Rostenberg, Leona 1908–2005
ROSTENBERG, Leona 1908–2005
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born December 28, 1908, in New York, NY; died of heart problems March 17, 2005, in New York, NY. Bookseller and author. A rare book dealer, Rostenberg is best remembered for being the co-discoverer of the risqué stories published pseudonymously by Louisa May Alcott. After graduating from New York University in 1930, she completed her Ph.D. work at Columbia University, but her dissertation was rejected. Because of this, Rostenberg could not teach at the university level, and she therefore worked for book dealer Herbert Reichner for ten years. Close friend Madeleine Stern encouraged her to open her own used book store, and she finally did so in 1944. Stern and Rostenberg became partners the next year, opening Leona Rostenberg & Madeleine Stern Rare Books. The friends traveled around Europe, finding unique books and bringing them back to their store for sale. They also spent a great deal of time researching authors in the library. It was during one of their research trips that Rostenberg discovered a letter from a publisher to Louisa May Alcott requesting more of her racy stories, which she had been publishing under the pen name A. M. Barnard. Further digging revealed that Alcott wrote stories involving violence, drugs, and other unsavory practices in order to help support her family. In 1943, Rostenberg broke the news about these unknown stories by the beloved author of the genteel Little Women in the journal Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. Her partner, Stern, also used this information in her 1950 biography of Alcott and a 1975 collection of edited stories. Rostenberg, on the other hand, continued publishing academic books, such as English Publishers in the Graphic Arts, 1599-1700: A Study of the Print-Sellers and Publishers of Engravings, Art and Architectural Manuals, Maps, and Copy-Books (1963) and An Antiquarian's Credo (1976). These works eventually convinced Columbia University to at last award her a Ph.D. in 1973. With Stern, she also published several works about old and rare books, as well as two autobiographical works about herself and Stern: Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion (1997) and Bookends: Two Women, One Enduring Friendship (2001).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2005, p. B11.
New York Times, March 24, 2005, p. C22.
Washington Post, April 2, 2005, p. B6.