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Ftrom LA Times: Muir Dawson - Obituary

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  • Fred Chang
    http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-dawson24feb24,1,3843968.story OBITUARIES Muir Dawson, 83; Second-Generation Partner in L.A. s Oldest
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25, 2005

      Muir Dawson, 83; Second-Generation Partner in L.A.'s
      Oldest Bookshop
      By Myrna Oliver
      Times Staff Writer

      February 24, 2005

      Muir Dawson, one in a line of Dawsons who ran Los
      Angeles' oldest continuously operating bookstore, has
      died. He was 83.

      Dawson, who oversaw the Dawson's Book Shop for more
      than 50 years, died Monday night in his Silver Lake
      home of heart failure, said his son, Michael, who owns
      and operates the shop now located on Larchmont

      A partner in the bookstore since 1947, Muir Dawson
      specialized in rare books on the history of printing.
      He also led several projects in the Dawson family's
      publishing business. Between 1906 and 2003, Dawson's
      Book Shop published 383 projects.

      "It is questionable if publishing by booksellers at
      present is a moneymaking activity, but it certainly is
      fun," Dawson wrote recently in an essay on his life in
      the book trade due for publication later this year to
      mark the store's centennial.

      The shop is known for its rare books on California
      history, Western Americana and more recently,

      Dawson, who retired in 1995, worked many years in
      partnership with Glen, his older brother. Glen Dawson
      became a partner in 1936 and retired in 1992. It was
      the brothers who moved the shop to its current
      Larchmont Village address in 1968 after four downtown
      Los Angeles locations

      A cultural crossroads for the city for almost a
      century, the shop was opened on South Broadway by
      their father, Ernest, in April 1905. Along with Jake
      Zeitlin and Harry Levinson, Ernest Dawson has been
      credited with putting Los Angeles on an equal footing
      with New York and Chicago in the antiquarian book

      Tragic events directed the bookshop toward its
      specialty of California and Western books a year after
      it opened � the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and
      fire, which destroyed most of the state's rare books.
      Seeing an opportunity, Ernest Dawson bought all the
      old California books he could locate and sold them to
      the barren libraries, bookstores and collectors at
      considerable profit. Ernest Dawson published the
      city's first catalog of rare books in 1907. Four years
      later, he made his first buying trip to London and
      Rome with $300. He shipped home dozens of books in

      "This business was built on buying cheap in London and
      selling cheap in Los Angeles," Muir Dawson told The
      Times decades later.

      The bookshop also became known for its catalogs,
      indexed for years at the UCLA Powell Library and
      considered a valuable tool for bibliographers and
      librarians. The Dawson brothers were credited with
      helping UCLA librarian Lawrence Clark Powell build the
      university's Special Collections after World War II.

      Born in Los Angeles, Dawson was the fourth child of
      Ernest and Sadie Dawson.

      A champion skier, Dawson took first place in the 1940
      Mt. San Antonio and Sun Valley racing championships
      sponsored by the Ski Mountaineers of the Sierra Club.
      During World War II, he served with the Army mountain
      artillery battalion teaching soldiers to ski.

      After a course in printing at Scripps College while
      completing his degree at Pomona College in 1949, Muir
      Dawson began building the shop's inventory of books
      devoted to fine printing and book art. Intrigued with
      the work of early 19th century British wood engraver
      Thomas Bewick, he gradually added woodblocks and other
      artifacts of printing history, as well as graphic art
      from Japan.

      Unlike their father, who was more of a merchandiser
      than a book lover, the two brothers kept a cache of
      books in a backroom of the shop that they could not
      part with. "Because we love them!" Muir Dawson told
      The Times in 1984. Both brothers have maintained their
      own collections in their homes.

      "Father said a bookseller shouldn't be a book
      collector because it competes with the customers,"
      Muir Dawson said. "But we think he meant they
      shouldn't be big collectors. I think that if a seller
      isn't collecting, there's something dead in him.
      You've got to have the passion for books."

      Muir Dawson was a former local and national president
      of the Antiquarian Booksellers Assn. of America and
      former president of the Book Club of California.

      In addition to his son, Michael, Dawson is survived by
      his wife of 57 years, Agnes; his brother, Glen;
      sisters Fern Dawson Shochat and June Dawson McKeon;
      and a grandson.

      A memorial service is planned for April in connection
      with Dawson's centennial.

      Fred Chang
      Port Orchard <--> Bremerton <---------> Seattle
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