The Unpublishable Memoirs

Dr. Rosenbach became famous for selling the best books at the highest prices, but how does one amass a great collection when one doesn’t have the money to play the game? The clever but unscrupulous protagonist of Dr. R’s first book,The Unpublishable Memoirs, has a simple solution: clever cons and sly stealing.

The Unpublishable Memoirs is not a personal memoir, but a work of fiction. It consists of eleven mystery stories about Robert Hooker, a bibliophile who is tired of being snubbed for his lack of cash and so wreaks his revenge by snookering the rich out of their rare books and art.

Oliver Herford, “Bibliofiends.” pencil and ink. ca. 1917. Collection of the Rosenbach, 1954.660.


A.S.W. Rosenbach, Unpublishable memoirs. New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1917. Collection of the Rosenbach, Ro1 917u copy 4.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, since that would ruin the fun, but suffice it to say that the tales include cleverly constructed forgeries, fake customs officials, a story based on the Murders in the Rue Morgue and a host of other fascinating twists. The book  is well out of copyright now, so you can read it or download it at Internet Archive and many other sites to enjoy it for yourself.The image shown above is the original drawing for the frontispiece of the book. Entitled “Bibliofiends,” it was executed by Oliver Herford and the second figure on the staircase was apparently supposed to represent Dr. R.

The Unpublishable Memoirs was published in 1917 and Dr. Rosenbach sent gratis copies to his friends, clients, and collectors. Henry Huntington noted “it will be a pleasure to add it to the Library,” but another friend, Walter Hart Blumenthal, responded less kindly with a page of typographical errata. A London edition came out in 1924, and in 1925, more surprisingly, there was a version in Czech, which only printed the first of the eleven stories.

A.S.W. Rosenbach, Neueřejnitelné memoáry (Unpublishable memoirs). Prague: Method Kaláb, 1925. Collection of the Rosenbach, Ro1 925.