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William Dailey


1945 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
William Dailey Obituary
June 11, 1945- December 15, 2017

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 15th 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. He grew up in Evansville, IN, the son of Donald and Betty Dailey. He studied art at Lake Forest College, Evansville College and later at Indiana University.

He 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. He made his way to 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 Burnham and Forbes until the end of his life. 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.

Dailey 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 and Michael Horowitz amassed the 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.

Bill was also a publisher and a letterpress printer. In 1972 he co-founded The Press of The Pegacycle Lady, with his then-wife, Victoria Dailey. The press specialized in producing the book as art. Published books included works by Dane Rudhyar, Stéphane Mallarmé, the Marquis de Sade, D.H. Lawrence, Edouard Roditi, Steve Martin, Don Bachardy and Gustave Baumann. In 1975, they opened William & Victoria Dailey Rare Books.

In 1997, Bill opened Dailey Rare Books on Melrose Avenue. The store 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, he closed his store and sold books via the Internet and at antiquarian book fairs. In nothing resembling retirement, he divided his time between Los Angeles and the Palm Springs area, where he ran The Hacienda Hot Springs Inn, a small hotel which he liked to tell guests he won in a poker game.

An astute collector, accomplished bibliographer, lifelong scholar, hot springs fanatic, artist, and philanthropist, Mr. Dailey'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 Dailey amassed was that of books on Vegetarianism, which he began to collect in 1970. That collection contained works spanning from 1547 to 1967. That collection was donated to The Lilly Library at Indiana University, where Dailey gave a lecture about it in 2016.

William Dailey was a longtime Buddhist who practiced Vipassana meditation at InsightLA. A kind and gentle man, his spiritual practice informed every aspect of his life. He is survived by the love of his life, Nicole Panter, their two dogs, LouLou and Cleopatra Jones, a wide circle of friends and book world colleagues, and a sister Deanne Dailey Hansen.

A celebration of William Dailey's life will be held on February 7th in Los Angeles. For more information contact [email protected]. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Bill's name to The Wildlands Conservancy, Whitewater, CA.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21, 2018
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