Current Issue

Mar.21, 2012

Vol. 112, No. 9

Special issue stirs memories of books

Posted on March19, 2012

Bravo for PAW’s Jan. 18special issue on books.My father was an antiquarian bookseller, and since I was a boy, books have been my life, whether Ialways liked themor not.My grandmotherused to tellme thatwhen I was aboy I once ran through the hallways of our home, lined floor to ceiling withbookshelvespacked with books, waving myfists in the air and yelling, “I hate books!” It’s possible I was envious of the time my father devoted to them.As I grew older, though, I read Huxley’s Brave New World, Nordoff and Hall’s Mutiny on the Bounty, and Princeton authorPhilip Wylie ’24’s Generation of Vipers from those sameshelves, and Iperused copies of Lilliput, a small-formatBritishmagazine of the ’40s and ’50s,for its cartoons and photos of female nudes.

In my junior year at Princeton, inneed of pocket money, Ivisited the Student Employment Agency and was toldthere was an opening for a student assistant in the Firestone Library rare-books readingroom.The coincidence was too great to resist andso, in my last two years at the University, Iworked fora few hours on weekday afternoons in the readingroom under Julie Hudson, mostly retrieving rare booksfrom locked stack areas for readers, but alsocleaning and dressing dustyand dryleather-bound booksstored in the stack areas.

For my senior thesis, I used theresources not only of Firestone Library, butalsothose ofthe New York Public Library, consulting scarce periodicals there, manyyellowed and crumblingwith age. Like bookman Nicholas Potter ’73, I joined my father in his business, where I worked for some 30 years until we formally closed the businessat the end of 1994.My shelving is less,but aspacked as my father’s used to be, and stacks of books grow around our home. I frequent localbookstores and the Book Club of California in San Francisco, attend occasional book fairs, and, less frequently,preview auction sales.

While I enjoy reading every issue of PAW,I was thoroughly delighted to read all of PAW’sbooks issue andwould be equallydelighted ifone were to appearon an annual basis.

William P. Wreden Jr. ’62
Berkeley, Calif.

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