 2012 by Coneflower Books
This book was recommended to me by a friend. At first, I read a chapter and put it down; though it was interesting, I was quite busy on other books, work and life in general. Read morePublished on March 6, 2010 by S. Prokopowicz
For those of us who lust after books about books, as well as the history of successful booksellers, this book is one of the best. Read morePublished on February 17, 2006 by Dale C. Storms
Those who love books and the history of the written word have benefitted from these devoted "literary sleuths" who not only devoted themselves to located lost... Read morePublished on October 25, 1998