We mourn the passing of Ed Glaser, who died on July 31, 2017 at 88 years old. He was universally cherished for his humor, wisdom, ethics and generosity, and he was part of the book trade and its culture until his dying days.
Ed started out in business in the mid 1960s, quoting books found in thrift shops to want lists in AB-Bookman’s Weekly. By 1969 he had quit his full time job and opened up a large used bookstore in New Rochelle, NY. In 1970 he joined the ABAA. After some time as a shop owner — as he relates in his video interview with Mike Ginsberg — he got bored with that aspect of the business, and fortuitously, a world class collection of science, medicine and psychiatry was offered to him. After buying the collection and spending some time researching it, he realized he had a "bonanza," and set about issuing a catalog, which was "well received because of the quality of the material." He closed his shop and began to specialize in the history of science and medicine.
In 1979, with changing circumstances in his personal life, he moved to Sausalito, CA, and was immediately accepted with warm graciousness and friendship into the community of west coast antiquarians. He continued to live in Northern California the rest of his life, eventually moving to Napa. He was one of the founders of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, the first such annual seminar devoted to arranging colloquia, seminars, classes, lectures, etc., that enabled booksellers and librarians to learn from each other and establish greater rapport. CABS continues (and thrives) to this day, and for many years, Ed mentored booksellers via CABS who are now some of the shining lights in the ABAA. He himself was president of the ABAA from 1986 to 1988.
"One of the joys of the book business is you have the opportunity to invent yourself. There are so many ways to do it. The right way to do it is the right way for you, what you're comfortable with. There are dealers who go out, knocking on the doors of librarians, and others who hole themselves up in their offices, never see the light of day, there are people who do catalogs, people who have open shops, people who do bookfairs... and it's all a question of your temperament... Sure there are some who have made a lot of money in the book business, but for the vast majority of us, the business has enabled us to have a comfortable living, lead a very nice life, doing something we love with a commodity we respect." - from his video interview
(Please note, the volume is adjusted upwards around the one-minute mark.)
ABAA President Mary Gilliam had this to say about the passing of Ed Glaser:
I am loathe to admit this but I first met Ed Glaser at the 1979 seminar on the out-of-print and rare-book market in Denver. In conversation my first words were "Do you really make a living out of this business?”. Such effrontery on my part was answered very directly and to the point -- "I support an ex-wife and two children." I think it was two children but it was at least one. This was just before he moved from New York to California.
His absence from the planet will be missed.
Other ABAA members and members of the larger rare-book community paid tribute to Glaser:
I know Ed would have wanted this noted. He once lived in the smallest town in the smallest county in the smallest state: Warren, RI.
John & Jude Lubrano:
We are very saddened, indeed, to hear of Ed’s passing. We have
particularly fond memories of him welcoming us into the fold as young booksellers in the late ‘70s, at which time he was extremely encouraging. We will forever remember his warmth and wisdom…
Judy Cohen (J. M. Cohen, Rare Books)
Will we ever again know a man of such dignity and grace?
Barbara Rootenberg (B & L Rootenberg Rare Books & Manuscripts):
We were deeply sadden to hear of Ed’s death. Everyone who knew him at all will have lost a real friend and for all of us in the rare book trade, he has left a place that can never be filled. Ed was one of the kindest, most considerate people I knew.
My deepest sympathy goes to Lorraine and the family.
Andrew T. Nadell, MD:
I am very sorry to hear that Ed has died. He was a friend, advisor, and bookseller to generations of collectors, including a large number of baby-boomer physician bibliophiles. He was involved with the Bay Area History of Medicine Society, and the American Association for the History of Medicine. His stock, both rare books and reference works, now sits on the shelves of hundreds of grateful clients. He was a true gentleman, wise, kind, thoughtful, and understanding.
My wife Eleanore Ramsey joins me in expressing our condolences to our friend Lorraine, and the rest of his family.
Remembering very fondly over forty years ago when as a young girl traipsing around the fairs, I always found Ed believing that his glass case needed windexing attention or that he needed a cup of coffee. Anything to make me feel needed and purposeful! The kindest of men. Always to be missed!
I met Ed for the first time while I was setting up at my first ABAA fair decades ago when he walked into my booth and introduced himself as current president. Class act. Has that been done by any one else? If not, it seems a good idea !!!
Always good for a few moments at every book fair to catch up along with a couple trips to his home to visit he and Lorraine. A great guy with lotsa humility, humor, knowledge and life!
I never had an encounter with Ed that was not interesting and
pleasant. As President of the ABAA he had decent judgment when dealing with problems. In recent years, Ed would chime in many times on the chat line on often controversial subjects and his takes were always worth reading. Rest in peace, and thanks for good guidance.
I join the rest of my colleagues in mourning the loss of Ed Glaser. I first met Ed, as did many of you, at the Denver Seminar in the very early 1990s. He was encouraging to me to follow my interest in poetry, even though it was a far cry from his area. He exemplified the life of a great bookman and a great human being. Those of us who knew him can be thankful for what we may have learned by his teachings and examples.
Annette Kolling-Buckley (Columbia Books):
I attended "The Seminar" in 1985 as a sort of continuing education course beyond my library science degree; and Ed Glaser, Michael Ginsberg, et. al were on the faculty then. Ed gave a great/humorous lecture on buying/selling/pricing... later on in the afternoon when it became rather warm in the room I noticed that Ed and Michael were busily playing a game of Hangman... (and I had thought they were taking notes on what was being said!)
Ed Glaser is one of the people who inspired me to aspire to become a member of ABAA.
Zhenya Dzhavgova (ZH Books):
I met Ed in 2011, at the very beginning of my short career, at a NCC ABAA meeting, which I attended as a guest of Vic Zoschak. I had just returned from CABS, thanks to the Annual Ed Glaser Scholarship, administered by the Elizabeth Woodburn Fund. I believe I was its very first recipient, as Ed had just established it earlier that same year. I sought him out and introduced myself. He looked at me, laughed heartily, and said: "Sooo, you went to CABS, you got an idea of what the antiquarian book trade is, and you are still here? We'll make a bookseller out of you then..." Over the following years, at bookish events, he made a point of coming over and talking to me, joking, asking how I was doing and how my business was faring.
Very recently, Ed sent a message, apologizing for being late in congratulating me on having my baby daughter. I smile, with great sadness in my heart, thinking of him.
Arnoud Gerits of A. Gerits & Sons, Netherlands:
I have nothing special to tell you apart from the fact that I am very sad to hear this news.
I have had many conversations with Ed over the many years I participated in various ABAA bookfairs. He was one of the kindest and nicest persons I have had the pleasure of knowing, he was ethics on two legs and his humor and kindness were a model for the young bookseller I was then. He will be much missed in at least one shop in continental Europe !
Ed was such a kind and intelligent colleague, and friend.
I am so sorry to hear this.
Lynne Owens (Thorn Books):
We first met Ed at the Colorado Rare Book Seminar in 1991 when he was the keynote speaker. His speech was about ethics in the book trade and has stayed with me these many years.
Our trade has lost a true gentleman in every sense of the word. He will be missed.
Eugene Vigil (Antiquariat Botanicum):
I concur. Ed was not only a great bookseller but a warm and kind human being. He certainly will be remembered by many in our organization as well as living collectors who he helped build fine collections in medicine and science. I have recently come across a number of astronomical-related articles that Ed sold to a collector of Celestial Mechanics. Ed told me a while back that he had stage 4 colon cancer, if my memory is correct, and that he was feeling fine and accepted his illness. He and Lorraine were always a joy to meet and have a brief chat at book fairs. I will miss him and his friendship.
Pia Oliver (Randall House Books):
I am so very sorry. Ed was one of the nicest people, and extremely kind to me when I was (still am) a novice bookseller. My sincerest condolences to his family. He was kind.
I'm absolutely heartbroken by this news. One of the smartest, kindest, funniest men I ever met, the heart and soul of CABS for many, many years, and a source of inestimable encouragement and inspiration to me. I will miss him.
When I joined the ABAA in 1981 I flew down to San Francisco for my first chapter meeting... we in Washington and Oregon were members of the NoCal Chapter back then.
I stayed in San Francisco, but the meeting was at a restaurant in Berkeley. I took public transit there and walked in, not really knowing anyone very well... Ed saw me, introduced himself, invited me to sit with him, introduced me to others.. and when dinner was over... drove me back to SF to my hotel.
I knew that night that I had made at least one new friend in the trade.
Initially, I thought that at dinner Ed had "gone out of his way" to be nice to me, but he hadn't "gone out of his way" at all... because that was simply the way he was and that was how he treated his fellow human beings... he was a fine bookseller, a real wit, a fun companion and a great human being.
Another loss for which there can be no replacement.
John Durham (Bolerium Books):
Truly sad news. When I took the Colorado Rare Book Seminar (in 1982?), Ed taught the class on pricing. It was fun, funny, & enlightening. He indeed was one the nicest and most interesting book dealers, with a little known side career in modeling that he was rightfully proud of.
Alan Ahearn (Quill & Brush Booksellers):
I am so sorry to hear of this loss. I will always remember the few times we were together, particularly at the Colorado school. But I remember all of these times together with real pleasure. A big loss.
I am very saddened to here of Ed's passing. He was wonderful man and a great bookseller. His work as ABAA President was important as was his long tenure at the Colorado Book Seminar. I have known Ed for over 50 years and never heard him say a cross word about any colleagues. The world has become a little worse off with his passing.
John Townsend (Town's End Books):
This news makes me feel like I've just been stabbed in the heart.
I so much admired Ed. For the four years that I was on the faculty of "The Seminar", which is now called "CABS", I looked forward to talking to and learning from Ed. He was such a gentleman. I will miss him and once I have accepted his passing I will be able to smile when thinking of him.
Tom Congalton (Between the Covers):
This is indeed very, very sad news. Ed was good-natured, kind, funny, insightful, and tolerant. It was hard to be negative around him. His tenure of 30 or so years at the Colorado Seminar insured that he would be a mentor, at least in part, to successive generations of booksellers. The world is a little bit sadder place for his departure.
Greg Gibson (Ten Pound Island Books):
Damn sharp dresser, too.
I first met Ed at the SF Book Fair in 1983 or 1984 when I first joined ABAA. He was kind and scholarly with a fine sense of humor and impressed me as one of the best of us (booksellers). Since that time, my regard for him only increased. Serving on the board with him showed me the seriousness with which he viewed his responsibilities - but never himself. It was a model for me - and still is. RIP Ed. You were always one of the good guys.
Ed took to bookselling with ease and grace, it always seemed to me. He was gracious and relaxed even in those early years (we first exhibited at ABAA fairs the same year, I think), while I usually was fighting a migraine. When he wrote of his decision to retire, and the struggle with the decision, I mentioned I was in a similar place since Wally's death. He kindly sent me a private email, saying that once the decision was made, it wasn't so difficult - and he was quite happy with PBA, coming to pack everything up and take it without his having to do anything much at all. It was a kind gesture, so typical of this colleague whom we will miss so much.
I count myself blessed to have known Ed, and these others brought to mind through his own commentaries. So many giants in this business made it grow, and made it better — Ed Glaser will always be remembered for mentoring and fostering both scholarship and outright fun!
I met Ed Glaser when he came to the earliest Toronto book fairs back in the late '60s, early '70s. He came with John Gach, Patterson Smith, Bob Paulson, Michael Thompson, Christian Verbeke, Bob Fleck, Jim Lowell, and others I can’t remember. This was the first Canadian book fair setting where a large group of Canadian and American dealers spent a few days together and friendships were formed which have endured all those years. For some reason there was a whole bunch of young American and Canadian dealers who all started at the same time. Some of them, like Ed Glaser, went on to form large reputations. Ed was extremely easygoing and amiable as anyone who knew him is aware. In those early days he was a generalist, in fact we were all really just general used booksellers, but ambitious. Ed and I always remained friendly and I always passed some time with him at book fairs ever after. When he first moved to Sausalito from the east I asked him why, the next time I saw him. He gave his wary sheepish smile and said, “Why else? A woman.”
For many years afterwards we would discuss our sons and our hopes for them. Even we knew it was unlikely that they might join us someday in our beloved vocations. When Ed’s son finally did we traded funny conversations about partnership problems in any sort of bookselling, never mind the usual problems of fathers and sons.
I retreated from international fairs at one point and seldom saw Ed after that but our occasional contacts were always very warm. Ed was already by then the Science and Medicine specialist and while we always did some business, our relationship was really more friendship than a business connection. He was one of the booksellers I’ve most enjoyed knowing in the last fifty years. He was a great guy and, as they say, a great credit to the trade.
Ed, with Chris Loker at Ben Kinmont's home. Taken April 30, 2017. (Credit: John Windle)
It seems fitting to give the last word to Ed Glaser himself. Our thanks go out to Malcolm Kottler of Scientia Books for digging up this posting by Ed from 2015, concerning his memories of exhibiting at his first ABAA book fair:
My first ABAA fair was the New York Fair of either 1970 or 1971. It was held in the top floor ballroom of the Hotel Roosevelt. Access was only by elevator and the loading and unloading of books must have been a nightmare, but I was so amped up and enthusiastic that I have no negative memories of it.
I had joined ABAA in 1969 and while I knew most of the Middle Atlantic Chapter members, this was the first time meeting colleagues from the Midwestern and California chapters.
Exhibitors were gathering just outside the ballroom, waiting for the doors to open. One group, dressed more casually than most of the others, were sitting on the floor in a circle and I seem to remember some strangely-shaped cigarettes being passed around.
Leona Rostenberg, a towering figure in the book trade at 4 foot 9, muttered something about "those hippies." Turned out it was the contingent from Serendipity Books.
In those days we ran everything at the fairs ourselves, no outside managers or public relations firms; the chapter book fair committees were responsible for every aspect of the fair.
The first New York book fair had been held in 1964 and by 1970 fairs were not yet as commonplace as they were later to become. Enthusiasm and trepidation both ran high.
Just before the fair I had acquired a nice collection of Rackham illustrated books and I have the memory of customers (mostly dealers of course) lined up three deep outside my booth and jostling and elbowing and reaching over the person in front to pick up books, making their piles seemingly without even looking at the prices.
As I used to exclaim with some regularity in those days, "Wow, what a great way to make a living." It was the beginning of the long and intense love affair I have had with the book trade and the ABAA. Through the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and into the first few years of the new century I generally exhibited at all the ABAA fairs, plus, in the earlier days some local and regional non-ABAA fairs.
Whatever success I ultimately attained in the trade, I don't think it would have been possible without the exposure of the fairs.