Rare Books In New York

by Country Inns & Suites
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New York City is a book collector’s paradise, and for rare collections, Manhattan is unparalleled. “While there aren’t as many stores as there used to be, we’re still the epicenter of book dealing in America,” says Adina Cohen, whose family has owned Argosy Book Store for three generations.


Begin your literary quest with a visit to the Web site of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. Member dealers ensure fair transactions, and there are 45 in or near Manhattan.

Make your first stop at the Strand, boasting 18 miles of books. The rare book room houses treasures like the first American and first regularly published edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with 42 illustrations by John Tenniel for $15,000.

Next, head to the Grolier Club, where books are exhibited on a par with painting and sculpture. Lives on the Mississippi: Literature and Culture along the Great River from the collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association will be on exhibit from February 24 through May 1, 2010.

For high-end, pristine editions, visit Ursus Books and Prints. “Condition is 99 percent of the game,” notes owner T. Peter Kraus. Bauman Rare Books is another top-shelf resource for serious collectors.

INSIDER’S TIP: Most museums include a rare book or manuscript collection. One of the best is the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which boasts more than 8,000-volume rare book collection tracing design through the ages.

How to start your collection

Whether you are interested in kitschy snow globes from around the world or are serious about investing in antiques, here are some ideas on how to get started with any type of collection:

• Collect what you enjoy. While some collections can be worth a lot of money, most collectors do it for the pleasure of surrounding themselves with items they enjoy.

• Be wary of fads. Many “hot” items for collecting today are passing fancies. If you like an item, fine. But don’t expect it to increase in value in the future.

• Know your collectible. If you are serious about collecting as an investment, it pays to have knowledge of the piece. Check out the item’s desirability and rarity. Study price guides and compare objects in the guides to pieces in antique stores.

• Protect your investment. If you believe a piece is worth more than $100, have it appraised. And if your collectible turns out to be valuable, insure it.

 Beth D’Addono, a travel writer based in Belmont Hills, Pennsylvania, looks for independent bookstores wherever she travels.