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Fine Books Interview
 

Bedside Manor

A New Jersey Neurologist Keeps Three Centuries of American Magazines Alive
By Richard W. Stevenson Richard W. Stevenson is a freelance writer focusing on art, antiques and historic preservation. He and his wife live in an 18th-century house that shelters a collection of 18th-century American furniture and many, many books about the history and evolution of America’s material culture

A rare Hearst’s cover by Czech Art Nouveau painter/illustrator Alphonse Mucha.
In February 1937 Look put Nazi leader Hermann Goering on the cover, feeding a lion cub with a baby bottle.
Maxwell Parrish painted the Frog Prince for Hearst’s July 1912 cover.
Parrish later painted Humpty Dumpty for the Easter 1921 cover of Life.
Ben Franklin’s 1740 American.
In 1902 McLure’s began running Ida Tarbell’s great muckraking history of Standard Oil.

“One day I am visited by a collector of ordination sermons; the next, by a collector of 4th of July orations; then comes a collector of geography; another wants religious newspapers; another wants every book printed in New York before 1700. I accommodate myself to all; for I want every thing and collect every thing, and I have more zeal than the whole of them.”

So wrote Christopher Columbus Baldwin, who from 1827 to 1835 served as librarian—and sole, full time employee—at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, an organization devoted to the printed matter that chronicles our history. Now meet Steven Lomazow, M.D., present day member of the American Antiquarian Society, and Baldwin’s brother-in-zeal. Lomazow’s home in suburban New Jersey is completely overrun by America’s love affair with bedside reading: room upon room of American magazines, dating back to the 18th century.

In a lighthearted bit of self-analysis, Lomazow says: “I have a little bit of attention deficit, like a lot of crazy people.” In fact, he’s a polymath with a generous nature, intent on sharing what he knows with others. And he knows a lot, about a lot. According to Richard West of Periodyssey, who specializes in pre-1950 periodicals: “Steve Lomazow has made a world-class collection. It’s unlikely there’s a better one out there, anywhere.”

In his day job Steve Lomazow is a neurologist, which he describes as a specialty of last resort for people suffering from the intractable, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. He serves on the New Jersey board of medical examiners and frequently lectures on matters neurological. Lomazow is currently writing a medical biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, due to be published in 2009 by Public Affairs Press, and he used to produce and host a medical radio program, “Real Medicine Radio,” which aired on New York City radio station WOR.

But he was a born collector, starting as a boy with stamps and coins. He’s been collecting magazines for 30 years, beginning when he was in medical school in Chicago. He wandered one day into a now defunct bookstore looking for medical ephemera and instead saw the first issues of Life and Look—magazines whose stories, and in particular, dramatic photographs—explained all the big events of the mid 20th century to millions of readers.

“The February 1937 Look issue has Hermann Goering on the cover and when I looked inside it said, “Volume 1, Number 2,” despite ample documentation that this was indeed Look’s ‘first issue,’” said Lomazow, in an interview that can be found on his blog. When the young medical resident asked the bookstore owner what happened to Volume 1, Number 1, the man said he didn’t know. “I was hooked,” said Lomazow.  It took him 15 years to find the answer. Number 1 turned out to have been a larger, very fragile issue, essentially a “dummy” mocked up for internal use of the publisher in Des Moines, Iowa. “I obtained one at great expense in the late eighties and have only seen (and owned) one other of this truly ephemeral magazine,” said Lomazow.

For magazine collectors Lomazow wrote American Periodicals: A Collector’s Manual and Reference Guide, currently available on Amazon, which the author calls “the single most comprehensive tome on the subject. I’ve also put together a catalog of the acquisitions I’ve made in the last ten years as a supplement,” he said.

The Lomazow Collection begins with a strong selection of magazines published in America before 1800, including complete runs of Columbian, American Museum, Pennsylvania and Boston Magazine, most of Royal American and many other rarities. “I   doubt if I could replace more than a handful,” said Lomazow.

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