Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2016 Issue

Rarer than Many Rare Books: The Young Dealer

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Dan Whitmore is a book dealer in southern California.  He is 35 and never experienced the halcyon days of bookselling two decades ago.  He was in high school then and would go on to Middlebury College for his undergraduate degree and then the University of Pennsylvania for a degree in law.  He then worked as a lawyer for a year before reaching two decisions:  1.  He didn’t want to spend his life in law and 2. He wanted instead to pursue his passion for collectible material in the books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera fields.  And so he started 7 years ago.

His gatekeeper to the book trade was Kevin Johnson of Royal Books in Baltimore who he describes as both mentor and friend.  Initially he came to books as a collector but in 2009 sold some books to/through Kevin.  In 2010, leaving the law behind he set off to join the fraternity of rare book sellers.  Goodbye business suits, hello road maps and sunglasses for the world of rare books he was entering is a world in transition.  Thousands of dealers were rapidly closing shops and shifting to the duplex model of shows and online listings.  In starting out he began in this new world, a world that David Lilburne recently described as “working harder to make less.”

If a bookseller reset his direction in life almost a decade ago his appreciation for books is longer held.  He speaks of being an avid reader by ten and of collecting baseball cards and seashells instinctively.  His first collectible book was a copy of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, a book he bought from a street vendor that he describes as “the book that bit me.”  From that moment he began to see the world as a history of the printed word and the world of old and rare books as its Byzantium.  He was hooked.

Today he speaks of the law as a career and bookselling as a life style but he also believes it has become his career.  It’s an unusual career path but he points out he is hardly the first.  “I think a couple dozen or so ABAA members are or have been lawyers.

Fast forward to 2016 he has now established his credentials.  He’s been an ABAA member since 2014 and in 2016 is doing all three association sponsored shows.

The Challenges?  Family first, then business.

He and his wife are expecting twins.  They already have two girls.  Their birth will be an exceptional moment and in the future an exceptional challenge.  When I asked about the income to cover all the anticipated expenses he said, “I gauge my career as a bookseller against what I would have made as a law partner.  It will be a challenge but I’m doing what I love and you can’t beat that.”

So what is he doing?

He’s using his working capital to buy individual items and collections.  Many collecting fields have seen their fortunes decline.  He mentions stamps, furniture and baseball cards and there are of course others.  And collectible books too are in transition, scarcity a factor but relevance and importance increasingly determining.

And this is what Dan excels at:  telling the story.  Understanding the what’s and why’s of a collection is an art and, an important one.  In the future the standards for carefully wrought collections will be higher because so much more will be known.   

Dan now focuses on exceptional material and on telling their untold stories.  He joined the field as it fell from grace.  He will live long enough to see it rise again.

So if old booksellers remember when things were better, Dan will look ahead and in time see blue skies.

 

Contact details:

Whitmore Rare Books

4 East Holly Street

Suite 217

Pasadena, California 91103

info@whitmorerarebooks.com

(626) 297-7700

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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