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Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion

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Louisa May Alcott once wrote that she had taken her pen for a bridegroom. Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern, friends and business partners for fifty years, have in many ways taken up their pens and passion for literature much in the same way. The "Holmes & Watson" of the rare book business, Rostenberg and Stern are renowned for unlocking the hidden secret of Louisa May Louisa May Alcott once wrote that she had taken her pen for a bridegroom. Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern, friends and business partners for fifty years, have in many ways taken up their pens and passion for literature much in the same way. The "Holmes & Watson" of the rare book business, Rostenberg and Stern are renowned for unlocking the hidden secret of Louisa May Alcott's life when they discovered her pseudonym, A.M. Barnard, along with her anonymously published "blood and thunder" stories on subjects like transvestitism, hashish smoking, and feminism. Old Books, Rare Friends describes their mutual passion for books and literary sleuthing as they take us on their earliest European book buying jaunts. Using what they call Finger-spitzengefühl, the art of evaluating antiquarian books by handling, experience, and instinct, we are treated to some of their greatest discoveries amid the mildewed basements of London's booksellers after the Blitz. We experience the thrill of finding one of the earliest known books printed in America between 1617-1619 by the Pilgrim Press and learn about the influential role of publisher-printers from the fifteenth century. Like a precious gem, Old Books, Rare Friends is a book to treasure about the companionship of two rare friends and their shared passion for old books.


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Louisa May Alcott once wrote that she had taken her pen for a bridegroom. Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern, friends and business partners for fifty years, have in many ways taken up their pens and passion for literature much in the same way. The "Holmes & Watson" of the rare book business, Rostenberg and Stern are renowned for unlocking the hidden secret of Louisa May Louisa May Alcott once wrote that she had taken her pen for a bridegroom. Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern, friends and business partners for fifty years, have in many ways taken up their pens and passion for literature much in the same way. The "Holmes & Watson" of the rare book business, Rostenberg and Stern are renowned for unlocking the hidden secret of Louisa May Alcott's life when they discovered her pseudonym, A.M. Barnard, along with her anonymously published "blood and thunder" stories on subjects like transvestitism, hashish smoking, and feminism. Old Books, Rare Friends describes their mutual passion for books and literary sleuthing as they take us on their earliest European book buying jaunts. Using what they call Finger-spitzengefühl, the art of evaluating antiquarian books by handling, experience, and instinct, we are treated to some of their greatest discoveries amid the mildewed basements of London's booksellers after the Blitz. We experience the thrill of finding one of the earliest known books printed in America between 1617-1619 by the Pilgrim Press and learn about the influential role of publisher-printers from the fifteenth century. Like a precious gem, Old Books, Rare Friends is a book to treasure about the companionship of two rare friends and their shared passion for old books.

30 review for Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Each giving their own voice via sections in each chapter, they tell of their origins, education, first meeting, and their embarking into the literary life of rare book collection. College took them abroad and helped both cement their friendship (in missing each other) and stoking the love of older books. While both casually dated, neither felt they could find anyone who shared their literary love, nor intellectual standing. Much to their parents chagrin, they remained steadfast to each other, Each giving their own voice via sections in each chapter, they tell of their origins, education, first meeting, and their embarking into the literary life of rare book collection. College took them abroad and helped both cement their friendship (in missing each other) and stoking the love of older books. While both casually dated, neither felt they could find anyone who shared their literary love, nor intellectual standing. Much to their parents chagrin, they remained steadfast to each other, earning income teaching, translating, and tutoring. Much detail is given to their European travels, either scenic or diary entries, as with nearly every aspect of their lives...possibly even too much. That said, once we get into Madeleine’s biographical books, we can not have enough. After a successful novelization of a Margaret Fuller biography, she sets her sights on Louisa May Alcott, but more so on her alias publications. Fascinating how she sleuthed not only the aka, but her publisher and various papers that carried her stories. Using clues from “Little Women” and her journals, along with letters to and from, the “aha” moment arrives with much glee. Both ladies made light of their discovery, illuminating the bibliophile world with dazzling revelation. A. M. Barnard was henceforth removed from the standard library shelves and stowed in with the rare. Bravo, ladies. Bravo! Such lead to Madeleine’s award of a Guggenheim. Using such, she quits teaching and works on her book. Leona yearns to delve into the rare booksellers business. During the end of the war and Hitler’s genocide, the two besties team up and dive into the biz. Selling half of their first catalog is impetus enough for the two to forge onward. Family and friends support with surprised enthusiasm and connections made along their way further advance their success. Shopping the remains in London’s regal bookshops was bittersweet. Meeting sellers they knew only via their catalogs and then seeing the results of the war upon them. Still, the ladies did well to improve their own stock, as well as their standing in the lofty realm of valuable reads. Quite interesting is not only the lavish stories behind the books they search for, but the sellers and buyers involved in such. I am forever pausing and taking notes as I read. What a gem this is becoming, beyond just an interesting read. Through their moxy, the first stateside antiquarian book fair was held, the first center created, and numerous books on a feminist slant were published. Alongside such, were the bountiful collections of Alcott (Barnard) stories, again, sleuthed out via diary entries. If nothing else, we should all be in debt to this two for that, alone. These were not idle ladies by any means.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lenora Good

    This is a book about old and rare books, and the two women who spent their adult lives finding them and bringing them to the modern world. This is a book about enduring friendship, formed in college, and growing throughout their lives. This is a book about Life lived the way it should be—not as a book sleuth, but doing whatever it is you want to do. The biggest problem with this book is that I didn't want it to end. I thoroughly enjoyed it from page one to page last. Early into the book, I decide This is a book about old and rare books, and the two women who spent their adult lives finding them and bringing them to the modern world. This is a book about enduring friendship, formed in college, and growing throughout their lives. This is a book about Life lived the way it should be—not as a book sleuth, but doing whatever it is you want to do. The biggest problem with this book is that I didn't want it to end. I thoroughly enjoyed it from page one to page last. Early into the book, I decided to read more slowly, and to only read a couple pages a night to make the book last longer. Didn't work. All of a sudden, I found myself at the end, nights before I wanted to be there! Their sleuthing of Louisa May Alcott and all the books she wrote under a pseudonym fascinated me. I had no idea she wrote anything beyond the Little Women books I read so many years ago. Their story is delightfully told. First one tells her story, and then the other tells hers. Now and then, they write a chapter together. Because of these two women, and their love of the printed word, especially way back when, many old manuscripts, pamphlets, and books that very well may have been lost to history, and now in the hands of collectors, libraries, and museums where they are cared for, and shared. Starting with their first venture into finding, collecting, and selling old and rare books, they enjoyed little more than each other's company and the hunt. And writing their catalogs, articles, and their own books (which I shall now have to hunt, find, and read) This is a book I not only will keep and treasure, but one I will read again. And possible even again after that. A delightful story, delightfully told, and perfect to read before turning out the light. An aside: The woman who gave me the book wrote to them, and they, in turn, wrote back a delightful letter. Both a copy of my friend's letter, and their reply are in my book. Sadly, so are the dates of their deaths, so I cannot also write and tell them how much I enjoyed their book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marietje

    I wanted to read this book as extension of my study of Louisa May Alcott. I expected the discovery of Alcott's sensational stories to have a bigger place in the book. I had read Madeleine Stern's biography of LMC. Most other LMC biographies are at least partially based on hers. Leona and Madeleine switch off telling their story. At times I got confused about who did what. After they start their book business most of the stories are about how they found certain obscure rare books. In the beginning I wanted to read this book as extension of my study of Louisa May Alcott. I expected the discovery of Alcott's sensational stories to have a bigger place in the book. I had read Madeleine Stern's biography of LMC. Most other LMC biographies are at least partially based on hers. Leona and Madeleine switch off telling their story. At times I got confused about who did what. After they start their book business most of the stories are about how they found certain obscure rare books. In the beginning I was fascinated, but after a while it sounded all the same. It struck me that they found most rare books by simply remembering a small, to the layman insignificant, fact. How these two women must have studied to know enough to get the Fingerspitzen gefuhl (sensitive fingertips= intuition) they talk about. I really admired them. I also had never thought that there was a feminist slant to rare books, but there obviously is. I enjoyed reading most of the book, but lost interest in the last quarter of it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Angie Head

    I couldn't stick it out all the way through. I read 11 out of 14 chapters and the epilogue. The epilogue gave me what I needed to be at peace with not completing the whole book. The first half of the book had very little to do with books at all, it was primarily autobiographies of the two authors. I kept waiting for the wonders of book finding missions but I had to wade through the deep waters of feminism and humanism to get a taste. The clearly stated worlview of the authors was something I int I couldn't stick it out all the way through. I read 11 out of 14 chapters and the epilogue. The epilogue gave me what I needed to be at peace with not completing the whole book. The first half of the book had very little to do with books at all, it was primarily autobiographies of the two authors. I kept waiting for the wonders of book finding missions but I had to wade through the deep waters of feminism and humanism to get a taste. The clearly stated worlview of the authors was something I intended to bear with so long as the book hunts made it worthwhile. In the end, the feminism and humanism were more than I could stomach and I skipped to the epilogue which confirmed my decision. Happy to move on to something more worthwhile and edifying!

  5. 4 out of 5

    LobsterQuadrille

    I had never heard of Madeleine Stern and Leona Rostenberg before stumbling onto this shared memoir, and having finished it I am glad I learned about them. Their narration styles are both enjoyable and blend well together; my favorite parts were those about their childhood and their first trip abroad together. However, the literature aspect here is a bit "niche" as most of the rare books they discuss are usually obscure volumes from as far back as the 1500s. They also discuss Louisa May Alcott's I had never heard of Madeleine Stern and Leona Rostenberg before stumbling onto this shared memoir, and having finished it I am glad I learned about them. Their narration styles are both enjoyable and blend well together; my favorite parts were those about their childhood and their first trip abroad together. However, the literature aspect here is a bit "niche" as most of the rare books they discuss are usually obscure volumes from as far back as the 1500s. They also discuss Louisa May Alcott's "secret" penny dreadful stories a lot, which will be a big plus for Alcott fans who read this. But since I am not fond of Alcott's books myself(I may try some of the rediscovered stories mentioned in this book) and my experience with Renaissance literature is limited I found the actual rare book aspect dull compared to the other adventures of these two friends. Old Books, Rare Friends is still worth a try for bibliophiles who love Louisa May Alcott or have an interest in the oldest of books. Even though it's not on my re-read list, I did enjoy it and I learned a few things I would never have known otherwise.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    Much to love about this book. Two women share a life together buying, selling, and writing books. It is unusual to read about a close platonic friendship. I enjoyed hearing about their buying trips to Europe where they bought 17th century pamphlets for little over a dollar! They became eminent book dealers in Manhattan and sold books to numerous libraries' special collections. Lorena Rostenberg was interested in the influence that 16th-17th printers had on the books they published and her disser Much to love about this book. Two women share a life together buying, selling, and writing books. It is unusual to read about a close platonic friendship. I enjoyed hearing about their buying trips to Europe where they bought 17th century pamphlets for little over a dollar! They became eminent book dealers in Manhattan and sold books to numerous libraries' special collections. Lorena Rostenberg was interested in the influence that 16th-17th printers had on the books they published and her dissertation on this subject was rejected by Columbia University in the 1940's, a decision they reversed in the 1970's. She authored many essays and articles on this subject. Madeleine Stern wrote biographies of Margaret Fuller and Louisa May Alcott and then turned literary sleuth, figuring out the pseudonyms that Alcott used when publishing books about lurid subjects and was the first to publish these secret books.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    I’m not sure what sub genre you should give to an autobiography of two people written jointly, but this book about rare books is itself a true rarity, a treasure that has sat in plain view unread on my shelf for several years - courtesy of my beautiful bibliophile wife who claims not to know where or when she bought it. I, too, like another reviewer here, read it slowly when I finally picked it up and was a little sad when I reached the end. The two ladies, Misses Stern and Rostenberg, died in th I’m not sure what sub genre you should give to an autobiography of two people written jointly, but this book about rare books is itself a true rarity, a treasure that has sat in plain view unread on my shelf for several years - courtesy of my beautiful bibliophile wife who claims not to know where or when she bought it. I, too, like another reviewer here, read it slowly when I finally picked it up and was a little sad when I reached the end. The two ladies, Misses Stern and Rostenberg, died in the early 2000’s in their mid nineties, but left behind this fascinating story of their lives together in pursuit of culture and enlightenment about early publications from the Middle Ages as well as the exciting life of two late 20th century antiquarian book-sellers. I was reminded as I read it of Larry McMurtry’s similar personal romance with books as told in his 1999 memoir, “Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen,” and wondered if this trio of contemporary book-movers had ever met. At any rate, it’s an excellent read - highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a slow ramble though a bookstore and stumbling on a hidden gem.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This is my second reading of this book. I am trying to purge our bookshelves but I think this one will remain a keeper. I'm not sure why. I really am not interested in all the rare books they describe in some detail, but the thrill of the find makes for a good read. Plus I very much admire two strong women who have made a career for themselves and seemed to have enjoyed their lives together very much. I will quote just one of many, many examples of their searches for treasures. When we first ent This is my second reading of this book. I am trying to purge our bookshelves but I think this one will remain a keeper. I'm not sure why. I really am not interested in all the rare books they describe in some detail, but the thrill of the find makes for a good read. Plus I very much admire two strong women who have made a career for themselves and seemed to have enjoyed their lives together very much. I will quote just one of many, many examples of their searches for treasures. When we first entered the shop and asked the proprietor for old and rare, he suggested we descend to the lower depths, where he had stored "bits and pieces" from a theological library he had bought about fourteen years earlier. We descended without much hope. Theology per se was not to our liking. Once in the basement we were paralyzed by the quantity of calfbound books surrounding us--on shelves, on chairs, on tables, and espcially on the floor. Languidly, we picked up a little calfbound duodecimo that had presumably reposed for fourteen years on that floor. We opened to the title page. It was a Latin work by the Puritan divine William Ames. We looked at the imprint and needed no detection to read, also in Latin, "Leyden: William Brewsster, 1617." Here was the first issue from the underground prsss established in Leyden by our Pilgrim Fathers....We paid one guinea--$2.90. Our book would go for $900 to our frined Donald Wing at Yale.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Edel

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is the story of two friends Leona and Madeleine . The story takes us from their childhood and collage years right through to their travels and work years. The book has a lot of wonderful pictures included and it is clear to see these ladies had quite a life. It was not obvious from the beginning that they were going to be friends but that is what they became nonetheless and it is just wonderful for us that they did. Their lives have been filled with books ,searching for them ,selling them a This is the story of two friends Leona and Madeleine . The story takes us from their childhood and collage years right through to their travels and work years. The book has a lot of wonderful pictures included and it is clear to see these ladies had quite a life. It was not obvious from the beginning that they were going to be friends but that is what they became nonetheless and it is just wonderful for us that they did. Their lives have been filled with books ,searching for them ,selling them and loving a mystery about them and their authors. The ladies traveled a lot and they take us with them on their journeys, it is fun reading about where they visited ,through their eyes esp when on one particular visit to London when they went to stay at a particular establishment they very nearly got more then they bargained for. If you love a book about books then I urge you to read this . A book about friendship and books is a book to treasure !

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    You know it's a rare book when you don't want it to end. I loved this joint memoir by Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern: how they found true friendship and shared passions that led to remarkable careers in book dealing, literary research, and authorship. They were trailblazers in so many ways: pursuing advanced degrees, choosing professions over marriage, becoming leaders in the male-dominated field of book dealership, uncovering the critical historical role of early printer/publishers, disco You know it's a rare book when you don't want it to end. I loved this joint memoir by Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern: how they found true friendship and shared passions that led to remarkable careers in book dealing, literary research, and authorship. They were trailblazers in so many ways: pursuing advanced degrees, choosing professions over marriage, becoming leaders in the male-dominated field of book dealership, uncovering the critical historical role of early printer/publishers, discovering Louisa May Alcott's pseudonym as a "blood and thunder" writer. Reading Old Books, Rare Friends more than a decade after it was published 1n 1997, I knew that these two inspirational women, born in 1908 (Leona) and 1912 (Madeleine) had already died. When I looked up their obituaries after finishing the book, I felt as if I had just met, and then lost all too soon, two people who had become dear to me. Appropriately, it happened because of a book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Karry

    We really thought that this might be a fascinating story about two women who spent their lives studying and selling old books. However, as it turned out, it might have been a lot more interesting if someone else had written it. The fact that both women wrote this memoir might have something to do with it. I love books about books and book lovers, but this one carried the tone of self aggrandizement and the pleasure it is to screw another book seller out of some money. I wish it wasn't so, I woul We really thought that this might be a fascinating story about two women who spent their lives studying and selling old books. However, as it turned out, it might have been a lot more interesting if someone else had written it. The fact that both women wrote this memoir might have something to do with it. I love books about books and book lovers, but this one carried the tone of self aggrandizement and the pleasure it is to screw another book seller out of some money. I wish it wasn't so, I would have enjoyed loving their story. Alas, that wasn't to be.

  12. 4 out of 5

    William Dale

    Just finished reading this gem of a memoir by two best-friend and business partners in antiquarian books, written as octogenarians in 1997. They had fascinating lives, and reminded me yet again why I so love elders. One of the authors, Ms. Stern, is primarily responsible for the revival of interest in Louisa May Alcott. The story of how that happened is one of the many highlights. If you like older books, history, and elders, this is the book for you. ( And I love the cover photo! )

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Charming, insightful, and delightfully engrossing. The reading of this memoir harkens back to mmy own memories of cozy chats with family and friends where topics ranged from music, politics, art, literature, and more over hot tea and biscuits or shortbread. A must read for any book hunter, or for readers whose love of books is simply "because they must". Charming, insightful, and delightfully engrossing. The reading of this memoir harkens back to mmy own memories of cozy chats with family and friends where topics ranged from music, politics, art, literature, and more over hot tea and biscuits or shortbread. A must read for any book hunter, or for readers whose love of books is simply "because they must".

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    This is an inspiring memoir that documents the friendship of two women, who shared a passion for books and research. The chapters on the discovery of Louisa May Alcott's pseudonym and the writings she published as A.M. Barnard, are of particular interest to Alcott fans and scholars. The memoir is written with wit, humor, and insightful humanity; a pleasure This is an inspiring memoir that documents the friendship of two women, who shared a passion for books and research. The chapters on the discovery of Louisa May Alcott's pseudonym and the writings she published as A.M. Barnard, are of particular interest to Alcott fans and scholars. The memoir is written with wit, humor, and insightful humanity; a pleasure

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn

    This book was a treat to read and would make a good gift. I enjoyed reading Stern and Rostenberg's stories of getting into the rare book business in the 1930s and developing their lifelong friendship. This book was a treat to read and would make a good gift. I enjoyed reading Stern and Rostenberg's stories of getting into the rare book business in the 1930s and developing their lifelong friendship.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Ruhl

    I loved this inspiring story of impeccable scholarship, historical sleuthing, and abiding friendship.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alli P

    Read this years ago. I forget most of the details yet remember whizzing through it and being endeared by the characters.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carey Platt

    Fun book about the book trade and literary sleuthing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gail Marie

    I wanted to like this book more than I did. Found the first half more interesting than the second. Didn’t finish the second half, to be honest. If I worked in antique books, I may have.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Just adored every bit of this book. A memoir. Also loved the sequel Bookends.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Barbi

    As a rare book librarian I so wanted to enjoy this book. Sadly this was a boring disappointment.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This dual-memoir took a little while to get rolling, but once it did I was thoroughly invested in the lives of these life-long friends and business partners (incidentally, they deny lesbianism in the book's prologue, which is fine if it's true, but I truly hope they didn't feel the need to keep any aspect of their relationship a secret or that they, worse, felt the need to deny each other this sort of companionship if it was something they desired). Madeline Stern and Leona Rostenberg, both born This dual-memoir took a little while to get rolling, but once it did I was thoroughly invested in the lives of these life-long friends and business partners (incidentally, they deny lesbianism in the book's prologue, which is fine if it's true, but I truly hope they didn't feel the need to keep any aspect of their relationship a secret or that they, worse, felt the need to deny each other this sort of companionship if it was something they desired). Madeline Stern and Leona Rostenberg, both born and raised in New York during the Depression, became partners in a rare book firm that specialized in antiquarian volumes from both Europe and America. They did so at a time when there were even fewer women in the rare book world than now, and succeeded remarkably, producing an array of brilliant catalogs, inviting some of the best-known collectors and scholars of the time into their home/office to peruse their books, and sleuthing for books in bizarre worldly locales (including a dilapidated post-war Europe). Additionally, Leona became the second female president of the AABA. Their memoir (written alternately by both of them) makes clear the love for books they brought to all of their endeavors, and the true scholarship that went into their book selling. Madeline, in addition to being a rare book dealer, was a biographer of a number of famous women, most notably Louisa May Alcott. Leona had a (hard-won) PhD in history from Columbia and published numerous essays about printing history. Their scholarship informed their craft, and their love for knowledge and commitment to the printed word informed their work. Both women have died since this book came out, but they remained active in the book world for the majority of their lives. This book is a great joy to read, even for someone who isn't invested in collectors' lives like myself. Leona and Madeline led incredibly interesting and full lives, and their contributions are well-worth knowing. Also, they look adorable on the book's cover.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    This book promised more than it delivered. It was written by two women who had been friends since girlhood in the early 1900's. Now in their 80's, they began their dual memoir by describing (in alternating chapters) their families, their childhood, and how they met. The reader learns how they became interested in the rare book business, and how that business operated then and now. In addition to the many rare books uncovered in dusty bookshops, attics, and barns, one of them discovers that the h This book promised more than it delivered. It was written by two women who had been friends since girlhood in the early 1900's. Now in their 80's, they began their dual memoir by describing (in alternating chapters) their families, their childhood, and how they met. The reader learns how they became interested in the rare book business, and how that business operated then and now. In addition to the many rare books uncovered in dusty bookshops, attics, and barns, one of them discovers that the highly respected children's author Louisa May Alcott wrote lurid "blood and thunder" novels under a pen name. Why was I disappointed in this memoir, and why did it take so long to finish reading? I can't really put my finger on "why" unless it was their pedestrian writing style. About a quarter of the way through it began to drag, but every so often the story would pick up when they described their bargain finds (I love discovering treasure in thrift shops and at garage sales). It was enough to keep me reading and hoping for improvement, and then I felt obligated to finish it because these two women had written it with the best of intentions. Ironically, I found this like-new copy in a thrift shop for $2.50. It was autographed by both authors, and included a bookmark advertising their book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    I was attracted to the cover of this book at the Friends of Arlington (VA) Library book sale this past fall. Both authors are seated on a small couch with shelves of old books in the background, their dachshund between them. The book delivered on sleuthing for rare books and about the life-long relationship and individual lives of two "best friends" then in their 80's when they wrote this book. Loving "sleuthing" through others' possessions in search of antiques and special uniques, my daughter I was attracted to the cover of this book at the Friends of Arlington (VA) Library book sale this past fall. Both authors are seated on a small couch with shelves of old books in the background, their dachshund between them. The book delivered on sleuthing for rare books and about the life-long relationship and individual lives of two "best friends" then in their 80's when they wrote this book. Loving "sleuthing" through others' possessions in search of antiques and special uniques, my daughter and I share the thrill of "finger tingling" these two sleuths felt when they discovered a special find. The index at the back is especially helpful as there are many books and references to keep in mind throughout the book. The book is a vocabulary builder so I suggest having a computer nearby. I appreciate what these women did and how they lived their lives. The persistence of Leona in her intellectual pursuit of the role early printers in shaping contemporary thought and Madeleine's doggedness in discovering Louis May Alcott's pseudonyms and works are stories unto themselves.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Dyson Eitelman

    Another long anticipated book that turned out to be not nearly as good as expected. Some parts were gripping, like the search for A. M. Barnard...but that occurred halfway through the book. Both the early sections and the later ones turned out to be slightly dry-ish details of their bookbound lives, their discoveries and disappointments--much of the former and very few of the latter. I don't know exactly why this shared biography didn't "come alive" for me--it may simply be that I read it while p Another long anticipated book that turned out to be not nearly as good as expected. Some parts were gripping, like the search for A. M. Barnard...but that occurred halfway through the book. Both the early sections and the later ones turned out to be slightly dry-ish details of their bookbound lives, their discoveries and disappointments--much of the former and very few of the latter. I don't know exactly why this shared biography didn't "come alive" for me--it may simply be that I read it while preoccupied with my own affairs, which at present are more composed of disappointments and include very few discoveries. I'll donate my copy to the library and possibly they'll add it to the collection. It belongs there.

  26. 4 out of 5

    M. D. Hudson

    I really enjoyed this book, but probably for often merely personal reasons (an obsession with old books)... the prose is pretty bad sometimes. But despite some awkwardness, an interesting tale from two interesting women I really wish I'd met. Their triumphs in the old boys' club of rare books in the 30s and 40s in especially remarkable given how nice they both seem to have been. They made a lot of friends. Their approach to old books is very refreshing as well: rather than focusing on rarity, th I really enjoyed this book, but probably for often merely personal reasons (an obsession with old books)... the prose is pretty bad sometimes. But despite some awkwardness, an interesting tale from two interesting women I really wish I'd met. Their triumphs in the old boys' club of rare books in the 30s and 40s in especially remarkable given how nice they both seem to have been. They made a lot of friends. Their approach to old books is very refreshing as well: rather than focusing on rarity, they treated books as living things, appreciating what they were meant for (to read, to learn from). This instead of seeing them only as expensive old things they were trying to sell.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Not only do I like reading books, I’ve found I also enjoy reading about them. Leona and Madeleine, now in their 80’s, have been friends since college, and for many decades owned and ran a rare book business. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that Leona was the discoverer of Louisa May Alcott’s pseudonymous adult fiction. Madeleine had already written a scholarly biography of Louisa, and later was instrumental in getting Alcott’s adult works published. These likeable ladies, who Not only do I like reading books, I’ve found I also enjoy reading about them. Leona and Madeleine, now in their 80’s, have been friends since college, and for many decades owned and ran a rare book business. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that Leona was the discoverer of Louisa May Alcott’s pseudonymous adult fiction. Madeleine had already written a scholarly biography of Louisa, and later was instrumental in getting Alcott’s adult works published. These likeable ladies, who are nothing but good friends, are warm and interesting people with lots of unusual experiences, and it was fun to read about them.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    A biography of two real characters! I would never have imagined that I would find a book about two old ladies who I had never heard of so unputdownable. I enjoyed this book about books so much that I started searching out the author's other books and found not all of them so well written or enjoyable as this one. I couldn't even slog through the first chapter of The Life of Margaret Fuller: A Revised, Second Edition. A biography of two real characters! I would never have imagined that I would find a book about two old ladies who I had never heard of so unputdownable. I enjoyed this book about books so much that I started searching out the author's other books and found not all of them so well written or enjoyable as this one. I couldn't even slog through the first chapter of The Life of Margaret Fuller: A Revised, Second Edition.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Antiquities, detecting & buying, sleuthing, writing & cataloging, building & selling collections. Informative, but dry (compared to Jack Matthew's entertaining writings on booking) 87 & 84 yrs old in 1997 132..christmas present of letterhead paper 158..170...july 1947, visited postwar London, Paris, Strasbourg, Hague 183..not all detection is fruitful...series of disappointments 193..Luther bible, 14" x 16", $300 in late 50's 1995..ABAA..antiquarian booksellers assoc of america 208..Aldus Manutius..1495 Antiquities, detecting & buying, sleuthing, writing & cataloging, building & selling collections. Informative, but dry (compared to Jack Matthew's entertaining writings on booking) 87 & 84 yrs old in 1997 132..christmas present of letterhead paper 158..170...july 1947, visited postwar London, Paris, Strasbourg, Hague 183..not all detection is fruitful...series of disappointments 193..Luther bible, 14" x 16", $300 in late 50's 1995..ABAA..antiquarian booksellers assoc of america 208..Aldus Manutius..1495-1595, Venetian publisher colophon anchor & dolphin....firmness & deliberation, and speed of production also Doubleday's

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This is a charming joint autobiography of two women who found their way into being lifelong friends and business partners. Their stories range from the frustrations of academic life at Columbia and school teaching, through the exciting, but frightening world of Strasbourg just before WWII through to the excitement of discovering important and valuable books in unlikely places and using those discoveries to build a great rare book dealership. This is a lovely story, especially for people who are This is a charming joint autobiography of two women who found their way into being lifelong friends and business partners. Their stories range from the frustrations of academic life at Columbia and school teaching, through the exciting, but frightening world of Strasbourg just before WWII through to the excitement of discovering important and valuable books in unlikely places and using those discoveries to build a great rare book dealership. This is a lovely story, especially for people who are looking for a relaxing read about books and books about books.

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