The Thrill of the Rare Book Chase
Whitmore Rare Books carries rarities from the 1400s to modern day
By Emily Glory Peters
Many books are rare—but according to Dan Whitmore, owner of Whitmore’s Rare Books in Pasadena, that doesn’t necessarily make them valuable. So how does a lawyer-turned-book dealer decide what to carry in his shop?
“Whitmore Rare Books has been focused on exceptional copies of the literary high spots since we first opened. Over the years, we have expanded our offerings to include significant works in other fields—like a first edition of Saint Thomas A. Kempis’s ‘Imitation of Christ’ or our rare pamphlet of Susan B. Anthony’s ‘Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States of America,’” Whitmore explained. Still, like with many book collectors, rarity often collides with sentiment.
“Just for fun, I’ll sometimes pull in first editions Eric Carle’s ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ or ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’” he said, noting favorites of his four young sons. “That way when the boys visit me in the shop, they can see some of the books that we’ve read at home.”
Still, supply and demand are the order of the day for Whitmore. He started his own book collection in law school—and in terms of attention to detail, research and writing, his legal experience did help when setting up shop. But it was appreciating of the power of reading that compelled Whitmore to swap careers.
“Anything that gets people reading is a positive thing—and more often than not, people who collect are seeking out books they’ve read before,” he said. “Collecting a first edition of a cherished work connects you with the book and its author, and, as it sits on your shelf, serves as tangible reminder of the thoughts expressed within the work and how they impacted your life.”
Many of those books grace the shelves at Whitmore Rare Books, a former art gallery outfitted to resemble a classic English paneled library—“with modern touches,” Whitmore noted. The shop houses books and materials from the 1400s to today, expertly curated for the discerning collector.
“To pull a book into inventory it has to be extremely rare, of exceptional condition or have some type of fascinating association—hopefully all at the same time,” he said.
Given the glut of possible additions (Whitmore reviews thousands of books before selecting the best for his inventory) a superb team is a must. That consists of gifted photographers, designers and Whitmore’s colleague Miranda Garner Neslo, a Vanderbilt Ph.D. with 10-plus years of professorship under her belt. Together, they create something magical.
“We bring a lot of joy to people. Whether someone is adding a cherished work to a collection or gifting a meaningful book, we get to see how people interact with different works and authors,” said Whitmore. “It’s fun and rewarding to connect with people over this shared interest and we strive to provide a place where bibliophiles will be delighted.”
Whitmore Rare Books is located at 121 E. Union St. in Pasadena. For more information, contact the Whitmore Rare Books team at whitmorerarebooks.com | email@example.com | (626) 714-7720 and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @whitmorerarebooks.