The E-Sylum:  Volume 4, Number 31, July 29, 2001, Article 13


   Alan Luedeking  writes: "Your news of the death of John 
   Davenport brought back a memory, and after pondering 
   whether to share it or not, have decided that the lesson to 
   be learned therefrom is worth it. 

   I do not exactly recall the date, but it was Summer 14 or 
   15 years ago, when I received a call from Colin Bruce at 
   Krause Publications asking me if I could assist him by 
   visiting the home of John Davenport and help him to pack 
   up his library which he had decided to donate to KP.  He 
   was about to move from Coral Gables up to central Florida 
   and couldn't carry it all with him. 

   I eagerly accepted, as I considered it a privilege to meet 
   and help Mr. Davenport. Colin had also generously offered 
   that for my efforts I could keep whatever interested me in 
   the line of Latin American numismatic material. On the 
   appointed weekend morning I arrived at Mr. Davenport's 
   small but elegant-looking 1930's art-deco style house, 
   typical of the hey-day of Coral Gables. He lived there alone. 
   He was then I believe in his mid-seventies or older, but 
   looked in his sixties at most, thin as a rail and small-boned, 
   birdlike but intense. 

   I looked at his library and felt a pang of disappointment 
   as it consisted of nothing but one medium bookcase, 
   perhaps two-thirds full, with nothing that greatly impressed 
   me at the time. (It should be mentioned that I'm a better 
   judge of numismatic literature now than I was then, in my 
   numismatic infancy so to speak.) I was surprised at how 
   small his holdings were and wondered to myself how such 
   a fabulous wealth of numismatic knowledge and series of 
   great crown books could have sprung from a man with 
   such a paltry library.  After a short chat, I said I'd run out 
   to my jeep and get the boxes and stuff to pack up his 

   Then came the surprise. John said the stuff he wanted to 
   ship up to KP was in his concrete storage shed in the 
   garden, and what was here in his living room was what 
   he intended to keep!  He repeated Colin's offer that I 
   could keep whatever I wanted in exchange for my help. 
   He pointed me in the right direction, thanked me profusely 
   in advance and said I should pack up anything and 
   everything I found in the shed, he wanted nothing left behind. 

   With pounding heart I trotted over to the shed, unlocked 
   it, and opened the door.  A powerful musty odor assailed 
   my nose and I reared back. Letting my eyes adjust to the 
   gloom for a moment I stepped further in, found the pull 
   cord for the overhead naked light bulb, and revealed --- 
   a swarm of cockroaches that instantly disappeared. To 
   make a long and very sad story short, I labored in awful 
   conditions, pouring sweat in 100+ degree humid heat to 
   pack up hundreds of auction catalogs and a few cartons 
   of books, almost all of them covered with a green and gray 
   growth of mold and fungus, not to mention cockroach and 
   rat droppings. The vast majority of these pages would 
   never see the light of day again, as they were forever stuck 

   I reported back to Mr. Davenport what I had found, and 
   while he knew already, I could not resist asking him why he 
   had not thought to install an air conditioner in the shed.  I 
   do not believe my comment was well received, and after 
   I left his home we never spoke again. I reported to Colin 
   what I had found, and we reluctantly agreed that I should 
   ship him 3 cartons worth of material that might still be 
   salvageable, all catalogs that had come from the innermost 
   piles, since perhaps the clean, cool dry air of Northern 
   Wisconsin might kill the mold.  The remaining dozen 
   cartons or so I regretfully consigned to the tender mercies 
   of the Dade County dump, my only consolation being that 
   I saw nothing older than from the 1940's with perhaps a 
   few catalogs from the thirties.  Much of it was European, 
   with some American series, and a few Scott and Wayte 
   Raymond and the like. I kept for myself not a thing but a 
   lesson on how NOT to store books in Miami, and a moldy 
   smell in my jeep for a few days thereafter." 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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