Old-School Scribner

Safford Image.jpgTake a jaunt to the Grolier Club for a peek into old-school Scribner, when the publishing company founded by Charles Scribner could boast its own bookstore and a rare book operation with a serious bookman at its helm, Ray Safford. Safford worked for Scribner’s from the 1880s until his retirement in 1928. Along the way he met and worked with various authors and artists including Joseph Conrad, Eugene Field, and Maxfield Parrish.

The current exhibit at the Grolier Club, Ray Safford: Rare Bookman, is a collection of Safford’s business correspondence and photographs, as well his personal collection of bookplates and English and American literature (Carroll, Twain, Stevenson). It is the collection of Grolier member Mark D. Tomasko of New York City. When asked how he became interested in Safford, Tomasko said, “I met Ray Safford’s daughter in the 1970s, and over a period of years purchased his papers and most of his remaining books. Ray Safford was my introduction to the rare book world.” Tomasko added, “In his collection, and in the exhibit, are various books inscribed (or with drawings) by Scribner authors and illustrators he knew, as well as letters, and some, such as Oliver Herford and A. B. Frost, were good friends.”

Emilie_Grigsby_b.jpgOne of the more intriguing bits of Safford’s story--relayed in the exhibit and the exhibit catalogue--was his sale of a perfect Shakespeare First Folio (now at the Huntington Library) to the beautiful Miss Emilie Grigsby for $12,500 in 1903. Grigsby, pictured here at left, was the mistress of transit tycoon and art collector Charles Tyson Yerkes. A friend of Belle da Costa Greene and a secret admirer of Grolier founder William Loring Andrews, Grigby was, according to the exhibit catalogue, “most capable of playing in the man’s world of rare books.” The lady even had a bookplate designed by Lalique!   

Ray Safford: Rare Bookman is a fascinating look at the world of publishing and bookselling in fin-de-siecle New York. It’s up through April 13 at the Grolier Club, 47 E. 60th Street, a mere twelve blocks and a couple cross-streets away from the current Scribner headquarters. 

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