The Baumans, Sellers of Really, Really Rare Books

What reward does one purchase after successful on the playing tables in Las Vegas or sitting via an excruciatingly uninteresting conference there? A Rolex, a designer purse, a brand new bracelet?

How a couple of uncommon e book?

It was 11 years in the past that David and Natalie Bauman, the homeowners of a profitable uncommon e book retailer in Manhattan, open since 1988, determined to develop to Las Vegas, opening a retailer on a comparatively quiet second flooring walkway among the many Grande Canal Shoppes between the Venetian and Palazzo lodges. On the primary flooring, ersatz gondolas with gondoliers ferry vacationers from finish to finish.

Their store is wedged subsequent to Lazarou, a customized males’s clothes retailer, and simply throughout from Mezlan, which sells sneakers. Its two-story, elegant bookcases are stuffed with rigorously organized volumes, many certain in embossed leather-based. A studying desk on the heart of the shop remembers an Ivy League faculty library. A affected person saleswoman awaits guests at a podium near the doorway.

On a current day, in a locked vitrine, have been first editions of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” in full leather-based pictorial bindings. Printed in 1866 and 1872, they promote collectively for $23,000. For $700 one may by a primary version of Margaret Thatcher’s “The Path to Power,” signed by her.

In a city of sparkle and flash, uncommon books are an anomaly, however for the Baumans, they’re profitable. One customer spent $400,000 on “The Great Gatsby” and McKenney and Halls’ “History of the Indian Tribes of North America” in a single go to. Another, a quiet man in shorts, flip-flops and a T-shirt spent $15,000 on a primary version of “Huckleberry Finn” after which a number of weeks later returned to pick a primary version of “The Catcher in the Rye” for $17,000. (One can solely think about what Holden Caulfield would suppose of that.)

But most receipts are nicely underneath $1,000, Ms. Bauman mentioned. Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is a cut price at $850, and a 1996 first version of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club” goes for about $1,000.

One Las Vegas customer began with modest purchases. Then he grew to become fascinated with Gould’s “Birds of Great Britain” an ornithological plate e book that comprises a sequence of spectacular plates, coloured by hand, plunking down $100,000.

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

The couple bought into uncommon books fairly by chance, recalled David Bauman, a mild, soft-spoken man in his 70s, after espying some at Freeman, the public sale home in Philadelphia the place 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 began to consider it as a enterprise,” he mentioned. “We were not afraid then, because we did not know enough to be afraid.”

They opened a small retailer on the second flooring of a constructing throughout the road from Freeman’s. “But what we did not realize is that most people don’t look up,” Mr. Bauman mentioned.

So they determined to go to vintage reveals across the nation promoting books. They eschewed New York as a result of “we were told it was just terrifying,” Natalie Bauman mentioned. “But when we finally came to the city, we made more money in one day as we made in six months going around the country.”

They subsequent arrange store on the Waldorf Astoria, as a result of “you need to put your self the place the type of individuals who purchase your books will go,’’ Mrs. Bauman mentioned. Easy sufficient, proper?


“The first week, we didn’t promote any books. No one even got here into the shop,” she recalled. But then Nelson Doubleday appeared. Mr. Doubleday had been chairman of Doubleday and Co., his household’s enterprise however had offered it for a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands. “He looked around and bought half of our inventory and had it shipped to his yacht. He was also the godson of Rudyard Kipling,” Mr. Bauman mentioned.

Eleven years later, the Baumans determined to open at 535 Madison Avenue, the place they continue to be, after strolling up and down the blocks there to guage the market. “Mostly businessmen,” Mr. Bauman mentioned.

One day, two girls from the Midwest walked into the shop. “We came to New York to see different, great things and there is magic in your store,” one informed Mrs. Bauman.

Some years later her husband went to go to a cousin engaged on a undertaking in Las Vegas. “I realized that there was over one million feet of convention space underneath the hotels,” he mentioned. “Casinos have studied everything about their customers. They were making more money from the stores than from the casinos.”

He realized that the hundreds of thousands of guests who arrive in Las Vegas every year “are there to enjoy themselves. They have the time to look at books and put a toe in the water. When you are on vacation, you have more discretionary income and more time to spend it.”

Still, for the Baumans, opening in Vegas was an enormous funding. They needed a retailer that had the class of a beautiful library. ”We consider we promote stunning issues so they need to be housed in a phenomenal place,” Mr. Bauman mentioned. The retailer additionally required a workers of 9 individuals, since it’s typically open 13 hours a day.

Its gross sales workers needs to be very educated. “He would quiz us,” Eric Pederson, who now manages the Manhattan retailer, mentioned. “David would point to a book and ask us to tell us everything we knew about it.” Today a 32-person workers works in New York, Las Vegas and Philadelphia, the place a lot of the analysis and on-line enterprise takes place.

Over time consultants be taught what makes a e book helpful. For instance, Mr. Pederson defined, the earliest copies of the primary version of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” mentioned “author of ‘In Our Times’” on the mud jacket. “You had to know it was an error that was soon “corrected to “In Our Time.” “The mistake told you that book was an earlier copy.”

Initial printings of “Huckleberry Finn” had errors as nicely. On web page 57 a sentence learn: “With his was …” as a result of the letters for the phrase “saw” had been reversed. In later printings it was corrected to: “With his saw.”

And a duplicate of “Ulysses” signed by each James Joyce and Henri Matisse was printed earlier than their dispute as a result of Joyce grew upset when he realized that Matisse had relied on Homer’s “Odyssey” as a supply of inspiration, quite than Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

But erudition just isn’t sufficient to maintain the Baumans afloat. Marketing and occasion planning are equally vital. In July 2009, the 40th anniversary of the primary moon touchdown, the shop promoted a bunch of house exploration books together with Buzz Aldrin’s Teletype message of the secure landing, which he later signed, six volumes of restricted editions by astronauts together with John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. For a pleasant stocking stuffer one 12 months, the Baumans provided a primary version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” printed in 1843. The value: $38,000.

For gamblers who pray to win, and may have a bit of assist, the shop had provided an exhibit of uncommon bibles like a fraction of the microform containing 50 pages of the King James Bible. Three years in the past, it held an exhibit of cookbooks, together with the primary Jewish one printed in America.

The Baumans, who spend most of their time in New York and a 12,000-square-foot headquarters in Philadelphia, stay obsessed by books. “When we are going on vacation, we have to pick a place with no bookshops,” Mr. Bauman mentioned. “We like Thailand, Vietnam and Turkey: Turkey because you could not buy and take away old Qurans because they are antiquities. So all we could buy was fabric.”

Their success in Las Vegas has been “a pleasant surprise,” he mentioned, with a number of sudden benefits.

For instance, the town attracts greater than 42 million guests a 12 months, however the common keep is simply three and a half days. “You don’t have to change your windows very often,” Mr. Bauman mentioned.

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