A Sad Remembrance

Back in the September 2004 issue of Endpapers I had noted an “Unexpected Kindness” from John Ballinger of the Bookpress, Ltd in Williamsburg, VA. If I’m not mistaken, this was also the same John Ballinger who was a partner with the Delaware Bibliophiles’ own Bob Fleck of Oak Knoll Books, albeit many, many years ago. This morning I received word that John had died three days ago on July 16th, apparently after a long illness:

John Emerson Ballinger died on July 16 after a lengthy illness. He was born on December 8, 1941 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. A longtime resident of Williamsburg, Virginia, he was a partner with John Robert Curtis, Jr. in the Bookpress Ltd., an antiquarian book business. He wrote two mysteries set in Williamsburg: “The Williamsburg Forgeries” and “The Jefferson Letters.” He was a graduate of Mining and Mechanical Institute in Freeland, Pennsylvania, and Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. He is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two sons: Michael of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Kenneth of Wilmington, Delaware. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Pawsitively Precious Adoptions, 4280 Teakwood Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23188 or Hospice House of Williamsburg, 4445 Powhatan Parkway, Williamsburg, VA 23188. A Celebration of Life will be held on August 1, 2-4 PM, at Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant, 5525 Olde Towne Road, Williamsburg. All are welcome.

–Sarah Baldwin, president of the ABAA

Six years ago John was cleaning out the basement of the Bookpress, Ltd. when he came upon thirteen Mosher Press catalogues which were still in their extremely fragile original publisher’s mailing envelopes, all addressed to Mr. Dwight W. Wylie of Iowa City, Iowa and all with their postage still affixed. These John sent to me out of the blue. Tucked into one envelope was a 1912 letter from Mosher on the revised trade terms he was willing to offer booksellers across the country, the first I had ever seen of these revised terms. When I called John, he said he sent the package gratis. I never forgot this act of kindness which I publicly announced in my essay called “Unexpected Kindnesses.” Now given this report of his death, I thought it appropriate to again make mention of his kindness and to say that the world of book sellers and book buyers has been diminished by the passing of yet another one of the finer members in our ranks.

Some folks may also recall that John was the author of two biblio-mysteries set in Williamsburg: The Williamsburg Forgeries and The Jefferson Letters. His presence at ABAA book fairs and at the Williamsburg shop will be sorely missed. Thanks for the memories John. Rest in peace.

Phil Bishop
July 19, 2010


This article is Copyright © by Philip R. Bishop. Permission to reproduce the above article has been granted by Gordon Pfeiffer of the Delaware Bibliophiles and editor of that organization’s newsletter, Endpapers, in which the article appeared in the September 2010 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.