In Memoriam: Donald Weiser

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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]

6 comments on “In Memoriam: Donald Weiser

  1. elitemachinery

    I had the privilege of attending more than one dinner with Donald Weiser and his wife Betty in 1988 at D.O.M.E. The Inner Guide Meditation Center while they were visiting Edwin C. Steinbrecher (my mentor and teacher) in Los Angeles and were about to publish the 5th edition of Edwin’s book. Nice people, always gracious. I quietly listened and learned a few things about how the book publishing business works, and as a 23 year old recruit it was my job to do the dishes afterward!

    http://redwheelweiser.com/detail.html?id=9780877286578

  2. William Thirteen

    Thank you Donald. As I scan my library I see your life’s work reflected from every shelf.
    *******
    Unto them from whose eyes the veil of life hath fallen may there be granted the accomplishment of their true Wills; whether they will absorption in the Infinite, or to be united with their chosen and preferred, or to be in contemplation, or to be at peace, or to achieve the labour and heroism of incarnation on this planet or another, or in any Star, or aught else, unto them may there be granted the accomplishment of their wills; yea, the accomplishment of their wills. AUMGN. AUMGN. AUMGN.

  3. Jamie J Barter

    “Legendary bookseller and publisher Donald Weiser passed away peacefully at age 89 …”

    Wasn’t Marcelo Motta, acting under the erroneous belief that he had the magical power of being able to terminate his enemies at a dstance, supposed to have ritually cursed/hexed Donald back in the eighties (in page 388 of the court transcripts of the McMurtry v. Motta trial of May 1985, he claimed to James Wasserman to have already remotely assassinated Donald’s brother and to have issued similar additional “metaphysical death threats” to related others if his wishes continued to be disobeyed. As he went on to testify (p. 910), “Let me state for the record, sir, that the grade of the Ninth, the power of the Ninth, allows us to kill people magically if we want to”.

    This being so, it must make it one of the longest acting and/or least successful operations of its kind, neither does it seem to have adversely affected Weiser’s publishing programme or the family’s esoteric books empire very much. Incidentally I’ve never actually come across this particular ability of the Ninth degrees anywhere else – if anyone happens to have any further information I would be interested to know since wouldn’t homicide seem to rather go against the general Thelemic “grain”?

    Rest in peace, Donald.

    Norma N Joy Conquest

  4. ignant666

    I probably wouldn’t be here it it wasn’t for that small ad at the bottom of the last page of the Sunday New York Times Book Review every week in the early ’70s, the one for Weiser Books. As a small-town teenager back then, i snatched at that ad like a drowning man grabbing a life preserver.

    When i moved to NYC in the later ’70s, i visited the Weiser store on E. 24th often.

    That bookstore and publishing company changed my life.

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