Stephen Gray, author, publisher and lifetime Arts and Crafts collector, passed away on Saturday, October 27, after a long battle with cancer.
Stephen was among a small band of collectors who recognized as far back as the early 1970s the importance of the American Arts and Crafts movement. At a time when now-familiar names such as Gustav Stickley, William Grueby and Elbert Hubbard had long been forgotten, Stephen not only began collecting their work for his own home, but encouraged other collectors to pursue it as well.
One of Stephen Gray’s earliest passions were the original sales catalogs that Gustav Stickley, Charles Limbert, L. & J.G. Stickley and the Roycrofters had printed and distributed. These small paperback booklets were never intended to be preserved for posterity, and nearly all were eventually discarded and destroyed. Recognizing their importance, especially in identifying unsigned pieces, Stephen bought, begged and borrowed any of those rare, original catalogs which he could find.
So did other early collectors and dealers, but whereas many of them were intent on using the information for their own benefit, Stephen made the decision — for which he was often criticized by them — to share that information with tens of thousands of other collectors and dealers across the country.
Drawing upon his own experience in the printing business, Stephen formed Turn of the Century Editions and began publishing authentic reprints of several of these early sales catalogs. Nearly all remain in print today, along with Turn of the Century Editions, a testament to Stephen Gray’s vision.
Always willing to share both his information and his collection with others, Stephen opened the doors to his home for authors, photographers and collectors. His discerning eye for detail, design and perfect proportion is most evident in the pages of the book At Home With Gustav Stickley: Arts & Crafts From the Stephen Gray Collection (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 2008). In 2011, Stephen Gray was presented with the Arts & Crafts Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference. Inscribed on the hammered copper tray were these words: “In Recognition Of His Dedication To the Ideals of the Arts & Crafts Movement, We Hereby Bestow This Award Upon Stephen Gray, Author, Publisher and Friend.” The family is currently in the process of planning a private funeral this week. At a later date, to be announced here, friends will have the opportunity to gather for a memorial service commemorating the life and accomplishments of Stephen Gray at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT.