Sunday, March 1, 2015


For the last three months I've been doing a tremendous amount of research on Billy the Kid and Robert E. Howard. Some of this research involves where REH possibly obtained a particular book. While pouring through the The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, I discovered that REH would frequently order books from a bookstore in New York City called Argosy. (Pictured above)

As it turns out, that bookstore is still in business today. According to a brief history from their website, 
"Argosy Book Store, founded in 1925, is now in its third generation of family ownership. Our enormous stock of antiquarian and out-of-print items fills a six-floor building in midtown Manhattan and a large warehouse in Brooklyn. We specialize in Americana, modern first editions, autographs, art, antique maps & prints, and the history of science & medicine. We also have thousands of books in all other fields of interest. We are founding members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, and we belong to the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers and the Appraisers Association of America."
My guess is that REH began ordering from their catalog around mid to late 1928, or early 1929. Howard mentions the bookstore in a letter to his friend Tevis Clyde Smith. In the letter Howard is a bit disgruntled at Argosy for not sending him their latest catalog. He talks about them as if he has been doing regular business with them for some time. 
"I don't suppose you've seen anything of the Junto. I haven't. The Argosy pipple [sic - intentional as REH is playfully joking through this entire letter] enrage me highly by their damned discriminating attitude. I haven't gotten their latest catalogue no more as nothing. They always send their other customers theirs before they send me one." (The Collected Letters, Vol. 2, 30)
This weekend kicks off World Book Day, which technically begins today and lasts until March 6th, I thought it quite appropriate to mention Argosy, an independent bookstore that has survived for over 90 years, and other independent bookstores across the U.S. and in the world. Considering that Howard was located in the middle of "nowhere, TX" having access to a New York bookstore through mail order was huge in his day. 

It's nice to know that there is a bookstore that Robert E. Howard shopped at via snail mail that still exists today.

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