Interview with Peter Kraus (Ursus Books and Prints)



2015-06-26 11:04:50

Wikicollecting presents an interview with Peter Kraus, proprietor of Ursus Books & Prints.

1) What first made you fall in love with rare books?

I was lucky enough to be able to spend time with my cousin, H. P. Kraus, who is generally recognized as having been the world’s leading bookseller in the second half of the twentieth century, and to grow up entranced by his stories of his adventures in the book trade before the Second World War. I also started to receive his catalogues in my early teens, and was drawn into the world they portrayed.

2) What is the best collecting advice you've ever received?

Focus on quality.

3) How did you get started as a professional dealer?

As an apprentice for my cousin, H.P.Kraus

4) What is your most treasured find?

What appears to be the only know presentation copy of the first edition of The Federalist.

5) What makes your company different?

A mixture of connoisseurship and scholarship, and a deeply held belief in the value of books in general and our stock in particular.

6) What are your particular areas of expertise?

Illustrated books in all fields and from all periods, with a slight emphasis on books illustrated by artists from 1900 to the present.

7) How has the book business changed since you started out?

Stock was plentiful, book shops abounded and most book sellers were far more professional. Now, stocks have largely disappeared along with bookshops, and at the same time the internet has created a vast quantity of “booksellers” who alas know very little.

8) Where do you see the industry in five year’s time?

Less book shops, less books, more booksellers, and more collectors. Book collecting is not static. The vast majority of what is collected now, had not been published during the great age of collecting at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Also, taste changes, so there will always be books to collect, but iconic books in established fields will be ever harder to find, and probably ever more expensive.

9) If you could own any book in the world, what would it be?

The Gutenberg Bible.

10) Do you have any advice for budding young (or old) collectors out there?

Look at and handle as many books as you can. Find a subject that you feel passionate about, and find one or more booksellers to whom you can go for advice. It is usually never a mistake to pay too much for a book. The mistakes we make tend to be in the ones that got away.

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