A Book and an Obsession – the Goldstone’s Out of the Flames


Out-of-the-Flames-9780767908368Spirits were high and laughter was afoot at the Rocky Mountain Antiquarian Book Fair as noted mystery author and bookman John Dunning introduced Larry and Nancy Goldstone thus:

When Larry the writer met Nancy
‘Twas much more than just fun and romancy.
His book-writing career
Got a kick in the rear
‘Cause her wit was not just happenstancy.

Now they’ve come on this western safari
Like a pair of fine-tuned Stratavari
They’re a twice-wicked brew —
Without further ado
Here’s the duo of Nancy and Larry.*

The Goldstones are book collectors, authors and charming raconteurs who shared their story in Denver on August 3, 2002.

It all begins with Leo Tolstoy and an attempt to save money. With birthdays just eight days apart, the couple decided to economize with a $20 spending cap for presents, so Nancy checked out the local used bookstores and found a Heritage Press copy of War and Peace. Price: $10.

She calls it “the most expensive thing I’ve every done in my life.”

That book was the beginning of an odyssey (or perhaps an obsession) that would take them from corner used bookstores to explorations of the rarest of the rare.

“We didn’t consider ourselves collectors, just people who wanted a library,” Larry said, explaining their naiveté and confusion. “Why would anybody pay more for the first edition of a book?”

That attitude would change with a weekend getaway to Boston, where they found themselves in the venerable Brattle Book Shop, snared by a 1st edition of The Night Visitor and Other Stories by Trevan. At $45, it was the most they’d ever spent for a book.

“We weren’t going to ever tell anybody how much we spent,” Nancy said. They also told themselves they weren’t ever going to spend that much again but, soon enough, they’d moved into the three digit range with firsts of East of Eden and 1984, and a fine binding copy of Bleak House.

The Goldstones chronicled their adventures in a series of books beginning with Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World in 1997, followed by Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore in 1999 and Warmly Inscribed: The New England Forger and Other Book Tales in 2001.

Dunning said in his introduction that the Goldstones “opened the book world to readers as they were discovering it for themselves.”

The Goldstones consider themselves “professional amateurs” who want to get people interested in the book world, and so they share with readers their discoveries of the quirks of the trade and the eccentric characters of the used and rare book world. They venture to book fairs, rare book libraries, museums and anyplace else where the mysteries of the book world might be revealed.

They even interviewed convicted forger Ken Anderson for Warmly Inscribed, which describes how Anderson’s forgeries were detected and eventually prosecuted, largely through the efforts of ABAA members (apparently it’s not an easy thing to convince law enforcement types that writing the names of dead authors in books constitutes a crime).

The Goldstones’ latest book is Out of the Flames: The Remarkable Story of Michael Servetus and One of the Rarest Books in the World, due out fall 2002. It tells the story of Servetus, who was burned at the stake as a heretic in the 16th century, and his book Christianismi Restutio, of which only three copies survived.

* © John Dunning

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