The SF Library Catalogue
!!!! Historic Science Fiction Book Collection For Sale !!!!!
The great personal collection of SF and Fantasy literature of the late,
iconic Peterborough Ontario antiquarian and book store owner Sandy Stewart
has now been catalogued!
The collection consists of over sixteen hundred titles
in 1,435 volumes (because of double novels under the same jacket).
With several exceptions the collection spans the late 1930's through to the
early 1990's. Many are first editions, most in exceptional condition.
Sandy assempled his collection from the books that came through his shop, brought
in (for the most part) by those who read them. Thus the collection is more than
a commodity. It is in fact a unique pre-Internet record of the ideas and
influences that the science fiction and fantasy literature of the day exerted
on the minds and imaginations of the community's readers.
By luck this collection was saved from destruction when I purchased it over
thirty years ago. Read the short history below for details.
But now it needs a new home.
You can download the spreadsheet from here:
Sean Arthur's SF Library Catalogue
If you are interested in purchasing the collection, please contact me:
We can talk.
A brief history of Sandy Stewart's SF and Fantasy Collection.
Way back near the dawn of time...like if you were born maybe before 1990...there was a quirky
little man who for years and years owned a tiny second hand bookstore in the small town of
Peterbrough, in Ontario,Canada.
Both the man, Sandy Stewart, and the store, eponymously named The Book Store, absolutely
epitomized the life of the local antiquarian book dealer who was able to make a living trading in
the printed word, before the internet ruined everything. Or at least, completely changed the game.
Back then, the second hand book store and those who lived for the printed medium were
irreplaceable hubs in the social fabric, and Sandy, a small, scraggly bearded and bespectacled
man who rolled his own long cut cigarettes, knew books. And the good people of Peterborough, a
town surrounded by farmland and known as the gateway to the vast sportsman's paradise of
lakes and wilderness to the north, knew that there were only two or three really cool places to
go if you wanted something keen for the mind, and The Book Store was one of them.
The store itself could not have been more iconic. The space was very tiny, for a repository that
contained so much, part of a block-long building constructed on Charlotte Street, the main
east-west thoroughfare, in the late 1880's when the city decided to expand the 'downtown', and
the Peterborough Curling Club wanted an indoor home. The Curling club was built underground,
in a vast sub-basement, and the downtown got some spanking new stores with two storys of
apartments above them, in fine Second Empire style.
Sandy's unit was perhaps just twelve feet wide, but benefited from the ornate woodwork, large
plate glass window, brass tread and heavy oak door that gave all the shops an impressive,
important air. The ceilings were very tall, accommodating The Book Store's very tall, custom
made, tightly packed bookshelves. On the worn original oak floors Sandy put down sawdust, and
that was what the store smelled of: old hardwood, new pine, old books, and Sandy's tobacco. He
possessed an ancient, gigantic and only partly functioning cash register, and would, in his quiet
way gladly recommend a book that you should read.
There is much more to the story than this, but we should know that for thirty years through
Sandy's hands passed a disproportionate number of the really cool printed stuff that
Peterboroughians wished to release to the noosphere.
And as any bibliophile is wont to do, and perhaps as a retirement plan as well, Sandy amassed a
modest treasure trove of collectible books. He possessed a considerably envied collection of early
Canadiana, the ancient text books, Bibles and government issued black leather and gilt tomes
visible only in their glass and hardwood case inside his store. Under the counter in a cardboard box
he stashed the underground comics, some truly independent efforts, lewd and explicit, some no
longer outre, like Robert Crumb's Zap! and his kin. Another large collection consisted of other
oddities, rare editions, first editions in mint condition, books signed by the authors and the like.
And then there was the Science fiction and fantasy collection.
Somewhere originally over two thousand items, carefully graded, the best in sleeves, and packed into
heavy cardboard boxes and stored in the basement of the store, well up off the floor on sawhorse
trestles. The collection ranged mostly from the 1930's through to the late 1980's, a few years after I
first met him, and just a couple years before he decided to retire.
How does an antiquarian book dealer, in the age of mailing lists and jobbers and carefully
guarded Rolodexs of contact numbers, who rents a tiny store space, as locally famous and
iconic as it may be, actually retire? Sandy sold everything. He sold the store in late 1984 to
David Jackson, antiquarian dealer of early Canadian books. Whatever Sandy had not sold prior,
David sold (excepting the Canadiana): the valuable literature, the rare and the ancient and the
signed. He sold the underground comics and other collectibles that cluttered the front of the
store. And to me he sold the SF collection.
And then, to everyone's horror, on Sunday December 16 1984, the Peterborough Curling Club,
still in the basements underneath the stores to the east of The Book Store, caught fire. For
the third time in seventy years. I mean, seriously! I am not making this up.
Half the block burned to the ground. The Book Store, its neighbours and the two storys of
appartments above the shops, gone.
Of David's loss, I do not know. I had been out of town for some weeks at that point, and seeing the
fire reported on the National news, for the buildings had been historically significant, I called David
but got only his voicemail. I left my condolences with the hope that he had removed the Canadiana.
He never replied.
Over the next year I sold most of the post 1980 books in the collection to various book dealers along
the then-thriving Queen Street West strip in Toronto. The remainder were briefly surveyed and
then packed away, dark and dry, for the next thiry years.
And now it is time to sell.
Each volume has been inspected, evaluated and entered into the spreadsheet downloadable
from the link above. Most are now in a protective sleeve and carefully boxed.
Each box has been sealed in plastic with the air sucked out.
Should you wish to learn more about Sandy Stewart and The Book Store, you should consult the
Peterborough archives. The indefatigable historian Professor Emritus Elwood Jones should be
glad to assist. The Internet has mention of the 1984 fire if you Google the history of the
Peterborough Curling Club. And Canadian author, the brilliant
Maggie Helwig, worked for Sandy for several years. If you can track her down she should have fond memories.
Should you be interested in purchasing this collection, a piece of Peterborough Ontario history
and a great little gem of SF and Fantasy literature, email me at the link above.