Poor Richard’s Biblomac


Volume 1, number 1, above the fold. Call number (Ex) 0100.733e

August 1940, New York City.
Publishers Burstein and Chappe issue Poor Richard’s Biblomac.

An excerpt from the lead editorial:

For the most part, Poor Richard’s Biblomac reflects and idea we have – an idea that anyone whose stock-in-trade is books – the librarian, the bookseller, the publisher—has a function in democratic society that means something more than delivering books from stack to reader. And, today, when the propaganda of self-acclaimed patriots and pundits is peddled among more and more customers so that democracy is in increasing danger of finding itself saved by totalitarians, when labeling individuals and groups with the neologism “fifth column” is becoming a national pastime and when the word and the book is suspect, there is a need for a publication which will discuss the issues which confront the bookman in his capacity as citizen, discuss his function and urge its exercize. Poor Richard’s Biblomac may not be that publication but we will try.

Because we believe that the book, as much as the bullet, is ammunition for the democratic state—that the needs of our American democracy are best served by more, and not less, democracy, we will expose and oppose trends and movements designed to cripple libraries and hamper book production and reading. We have made a start, we think by devoting part of this issue to the question: shall libraries censor reading?

We have no illusion that we shall turn tides or, more modestly, change attitudes. We are content if, from time to time, we shall be able to create interest and discussion in vital problems, ruffle the calm waters of the status quo and, if necessary, make nuisances of ourselves about things we think matter. Herbert Burstein.

Little is known about Burstein and Chappe. However, one of the contributors to this first issue was Lawrence Heyl, acting head librarian at Princeton during 1939 -1940, and long time library officer, retiring in 1962 as Associate Librarian. Presumably, because of Heyl’s interest in the publication, the Library preserved the Biblomac, which lasted only three issues. Today, it signals the acute concern of American librarians at the time — Archibald MacLeish foremost among them — that preserving democracy meant engagement not isolation.

2 thoughts on “Poor Richard’s Biblomac

  1. Herbert Burstein was my mentor, dearest friend and gave me my first book by L. Ron Hubbard in 1982. I still miss Herbert, daily.

  2. Herbert Burstein was my father. He was a genius and probably read more books than anyone I’ve ever known. My father had a great interest in publishing and indeed, had, for a short time, a small publishing company that published, amongst others, the first book by L. Ron Hubbard. During WWII, he published “Women In War”, which, I believe, was the first paperback book ever. He,in fact,had the idea to be the first to publish paperback books,but couldn’t get any funding.That coupled with the fact that he eventually had six children to feed made him decide to practice law,at which he became a notable name. His interest in writing never died, however, and lives through the massive collection of hysterically clever and funny letters that he sent to all his children,at least,weekly. My brother, Judd, told me that he had found this blog and my family is,of course,very pleased. Thank you.

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