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Marian L. Gore dies at 95; antiquarian bookseller

She specialized in titles on food and wine, selling at fairs and by mail order, but says what she really sold was nostalgia.

November 05, 2009|Valerie J. Nelson

Antiquarian bookseller Marian L. Gore, who specialized in tomes about food and wine, once opened a book on ancient cookery and started to read a 15th century recipe for "Goos in Hochepot."

"Take a goos not fully rofted. . . ," she began, then expressed delight in the collection she had assembled for a 1984 book fair in Los Angeles.

"Betty Crocker, it's not," Gore said. "Not a muffin mix in the whole lot."

Gore, who sold books at fairs and by mail order for decades, died of pneumonia Oct. 11 at a skilled nursing facility in Pasadena, said her daughter, Meredith Savery. She was 95.

What she really sold, Gore told The Times in 1974, was nostalgia.

"A lot of people, particularly young people, feel it must have been better then -- it had to be better. They buy these books out of a feeling of nostalgia, a sort of relishing of the qualities of a world where people did not operate by shortcuts."

By 1991, Gore owned nearly 5,000 titles and had a mailing list of 750 collectors.

At the time, she was on the lookout for such titles as "A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband" (1917), "The Working Girl Must Eat" (1938) and a rare World War I tome, "Belgian Relief Cookbook" (1915).

Married at 17 and divorced at 47, Gore thought she "had no marketable skills except her experience as a housewife," said Savery, one her two children.

A talented cook who liked to read, Gore decided to combine her interests. ("Her piece de resistance was persimmon pudding," her daughter said.)

After apprenticing with several used-book dealers, Gore began buying historic and rare books on food and drink.

In 1967, she published her first catalog and continued selling books out of her San Gabriel home until about 1994.

A book such as "Favorite Recipes of Our Friends" by the Cafeteria Club at St. Gabriel School could sell for $10 while Abby Fisher's 1881 work, "What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking," might fetch $2,100 in 1991.

Gore's collection included European cookbooks, books about wine, beer and bartending; guides to hotels, restaurants and inns; books about California cuisine; and menus.

She was born Marian Lucille Moore on Feb. 27, 1914, in Los Angeles to Fred and Lucille Moore. Her father was the defense attorney in the controversial 1921 trial of Italian anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

When she was an infant, her parents divorced and her mother remarried when Gore was 13.

After graduating from Glendale High School during the Depression, Gore married because there was no money for college, her daughter said.

"She had wonderful taste," her daughter said. "Discernment in both intellectual and physical things. She had the best values of her generation: hard work, frugality and loyalty to family."

To shop for books, Gore made as many as 10 trips to Europe. Upon retiring, she donated her remaining books to the Los Angeles Public Library. She kept two, including one by M.F.K. Fisher, a favorite food writer.

"There are lots of people who go to bed at night and read cookbooks," Gore told The Times in 1991. "But they are not reading about white sauce. Cookbooks are not just about food. They are like a bouillabaisse, filled with lots of interesting things."

In addition to her daughter, Gore is survived by a brother, Stanford Hall; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Her son, Jeffrey, died in 1996.

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valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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