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[BKARTS] Mary Ann O'Brian Malkin (1913-2005)
Mary Ann O'Brian Malkin was born 13 March 1913 (or, as she liked to say, on
3/13/13) in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Agnes (Lynch)
and Lawrence O'Brian, who worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. A 1937
graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, she married Donald Woodward
Lee, an instructor at Penn State, and the couple moved to New York City so
that Lee could pursue a doctorate at Columbia University; this marriage
ended in divorce.
While working at the R. R. Bowker Company in the mid-1940s, she met and
married Sol. M. Malkin, editor of the Antiquarian Bookman. Malkin purchased
this weekly magazine from Bowker in 1953, by which time it had become a
prime source for timely news, book reviews, and coverage of trade and
library conventions. It attracted a large subscription list of dealers,
both those especially concerned with selling used books and those primarily
engaged in the sale of new books but who ran an out-of-print search service
for their customers. Mary Ann Malkin worked for the magazine as
administrative assistant, copy editor, and book reviewer, signing her own
reviews with her initials, MAM -- and it was as MAM that she was known to
her many friends in the book and dance worlds.
Sol. Malkin sold the magazine in 1972; a year later, the Malkins were
jointly awarded the Clarence Day Award of the American Library Association,
an award annually made to a librarian or other individual for outstanding
work in encouraging the love of books and reading. The Malkins were the
first non-librarians to receive this honor.
In 1985, MAM established an annual lecture under the auspices of the Book
Arts Press at Columbia University in honor of her husband Sol., who died in
March 1986, a few months after Michael Winship gave the first lecture. The
Malkin lecture, later renamed the Sol. M. and Mary Ann O'Brian Malkin
Lecture in Bibliography, moved with the Book Arts Press and Rare Book
School (RBS) to the University of Virginia in 1992. MAM was a frequent
attendee of RBS courses during the school's Columbia days, and a regular
visitor to the school after its move to Charlottesville.
From 1999 through 2004, MAM funded the New Scholars Program of the
Bibliographical Society of America (BSA); each year the BSA invited three
early-career scholars to present 20-minute papers at a panel preceding the
annual meeting in New York City in late January. The program gave
participants an opportunity to present unpublished research and to acquaint
members of the Society with new work on bibliographical topics.
Though never a dancer herself, MAM always had an interest in the subject,
and she was a supporter of many dance groups and societies, including the
American Dance Guild (ADG). In 2003, the ADG and Columbia University
co-sponsored a Mary Ann Malkin Gala Concert of dance at the Peter Norton
Symphony Space in New York City in honor of her generous support of dancing
and dance history.
MAM began to collect dance books in the mid-1970s: "Neither Sol. nor I
collected books seriously during our AB days," she wrote in recollections
published last year in the newsletter of the Fellowship of American
Bibliophilic Societies. "Sol. felt deeply that it would have been unfair to
our subscribers for us to do so." In the 1970s, MAM acquired a c18 book on
the history of dance that used a visual shorthand system of dance step
notation. "I had trouble reading this book: stenochoregraphic dance
notation has an alarming resemblance to chicken tracks," she said, but she
decided to collect books showing the history of dance notation as
three-dimensional objects that could be loved for themselves, as well as
for their contents.
She soon had a substantial collection of dance notation books, thanks in
large part to the English dealer Richard Macnutt, who represented her at
the 1979 Jack Cole Sotheby's sale in London. Other dealers who helped her
form her collection include Bennett Gilbert, Gordon Hollis of Golden
Legend, the Lubranos, Bruce McKittrick, the Sallochs, and Stephen Weissman.
Some of MAM's dance books were exhibited at the Grolier Club in New York
City in 1986 and at the Houghton Library at Harvard in 1987. She was the
principal lender to Madison Sowell's 1993 exhibition at Brigham Young
University, The Art of Terpsichore: From Renaissance Festivals to Romantic
Ballets, mounted in conjunction with a meeting of the Society of Dance
History Scholars. In 2002, she mounted a solo show of her books at the
Grolier Club, and then gave her collection to her alma mater, Penn State,
which mounted an exhibition of the books in October 2003.
In 2003, she privately published the substantial Dancing by the Book: A
Catalogue of Books, 1531-1804, in the Collection of Mary Ann O'Brian
Malkin, which she wrote with the assistance of dance historians Moira Goff
and Jennifer Thorp and bibliographical specialists Terry Belanger and
Richard Noble. In the Introduction to this book, MAM wrote:
We could have (and should have) done more -- and worked longer and harder
-- before publishing this catalogue. But I am now 90 years old, and it
seems an appropriate time to show the results of our work thus far.
The book, distributed by the Penn State Libraries, was handsomely designed
by Jerry Kelly.
In recent years, MAM's eyesight began to fail, and she become unsure on her
feet. She fell twice in 2004, breaking first one hip and then the other.
Mentally she remained alert, however, and with help from home care worker
Ceceal Sergeant, she graduated to a walker and then to a cane.
Last week, MAM took a train to Charlottesville to attend the 21st annual
Sol. M. and Mary Ann O'Brian Malkin Lecture in Bibliography, given on July
27th by Richard Wendorf, Director of the Boston Athenaeum, and to attend a
dinner in her honor. She seemed tired but well when she returned to New
York City on Friday, 30 July, and in a telephone conversation on Sunday
night she gave a lively account of her visit to RBS to a friend; but she
died, apparently in her sleep, later that evening. She was 92 years old.
MAM's temperament was a sunny one. She was remarkably without self-pity of
any kind, and she was always good company. In later life, she enjoyed being
a little old lady -- one with bright orange hair -- and she was glad that
she had the means to support generously two of her principal interests:
dance and the history of the book.
There are no near surviving relatives. A memorial service is planned for
the fall in New York City at the Grolier Club, where she became a member in
Terry Belanger : University Professor : University of Virginia : Rare
PO 400103 : Charlottesville, VA 22904-4103 : Email belanger@xxxxxxxxxxxx
Telephone 434-924-8851 : Fax 434-924-8824 : URL
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