October 16, 2019

Fixtures: The Baumans, Sellers of Really, Really Rare Books

In a town of sparkle and flash, rare books are an anomaly, but for the Baumans, they are lucrative. One visitor spent $400,000 on “The Great Gatsby” and McKenney and Halls’ “History of the Indian Tribes of North America” in a single visit. Another, a quiet man in shorts, flip-flops and a T-shirt spent $15,000 on a first edition of “Huckleberry Finn” and then several weeks later returned to pick out a first edition of “The Catcher in the Rye” for $17,000. (One can only imagine what Holden Caulfield would think of that.)

But most receipts are well under $1,000, Ms. Bauman said. Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is a bargain at $850, and a 1996 first edition of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club” goes for about $1,000.

One Las Vegas visitor started with modest purchases. Then he became fascinated with Gould’s “Birds of Great Britain” an ornithological plate book that contains a series of spectacular plates, colored by hand, plunking down $100,000.

Later he paid $500,000 for a first edition of Isaac Newton’s “Principia.”

The couple got into rare books quite by accident, recalled David Bauman, a gentle, soft-spoken man in his 70s, after espying some at Freeman, the auction house in Philadelphia where they lived as newlyweds. “For $1 we bought a first edition of a volume of Samuel Johnson’s works, then we bought a first edition of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” for $12, and we started to think about it as a business,” he said. “We were not afraid then, because we did not know enough to be afraid.”

They opened a small store on the second floor of a building across the street from Freeman’s. “But what we did not realize is that most people don’t look up,” Mr. Bauman said.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/30/style/bauman-books.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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