ABAA members and book lovers the world over mourn the loss of William Reese, antiquarian bookseller of New Haven, CT, and founder of the William Reese Company. He was universally acknowledged to be the greatest American antiquarian bookseller of his generation, known for his expertise in Americana, color plate books, natural history, exploration, literature, and the history of the book, and also widely celebrated as a man of uncommon graciousness, generosity, humor, and decency.
William Reese was born on July 29, 1955 in Havre de Grace, Maryland, son of William Blain Reese and Katherine (Jackson) Reese, and died early in the morning of June 4, 2018 at his family’s farm, Seven Springs Farm, in Havre de Grace after a long illness. He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Hurt, his sister, Barbara Reese, and his nieces, Sarah Dyer and Tessa Currie, and nephew, Andrew Currie. At this time, a private family memorial service is planned. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bill’s memory to the American Antiquarian Society. William Reese Company will continue under the ownership and management of Bill’s wife, Dorothy Hurt.
Bill graduated from Yale, summa cum laude, in 1977 and was already a partner in a rare book firm, Frontier Americana, while in college. In 1979, he founded the William Reese Company. To date, the firm has issued 357 catalogues in Americana, voyages, exploration, natural history, color plate books, literature, etc. since 1979, with no plans on stopping. He was a longtime member of the ABAA and ILAB, also a member of the Grolier Club, the Club of Odd Volumes, The Old Book Table, the Yale Club, and board member of the Library of America, among other affiliations. He was also a frequent lecturer at the Rare Book School, and author of a number of books on the antiquarian trade and book history, including a number of recent books that can be found here.
Many of the members of the ABAA were close friends of Bill and we hope to have a more generous testimonial in the future that will include some reminiscences and stories about Bill’s life in the trade. Until then, all of us at the ABAA hold Bill’s family and his staff at the Reese Company in our thoughts and wish them comfort, peace, and health.
William Reese talks about his career (2010):