William “Bill” Dailey, the longtime proprietor of Dailey Rare Books, a landmark on the Los Angeles book scene for 40 years, passed away on December 15 in an accident near his home in Los Angeles. Dailey was one of the last in a line of distinguished Los Angeles bookmen. He was 72.
William Dailey was born in Bryn Mawr, PA on June 11, 1945. Bill grew up in Evansville, IN, the son of Donald and Elizabeth Dailey. He studied art at Lake Forest College, Evansville College, and later at Indiana University.
Bill moved to California in 1967 and landed in San Francisco just in time to witness the Diggers last major parade celebrating the Death of the Hippie. Bill made his way to the warmer climate of Southern California, where he taught at The Dunn School in Los Olivos for one year. His students included a teenaged John Burnham, later of ICM, and Rob Forbes, the future founder of Design Within Reach. Dailey maintained friendships with both men until the end of his life. Over the years, Dailey counted among his many friendships such diverse characters as Barry Humphries (Dame Edna), Wallace Berman, Prince Stash Klossowski de Rola, Dane Rudhyar, Dr. John Lilly and Timothy Leary.
Bill began his apprenticeship in the antiquarian book world at legendary book dealer, Zeitlin & Ver Brugge in 1969. He learned the art of book scouting from “Uncle” John Martin publisher of the Black Sparrow Press, with whom he would scour used bookstores in his off hours.
In 1970, Dailey, Michael Horowitz and Robert Barker co-founded what became the world’s largest collection of psychoactive drug related literature, The Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library, named after the first American to write a book about drugs and drug use. That library is now housed at Harvard University.
Dailey was also a publisher and a letterpress printer. In 1972 he co-founded The Press of The Pegacycle Lady. Published books included works by Dane Rudhyar, Stéphane Mallarmé, the Marquis de Sade, Edouard Roditi, Roger Bacon, Steve Martin, and Gustave Baumann. In 1975 with then-wife, he opened William & Victoria Dailey Rare Books, which they operated after they were divorced.
In 1997 Bill established Dailey Rare Books. The store on Melrose Avenue was a mecca to those in search of rare and unusual books. Dailey’s love of art, design, and the arcane was reflected in his inventory. In 2007, which saw the rare book business undergoing vast changes, Bill closed his store on Melrose and sold books via the Internet and at antiquarian book fairs. After closing the shop, Bill divided his time between Los Angeles and the Palm Springs area, where he ran The Hacienda Hot Springs Inn, a small hotel which Bill liked to tell guests he won in a poker game.
An astute collector, accomplished bibliographer/book cataloguer, skilled astrologer, lifelong scholar, hot springs fanatic, artist, and philanthropist, Bill’s interests and knowledge covered a wide range of topics. Works of Transcendentalist art, sacred geometry, early travel literature of Mexico and a voluminous collection of desert literature were among Dailey’s last passions.
One of the most notable collections Bill amassed was that of books on vegetarianism, which he began to collect in 1970. Containing works spanning from 1547 to 1967, that collection was donated to The Lilly Library at Indiana University, where Bill gave a can be found on YouTube as “William Dailey Book Talk.”
William Dailey was a longtime Buddhist who practiced Vipassana meditation for many years at InsightLA. A relentless seeker, his spiritual practice informed every aspect of his life and is reflected in the many subjects he passionately explored. He is survived by his soul-mate, Nicole Panter, their two dogs, LouLou and Cleopatra Jones (aka Tiny), a wide circle of friends and book world colleagues, and his sister Deanne Hansen.
An endowed conservation residency will be established in Bill’s memory at the Snow Creek, CA home he shared with Nicole. For more information, contact Nicole Panter at: [email protected]