Being in the Right Place at the Right Time – Roycroft Collector Clifford J. Awald

By John Awald

Clifford J. Awald (1923-1985)

Clifford J. Awald was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1923. After completing a degree in inorganic chemistry, he joined his father in business as vice president of Lou Awald Chevrolet, Inc. in Buffalo. Operating a successful automobile dealership provided a secure income, but Clifford’s true passion was science. He served on the Board of Managers of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences from 1956 to 1985 and as President from 1978 to 1981, as part of his involvement with the Buffalo Museum of Science.

Clifford was also interested in Niagara Falls, especially the geology of the region, and began collecting books and prints that depicted the early history of the falls. By the late 1970s, he had amassed a noteworthy collection of books about mineralogy and had developed an interest in fine bindings, in particular those that dealt with his passions – science and local history.

The Man of Sorrows by Elbert Hubbard (Lot 30)

The coalescence of science and fine bindings presented itself to Clifford when he
discovered books about the geology and natural history of the Niagara Frontier written by Amadeus Grabau and beautifully bound by his brother, John F. Grabau, a master craftsman who managed the bindery at Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft Shop in East Aurora, New York. Geology and Paleontology of Eighteen Mile Creek – written by Amadeus and bound by John – was one of Clifford’s earliest acquisitions in this unique genre.

Intrigued by the artistry and precise detailing of that exquisitely bound volume, Clifford began collecting fine bindings produced by the Roycrofters and others; he learned how to bind and preserve books and expanded his collection to include books about books. He attributed his library to serendipity – being in the right place at the right time with cash in hand – and continued to collect beautiful books until his death in 1985.