Monday, June 29, 2009

Book Collectors

Book collectors are all too often forgotten, aren't they. A few have made a name for themselves through their bibliographic work - Michael Sadleir, of course, and in our particular field of interest, George Locke, Lloyd Currey, Everett Bleiler, and in Australia, Don Tuck and Graham Stone. A.E.R.M. Stevens has acquired a certain cache via the 1996 Sotheby's catalogue of his substantial collection, another useful source of titles and bibliography. But all too often they sink without trace and their collections go with them, confined to some murky purgatory.

One such was the Australian collector, David Cohen, who died in 2003. Cohen is mentioned by the Melbourne book-dealer, J.P. Quaine in letters to fellow Bloods-collector, Stanley Larnach. Quaine writes in a letter of 6 February 1951, "I must tell you glad I was to welcome Comrade Cohen into the circle of sweetness and light. It is not often that I meet in such rapid succession two men with whom I can discourse about uncommon books. His taste for the terrific resembled mine, for next to gory bloods I like anything of a ghostly nature. We had a good yabber, and I managed to sell him a few books, mainly out of my own lot."

And around the same time in a letter to the great Australian bibliophile, Walter Stone, Quaine wrote, "I also got a kick out of Comrade Cohen’s visit. Once again I was in my element, for he is fond of the type of book which appealed to me in my younger days, and still intrigues me a lot. Best is the real gory uns. I wallow in spooks, phantoms, chain-rattling spectres, hobgoblins and poltergeists! Used to have quite a collection of them till the pinch of impecuniality prevailed and I had to part with them! However, I managed to sell him a few. We had a very interesting discussion, and I learned a lot from him."

So what happened to Cohen's collection? In an article in Biblionews, the journal of the Australian Book Collectors' Society, in 2004, Graham Stone tells how he was called in by an RSL friend to examine the remnants of Cohen's collection after his death. Some science fiction books and magazines had been piled on trestle tables - some nice stuff there including a run of Amazing from 1926 to 1933, including the first legendary issue, most of the issues of Unknown from 1939-1943, Weird Tales, Strange Tales, and much else.

But what of the Arkham House, Gnome Press and other specialty presses? And more particularly, what of the rare Penny Bloods and other early volumes of supernatural fiction that Cohen prized above all else? Not a trace. In the basement garage were scores of water damaged boxes full of ruined stock, the stuff at the bottom reduced to sludge. But surely Cohen wouldn't have confined his treasured items to his basement. Evidently Cohen had been losing his faculties in his last years - perhaps they were sold off to dealers, or pilfered, or given away. What happened to them, and where they are now, is anybody's guess.

No comments:

Post a Comment