Bob Emerson, 90
Bob Emerson took flight this past August and I would be remiss in failing to note the event. After all, every satellite and Soyuz gets at least a nod. How then can a genuine star, rising in the heartland, be overlooked? Bob was a bookman of the old style who completed his run, living in an apartment over the Emerson-Hoffman Rare Bookstore, near to friends who adopted him some twenty years before.
He was first a bookseller of new and later old books who had a good eye and prodigious memory, and with his wife Lynn made a life in print that began in New York, middled in Connecticut and concluded in Columbus, O. In later life, his wife’s awareness worn thin by Alzheimer’s, he moved 600 miles west from Falls Village, Connecticut to the Buckeye State to live out his final chapter, to his last day perusing old titles and making notes. There, with the help of Ed and Tina Hoffman, he found a way to continue to be the bookman he had been for most of 60 years.
When the lights finally faded he had fueled his rocket towards evening with his everyday dose of two Manhattans and then, with rare books sitting near to hand, let loose the mortal connection. Recently there was much to-do about an asteroid in the neighborhood. Those of us who knew better knew Bob was passing by.
His long time friend Ed Hoffman, with whom Bob partnered in later life, prepared this notice for publication in the ABAA newsletter and we reprint it here:
ROBERT CAMPBELL EMERSON, 90
Longtime member Robert Campbell Emerson passed away, suddenly, at his home in Columbus, Ohio on August 8 of a stroke. Bob was preceded in death by his parents Lottie Campbell Emerson and Lynn K. Emerson; and by 3 of his 4 sisters: Mary, Margaret and Ruth. Bob is survived by his wife Dorothy who has been in long term care with Alzheimer's for many years and by his sister, Helen (Mrs. Joseph Barbano), who lives in Eustis, Florida.
Bob Emerson, 90
Bob was born on April 6, 1921 in Elmore, Minnesota. His father was an educator and the family moved when Bob was very young, first to Joliet, Illinois and later to Scarsdale, New York. Bob graduated from Scarsdale High School in 1937 and the following year he took a train to Yellow Springs, Ohio to attend Antioch. He thoroughly enjoyed his freshman year there, but his father accepted a professorship at Cornell and the family moved to Ithaca. Bob and two of his sisters graduated together in the Class of 1941 at Cornell, all three elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa.
During World War II Bob was hired by the company that built what became the Cairo International Airport. During this period he joined the R.A.F. and spent what he always considered 3 of the most interesting and adventurous years of his life. Not long after the war ended he moved to Manhattan which he had fallen in love with during high school. In 1949 he issued his first catalogue, offering for sale a collection of books by and about Swedenborg, which he sold for a friend who had used them in his doctoral research. Later that year his second catalogue focused on Gertrude Stein and her circle. Nearly 50 years later at the Akron Book Fair Bob purchased back the very copy of Stein's "Paris, France" which he had sold in 1949. Laid in the book, by the collector Porter Welch, was his original catalogue, which he enjoyed rediscovering.
Bob married Dorothy Critchley in 1957 and they eventually moved from Manhattan to Connecticut, first Lakeville and later Sharon, in the Litchfield Hills. In the 1970's, Bob and Dorothy owned a new bookstore, The Sharon Book Center, and in addition operated a mail order used and rare book business with a specialization in Geology. Bob joined the A.B.A.A. in 1978 and, at around the same time he and Dorothy established R. and D. Emerson Books in The Old Church, at 103 E. Main St. in Falls Village, Connecticut. It is this great book store which booksellers throughout New England and the Northeast and beyond enjoyed for 30 years. Bob and Dorothy sold “fine books in all fields,” and during those years regularly participated in the A.B.A.A. Fairs in Boston, New York, California, Washington, and Chicago.
In 2002 when Dorothy's Alzheimer's required that she move to a care facility and she no longer recognized Bob, he made the decision to move to Columbus and join in partnership with A.B.A.A. member Ed Hoffman and his wife, Tina. This was not an easy decision or undertaking for someone at 80 years of age who had just come through the exhausting emotions of “losing” a spouse to Alzheimer's. Bob showed inspiring courage and grace in establishing a new life for himself in Columbus. He moved 3 semi-trailers of books, his extensive reference library, and his cat Katie and eventually took up residence on the second floor of Emerson-Hoffman Rare Books where he continued working in and loving the book business up to and including the last day of his life.
As one of Bob's colleagues put it so well, "He had an easy smile accompanied by a polished intellect." Bob had many friends in the trade and he was an enormously positive influence on many of the younger dealers he came into contact with. He will be greatly missed.