4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Book lover Scott Emerson hunts for Norman Rockwell — and finds him!

They carried on a correspondence for several years

Scott Emerson, collector extraordinaire.
Scott Emerson, collector extraordinaire.

Scott Emerson has always loved books. He seems to have come into the world that way, without the influence of parents or peers. And his love of collecting began fairly early as well. “What really got me into books was that I collected Norman Rockwell illustrations when I was in my teens. I would go out to thrift stores and garage sales looking for Norman Rockwell material.” Sometimes, Emerson would find that Rockwell material; other times, books that he could sell or trade in order to grow his collection.

“For a high school age person in the ’70s, having any interest in Norman Rockwell was kind of weird, probably,” he acknowledges. Weird or no, it proved fruitful: Emerson knew that Rockwell had been painting and illustrating since 1916 or earlier. At some point, it occurred to him that the artist could still be alive. He found the name of the town that Rockwell lived in, wrote him a letter, and addressed it to what he hoped was his local post office — he didn’t have an actual mailing address to use. Happily, the good people at the Stockbridge Post Office got the letter to Rockwell, who responded to the young Californian. They carried on a correspondence for several years; not only did Emerson get to communicate with a personal hero, he also became one of the few people — or perhaps the only person — to own a signed copy of Rockwell’s first cover for the Saturday Evening Post.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The Rockwell collection was one among many that Emerson amassed and later sold over the decades. Others included carefully curated selections of California history, Eastern religions, Maurice Sendak, and animation.

All that collecting is what eventually got Emerson into the book trade. He started as a book scout, digging through yard sales, thrift shops, estate sales, and occasional local auctions for hidden treasures — which abounded in those heady days before the internet. He would bring his discoveries, 8 or 10 boxes at a time, to Wiliam Burgett, then-owner of San Diego’s Burgett’s Books. Eventually, Burgett stopped looking through the boxes and just began writing checks for Emerson. “My strongest talent in this business is finding the books; I’m still very good at that,” he tells me.

In the 1980s, Emerson took two separate cross-country scouting trips: he picked a freeway and took off for a month, sleeping in cheap motels. “In those days, there was actually a book called Booksellers in the USA or something, and you’d just have to find places to stop. I’d have to get out my Thomas Brothers map. I’d have no idea where I was going”. He made his living as a book scout for a good while, but eventually moved on to creating his own bookselling business, and also working for a few San Diego bookstores, including Adams Avenue Books for 25 years.

Nowadays, he runs Scott Emerson Books from his home, working in a solitude that he says he has “always been fine with.” As his TV plays Turner Classic Movies or sports in the corner, he spends much of his day writing descriptions, taking photographs, and going to the post office to mail orders. Three or four times a year Emerson takes some inventory on the road for book fairs. “In 50 years or so I’ve never lost that love of books”, he tells me. “I have a real passion for it.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Bluefin still holding out as season turns

Yellowtail missing at Coronados
Next Article

UCSD hands slapped for not returning Indian relics

Juan Vargas staffers, Darrell Issa treated by Middle East lobbyists
Scott Emerson, collector extraordinaire.
Scott Emerson, collector extraordinaire.

Scott Emerson has always loved books. He seems to have come into the world that way, without the influence of parents or peers. And his love of collecting began fairly early as well. “What really got me into books was that I collected Norman Rockwell illustrations when I was in my teens. I would go out to thrift stores and garage sales looking for Norman Rockwell material.” Sometimes, Emerson would find that Rockwell material; other times, books that he could sell or trade in order to grow his collection.

“For a high school age person in the ’70s, having any interest in Norman Rockwell was kind of weird, probably,” he acknowledges. Weird or no, it proved fruitful: Emerson knew that Rockwell had been painting and illustrating since 1916 or earlier. At some point, it occurred to him that the artist could still be alive. He found the name of the town that Rockwell lived in, wrote him a letter, and addressed it to what he hoped was his local post office — he didn’t have an actual mailing address to use. Happily, the good people at the Stockbridge Post Office got the letter to Rockwell, who responded to the young Californian. They carried on a correspondence for several years; not only did Emerson get to communicate with a personal hero, he also became one of the few people — or perhaps the only person — to own a signed copy of Rockwell’s first cover for the Saturday Evening Post.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The Rockwell collection was one among many that Emerson amassed and later sold over the decades. Others included carefully curated selections of California history, Eastern religions, Maurice Sendak, and animation.

All that collecting is what eventually got Emerson into the book trade. He started as a book scout, digging through yard sales, thrift shops, estate sales, and occasional local auctions for hidden treasures — which abounded in those heady days before the internet. He would bring his discoveries, 8 or 10 boxes at a time, to Wiliam Burgett, then-owner of San Diego’s Burgett’s Books. Eventually, Burgett stopped looking through the boxes and just began writing checks for Emerson. “My strongest talent in this business is finding the books; I’m still very good at that,” he tells me.

In the 1980s, Emerson took two separate cross-country scouting trips: he picked a freeway and took off for a month, sleeping in cheap motels. “In those days, there was actually a book called Booksellers in the USA or something, and you’d just have to find places to stop. I’d have to get out my Thomas Brothers map. I’d have no idea where I was going”. He made his living as a book scout for a good while, but eventually moved on to creating his own bookselling business, and also working for a few San Diego bookstores, including Adams Avenue Books for 25 years.

Nowadays, he runs Scott Emerson Books from his home, working in a solitude that he says he has “always been fine with.” As his TV plays Turner Classic Movies or sports in the corner, he spends much of his day writing descriptions, taking photographs, and going to the post office to mail orders. Three or four times a year Emerson takes some inventory on the road for book fairs. “In 50 years or so I’ve never lost that love of books”, he tells me. “I have a real passion for it.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Mayor Pete Wilson's team of aides

Paul Krueger's favorite stories he wrote for the Reader
Next Article

Tijuana gas station clerk stiffed, dies on El Pacifico busy street

Did not follow protocol, says Arco
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close