Numismatic book dealer Douglas Saville submitted this remembrance
of U.K.-based rare book seller David Edmunds. So sorry to hear this news.
David R. Drury Edmunds (founder and owner of JOHN DRURY RARE BOOKS)
David Edmunds died tragically in a car accident in Essex on 14th February, 2022, he was driving to view lots in an upcoming auction. He was 82.
David was a long-standing friend of mine- since 1970.
John Drury Rare Books was founded by David Edmunds in 1971. His specialization from the beginning was numismatic books.
In September 1969, I joined Spink's in London as assistant to Howard Linecar, the Manager of the Book Department. Howard had been with the company since the mid-1930s, and he had always focussed on publishing standard works of reference on Numismatics - coins, medals, tokens, orders and decorations and paper money, and Spink's maintained a very large and important stock of in-print books on those subjects. Howard was also the long-standing Editor of Spink's Numismatic Circular.
Soon after I started at Spinks, I began to deal in second-hand and rare numismatic books, and I began to list them for sale in the ‘Circular from the later months of 1970.
David Edmunds was a customer of mine, and soon we established a friendship. I was learning about these books, albeit slowly. David had already been collecting such books for some years; and the experience gained meant that he already had a good knowledge of the subject - and a very good collection, especially focussed on trade tokens - David's particular interest had always been the social history of Great Britain.
In early 1971 David told me he intended to start a business specialising in Rare Numismatic Books, based in Colchester, and his collection would serve as his initial stock.
Catalogue One. John Drury. Rare Books on Numismatics, with a few on Art, Gems, Archaeology and Heraldry, was published in early 1971. 282 items listed for sale at fixed prices, all neatly described and divided into sections: 16th & 17th century Numismatic Books…. 18th century Numismatic Books…. 19th & 20th century Numismatic Books…. Art, Archaeology, Gems & Heraldry…..Addenda.. I ordered a few (less expensive) items, but frankly I recognised fewer than 10% of the books listed for sale in that catalogue….. I had some learning to do!
David issued four or five such catalogues annually. I always managed to buy some books for stock and for customers, and I have fond memories of visiting David in his office/storeroom in East Stockwell Street in Colchester- I always found good things to buy. As David was an outstandingly good cataloguer and researched his material so well - he rarely made mistakes, unfortunately for me – and although I learned over the years, I could buy fewer really-outstanding items than I would have liked. Many of my customers bought direct from him.
One of David's earlier truly outstanding catalogues (1973) was his Catalogue Twelve. Numismatic Literature 1790-1970 (Including a Choice selection of books on Trade Tokens). Out of a total of 742 items were included- no less than almost 100 books on British Tokens, some of which unique, many very rare and almost all very desirable- to say the least. I managed to purchase a good number of them- mostly for clients, but also a good percentage for stock…… I was starting to learn…... David and I used to have lunch at least once a month in London – I was based in the very centre of London in St. James's….. and we discussed the
market- and it was a sort of game of poker between the two of us, and it was
fun. The market for rare numismatic books was escalating in the 1970s
Our good friend George Kolbe had his first major public auction sale in 1979 in Los Angeles at the COIN show. David and I went – who was this G. Frederick Kolbe? - I think it was the first trip for both of us to the west coast. Between us we bought a truly huge pile of stock from George, and we agreed to split it between us once it had arrived in London. By that time David had become the Managing Director of the newly-established Seaby Rare Books, a part of the old B. A. Seaby company. The bookselling part of the main dealership lasted for just two years, only to be wound up by Seaby's in 1981. The market was less than easy at the time. David continued to deal in numismatic and other books until he eventually sold the remaining stock of the former to George Kolbe.
After this time David continued to deal in books, pamphlets, broadsides & manuscripts in the area of Social History, and more especially economics.
David and I had a good working relationship, and we respected one another. We attended many auctions together, in London at Sothebys and Christies, and one or two in provincial auction rooms. The more memorable sales we both attended were abroad – The Lepczyk sale in East Lansing, Michigan, in April 1980 –and travelling there, we were the only two passengers in a small twin- engined plane flying from Chicago to East Lansing - in horrendous weather, and we wondered if we would ever make it to East Lansing.
Then there was the truly amazing library of the Princes Furstenberg from Donaueschingen, sold by Sothebys in Zurich in June 1982, where almost all the books were exceptionally fine, all unopened and many as clean as the day they were printed….. but the market in general was terribly bad at the time, and neither of us had the courage to buy as much as we ought to have done. I recall selling everything I bought within a week of receiving the books and regretting being too prudent at the sale….. a learning curve for both David and me.
After David disposed of his stock to George, we seldom met up, but we would often speak on the telephone - David always seemed to have something of interest to me. It was a delight to visit his home/office in a beautiful setting in rural Essex overlooking the River Stour Nature Reserve, and the lunches prepared by his wife and long-term business partner Jenny.
I will miss David - he had always been there, in the background as it were, for me, for 50 or more years, and always a good sounding-board, and was instrumental in changing the numismatic book market forever.
Numismatic Bibliomania Society cofounder George Kolbe submitted this remembrance.
Preceding Joe Lepczyk's memorable April 1–2, 1980 auction sale featuring several hundred lots of desirable numismatic works, three recent acquaintances were seated at the cocktail bar in an East Lansing, Michigan hotel, playing
Liar's Poker. I had met Douglas Saville on my first trip to Europe in the late 70s, and John Drury, i.e., David Edmunds, had attended my second C.O.I.N. sale in Los Angeles, ten months earlier. After a day spent viewing lots, the three of us were positively giddy at the prospects of acquiring desirable numismatic titles for clients and for stock. We all did well, particularly David and Douglas. Though competently described for the most part, a number of
sleepers made the sale truly a memorable event.
In the ensuing years I travelled to Europe frequently, nearly always making a stop in London to visit Douglas Saville at Spink & Son Ltd., and sometimes seeing David Edmunds as well. The 1979-81 glory years, when David maintained a wonderful rare numismatic book room on the premises of B.A. Seaby, are remembered fondly. Several years after the dissolution of their ill-timed cooperative venture (the early 80s were tough sledding for numismatic booksellers), David invited me to Wrabness to buy his stock:
a quite wonderful offering of antiquarian numismatic books and manuscripts. Located down a country lane in Essex near the banks of the River Stour—in a charming old red brick home David had recently bought—spacious book shelves were in the process of being installed. We saw each other a few times after and the occasional book changed hands.
David ushered in a new era in the world of antiquarian numismatic books. Possessed of an excellent classical, public-school education, David accorded his books the greatest respect: as desirable objects in and of themselves. His many fixed price catalogues, from the early 1970s on, served as an inspiration to me and other numismatic bibliopoles. Meticulously catalogued with bibliographical references aplenty and new insights into their content, David's descriptions are still consulted with profit. In the larger world of antiquarian booksellers, David utilized his enviable talents as a prominent dealer in the field of economics. For those of us with a narrower focus, the name of D.R.D. Edmunds (John Drury) will always be revered. He changed the way numismatic books are sold.
The photo of Edmunds is courtesy the Edmunds family via David Fanning. The Drury numismatic book catalog images are courtesy David Fanning.
See also The Numismatic Book Catalogues of John Drury by David Fanning in The Asylum Spring 2017 issue (v35 n1). Thanks, everyone.
To read Eric Newman's John Drury Correspondence on the Newman Portal, see:
John Drury Correspondence, 1973-1977
To visit the John Drury Rare Books website, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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