If you have a passion for the history of firearms or collecting old guns then you will probably be familiar with Collector Grade Publications, a publishing house which has been publishing excellent, well researched and curated books for nearly 40 years. I’m saddened to say the man behind Collector Grade, R. Blake Stevens, has passed away, aged 80.
Collector Grade, founded in 1979, has published dozens of important books covering important firearms such as the FAL and M16 as well as the Luger, the MP40, M1 Carbine, Maxim Gun and the BAR. While Blake was himself an accomplished writer, researcher, and historian – responsible for wonderfully in-depth books on the FAL, High Power, the FN49 and roller locking rifles, he was also the driving force and editor of dozens of other books published by Collector Grade.
Blake’s obituary, written by his family and shared on the MacCoubrey funeral home website, reads:
Robert Blake Stevens
October 16, 1938 – April 22, 2018
“They always will believe a lie
Who see with, not through, the eye”
In his own words:
“Robert ‘Blake’ Stevens was born in Toronto on October 16th, 1938 the eldest of the three children of the late Thomas Herbert Stevens and Beatrice Ena Stevens (née Lake). Blake is survived by his loving wife and business partner Susan Fraser, daughter Elizabeth, grandson Elijah, sister Brenda van Lier (Winston), and sister-in-law Gail Stevens, widow of his late brother Clyde. Life never really made much sense for Blake until he was in his thirties, when it all came together during and after his first experience with LSD. Suddenly the world was divided into two groups of people: the few who understand the above edited quote from William Blake (1757-1827), and the many who do not. A 10-year career in systems analysis and computer programming no longer holding any appeal, Blake left the corporate world and studied for two years at the New School of Art, all the while maintaining his lifelong passion for music and high-fidelity sound. In 1979 Blake founded the small but now world-renowned company Collector Grade Publications, where for a period of nearly forty years he edited and produced a series of over sixty critically-acclaimed books on modern small arms, twelve of which he wrote or co-authored himself. He felt that this endeavor was well in keeping with the adage attributed to the Buddha, who is purported to have said that one has to learn how to make their living with their left foot if they are ever going to get anywhere with their head. While death is the ultimate demarcation, requiring the end of existence in this beautiful and beguiling world, it may lead to the opportunity for Blake’s soul to be reborn into another world of the same order as itself, which would be reward indeed for faithfully enduring the last ordeals in his struggle with cancer.”
Cremation has already taken place. A date to honour Blake will be forthcoming in the next months. Condolences may be made online at www.MacCoubrey.com, and if so wished, a donation in Blake’s name to the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.
Sadly, I never had the pleasure of physically meeting Blake but we exchanged emails regularly for a number of years and I greatly enjoyed his insight and generosity with his time and knowledge. He was even kind enough to grant me an interview for my website, Historical Firearms. If you’d like to learn more about Blake and his work you can find my interview here and an earlier 2013 interview with Small Arms Review here.
Through Collector Grade, Blake achieved a great deal and provided an unparalleled medium to propagate historic firearms knowledge. His death is a real loss to not just those lucky enough to know him but the firearms research community as a whole. I sincerely hope that Collector Grade will continue to publish their fantastic books in his memory. Rest in peace Blake.