I managed to slink out of work earlier than normal today so I made a beeline for a place I’ve long been eyeing: Bauman Rare Books in Midtown. I jumped off the E train at 53rd and 5th and walked a couple of blocks to the store before it closed.
Bauman Rare Books is exactly as it sounds – there are rows and rows of ancient tomes and signed first editions that form a collector’s paradise. And yet it was much smarter and sleeker than I’d imagined. The staff, who were suited and booted, are very particular about the quality of the books they take – so there wasn’t a dog ear to be seen.
While the majority of the space is like a library with leather-bound books reaching from the floor to the ceiling, one wall is lined with a glass case filled with some of their best finds. Among them was a great variety of first editions: William Blake, Hunter S. Thompson, Ansel Adams, Ian Fleming, Shakespeare, the Founding Fathers. And their price tags were eye-wateringly high – with most in the tens of thousands of dollars.
I was also glad to see that, as a way of completing my Winnie-the-Pooh education, there was a stack of A. A. Milne books that had been signed by him and the illustrator, E. H. Shepard. The clerk hovering nearby explained that this selection was particularly rare – simply because books don’t usually look this immaculate after kids are finished with them.
The rest of the room was filled with shelves upon shelves of first editions – including a section from a few faces you might recognize. Some of these were signed too:
I’m so glad I escaped work early enough to reach Bauman’s before it closed at 6. It was unlike any bookstore I’ve been to here in New York – and because I found myself oohing and aahing and marvelling at the history around me, it felt more like I was visiting a museum.
Don’t be put off by how quiet and immaculate it appears – the staff are really friendly and helpful and they’re not going to try a hard sell. With price tags like that, they know you’re probably not buying.