Legendary bookseller and publisher Donald Weiser passed away peacefully at age 89 in his home in Florida, surrounded by his wife and family, on April 12, 2017. As a young man, Donald worked alongside his father Samuel Weiser in the eponymous bookstore that changed the lives of countless people. Samuel Weiser Bookstore had opened its doors in New York City in 1926 and grew to become the world’s largest esoteric bookstore, attracting customers from every country. One of its better known patrons was magician Harry Houdini, but Karl Germer, Harry Smith, Patti Smith, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Barbara Somerfield, Jimmy Page, and many others were also regulars.
Over its nearly 70 years in New York City, the bookstore moved four times from its origin on Fourth Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, to Broadway between 13th and 14th, two locations at Astor Place and Broadway, and finally 24th Street between Park and Lexington. In the 1960s, Donald was joined by brother-in-law Fred Mendel at the Astor Place location. Business skyrocketed as contemporary culture embraced Eastern religions, and Occult and New Age thought.
The publishing company Samuel Weiser, Inc. grew organically from the bookstore. It was incorporated in 1957, first releasing several important reprints of pamphlets that Samuel and Donald realized were too important to remain solely as rare book items. Under Donald’s leadership, Samuel Weiser, Inc. grew to well over a thousand titles, internationally respected as the major esoteric publishing house in the English language.
Rising rents ultimately encouraged Donald to relocate to York Beach, Maine in 1981. The NYC bookstore closed its doors in the early 1990s. In Maine, Donald focused exclusively on his publishing and distribution efforts, then-wife Betty Lundsted’s Nicolas-Hays line, and rare book sales through Weiser Antiquarian Books. In the 1990s, Donald was also involved with the Watkins bookstore in London. In 2000, the company was sold to Red Wheel/Weiser Publishing.
In 2005 Donald left Maine and relocated to Florida with wife Yvonne Paglia-Weiser. Retirement eluded Donald, however, as he and Yvonne continued with Nicolas-Hays and started Ibis Press. They have since produced some 150 titles of the world’s finest esoteric literature.
Donald is survived by Yvonne, four children, six grandchildren, and his beloved sister Helene.
A celebration of his life will be held at a later date in New York City.
[Text from announcement on Red Wheel Weiser site: http://redwheelweiser.com/p.php?id=109]