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Kroch’s & Brentano’s

One of my usual haunts in downtown Chicago was located at 29 South Wabash, in the shadow of the “L” and not very far from either the Art Institute or the Berghof, where, in my late ‘teens, I now and then had a late lunch when the crowds had thinned a bit. This would have been during the late 1950s, while I was in junior high school. I speak of Kroch’s & Brentano’s bookstore.

The Art & Architecture section of Kroch’s was under the watchful eye of an always immaculate Mr Henry Tabor, who stood barely five feet tall, if even that. Mr Tabor didn’t know me but I was clearly recognized by him and taken seriously—even as a teenager; my presence there as a lower middle class kid was never questioned nor was I interrogated about my intentions in his domain. I often heard him take calls from more regular (i.e., actual) patrons—while I was merely a frequent visitor; I had never been a conspicuous customer—and always felt it a badge of honor that I was accepted in those ranks. I searched recently for a photograph of Mr Tabor but was disappointed to find none, except for a brief obituary when he died in 2003. If I’d known of his last illness, it would have been my honor to write him a happy recollection of those Saturday mornings fifty years previous. Next year I will have lived as many years as he had but will leave a retirement and passing far less noble than his. Tabor lives on, not incidentally, in the Agincourt character of Howard Tabor, mild-mannered reporter for a mediocre small-town newspaper in an obscure corner of Iowa, and I genuinely hope he wouldn’t mind.

Drawings for a Living Architecture

One of those Saturdays, in a far corner of Tabor’s mezzanine, behind glass, there was a book new to his stock. I inquired to see it and knew immediately it had to be in my nascent library: a large horizontal format volume titled Frank Lloyd Wright Drawings for a Living Architecture [there may be a colon in there somewhere; I don’t recall] published in 1959 very shortly after Wright’s passing in April of that year, so my discovery must have been some time in the late summer or fall. It was the last book about Wright that was actually supervised by him. The $35 price was far beyond my means, however. So this purchase would have to involve Roy and an advance on my meager allowance. But how to approach dad about such a luxury.

An on-line inflation calculator has just shocked me with the reality of that $35 brought forward to 2018: $298.12 or a cumulative inflation rate of 751.8%. No wonder Roy’s eyebrow was slightly askew. Nevertheless, I was duly issued a twenty, a ten and a five for my return to Kroch’s the following Saturday—with the desperate hope that all Tabor’s stock had not already been exhausted. Would he have held a copy at my request? I wonder.

From sheer curiosity, I searched this morning for information on the volume, which I knew had been produced in limited numbers. Here is what I found from a dealer who had recently sold a copy:

An excellent copy of the Limited First Edition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings and sketches, the only significant monograph of Wright’s drawings published in color during his lifetime [Wright died the year of its publication]. The book was published at the expense of Edgar Kaufmann Jr. as a gift to Mr. Wright [at a cost of $75 per copy]. Only 2000 copies were published at a retail price of $35. Numerous drawings are herein published for the first time, with several two-page color renderings, presented in Wright’s most famous style. Some of the drawings were executed by Marion Mahony, son Lloyd Wright, and Jack Howe, all superb delineators. The covers & spine are clean & neat, with little visible wear. The Dust Jacket is about as good as it gets; margins nearly perfect, some soiling & yellowing, but much of the original luster & color still fresh & bright; a tiny, tiny near invisible hole in the rear panel; front flap is NOT clipped. The terracotta cloth binding is tight, with the hinges secure; text is clean and crisp throughout. Overall an exemplary copy, a collector’s must have. Considered by many to be a cornerstone of Wright’s literature. Ref: Sweeney #1265. Bookseller Inventory # 001521

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