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105-year old Dawson's Book Shop begins clearance sale

August 7, 2010 | 10:00 am
Dawsonsbooks

Dawson's Book Shop, founded in 1905 by Ernest Dawson, begins clearing its stock when it opens at 10 a.m. today. For the next two weeks, more than 3,000 collectible books will be marked down as much as 75%; photographic and Western ephemera is being marked down 50%.

Originally located in downtown Los Angeles, Dawson's was moved to Larchmont in 1968 by Ernest's sons Glen and Muir, who had taken over the business. After the shop is closed, Michael Dawson, Muir's son, will continue the rare books business online and by appointment only in a smaller location. "We own the building," Michael said Friday. "We're going to put it up for lease."

Founder Ernest  Dawson was a savvy marketer and businessman. When a devastating earthquake hit San Francisco in 1906, followed by fire, he saw that rare books focused on the West, had just become rarer. Myrna Oliver reported that Dawson then "bought all the old California books he could locate and sold them to the barren libraries, bookstores and collectors at considerable profit." 

"Unlike their father," Oliver said, Muir and Glenn "kept a cache of books in a back room of the shop that they could not part with. 'Because we love them!' Muir Dawson told The Times in 1984." The brothers maintained private collections in their homes as well.

The stock includes rare books, books on the history of the region, photography books and photographs from the Michael Dawson Gallery. The ephemera is hard to categorize; it includes an advertisement for an Indian picnic and photos of a long-ago flood.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Friends peruse the shelves at the 100th birthday celebration of Dawson's Book Shop. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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