Several weeks ago, a woman brought a small collection of books into the store for us to buy. She told us her aunt was an antiquarian bookseller in Los Angeles some years ago. In the collection were some catalogs, pamphlets and other ephemera from someone named Jake Zeitlin. Naturally, we wondered: Who was Jake Zeitlin?
Zeitlin was another LA bookseller who opened his first bookshop in 1928. He founded Primavera Press to produce fine books and was a co-founder of the Rounce & Coffin Club, which supported and encouraged fine printing in Southern California for many years. During his 60 years as a bookseller, he and his friends came to be known as the “Zeitlin circle” and were a significant cultural force in the cultural and intellectual life of LA. Among other things, he testified in the obscenity hearing on Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” and was the editor of an influential Angeleno intellectual journal called “Opinion.” He managed the 1950 senatorial campaign of Helen Gahagan Douglas, who was called a “pinko” by her opponent, Richard Nixon. He died in 1987.
Today, I was in Cabella’s buying some fishing equipment. At the checkout counter was an old friend from the Denver Press Club. She asked what I was doing, and I said I had a bookstore. “My uncle had a bookstore,” she said. “Jake Zeitlin.”
There seem to be an inordinate number of coincidences in bookselling. It’s part of what makes it fun.