It is just a beginning and could fail for many reasons that have nothing to do with the concept. Location, material, selection, price points and knowledgeable staff will all be contributing factors and the sensitivity of these factors is unknown. The availability of immediate off-site expertise will also be important because transactions, if impulse purchases, bloom and die quickly. At this point no one knows how this will work.
The shop will have a basic inventory, but will also feature a series of changing expositions, some with related activities tied to associations supporting special collecting subjects. For instance, October 4th the gallery’s opening day, happens to be the anniversary of the day work started carving Mount Rushmore. So an entire wall is given over to the “Mount Rushmore 4,” [Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt]. In February, Lincoln and Washington will share the exhibit wall, while in another month baseball might take center stage. In November of course its politics. Every month could be a new reason for a different group of neophytes and the experienced to come in for a powwow.
The entire field should be rooting for this experiment to work for if it does new centers of study - conferences, lectures and trade may be encouraged to develop in similar ways. For more than ten years rare book and other collectible sales, once primarily personal transactions have become disembodied exchanges of credit card numbers and commitments to ship that contribute to a lessening of collecting’s appeal. All efforts to rebuild the human interaction should be applauded.
It is already understood that subject centric collecting is taking hold although its impact on category centric marketing via shops, catalogues and shows, be they all books, all paintings, all printed art, or all maps as distinct from subject centric marketing – a conference on Lincoln, women’s poetry, 19th century royalty, religions or science as examples, - has yet to be measured. The decline though in traditional selling approaches has been palpable. This shop will provide some data.
For its organizers a key will be advertising and promotion and the challenge to reach the appropriate audience without having to pay for advertising to the world at large. In each other’s audiences they see logical prospects and cost efficiency. Reaching beyond this cross-pollination will involve another magnitude of strategy, reaching the individuals who see the world through the prism of history, is a complex task. Success of the project may hinge on their ability to connect with this audience.
Some dealers such as Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago provide scheduled events to bring the motivated into their shop. And the Caren Archives in New York partners with the New York Times to sell frame-able pages of history. And some collecting specialties are now organizing their own fairs, discussions and lectures to entice the motivated to participate.
We live is a different world and this shop is an interesting step, one at odds with the slow decline of booksellers’ open shops in the United States. It deserves support and encouragement to help create the next generation of rare book and collectibles retail paradigm. Such shops will be part of the future of books but invariably be different from shops of the now receding past.