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Perhaps the most secretive of small societies and the most intimidating is the exclusive colony of rare book dealers, and Mr. Randall, who officiated some years as such at Scribners book-store in New York, unveils a few rituals and communicates excitements. ""A proper appreciation of the value of this type of book is an emotional and not an intellectual process, like love,"" he insists, and as in love and war all is fair. A young Mr. Randall does not really condemn too much a senior book dealer for ripping a Whittier-inscribed flyleaf to bits when his reputation is at stake; he is also tickled by the imaginative chicanery of book dealer greats. A dealer in rare editions, collections and letters, the discoverer of the diary of James II and a rare copy of the Fourteenth Amendment, Randall was also an acquaintance of Scribners editor Maxwell Perkins, a close friend of the novelist Morton Thompson, an inveterate heel-nipper at contemporary authors for manuscripts. Included here are some blistering letters, in Randall's possession, between Aline Bernstein and Tom Wolfe (""not a nice boy""); the first letter introducing the works of Fitzgerald to a publisher (""a Princeton boy, a friend of mine"") and some tantalizing material concerning the probable offspring from Washington's possible extra-marital activities. With high spirits and humor (Randall describes Ingall's poem Opportunity as ""indisputably the finest sonnet written by an American Senator""), this will appeal to a wider readership than the special subject would indicate.

Pub Date: July 22nd, 1969
Publisher: Random House