Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2012 Issue

Stephen J. Gertz: Booktryst – Blog Extraordinaire

Stephen gertz - booktryst blogger  mug

Stephen J. Gertz of Booktryst.

What kind of a person would start a book blog, write it daily for over two years, build it to the point where it had accumulated a million hits (1,500 to 2,000 unique visitors a day, 40,000-50,000 hits a month) and only then begin to think that ……. well, maybe I have something here?

Talk about labor of love….meet Stephen J. Gertz, the founder and owner of Booktryst, an antiquarian blog with a populist touch.

“Tryst,” you remember, is defined as a lover’s secret meeting, and at Booktryst the reader finds that rare combo of affection, knowledge and the engaging voice of a story teller.

Hello, this guy can write.

He writes easily, well and with a solid grasp of the niceties of the antiquarian trade mashed up with a lively pop sensibility. What makes his site different from others is the content changes frequently, so it is seldom the same two days in a row.

At 61 Gertz is not exactly as stranger to the Southern California book scene. He started in the 80s as a collector, book scout, and then a part-time dealer. Later, faced with an urgent need for money, he sold his collection of erotica and drug related material to William J. Dailey and went on to work for Dailey in other capacities. Presently, his day job is executive director for David Brass Rare Books in Calabasas, CA (about 30 miles outside of LA).

Along the way he’s written for a variety of other blogs, other dealers and other media both popular and antiquarian such as Huffington Post and Fine Books & Collections Magazine and obscure as in “below the radar.”

Gertz had a prior incarnation as a big league television story editor, so it is not surprising that he can write. What is surprising is he can write so well, so much, and so nicely; merging a light touch with a firm grasp of a subject that is often considered arcane.

He has a dealer’s eye for what has (or will have) value, a cataloger’s feel for the important particulars, and a writer’s gift for making it pop -- day after day, week after week.

“I guess you could say we have a deep bench,” he commented, referring to Booktryst’s already impressive archive. He calls them “the gifts that keeps on giving,” because readers regularly turn up for many of his earlier stories, some more so than others.

Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kerouac, Dostoevsky & Peter Howard

Two that have been popular are the reading habits of Marilyn Monroe and a piece about Jack Kerouac’s annotated copy of Dostoevsky. (See links at the end)

In August of 2010 he grabbed the book world’s attention with a festschrift for Peter Howard, the legendary Berkeley owner of Serendipity Books, titled “Wake for the Still Alive.” The multi-part remembrance and tribute to Howard (who was then dying of cancer) ran on-line. Gertz also brought out 200 copies in a limited edition keepsake. It created, shall we say, a buzz.

The keepsake is long gone, but it’s not too late to read his series about Howard, a contemporary dealer who many admired (and secretly longed to imitate -- with brilliant taste, enormous knowledge, vast inventory, and a bookkeeping system he kept mainly in his head). Of course there were others who regarded Howard as a stinker and a crank, and their voices pop up here and there in counterpoint.

Gertz shows Howard in all his dimensions as seen through the eyes of those who knew him. This is a must-read for anyone who calls him/herself a dealer. (Link at the end)

Along with the three articles just mentioned there are 378 Booktryst entries for 2010, 267 for 2011 and 163 so far for 2012; all produced by Gertz and a handful of colleagues.  

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> BELON. <i>L’Histoire de la nature des oyseaux.</i> Paris : Corrozet, 1555. $17,000 to $23,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> MIOMANDRE – BARBIER. <i>Dessins sur les danses de Vaslav Nijinsky.</i> Paris. 1913. $23,000 to $34,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> HOKUSAI. <i>Fugaku Hyakkei, Edo : Nishimura Yûzô.</i> 1834-1875. $58,000 to $80,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> EDWARDS. <i> <br>A Natural History of Uncommon Birds…</i> London : Printed for the Author. 1743-1764. $35,000 to $46,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> VESALIUS. <i><br> De Humane Corporis Fabrica libri septem...</i> Basle : J. Oporinus. 1555. $58,000 to $80,000
  • <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b><br>Die Französische Expedition gegen Mexico /Beilagen zum Beiheft des Militair - Wochenblattes
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b><br>The Architecture Of M. Vitruvius Pollio. London, 1791.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Estatuto Provisional del Imperio Mexicano. México: Imprenta de Andrade y Escalante, 1865.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Historia de Méjico... México, 1849 - 1852.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Juárez, Benito - Ogazón, Pedro. Legajos de Bandos del Estado de Guadalajara, 1860-1863.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos. Mapa de las Aguas que por el Círculo de 90 Leguas Vienen a la Laguna de Tescuco... Méx, 1748.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Cruces y Campa / Aubert / Valleto. Pareja Imperial, Fusilamiento de Maximiliano, Tipos Mexicanos... ca,1875.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> NASA archive with 351 photographs, silver & chromogenic prints, 1960-2002. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Edward S. Curtis, suite of 18 cyanotypes, 1910-14. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Edward S. Curtis, <i>Horse Capture, Atsina,</i> unique copper plate for <i>The North American Indian,</i> 1908. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> John Whipple, <i>Harriet Beecher Stowe,</i> salted print from a calotype negative, 1853. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Lewis Carroll, <i>Xie Kitchen,</i> albumen print, circa 1872. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Ansel Adams, <i>Taos Pueblo,</i> limited, signed first edition of the artist's first book, 12 silver bromide prints, 1930. $30,000 to $45,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b><br>JFK in his motorcade about 2 mins before his assassination, chromogenic print, 1963. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Anton Guilio Bragaglia, 6 photomechanical postcards with facsimile signatures, 1911-13, printed 1932. $30,000 to $45,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Société Anonyme, Inc, group of 9 postcards, including 8 real photo postcards, 1920-30. $25,000 to $35,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 6:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's commission as Major General in the Continental Army, February 19th, 1777. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions