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SIDEBAR: - Collectors: volumes of books but nowhere to keep them?
By Breck Longstreth
In October, I wrote a book column about Islander Susan Kaplan's collection of books on golden retrievers. In a sidebar, I asked for readers to send in their stories of their own book collecting adventures.
The first person to call me was Roger Page, owner of Island Books. ``Book collecting led me to my current occupation,'' he said. ``When I was a lonely, idle youth, I used to wander into used bookstores in Boston and New England looking for books by Sarah Orne Jewett. I spent eight years doing that, so now I have a very nice collection of first editions of her books.''
Why Jewett, best known for her 1896 novella, The Country of the Pointed Firs? ``I was into exploring my feminine side, and I liked Maine,'' said Page.
I also heard from Nancy Harvey, who e-mailed me to say that many of the Island's book collectors are forced to leave their treasured books to someone when they downsize and move into retirement communities.
``The Mercer Island library is often the recipient of their generosity. Friends of the Library is entrusted to find new homes for these gorgeous and treasured books. In order to do that, we sponsor book sales twice a year. Our most treasured books are offered for silent auction,'' she wrote. ``Our collector books have been searched and documented as to publisher and date of publication so that collectors can check the current price list on amazon.com.''
Mercer Island's ``Citizen of the Year'' for 2004, Myra Lupton, spread the word about my request to a friend from Bellevue, Bob Lyon. Lyon called to say he started collecting in the 1970s, when he taught at Wilson High School in Tacoma. He joined a group of book collectors who met each Saturday morning to talk about books. He started by collecting the books of Don Marquis; he later added a number of other authors including Neville Shute, Theodore Dreiser, Mary Renault, Robert Lowell, and Chaim Potok. In some cases, Lyon had to settle for a first edition or signed copy of single titles of some literary greats, including Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck.
``I began collecting at age 45. I slowed down at 70 ? '' said Lyon, who is now 79. In 1990, he divested himself of a book-filled home in Winthrop and didn't have room to put the books in his home in Bellevue, so began selling some. He's continuing to unload some of his hundreds of books, but keeps those most precious to him.
``My wife and I are doing our best to hold onto our `No new books!' pledge to one another,'' he said.