"Irrepressible Eccentricity Since 1984"
David "Scooter" Szewczyk has been captivated by old books and manuscripts from the age of about 15, which makes them for him a study and vocation of nearly 40 years standing. While taking his M.A. in Spanish and History at Indiana University, he apprenticed as an unpaid cataloguer/paleographer at the Lilly Library, where the legendary former head of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Scribner's, David Randall, taught him the ways and lore of the trade, as well as a great deal about the practical daily workings of a major rare books and manuscripts library. Mr. Randall's watchword, "Never never assume NOTHING," became David's own, as he completed his advanced coursework and examinations for a Ph.D. at the University of Texas, then studied as a Fulbright scholar in the archives of Mexico.
Returned to his native Philadelphia, and "published," David worked at the Rosenbach Foundation (now the Rosenbach Museum & Library), where, in part supported by an NEH grant, he completely catalogued its extensive collection of Cortés, Mexican, and Peruvian manuscripts, the result being three published manuscript guides. When he left, it was to join William H. Allen, Bookseller, a Philadelphia firm known since 1918 for its stock of used scholarly books. There he created a new Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts and shaped it for the next five years, until he and Cynthy left that venerable and instructive nest to found PRB&M (1984).
Fluent in Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, David is probably the only antiquarian bookseller in the U.S. to read Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, which enabled him to recognize, purchase, and sell the only 16th-century play to survive in any language in a contemporary manuscript copy (yes, it was written in Mexico, ca. 1590). Probably the only antiquarian bookseller in the whole world to own a plastic fish tie, he is currently working on a census of Mexican incunables in U.S. libraries.
You can e-mail Scooter by clicking here.
Cynthia Davis "Cynthy/Dr. Books/La Dottora" Buffington has known her partner since 1973, when she moved to Philadelphia from Washington, D.C., having completed coursework for her English Literature Ph.D. at the University of Virginia. She worked at Allen's to subsidize her dissertation, editing catalogue copy among other varia, and after finishing her degree she managed computer and general office operations as well. During those pre-PRB&M days, she also edited books for Temple University Press and taught at a diverse array of local colleges and universities: Drexel University, the College of Performing Arts, and latest and longest, Penn (the University of Pennsylvania).
At PRB&M, Cynthy is generally the "Business Partner" as David is the "Book Partner" — though she continues to edit and now collaborates on cataloguing, ardently scouts books for purchase, personally tends the needs of some of the firm's regular collectors, crafts most of our specialized lists, and oversees the website — while David has been known to inspect the occasional balance sheet. It bothers her that she is less colorful than the other PRB&M'ers; but her husband says, "Cynth, you're the 'bidness guy'. You're not supposed to be colorful" — a comforting thought.
Cynthy's direct e-mail address is email@example.com.
the accuracy of our cataloguing, and the integrity of our dealings.
We aim, simply, to place
good books and manuscripts
where they will be zestfully used
and possessed with satisfaction.
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