Tribute to Librarians

The following is from the 1942 book Men of Albemarle by Inglis “Peggy” Fletcher, an American Author, Historian and Explorer:

“I make my acknowledgment to the men and women who have so carefully collected and so lovingly preserved the manuscripts and documents, journals and private letters that form the living link between the past and the present now housed in the public and private libraries of this country.

In desert lands, in ancient times, the Guardian of the floodgates stood on the banks of the Euphrates and the Nile, waiting to turn the life-giving water on the arid land. In our times, librarians are the keepers of the gates. They stand ready and eager to open the gates to allow a great stream of history to flow from its uncontaminated source.”

Too Many Books Can Get You Murdered

Below you will read about the NOTED BOOK COLLECTOR ROLLAND L. COMSTOCK, his book collection, and his murder. A true bibliophile mystery. Enjoy.

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March 2000

Most people would be hard pressed to fill a library in their home. Not book collector Rolland Comstock. He needs two.

Once the walnut shelves of his old library were near bursting Comstock began thinking that maybe he and his wife, Alberta, should add yet another library into their already imposing home on a hill.

“The Library is 32 by 35 feet, with a gallery at the second level,” says Comstock, 63. “It cost $200,000 to build and it probably devalued the house by $300,000. Who in the heck would want a room like this in their house?”

The library is a sight to behold. Book-laden shelves cover the walls from floor to ceiling.

“In my library there are around 50,000 items, of which 90 percent are books. A majority are signed first editions of the author’s work.”

If you ask him if he’s got anymore room for books, he’ll look around and answer in a hushed voice:

“I wouldn’t want to say without checking to see if this room is bugged,” Comstock says. “If my wife would hear me say that we’re running very short on room, I think she’d murder me tonight!”

– By Heather Berry, Rural Missouri
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July 4, 2007

Attorney found shot dead in home

Rolland Lee Comstock, an attorney known for his book collection, dies at 70.

By Amos Bridges, News-Leader

Greene County authorities are interviewing family members and associates of Springfield attorney Rolland Lee Comstock, found dead Tuesday morning in an apparent homicide.

Comstock, 70, a longtime tax and probate attorney and nationally recognized book collector, was found at his home north of Springfield with an apparent gunshot wound.

Chief Deputy Jim Arnott of the Greene County Sheriff’s Department said detectives had developed no suspects or a possible motive for the slaying, which likely occurred late Monday or early Tuesday.

“We’ve got several people that we’re wanting to interview that we haven’t … but no idea at this time on motive or anything like that,” Arnott said Tuesday evening. He added that suicide had been ruled out.

Inside, the slain attorney’s famed book collection appeared to be untouched. Although he earned his paycheck handling tax and probate cases in Springfield for more than 40 years, Comstock was nationally known for a home library that contained over 50,000 items, primarily modern first-editions.

He housed his collection in a two-story addition built in 1993. He was reportedly looking to build an additional wing, or even another home, for his ever expanding collection.

“We couldn’t find anything that appeared to be missing,” Arnott said.
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2013

The investigation into the shooting death of Rolland Comstock will remain open, Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott confirmed.

The recent death of Comstock’s ex-wife, Alberta Comstock, brought up the question of whether the investigation of the 2007 homicide of Rolland would be officially closed. She was the main suspect in the murder investigation.

Though never criminally charged with the crime, Alberta Comstock was found liable for Rolland’s death in civil court. Her daughter, Faith Stocker, filed the civil suit, claiming Alberta Comstock was solely responsible for her father’s murder.

Arnott said “there is a large portion of this case that has to do with Alberta, and she remains the main suspect,” but added that the investigation would continue.


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SELL YOUR STOCKS, BUY RARE BOOKS

With the DOW down 800 points today, this article from 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, seems appropriate (excerpts chosen, shortened and edited for dramatic effect):

DEPRESSION PROOF 

In the last few months our economic situation has more clearly developed. Some of the things we thought would take place, have not. We were groping in the dark, listening to economic leaders who, as it turns out now, were either guided by unjustifiable optimism or who made pronouncements with nothing but ignorance as a foundation. This is clearly not an economic setback of the usual kind (as many still believe) but is of far greater magnificence than was assumed months ago. Never has capitalist industrialism been indicted as severely as in the last year. Selfish individualism is rampant everywhere. We cannot blame the British Empire for retaliation against a tariff barrier whose unhealthiness has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Our country is in a crisis. How far down we will go nobody can tell, but the owners of antiquarian books, fine autographs and manuscripts of rarity and quality will form as fine an insurance against financial breakdown and the poorhouse as anybody can wish for.

If my opinion were asked, I would STRONGLY ADVISE ANYBODY WHO IS AT A TOTAL LOSS TODAY WHAT TO DO WITH HIS MONEY TO TRANSFER A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF CURRENCY INTO LITERARY PROPERTY. I also think that every collector could do a great service in pointing out to his non collecting acquaintances the ultimate stability of such property as the only commodity which has stood the test of centuries and which has been the savior of many a man in periods of financial debacle and catastrophe when every other equity was of no value whatsoever.

– The American Book Collector, Vol. 2, No. 1, July 1932. Article by Charles F. Heartman, Editor.

– Charles Frederick Heartman, b.1883 d.1953, was a well known antiquarian book dealer and one of the foremost authorities on rare Americana of his time. His collection was considered to be one of the best anywhere. His collection of rare manuscripts relating to Slavery, consisting of over 4000 items, was eventually sold to Xavier University of Louisiana. His collection of African-Americana is held by Texas Southern University in Houston. You can read much about Charles F. Heartman and his life online.