Book Dealer Kevin Mac Donnell

By Gibson, Gregory | Mark Twain Journal, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Book Dealer Kevin Mac Donnell


Gibson, Gregory, Mark Twain Journal


I met Kevin in the late 1980s. I'd been in the antiquarian book business for a decade or so, and was just beginning to spread my wings-having realized that if good books weren't coming to my shop, I should go where the good books were. In fact, I was standing in line waiting to get into a book fair in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, about 90 minutes from my home, and feeling quite pleased with myself for having gotten that far. To pass the time I began chatting with the fellow behind me in line, who seemed affable and was a ready talker. I soon learned that he was a fledgling book dealer like myself, and that he specialized in books by and about Mark Twain, but that he also bought and sold a good deal of nineteenth-century American literature, which was what he was doing in New England. This, of course, led to questions about where he was from, and I was flabbergasted to learn that he'd traveled all the way from Texas to scout the shops and shows of Massachusetts and environs. There were more books up here than in Texas, he explained to me, and more of the sorts of authors he liked to buy-Twain, but also Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, and giants of that ilk.

That's all I remember about the particulars of our first conversation, but I do recall being impressed by Kevin's openness and by his sense of humor. In my early years in the trade, many of the book sellers I'd met had been shriveled and secretive, if not downright paranoid about sharing information with colleagues. Kevin, by contrast, was generous with his information. He was a youngish man like me and, though we weren't complete greenhorns, we still had a full measure of youthful enthusiasm. The book world was our oyster! One of the most remarkable things about Kevin is that thirty years later he still has that same enthusiasm, that zest for the business.

Once I knew who he was I began seeing him everywhere on the book circuit. We both joined the major book dealers' trade association-the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America)-at about the same time, and we'd often meet and exchange pleasantries at ABAA-sponsored events across the country. He could always be counted on for the latest news from his corner of the book world and a wry joke or two. Occasionally he'd direct me to some item he thought might interest me if he found it on the book fair floor and I hadn't seen it yet. Though he was a diligent and perceptive book scout, his attitude seemed to be that there were enough books for everyone, and that there was no need to get worked up about things one did or did not find. …

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