The rare book trade lost one of its elder statesman when Norman Kane passed away quietly in his sleep on the night of March 23. He was 88 years old.
Norman was a true gentleman of the old school, well-versed in literature, history, politics, religion, music, and the arts. He was a rare book dealer for over 50 years, beginning his career in the thriving mid-century bookselling scene in Philadelphia. He started his own business, The Americanist, in the late 1950s and soon moved to a farm outside of Pottstown, Pennsylvania where the bookshop would be located for several decades. The hospitality and generosity exhibited by Norman and his wife Michal at their farm is fondly remembered by booksellers, librarians, and collectors across the country to this day. After Michal passed away, Norman relocated to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to live close to his two daughters and their families. He continued the business until the day he died, actively contributing to a variety of rare book listservs and regularly buying and selling books.
We profiled Mr. Kane in September of 2011 in a lengthy and far-ranging interview that was continued in two installments (the first here and the second here) on the blog. I asked Norman at the time what were some of his favorite memories of the rare book trade and he said, “Looking back, at eighty-six, I would say book fairs in cities big and small, here and abroad, my son’s auctions, which were always great fun, finding rarities in attics, garages, chicken houses, bottom shelves and top shelves, sharing a life and livelihood for over fifty years with my smart, beautiful wife, and pursuing a profession, with time off for fishing, of course, which enabled me to raise two lovely girls who now have children of their own.”
A fitting tribute to a well-lived life.
Funeral services for Norman will be held on Friday, March 29th at 2:00 p.m. at Schumacher & Benner Funeral Home, 359 King Street, Pottstown, PA. All are welcome to come by the funeral home from 1:00 to 2:00 to share your best stories about Norman. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in Norman’s name to the North Carolina Botanical Garden.
[Photo of Norman Kane by the bookseller Lorne Bair]