Starting Out: My Early Days as a Rare Book Dealer

Date: 15 June 2016
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UVA Special Collections
Lecturer: William S. Reese - William Reese Company

William Reese had his first encounters with the world of rare and expensive paper in The Old Print Shop in New York fifty years ago this month. Beginning with John James Audubon, then proceeding to Western Americana and American bibliography, he was already crazy about books by the time he arrived at Yale in 1973. Spurred on by sitting at the feet of the great Americana curator, Archibald Hanna, and decorative arts guru Charles Montgomery, he became a dealer in 1975, selling his alma mater a remarkable sixteenth-century map of part of the Valley of Mexico. A few months later, with the help of the great Americana dealer, Peter Decker, he bought a massive collection of books, filling a tractor trailer with twenty tons of books.

From there it was on to immersion in the Texas rare book trade in its heyday, as John Jenkins bought the famed stock of Edward Eberstadt and the center of the Americana trade shifted, briefly, to Texas. In 1979, having learned how to write rare book catalogues and a few other lessons, Bill founded the William Reese Company and established it at 409 Temple Street in New Haven, where it resides to this day. Some 335 catalogues and several hundred thousand volumes later, he is still selling rare books.

This is Bill’s story of starting out in the world of rare books, 1966–1979.