[Table of Contents] [Search]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Some of bookseller's literary rarities head for the block

Some of bookseller's literary rarities head for the block

BENTONVILLE -- Roger Trautman is neither a historian nor a journalist drumming
nostalgic beats near the end of the 20th century.
    Rather, Trautman is a Bentonville carpenter, a handyman by trade who has
    discovered that the rare books, manuscripts and letters collected by his
    father are America's genuine artifacts that tell the story of the nation's
    history and literature. Trautman owns A Street Books in Bentonville, a
    modest-looking bookstore tucked in a restored two-story home. The
    nondescript red neon "open" sign in the window doesn't do justice to what is
    inside: most of what Trautman's deceased father, Col. Ray L. Trautman,
    collected as U.S. Army Library Service director during World War II and
    during his years teaching at Columbia University in New York. Trautman has
    been poring through his father's collectibles since he opened the bookstore
    about 11/2 years ago. Now Trautman wants to sell some of the collection's
    rare and valuable works to the nation's premier universities, New York-based
    auctioneers and national booksellers. The money, he says, will help support
    his aging mother, Jane, who saved the collection when his father died in
    1982. The collection includes anti-slavery tracts dating to the late 1700s
    and early 1800s. Three of the books will be auctioned off next year by Swann
    Galleries Inc. in New York, which has maintained an interest in rare books
    related to black history. Trautman's collection also includes one of two
    "missing" letters from a collection of more than 100 letters that author
    D.H. Lawrence wrote to his publisher, Thomas Seltzer, and Seltzer's wife,
    Adele. Lawrence is considered among the great English-language authors,
    writing such works as Lady Chatterley's Lover, Women In Love and Sons and
    Lovers. Trautman found the Lawrence letter earlier this month when a
    bookstore employee found an envelope postmarked Feb. 13, 1923, and the
    two-page letter with Lawrence's signature at the end. The letter was sent
    from Lawrence's mountain home outside Taos, N.M. Trautman's collection also
    includes books signed by notable political and literary figures during the
    early and mid-20th century, including gifts from The New Yorker magazine
    founder Harold Ross and his wife and magazine co-founder Jane Grant. The
    Rosses, and other members of the mid-20th century literary class, knew Ray
    and Jane Trautman, their son said. Trautman fingered through the bound pages
    piled in locked cabinets Thursday afternoon, energized by the attention this
    rare collection, sitting for years inside attic boxes, has attracted. "My
    bliss has always been books. We really didn't know what we had until we
    started researching," he said. The edges on the leather-bound book The New
    Yorker: War Cartoons fade a little more each time it's opened to see what's
    written on the cover page, Trautman said. "Limited to 7 copies of which this
    is 5," the page reads. Below that, it lists the names of the seven who
    received inscribed copies. Col. Ray C. Trautman is listed as the fifth name,
    and his name gleams in gold insignia on the cover. Other names on that list
    include President Franklin Roosevelt, World War II commander Gen. George
    Marshall and Grant. Trautman's bliss could turn into cash if international
    auctioneers like Sotheby's or Christie's or universities such as Cambridge,
    Harvard and the University of Texas buy parts of the collection. Lately,
    Trautman has concentrated on selling the Lawrence letter, which a Sotheby's
    seller has estimated could be worth up to $10,000. Trautman has corresponded
    with the general editor of the Cambridge University Press edition of The
    Letters of D.H. Lawrence. They have not offered to pay him for the letter.
    The letter is covered in plastic for protection and kept locked in a place
    safe from fire. Lawrence's clean cursive streams down the page similar to
    the way his thoughts are written. He describes the ice and the sickness that
    accompanied the winter air. He talked about his cat leaping and distracting
    as he tried to write, and he wrestled with an idea to travel to Mexico. At
    the end, the signatorial "D.H." ran smoothly into the letters of his last
    name as if the four syllables were actually one. Selling off parts of the
    collection is something that his father would approve of, Trautman said,
    recounting a lesson his father liked to teach his students. "My father
    didn't believe in what he'd call 'the sacred book.' He'd take out a library
    book and rip the pages so that his students could see the insides of the
    cover. Some people would gasp when he did that," Trautman said. "He wanted
    them to know that it's not the book, it's the ideas inside the book that are

This article was published on Friday, December 24, 1999

The Museum Security Network is made possible
by generous sponsorship grants by Mosler Inc
and the Netherlands Museums Association


            BOOK_ARTS-L: The listserv for all the book arts.
      For subscription information, the Archive, and other related
            resources and links go to the Book_Arts-L FAQ at:

[Subject index] [Index for current month] [Table of Contents] [Search]