By WILLIAM BAKER
More than a decade ago, I bid for a Tom Stoppard item online. The price went higher and higher – outrageously so for a reprint of a play not all that scarce or expensive in its first edition. In the end, I was outbid. Afterwards, I was surprised to receive an email from a Dr Gerald N. Wachs in New York City asking why I was prepared to pay so much. I explained that I was a Stoppard collector and was compiling his bibliographical history. Immediately, Wachs responded that I was most welcome to come to see his own Stoppard collection. So I landed up in his flat overlooking the Met, where I subsequently spent many happy weeks working on Stoppard, and sleeping amid signed copies of the great English romantic poets, among other treasures.
Jerry was an avid collector, but the nineteenth-century first editions of English poetry were the cream of his collection. This element he built up with his friend, the eminent bookseller and bibliographer Steve Weissman, then of Ximenes Rare Books. They began in March 1970, and continued until Jerry’s death in 2013 at the age of seventy-six. They collected only the finest copies – presentation copies to other writers, friends, family members; and 155 of them will be for sale at the first session of Sotheby’s “Fine Books & Manuscripts” auction in New York tomorrow.