Whitmore Rare Books is a boutique appointment only bookseller dedicated to providing top collectors with the most important books of the last five centuries in uncompromising condition as they perfect their personal libraries. The owner, Dan Whitmore, had just graduated law school and landed his first job as a lawyer when he realized his true passion lay in rare books…so with one book and an incredibly low overhead he opened shop four years ago and the rest, as they say, is history.
Dan has carefully curated his collection year after year and prides himself on the Whitmore Rare Books business philosophy—a focus on excellent customer service and the highest level of integrity. That means a lot in the rare book world. There are so many things to learn, so many minute details that can make a price difference of thousands of dollars. That’s why it’s important to have a relationship with a good, honest, reputable bookseller.
When you’re able to invest $35,000 on a first edition of Jane Austen’s iconic Emma (debatably even better than Pride & Prejudice) it’s nice to have that peace of mind knowing that Dan has carefully vetted the books history…and he’s not overcharging you. The rare book world is a community of fascinating people who all have a real sense of camaraderie and enjoyment in finding gems like a first edition of East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Dan happens to have a fine copy in stock for just $750…there’s also a goosebump inducing very fine copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest just waiting to be snatched off the shelf for a reasonable $4,250.
Everyone has personal reasons for why they collect and what books are valuable to them. A rare book, like most art, has very little intrinsic value. All value depends almost entirely upon the economic principles of supply and demand.
The library is a reflection of the person and their experiences.
As Dan told us “Some people are collecting with investment in mind, they’re buying books they think will appreciate in the same way they’re buying wine or art that they think they can enjoy for the time being but it’s also an investment. Then you have people buying things because they find works that they have a deep emotional connection with. Something they read when they were younger or for some reason impacted the way they think and their philosophy of life. Sometimes it’s just a book they found incredibly enjoyable and gave them several hours of a break from whatever other routine they’ve been going through.”
Dan and his wife currently run Whitmore Rare Books as an appointment only store, with the books all out for browsing (and a few four legged friends to greet you, family style). We asked his advice about getting into rare book collecting and where to start.
“Buy what you love. That doesn’t mean overpay wildly for something. It can be scary and intimidating and that’s why buying from a reputable bookseller that you have a relationship with is so important. That distinguishes this business, the long term relationships between the bookseller and customer. Don’t be blind to the price tag if you really love something. And have fun!”