The Rare Women in the Rare Book Trade

Diane Mehta at The Paris Review:

Like many women, Baskin was buying things that male dealers weren’t interested in, such as women printers and artists, which put her under the radar. “In the sixties, I could be a ferret and find things,” she said, citing a late 17th century-early 18th century book by Maria Sibylla Merian, the first person of either gender to observe and draw the metamorphoses of insects in the field. “She made some of the most beautiful books,” Baskin said. “As a child, Merian was fascinated by watching caterpillars turn into moths. She made a book about the insects of Suriname and another about the insects of Europe.” Baskin purchased a copy of  Merian’s De Europische Insecten (1730);  copies of the book about the insects of Suriname go for hundreds of thousands of dollars now. “The issue is: Are women taken seriously as dealers and as collectors? I don’t think it’s a reflection on the works they sell or collect. I think these works were, and are, valued less,” says Baskin. She mentions J.P. Morgan’s (d. 1913) great Morgan Library, whose collection—of books by both men and women—was largely acquired by its director and librarian Belle da Costa Greene, daughter of the first African American to graduate from Harvard. “It was said that da Costa Greene had the brains and the wit and Morgan had the money,” Baskin says.

more here.