Madeleine B. Stern, Bookseller and Sleuth, Dies at 95

by Margalit Fox

New York Times—August 25, 2007

  “Madeleine B. Stern, a prominent rare-book dealer, biographer and literary sleuth…died on Saturday at her home in Manhattan. She was 95.”

 -          “With her companion and business partner of many years, Leona Rostenberg, Ms. Stern presided over Rostenberg & Stern Rare Books.”

 -          “For more than half a century, the two women were an institution in the world of antiquarian bookselling. Ms. Stern was also a founder of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, held annually since 1960.”

 -          In 1942, Leona Rostenberg, discovered that Louisa May Alcott had written stories that “were the pulp fiction of their day, awash in deceit, depravity and death.”

  -          “Starting in the 1970s, Ms. Stern oversaw their publication in assorted volumes…all edited and with introductions by Ms. Stern.”

-          “With Ms. Rostenberg, Ms. Stern wrote several joint memoirs of their heady lives amid dust, morocco and gilded edges”

 -          “A stage musical version of “Bookends,” written by Katharine Houghton” was recently performed at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch.

 -          “Madeleine Bettina Stern was born in Manhattan on July 1, 1912. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Barnard College in 1932, followed by a master’s in the field from Columbia University in 1934.”

 -          “Ms. Stern and Ms. Rostenberg met in 1929, when both worked as teachers at the Sabbath School of Temple Emanu-El, in Manhattan. They regarded each other with mutual disdain”

 -          “When the women met again as Columbia graduate students, a warm friendship blossomed, based on their mutual desire for a life of the mind.”

 -          “In 1943, Columbia rejected Ms. Rostenberg’s doctoral dissertation. To console her, Ms. Stern gave her a box of stationery embossed with the intoxicating words “Leona Rostenberg — Rare Books.” With a $1,000 loan from Ms. Stern, Ms. Rostenberg opened her business the next year. Ms. Stern joined her in 1945.”

          -    "In interviews over the years, the two women were asked — often — whether their relationship was romantic. They always demurred, for in the end, they implied, what did the answer really matter? As they wrote in “Old Books, Rare Friends,” “Our partnership in business is also a partnership in life — the partnership of ‘Faithful Friends’ who share ‘a deep, deep love.’ ”


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