February 11, 2019
Gucci bag or rare book? Your choice.
by Christina Cerio
Bauman Rare Books in Las Vegas is giving tourists a new way to celebrate their success at the slot machines. Wife and husband Natalie and David Bauman have been in the rare book business since 1973. Their business started at antique shows across the United States and made its way to Philadelphia in 1982, New York City in 1989, and Las Vegas in 2008.
In a recent New York Times interview with Geraldine Fabrikant, the Baumans discuss some of their most exciting early finds—a 12 dollar first edition of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and a one dollar first edition of Samuel Johnson’s works. The Baumans also recall one of their first big customers, Nelson Doubleday, who was a chairman of Doubleday and Co. publishing company. Mr. Bauman remembers,
“He looked around and bought half of our inventory and had it shipped to his yacht.”
Not all the Bauman Rare Book customers have yachts to send their books to. Many of their customers are new to the rare book world and fall in love with the history surrounding the early editions. The Fabrikant reports, “A copy of ‘Ulysses’ signed by both James Joyce and Henri Matisse was printed before their dispute because Joyce grew upset when he realized that Matisse had relied on Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ as a source of inspiration, rather than Joyce’s ‘Ulysses.’”
The staff is required to know facts like these about all of their books. Eric Pederson, the manager of the Manhattan store, told the New York Times that Mr. Bauman would frequently quiz staff members on the history the books. To catch a glimpse of the complexity of the rare book history, the bookstore also runs a blog.
An interesting blog post by Rebecca Romney, a specialist in rare books and previous store manager, explained “The Secret Language of Rare Books: Cosway-Style Bindings.” In this post, Romney defined the style, gave historical context and showed examples of the style with books from the store.
Mr. Bauman notes, “After 40 years, one of the most gratifying things to me is still when somebody comes into one of our galleries and says, ‘I never imagined anything like this could exist.’” In Las Vegas, where about 42 million tourists come every year to relax, shop and hopefully win money, Bauman Rare Books plans to stay in business. Cheers to happy bookstore news.
Christina Cerio is the Manager of Direct Sales & Special Projects at Melville House.