The Papers Chase

The New York Times, Arts, Books, Sunday Book Review, March 2007

Profile: Glenn Horowitz, The Papers Chase
By Rachel Donadio

When writers die, their work lives on — and their papers go to Texas. Or Yale, Harvard, Emory, the New York Public Library, the British Library and other scholarly institutions that collect authors’ manuscripts and correspondence. How such papers change hands — and find monetary value — is the result of a peculiar alchemy between market forces and literary reputations.

One leading alchemist is a Manhattan rare-book dealer named Glenn Horowitz, who in recent years has come to dominate the rarefied market in literary archives. Like the art and real estate markets, the archive market has gone through the roof, and Horowitz, with his wealthy clients and a belief that books will gain increasingly fetishistic status in the digital age, has helped bolster it. Among other deals, he has brokered the sale of Norman Mailer’s and Don DeLillo’s papers to the deep-pocketed Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin — where he also helped place the Watergate notebooks of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for an astounding $5 million in 2003.

Cultivator of well-placed authors, widows and heirs, Horowitz combines the curiosity of an intellectual with the instincts of a businessman. He is known for sharp elbows, unyielding persistence and the high — some say inflated — prices he extracts for his clients. Through his two galleries on the Upper East Side and in East Hampton, which he runs with the art dealer John McWhinnie, Horowitz organizes book and art exhibitions — and parties that glamorize books as luxury products and help drum up business. “As Glenn himself says, he’s a terrific combination of a scholar and a grifter,” said Rick Gekoski, a book dealer in London who regularly does business with Horowitz.

...In 2002, Horowitz arranged for the Rechler collection to be auctioned at Christie’s. Six of the books brought in record bids for their authors: “The Great Gatsby” ($163,500), “Lolita” ($273,500), “On the Road” ($185,500), “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” ($152,500) and “The Lord of the Rings” ($152,500). In a somewhat unusual arrangement, Horowitz himself bought back most of the books at the Christie’s auction, acting on behalf of private collectors, as well as the Morgan Library and the New York Public Library. Horowitz bought the Kaeser “Ulysses” for a private collector on the Upper East Side — for $460,500, almost 10 times what Silverman had paid 15 years earlier.

But Horowitz isn’t done with the deal yet. Leaning back on his conference-room chair, he tells me he’s still trying to get the Kaeser “Ulysses” back. Why? “Because I know someone who wants it.” He thinks it could be the first 20th-century volume to break the $1 million mark. “That’s what I do,” he says. “I trade books.”

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