Tuesday, June 8, 2010

B. F. Stevens & Brown, American Library & Literary Agents

B. F. (Benjamin Franklin) Stevens (1833-1902) and his older brother Henry Stevens (1819-1886) of Barnet, Vermont both left the United States and created careers as book dealers in England where they were of great service to to both American and English libraries. I have written previously about Henry on this blog, and I have created a web page on my Library History Buff website that includes ephemera related to B.F. Stevens and his company B. F. Stevens & Brown. Noted librarian and bibliophile Lawrence Clark Powell has written an interesting small book about the B. F. Stevens & Brown firm called simply ...AND BROWN (Privately Printed, London, 1959). The book is "A Chronicle of B. F. Stevens & Brown, Ltd., Library and Fine Arts Agents of London, with emphasis on the years since 1902". The envelope and contents featured in this blog were mailed to the Librarian of the Franklin Topographical Society in Boston in 1903. Powell's book about the Stevens & Brown firm is a reminder of the very important role played by library agents and vendors in the development of libraries throughout much of their history. A quote in ...AND BROWN illustrates the the dedication of B. F. Stevens to the task of aiding libraries. As reported by Powell, Stevens wrote the following in a letter to his father concerning a trip back to the United States to find books for the British Museum: "I can probably find the books in Philadelphia and New York, but I may have to go to Harrisburg again. Hunting up these books is like a jackass following a peck of oats." The book Memoir of Benjamin Franklin Stevens by G. Manville Fenn (Printed at the Chiswick Press for Private Distribution, 1903) contains an excellent account of the life of B. F. Stevens. My copy of the book contains the insert "With the compliments of Henry J. Brown". This was the original Brown of B. F. Stevens & Brown.

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