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Collectibles: Sin City’s Secret Virtue

Alison Stein Wellner

Rare-book collectors have made the wood-paneled galleries of Bauman Rare Books in Philadelphia and New York their preferred destinations for decades. Bauman now offers these collectors a new destination in an unlikely place: Las Vegas.

Bauman’s latest gallery opened in February 2008 at the Shoppes at the Palazzo, alongside such retailers as Fendi, Guerlain, and Jimmy Choo. But the shop is about as unlike these temples of fashion, trend, and style as it can be—its specialty is the great books of the Western canon, such as a 1699 edition of the King James Bible ($3,800); a folio of seven lithographs by Marc Chagall, signed by the artist ($13,500); and a first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, inscribed by the author’s first wife, Hadley, who is the book’s dedicatee ($25,000).

Such books are hardly the stuff of a typical gilded Vegas shopping spree, but David Bauman—who owns the shop with his wife, Natalie—is not striving for that. The gallery in the Palazzo features decor and ambience that are similar to those of Bauman’s Walnut Street and Madison Avenue locations, and it offers a comparable stock—including such rarities as an early printing of the U.S. Constitution ($335,000) and the richly illustrated and hand-colored The Birds of Great Britain by John Gould ($178,000). "Las Vegas is a city that one doesn’t associate with rare books," Bauman acknowledges. "But we love being here. And because of the number of people that come from all over the country and the world, we reach the small percentage interested in collecting rare books."

But has the Vegas vibe glitzed up Bauman’s offerings at all? Well, maybe just a tiny bit. This location carries the complete collection of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels in first edition, for instance, which runs approximately $130,000. Also, Bauman noticed that his Vegas clientele is interested in wine and cookery, so he carries rare books in those genres. Among them are The Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930 ($1,350) and The Queens Closet Opened; the latter—a bound-together, three-volume first edition of popular 17th-century cookbooks ($11,000)—contains recipes for toothpaste, pastries, and candies, as well as for Italian, French, and Spanish dishes, and several prescriptions against the plague.

Bauman believes that his business fits perfectly in a city known for catering to visitors’ habits. After all, collectors can be as addicted to rare books as gamblers are to dice, and leave Vegas wanting even more. Says Bauman, "Customers visit our store in Las Vegas, and then they come find us in New York or Philadelphia."

 

Bauman Rare Books, 702.948.1617, www.baumanrarebooks.com

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