The ABAA Benevolent Fund recently received the largest contribution in the fund’s history from the estate of Gyngr Schon, who owned Old London Books in Bellingham Washington with her husband Michael Schon.
Gyngr Schon became an ABAA member in 2008, after her husband’s death, though the Old London Bookshop had been an ABAA member firm since 1994. She had worked as a secretary in her twenties and befriended a rare book librarian at The Huntington, later entering the antiquarian book business with her husband. In 1988, like many other antiquarian booksellers, the Schons began operating their business out of their home — a large, 17-room Victorian in Bellingham.
After her husband’s death, Schon established a presence on the internet, and through what her colleague Ed Smith describes as “hard work and a positive attitude” kept the business going at a difficult time.
Smith recalls the last time he saw Gyngr Schon was at a Book Club of Washington event that “included a stop at Old London Books where Gyngr served refreshments to all and was holding court surrounded by book people who were having fun and laughing and enjoying themselves and buying books from her.”
Schon’s friend and fellow-ABAA member Taylor Bowie explained the impulse for this bequest:
“I recall very well the time I happened to visit Gyngr at her home/shop in Bellingham. No one else was there that day but the two of us, and so she talked very freely. She told me that her will stipulated a large donation to the ABAA Benevolent Fund, partly as a way to thank the ABAA for coming through for her when she herself was in financial need. She also asked me to take charge of selling off whatever was left of her inventory when she passed, which I did. So the combination of book sales and portion of the house sale made for a very generous bequest. I was honored that she asked me to help facilitate matters and I know she would be pleased at the outpouring of gratitude for her generosity.”
Susan Benne, Executive Director of the ABAA said, "We are deeply moved and inspired by Gyngr’s commitment to the Fund. Her bequest will help many booksellers find peace of mind in their time of need."
The Antiquarian Booksellers' Benevolent Fund provides financial assistance to those in the book trade who find themselves in a time of need. In a typical year, the Fund gives a total of $40,000 in one-time disbursements to booksellers in need, the majority of whom are not members of the ABAA.
Historically, the Fund has been sustained by donations from ABAA members, their generosity born out of their understanding of how precarious a livelihood in the book trade can sometimes be.