By Barbara Werner van Benthem
On 3rd November, Paul Haas passed away, shortly before his 60th birthday.
Paul Haas hailed from a large family: Born on 17th November 1950, he was the third of nine children, three of whom worked, and work, in the antiquarian book trade. After high school, he was apprenticed as a mechanical engineer. He took evening classes and then studied history and German language and literature at the University of Düsseldorf. Together with Stephan, born as the fourth child of nine in 1952, Paul visited flea markets and rare book shops. One day in 1979, in a shop in Arnhem, Stephan came across a particularly fine book and decided: “I’m opening my own shop.” It only took Paul a few hours to make up his mind: “I’m with you!”
In the same year Stephan and Paul, who called each other “Charlie”, founded their own shop: Antiquariat Gebr. Haas. Three months later, they published their first catalogue, typed on a portable typewriter. Norbert, the second-youngest of the nine Haas children, joined the firm a few years later. From then on, Paul, Stephan and Norbert Haas were an integral part of the international antiquarian book business. As the leading experts in the field of rare atlases, maps and old prints, they were famous for their tremendous knowledge and efficiency. They exhibited at thirteen fairs a year, in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Stuttgart – worldwide.
Paul Haas was a highly-esteemed member of the German Antiquarian Booksellers' Association (VDA). At the Stuttgart Fair, the Haas brothers first exhibited in 1992. Norbert will be there again in January 2011. Paul was looking forward to exhibiting in the stand no. 6 next door. He had registered - as always since 1992 - and we were looking forward to receiving his catalogue entry, as usual slightly delayed and directly from his boat in the Mediterranean Sea. Sadly, this did not happen. His friends, colleagues and clients will miss him in Stuttgart. And not only there. The little town of Bedburg-Hau on the lower Rhine, where the Haas brothers had three houses next to each other, was a meeting place for collectors and dealers from all over the world.
In 2007, the Antiquariat Gebr. Haas was dissolved, and each brother went into business for himself. For Paul, this was the chance to fulfil a lifelong dream. Since then he and his wife spent most of the year, from March to October, sailing his catamaran in the Greek Mediterranean. Paul, father of a daughter and a son, was a positive thinker through and through, full of good humour, energy and zest for life. He never complained about the terrible illness that afflicted him so suddenly. He never gave up. In September friends and the whole Haas family, over 100 people, had a big celebration to commemorate two anniversaries: the 40th meeting day of Paul and his wife and his upcoming 60th birthday. It turned out to be a farewell for Paul. And it was, as his brother Charlie says, a wonderful festivity that everyone will remember.
Paul Haas was one of the friendliest and most generous persons and one of the great dealers of the 20th century rare book trade. He will greatly be missed.