Spreading the love of books

By Nancy Tannler

The City of Readers [Roses] lost one of their dearest book lovers when the owner of Longfellow’s Books, 1401 SE Division St., Jon Hagen, died last winter. In an effort to honor his life’s work and share out some of the rare and unique books, posters, vintage photographs, paper ephemera, programs, catalogues, magazines and related materials there will be a sidewalk sale on June 1-3 with books ranging from $1- 6 and a storewide sale throughout the month of June with 40 percent off. Karen Sparrow, Hagen’s widow and his son Nile Hagen are painstakingly going through the stock and getting ready for the change they hope to make for Longfellow’s new future. They are intent on preserving Jon Hagen’s legacy as best as they can by making sure that people have a chance to own some of this amazing collection.

Nile and Jon Hagen in front of Longfellow’s on SE Division

Hagen officially started this phenomenal labor of love in 1980 when he opened the first Longfellow’s Books on Milwaukie Blvd. By purchasing the MLC book sale collection and combining it with his own the inventory was deep enough to open the store front–first edition books being his specialty. For the next thirty-eight years he was able to pursue what he loved most.

According to Nile, “What really excited him was the conversations he had with people in the store and the human connection, which books brought into his life.”

Jon kept Longfellow’s full to the brim, but surprisingly organized. There is a section for everything–rare,  first editions and the classics occupy one set of shelves while travel, thriller, global and regional, extensive first people books are in other aisles and shelves–everywhere you turn something enticing pops into your eye.

The pride of the collection consists of: signed Ken Kesey books; Plimpton’s Paris Review of the 1950’s;  “History of the World” by Sir Walter Raleigh 1676; leather tooled, gilt edged folio size beauties including a medical book on skeletal and musculature from 1786 and an exquisitely-illustrated treatise on architecture and design by James Gibbs, circa 1788 plus a Diderot Atlas and Captain Cook’s original atlas and engravings.

Karen Swallow and Nile Hagan

“Over the years people’s values have changed,” Nile said. “the increased rents don’t allow for extra spending on books, people spend their money on food and drink.” Plus book collecting and the library isn’t the only means for feeding a curious mind. There’s kindle and the internet has the cliff notes version of just about everything.

Even while Jon was still running the shop they sold about 60 percent of their books online. “It is a new era in the book world but for rare books, brick and mortar stores are still important,” Nile said.

This is one of the reasons Karen and Nile are busy preparing for the June sale. They want to reinvent Longfellow’s Books, declutter and create a new focus that speaks to the readers and curious minded of today. They want to use the space to display art, both their own and other local artists, with a little breathing space and cash they can make this happen.

In an interview with Amy Wang | The Oregonian/OregonLive Nile Hagan said, “My dad was a proud book man. He made books his life. In some ways he thought of them as his art. He was sometimes irascible, but dignified and respectful of anyone who came through the doors who was interested in talking and having an open conversation.”

In memoriam of Jon Hagan the most welcome tribute to this man would be a visit to the store and to purchase one of his books to assure the future of Longfellow’s Books.

Sidewalk Sale June 1- 3

Storewide sale through June

1401 SE Division St. 503.239.5222.


Spreading the love of books

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top