Joseph Felcone began collecting at age two, when he assembled a collection of New Jersey seashells. From seashells he moved to sea glass, and then bottle caps. By age ten he was a seasoned collector. Baseball cards were next, then stamps, then coins. Prep school introduced him to John Steinbeck, and he set out to buy, and read, as many Steinbeck paperbacks as he could. College was a collecting hiatus, but in law school he discovered secondhand book shops and Steinbeck first editions. Returning to New Jersey after law school, he sold his Steinbeck collection and began collecting New Jersey books--first local histories, then major books statewide, then early and rare New Jerseyana.
After a few years practicing law in the family law firm, he left to run a private foundation established by a well-known rare book collector. At the same time he began buying and selling rare books in all fields. As the business grew, he withdrew from the foundation to devote full time to bookselling, and his avocation became his vocation. Today, more than 45 years later, Joseph J. Felcone Inc. is a leading antiquarian bookselling firm handling books and manuscripts from the fifteenth century to the twentieth and with clients throughout the world. Several former Felcone Company employees are now making their own marks in the antiquarian book world. And Joseph Felcone continues to devote a significant part of his time to collecting, studying, and writing about early New Jersey books and the early American book trade. His personal New Jersey library is the finest collection of rare New Jerseyana ever assembled by a private individual, and his collection has formed the basis of several standard reference works that he has written on early New Jersey books and the early New Jersey book trade. An exhibition of highlights of his collection was scheduled to open at the Grolier Club in New York in September 2020, but the show was cancelled on the cusp of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The handsome printed catalogue of the exhibition, New Jersey in Print, 1693–1855: Selections from the Collection of Joseph J. Felcone, is available on our Publications page.