Peter Nelson Obituary

Peter Nelson’s style was affable and urbane and it was a terrible shock when he died last year aged forty-eight. Friendships were important to him and towards the end of his illness he observed it was a great pity that he had not been able to say goodbye properly to his friends. What is clear is that he knew how to say ‘hello’ to his friends: his hospitality was from the heart, his parties memorable.

In Peter’s own book collection, the main strands were detective fiction and fine bindings. In the early Seventies, while still at school, he became an avid collector of Agatha Christie firsts. Bitten by the completist bug, he began to make good contacts among booksellers, including Jimmy Thin in Edinburgh. However, as he told SBC in an interview four years ago, London booksellers Martin Stone and Kinnear Woolfe ‘provided the bedrock’ of his collection. In 1974 he picked up on the gossip that Martin Stone had a first of The Mysterious Affair at Style. To his dismay, it had been sold by the time he managed to get in touch, but Martin Stone, remarkably, knew of another one, which he instantly went off to track down, bringing it back to the café where Peter was waiting. The virtually mint copy, with ‘Presentation Review Copy’ stamped on the title page, became the centre-piece of his Christie collection.

After his death, a number of items from his collection were sold at Lyon & Turnbull. These included works by Robert Graves, James Joyce and T.E. Lawrence, over 800 examples of bookplates, and some fine examples of A. & C. Black’s early twentieth-century elaborately decorative cloth bindings.

Peter’s approach to collecting was light-hearted and unfussy; he did not pretend to knowledge he did not possess. Peter Nelson is remembered with enduring affection by those who knew him as a gentle, stylish man who was always great company.

Copyright Jennie Renton 2005.