Peter's reputation as both an endlessly inventive artist and a ladies' man preceded him. The initial plan was to have an Arcana table in the space during the gala opening evening selling books and facilitating their signing, for which a portion of the proceeds would go to the charity. I came to learn as the date approached that this would not simply be the photographer taking a pen and placing a signature on the title page. Instead Peter "signing" entailed an elaborate ritual of adornment usually combining a finger, hand, or footprint with watercolor washes, perhaps a small drawing or two, and concluding with a charming personalized greeting or "Salaams" accompanied by the number of his P.O. Box in either Montauk or Nairobi. Rather than taking the typical one minute-or-less per encounter, it became clear that each book receiving the artist's unique ink and watercolor-laden treatment could take ten to fifteen minutes to inscribe, and that much time again to dry properly before they could be safely closed! As the opening only lasted a few hours, the organizers justifiably realized that selling the prints on the walls to support the cause that was so central to Mr. Beard required his attention in charming potential benefactors throughout the evening, and that would be entirely derailed if he gave all his time and energy to personalizing books with his hands covered in ink. So, after we had ordered and pre-sold scores of "The End of the Game", "Eyelids of Morning", "Longing for Darkness", and the exquisite "Diary: Pictures From a Dead Man's Wallet" from Japan, there was suddenly no book signing. On top of this, as soon Peter hit town, the exhibition became more and more elaborate in scope, and the time allotted for his installation supervision became focused on how shall I say, renewing old, and making new acquaintances.
In an attempt to salvage our reputation and finances, David and Peter came to the rescue by prevailing upon the organizers to allow us to make sales at the event, which would be signed by Mr. Beard after the fact over the next week when he set up shop to embellish dozens of prints waiting for him in the back room at the gallery on La Brea. This was the best possible solution under the circumstances, and as I hazily recall the exhibition was ultimately installed by the time the doors opened, packed wall-to-wall with beautiful people, and financially successful.
And for the next several days I was the grateful recipient of the unforgettable experience of hanging out with and assisting the tireless Mr. Beard. Peter was well educated, well read, opinionated, funny, and thoughtful. He told me with a smile that he would have been far happier just personalizing books instead of having to schmooze at the opening, and we had many lively discussions as he alternated between finishing up the stacks of photographs strewn wherever there was a flat surface, and the contents of the many boxes we had brought along. Whether it was a photograph or book, each and every inscription was given his lengthy and undivided attention. On the first day of my apprenticeship, which consisted mostly of opening a book up to the proper page and then getting out of the way until it was time to take it away to let it dry for at least a half-hour, I made the mistake of trying to dress to impress. I wore my most expensive pair of pants - brand new light grey wool crepe Armani trousers - which promptly received a spatter of indelible cobalt blue watercolor all the way up the left leg from fifteen feet across the room as the collateral damage from one of Peter's enthusiastic flourishes on one of the really large photographs. While both my pants and shirt along with the gallery carpet were doomed, it was well worth it for the story all these years later.
Over the next several days, his schedule for showing up at the gallery became more and more diffuse as the late nights impacted the mornings, and more and more lady-friends seemed to require more of his "attention" during the afternoons. On his last day in town, after having finally graciously - and beautifully - personalized what must have been a hundred books for us, I brought out the box of my own copies of first editions of everything he had published and asked sheepishly if he wouldn't mind signing those as well. He apologized saying he was late for a date, and since he wanted to "take his time" with them, if I wouldn't mind dropping them off with the concierge at the Chateau Marmont, he would take care of it later that evening and leave the box at the desk when he checked out the next morning. When I returned to the Chateau several days later, I was touched to see Peter had not only kept his word, but had gone to great lengths to personalize each and every copy differently with collaged photographs of his fabled Rhinoceros goring, snake skin appliques, elaborate drawings and inscriptions, etc. He was an artist, a gentleman, and a man of honor.
Two years after that Peter had his infamous run-in with an elephant that nearly cost him his life. Again. And in 2006, Taschen released their spectacular magnum opus on his work - edited by David Fahey - which magnificently put in perspective the true breadth, artistry, and humanity of his career. While we only had sporadic contact in the intervening years, being the character that he was, one couldn't help reading or hearing about his rakish exploits, even into his old age. The uncertainty of the events of Peter's passing were certainly sad, and he leaves behind a grieving family, studio, and so many friends. But he also has left a legacy of remarkable work, and a commitment to the preservation of the East African land and wildlife that he felt so privileged to discover and tirelessly advocate for.
We don't usually try to feature things for sale in the wake of an artist or photographer's passing but there has been such a demonstrable outpouring of interest in Peter Beard's life and work in the past week, we felt we would take this moment to catalogue all of our remaining titles and make them available on our website. If you are so inclined, these include a number of beautiful hand-inscribed and decorated items - some that we squirreled away in 1994, others we've bought back since then, and even a couple of my own copies that I've decided to part with for the greater good. There is even an amazing one-of-a-kind framed 1977 "The End of The Game" poster inscribed by Peter to his pal Elaine Kaufman that hung on the walls of "Elaine's" in Manhattan for decades until its closing!
And please continue to enjoy our featured Book of the Day and let us know what you are looking for, as our website represents a tiny fraction of our inventory. New releases are arriving daily and we can get them in your hands via shipping, delivery, or no-contact pick-up. Gift certificates and perennially practical zippered tote bags are also available on the site, by email, and by phone.
Wishing you all safety, sanity, wellness and future adventure.
With Immense Gratitude,
Lee (+ Whitney)
We are closed for in-store shopping. But we are here - working behind closed doors - ready to help you!
Pick-up, delivery, and shipping are all available and welcomed! We are here if you need something though we are required to limit visitation for the safety of our staff and to comply with local ordinances.
You can order from amongst the listings on this site (our recent Books of the Days are here), give us a ring or send us a message and we will be happy to satisfy your bibliographic cravings. You can also buy a gift certificate!
Our website has only a few thousand listings and is by no means representative of the entirety of our stock - so let us know what you're looking for and we will check our shelves: 310-458-1499 / email@example.com.
PLEASE BE SAFE & WELL!
photo by Yoshihiro Makino
Photos by Gerry Johansson from "American Winter" published by Mack Books.
For over twenty years, our friend and trusted store manager Steve Kilfoy toiled in the fields of Arcana, all the while maintaining his own bookstore, Bookfinger, at The Brewery. In 2017 Steve suffered life-threatening health issues that made it necessary him to leave us. Following a bone-marrow transplant, a lengthy period of enforced semi-isolation while his immune system rebuilt itself, and a stagnant period in the book business, he finds himself in the unenviable position of requiring financial assistance. Steve is an unforgettable individual and part of our history -- please click here and consider supporting his efforts to keep his book business and his home. Thank you.