Rare Book Paradise

Last weekend, I attended the national convention of AP teachers at the Venetian here in Las Vegas.  It should tell you something about the quality of most of the sessions that the best part of the weekend by far was finding a rare book seller.

During lunch, I wandered upstairs to the Venetian’s famous Grand Canal Shops, where my wife and I rode the gondolas and were serenaded the day we got married.  It’s a pretty upscale mall, and great for window shopping.

But a new place caught my eye.  Signs around the mall advertised a collection of Revolutionary War documents on display.  Couldn’t pass that up!

Bauman Rare Books did indeed have about a dozen such items in a glass case: a copy of Common Sense from 1776, a 1st and a 2nd edition of The Federalist Papers, and some personal and official correspondence from the likes of Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin.  The store also features a fascinating copy of the Declaration of Independence from the mid-19th century.

I was in love before I even walked in the store, though: in a window by the door was a collection of several Hemingway first editions, loving labeled and priced at what turned out to be average for the store, several thousand dollars.  I should have picked up a few spare copies.  Want me to grab a few for you, too?

The store is smallish, but uses the space very well: it flows into a few back areas where old maps and other book-related memorabilia is framed.  Full shelves line those further walls as well, with some recent first editions (The Road, A Man in Full) sitting next to older, contemporary works (Interview With the Vampire, The Cider House Rules).

But the glass displays along the front walls, surrounding the central Revolutionary display, were the highlight of the visit.  Among their treasures:

  • a 1632 copy of the 2nd folio of Shakespeare’s collected works
  • a 1674 copy of Macbeth
  • a leaf from a 13th century Bible, with some late medieval illumination
  • a 2nd edition Book of Mormon (“rarer than the first!”)
  • a Mark Twain autograph with a joke
  • an autographed copy of Catcher in the Rye, inscribed to his mother-in-law, opened to that page
  • tons of other literary classic first editions, often autographed!

They don’t just stock literature, either: there are science and travel classics, children’s books, art, and more.

So what I’m saying is, please go visit this store and patronize it if you can.  You can pick up that 1st edition of The Federalist Papers for a mere $260,000.

And if you do buy anything, please invite me over to look at it.