December 2012 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Bauman Rare Books

Catalogue Review: Bauman Rare Books, Holiday 2012

The thing about a Bauman Rare Books catalogue is that it makes you want to settle into a comfy chair with a hot toddy, fireside, before turning the cover. It is an experience to be savored. The catalogue is thick, shiny, colorful, and has gilded lettering; in other words, it evokes luxury, much like Bauman's brick-and-mortar galleries in New York City, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia.

The holiday catalogue under review here has high spots--a hand-colored Nuremberg Chronicle, anyone?--in every category. And all of the books are so very pristine, as if they were published yesterday.

I was particularly smitten by a set of two Walt Whitman books, an author's edition of Leaves of Grass and a first edition, second printing of Two Rivulets ($20,000). What's interesting about these otherwise mundane (but collectible) nineteenth-century books is that they are accompanied by two autograph letters signed by Whitman from 1881 to the owner of these books, discussing their purchase direct from the poet. Whitman sent the books even though he had not yet received the money order!

Another fabulous find is a first edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter in original cloth, with a 1848 Port of Salem customs inspection receipt signed by the author tipped in ($18,000). Hawthorne was surveyor of the Salem Custom House for a time, and the novel's introductory essay, "The Custom-House," is based on that experience, which makes this copy very special indeed.

A second, thinner Bauman catalogue titled 130 Great Gifts offers lighter fare for the giving season. I'd love for someone to give me, for example, the first edition of Miracle on 34th Street in the sweet, pictorial cloth and jacket ($1,100). Another bit of Christmas synergy: the 1965 first edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas, adapted from the classic TV special ($850).

I come away feeling that Bauman has everything. And if they don't, they can get it. You can read more about David and Natalie Bauman, the husband-and-wife team that has run the business for nearly 40 years, in this recently posted (and well illustrated) article.