Horses and art are what I know and love, and when I began selling out-of-print books part-time in 1973, I named the business Blue Rider Books to reflect these two interests. The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter) was a group of early 20th-century German painters, and one of them, Franz Marc, provides my logo.
I grew up near San Francisco and earned art history degrees from Wellesley and Columbia. After a career as a staff and freelance art book editor for several trade and university presses, I began selling books full-time in 1983. In that year H.L. Mendelsohn and I opened our shop near Harvard Square. We closed it in 2020 after the landlord retired and sold the building. Along the way I changed the name to Robin Bledsoe, Bookseller, although many old friends and customers still think of me as "the Blue Rider."
My personal collecting and research interests focus on 19th-century equestrian print culture in the U.S. I'm also researching a late-19th-century American racehorse trainer's career. I'd welcome hearing from like-minded researchers, collectors, or anyone with relevant information or items to share or sell.
The photo shows two visitors to the shop one winter afternoon.
"Do You have Books for Swatting Flies?" In HippoCampus, January 2023. A look at my bookselling life, in the online journal for members of the Equine History Collective. For more information about the group, or to join, see http://equine history.org
"The Horse Is Here To Stay." In The Ephemera Journal, January 2022. A look at my collection of books and ephemera that illustrates the transition from horse to mechanized power in America, ca. 1880-1930.
"In the Stable: The Horse and the Country House." In The Carriage Journal, January 2019. An account of the study tour sponsored by The Attingham Trust for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections in 2018. We visited about 20 sites in and around York and Newmarket that are associated with English racing, hunting, and other equestrian pastimes--country estates, art museums, riding halls, stud farms, carriage collections, and many more. A very special trip!
"Paul Brown as a Book Illustrator." In M.L. Biscotti, Paul Brown: Master of Equine Art. Derrydale Press, 2001. Also published in abridged form in the exhibition catalogue Paul Brown, Museum of Hounds and Hunting, Leesburg, VA.
"Collecting New England Horse Books." In On Collecting. Letterpress Guild of New England, 2000.
"A Canter through the Land of Children's Horse Books." In Firsts: Collecting Modern First Editions, July-August 1993. Republished in different forms in the National Sporting Library Newsletter (Summer 1994) and Equus (February 1996).
"Equestrian Books in the Post-Equestrian Age." In AB/Bookman's Weekly, June 22, 1992.
"Do You Have a Book on Learning to Post? Building a Dressage Library." In The Salute (New England Dressage Association), Winter 1987-88.
"A Library for Farriers." In American Farriers Journal, September-October 1983.
"Midget Horses in New York." In The Western Horseman, December 1963.
Consultant for many articles on collecting horse books for magazines such as Classic, Horsemen's Journal, Horse Show, The Chronicle of the Horse, etc.
"Sixty Years of Collecting Horse Books." Ticknor Society Collectors' Roundtable, Boston, 2017.
"Horse Books in New England." New England Region/Carriage Association of America Learning Weekend, 2011.
" 'I Got the Horse Right Here': Information Networks in Nineteenth-Century American Horse Racing." Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP), Minneapolis, MN, 2007.
On collecting turn-of-the-20th-century equestrian books and ephemera. Ticknor Society Collectors' Roundtable, Boston, 2003.
"At the Stable All Day: A Racetracker's Life around 1900." North American Society for Sport History, Springfield, MA, 1997.
"Putting the 'How' into How-To Books: Early Photography in Horsemanship Manuals." SHARP, Cambridge, England, 1997.
"Handling Women Who Handle Horses: Practices and Perceptions of American Horsewomen, 1885-1925." Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Chapel Hill, NC, 1996.
"Antebellum American Riding and Taming Manuals: An Overlooked Source for Cultural History." SHARP, Washington, DC, 1994.
"I Got the (Horse) Book Right Here: Two Centuries of American Racing Books." Stanford University Library, Stanford, CA, 1994.
And Also . . .
In November 2022 I attended The Attingham Trust conference on "The Horse and the Country House: Art, Politics and Mobility" outside Cambridge, England. Thirty international historians, curators, archivists, conservators, and independent scholars presented papers about the buildings, works of art, publications, vehicles, and other equestrian objects that bear witness to the essential but now little-known roles that horses used to play in our lives. The 16th-century country house Madingley Hall, with landscaping by Capability Brown, was the perfect venue for this special weekend. For more information about the Trust and its programs, see https://www.attinghamtrust.org
Copy-edited Playing Soldier: The Books and Toys That Prepared Children for War 1871-1918 by Richard Cheek (The Grolier Club, 2018).
"Robin Bledsoe, Bookseller." Sidebar in Michael Walmsley and Marlene Smith-Baranzini, Horse Racing Coast to Coast: The Traveler's Guide to the Sport of Kings. 2006. Featured as a side-trip for visitors to Suffolk Downs, East Boston.
Fran Jurga. "Hooked on Books: Robin Bledsoe's Cambridge Bookshop Is a Treasure Trove for Horse Lovers." In Equine Images, Spring 2002.
Supplied all the books used as props in the Robert Redford movie, The Horse Whisperer, 1998.