Frederic G. Melcher Library

Source: Anne J. Richter, The Frederic Melcher Library of Books About Books, SCH. LIBR. J., Oct. 1964, at 126.

Frederic G. Melcher--1879-1963, PW, Mar. 18, 1963, at 17-19, 36 (obituary).

The R.R. Bowker Company Moved on April 5 . . ., 37 WILSON LIBR. BULL. 746 (1963):

THE R. R. BOWKER COMPANY, moved on April 5th to new and expanded offices in the modern 23-story building at 1180 Avenue of the Americas at 46th Street.

Formerly situated at 62 West 45th Street. Bowker's move just one block north to the Avenue of the Americas at 46th Street keeps the firm in the same central mid-Manhattan location.

In addition to expanding the facilities for its editorial, business and executive staffs, Bowker also announced the establishment of the Frederic G. Melcher Library of "Books About Books," a research center housing the library which belonged to the late chairman of the Bowker Board who died in March. Staffed by a professional librarian, this library dealing with all aspects of the booktrade, includes those books which Mr. Melcher gathered during his 60 years in the book business and is available to all who wish to consult it.

Anne J. Richter, The Frederic Melcher Library of Books About Books, SCH. LIBR. J., Oct. 1964, at 126-28, 126, 128:

Mr. Melcher had two collections of books. One was in his Montclair, New Jersey home . . . The other, and the one we now describe, was housed in his office at R. R. Bowker, overflowing while we were located on 45th Street to the reception room and miscellaneous office shelves.

It was not until April of 1963 that the Melcher Collection of Books About Books had shelf space to be gathered together in one room, the board room in the new Bowker offices at 1180 Avenue of the Americas, just around the corner from the old location. It had always been Fred Melcher's thought that these books would be part of the Bowker Company which, under his guidance, had come to its rather special position as a center for book and library information. Although he participated in the plans for the office move, he did not live to see his books in their new home, for he died the month before the moving vans came. But he had been working with his books that last year, arranging to have his bookplates (designed by D. B. Updike and printed at The Merrymount Press) put in each volume. A portrait of Mr. Melcher, painted by Nikol Schattenstein, now hangs on the east wall of the library, recalling his familiar face to those who knew him and introducing it to those not fortunate enough to have had that privilege. Appropriately, the new Bowker Library bears his name, one room being devoted to the working library of a busy publishing house and the adjoining board room to the special Melcher collection.

Perhaps some readers of this sketchy outline may wish to look at these books themselves. It was always Fred Melcher's pleasure to make his library available to the serious student of book trade history, and his dream to have his collection not static but ever growing. The Bowker Company hopes to follow his lead. Special arrangements may be made through the Bowker librarian to use his materials in the collection for valid projects. And no month goes by that new accessions do not reach the shelves, ensuring that the Frederic Melcher Collection will continue to serve as a source of very special information on books about books.

? LIBR. J. 3101 (1966):

THE FREDERIC G. MELCHER LIBRARY of the R. R. Bowker Company (LT 1-8800, 1180 Ave. of the Americas, open from 9:15 A.M. to 5:15 P.M.) is a good example of a publisher's working collection, built around Mr. Melcher's extensive personal collection of “books about books” dealing with the history of publishing . . .

Jean Peters was the librarian at Bowker for many years, first noted, as far as I can tell, in PW's write-up of the first volume of Tebell's HISTORY OF BOOK PUBLISHING IN AMERICA (Bowker Issues Volume I of History of Publishing, PW, Jan. 2, 1973, at 29). A review of her 1977 BOOK COLLECTING: A MODERN GUIDE (PW, Oct. 31, 1977) indicates she was the librarian of the Melcher Library. A notice in the Nov. 27, 1981, PW indicates she had been named manager of research and development for the book division at Bowker but continued as well in her role as librarian of the Melcher Library.

People, PW, Feb. 12, 1982, at 50, 51:

Peggy Spier has been named librarian of the Frederic G. Melcher Memorial Library. She was formerly a reference librarian at McGraw-Hill.

A 1992 article by Jean Peters, Book Industry Statistics from the R. R. Bowker Company, 8 PUBL'G RSCH. Q. 12-23, notes that she is the librarian at the Frederic G. Melcher Library, Cahners Publishing Company, formerly the library of the R. R. Bowker Company. As the article explains, Bowker was acquired by the Xerox Corporation in 1968 then sold to Reed International in 1985. At that point, Reed split off the magazine division from Bowker and made it a part of Cahners, a company Reed owned. Evidently, the Melcher Library stayed with the magazine division after this move.

The following article indicates that Reed sold the Melcher Library some time after purchasing Bowker. Neavill must be referring solely to the collection of Melcher's Books about Books, as it seems like Bowker's entire library by the early 1990s had become known as the Melcher Library; as made clear by the 2004 Newman article below, the general Bowker library remained in some form as of that date, although it seems that the Books About Books collection must've been sold off between 1985-1993.

Gordon B. Neavill, Libraries and Texts in the Electronic Environment, SCHOLARLY COMMUNICATION IN AN ELECTRONIC ENVIRONMENT: ISSUES FOR RESEARCH LIBRARIES 53, 66 (Robert Sidney Martin ed., 1993):

Commercial information vendors have never been responsible for preserving recorded knowledge. The fate of the Frederic G. Melcher library on the history of the book trade is a good example of this. Melcher left the collection, which John Tebbel described as "the finest private collection on the subject in the country. . . . it surpasses all the public collections as well, including even that of the Library of Congress," to the R. R. Bowker Company, of which he had been president. For many years it was open to scholars. The last time the Bowker Company changed hands its new owners moved the firm to smaller quarters and sold the Melcher library to a bookseller. Subsidizing a scholarly research collection was not high on the list of corporate objectives, and the Melcher library has since been dispersed.

Eric Newman, The Literature of the Book: Reference, 15 Logos 82-85, 82 (2004):

I . . . visited . . . the reference library of Publishers Weekly. It used to be called the Melcher Library. (That this little known library, focused on the publishing industry, continues to have a full-time librarian, Gary Ink, is a remarkable exception to the prevailing image of its corporate parent, Reed Elsevier.) The Melcher Library held most of the titles on my list, and just scanning the shelves proved a wonderful diversion.

Gary Ink appears, listed as "librarian," in the PW production credits until the Apr. 14, 2008, issue, after which no librarian has been listed since. My guess is once Mr. Ink left or retired, the position was never replaced.

The University of Virginia Library has a special collection of the Papers of the Melcher Family 1785-1987. Here's a Guide to the collection:

It looks like Box 3 of the Papers of Frederic Gershom Melcher contain files on the "Library of Books about Books 1956-1963."