Don Heald: A Perspective

- by Bruce E. McKinney

Discussions

Donald Heald [left], Jeremy Markowitz [right]

With all this in mind, and on short notice when recently in New York, I called Donald and asked if I could come by.  “Absolutely,” and a time was appointed.  Arriving at a stylish [Georgian] brownstone on the Upper East Side, I was buzzed into the world of Donald Heald, a private club setting where books long ago declared themselves masters of the house.  Around them, Jeremy Markowitz, right hand man and whet to Donald’s blade, brought me up to Donald’s office, the entire second level where the old man, like a bee in late spring honeysuckle, was ensconced in a library a king could wish his own.

Reminding Donald of our conversation years before, he began by asking a few questions about my collecting and then launched into a journey through the collecting of important books, gracefully interweaving my interest, Hudson Valley material, that he had in stock.  When books touching my focus chanced among his exceptional copies of exceptional books, he seamlessly slipped them in: condition rarities, association copies, and in one case, a terribly special large paper pre-press copy of Bartlett’s American Scenery (an otherwise very nice and quite common two volume set). His copy struck me as a lightning rod of discernment, a stellar example, a metaphor for the Heald approach to collecting, a one of a kind.

The conversation veered toward condition, and books came down in piles to illustrate differences, relevance to collecting subjects, the depth of color, the width of margins, exceptional bindings, and provenance, the explanations seemed both clear and logical, from my own experience differences difficult to discern in the perpetual twilight of dealer and auction descriptions.  Copies on specific and often special papers, their stories and a copy's importance, how it fits, and why  - altogether suggest the complex alchemy of a collection that will be crucial when in future, these books, today inhaled, become the coherent collection disgorged. Books always return to the market, if not quickly, then a generation or two later, when even libraries tire of the burden.  And when they do, these logically connected, best, and unique copies, if the architect has done their job, will be prized —for as the market affirms year after year, the best do best:  in a nutshell, the Heald perspective.