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Kenneth Nebenzahl

Kenneth Nebenzahl Obituary
Kenneth Nebenzahl, who parlayed a childhood fascination with maps and an adult appetite for adventure, into a storied career as a Chicago rare books dealer, and explorer of the lesser-known world, has died. He was 92.

Nebenzahl passed away peacefully Wednesday at his home in Glencoe, IL, with Jossy, his wife, business and wayfaring partner of nearly 68 years, in his arms.

Ken and Jossy had decades of unusual travels to remote locales such as Morocco, Greenland, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, The Himalayas, Mongolia, Burma, and Oman. As travelers from the 1960's to date the Nebenzahls chose sleeping bags over hotels, and Himalayan treks over cruises. Nebenzahl was as comfortable on camelback as in the boardrooms of the Newberry Library, University of Chicago, World Wildlife Fund, and The Phillips Society of the Library of Congress.

Born in Far Rockaway, NY, Nebenzahl joined the U.S, Marines, attended Columbia University, and found his calling as an Americana dealer and appraiser of rare books, maps, and manuscripts. He amassed collections in the U.S., Europe and Asia that included the first printing of the Declaration of Independence and a first draft of the U.S. Constitution. His acquisition in 1969 of the finest copy of Audubon's Birds of America set a record at auction for a printed book in the Guinness Book of World Records.

He wrote numerous books about maps and cartography, published by Rand McNally, University of Chicago Press, and Phaidon Press, translated into six languages.

He founded the Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography in 1966 at the Newberry Library, named after his predeceased son. The lectures have been dedicated to research in the study of the science, art and culture of map making.

In 1983, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the College of William and Mary for his "many contributions to the history of cartography…"

He will also be long remembered as a devoted conservationist and wildlife lover, whose family was his greatest love of all.

In addition to Jossy, he is survived by daughters Patricia Nebenzahl and companion François Stofft, Margaret Rose and husband David, and Soozie Nichol and husband David, 7 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

Celebration of Life at Newberry Library date and time to be announced.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Newberry Library (Chicago), or the World Wildlife Fund (Washington D.C.), or Hands in Outreach (Sheffield, MA).
Published in a Chicago Tribune Media Group Publication on Feb. 2, 2020
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