I have lived with a rare book for nearly half a century—Baruch Spinoza’s Renati Des Cartes Principiorum Philosophiae, Pars I & II, published in 1663 by the printer Johannem Riewerts in Amsterdam. My father gave it to me when I was learning high school Latin, and it has accompanied me from suburban Chicago to Philadelphia, with many points in between. He had received it in the early 1950s, from his oldest brother who was then sick and dying. Reuben Peiss had hoped to be a philosopher, but his life followed a different path, into librarianship and then, through the strange fortunes of war, into intelligence work and mass acquisitions abroad. But his early interests never faded, and this book must have been of great value to him. As my father observed, “Spinoza was his guy.” I never thought much about the book, except to appreciate its aura of rarity, until I started upon this research. Where had it come from? How had Reuben Peiss acquired it, and from whom?...
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