Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Booking at Austin's Antiquarian Books in Wilmington, Vermont

After a hectic holiday bookselling season it was a much-needed treat for Dan and I to visit Garry and Karen Austin at their jewel-box store, Austin's Antiquarian Books, just up the road a-piece in Wilmington, Vermont. I've known Garry for several years now, as an exhibitor at some of the regional book fairs he organizes, and have always enjoyed his combination of professionalism and teasing banter during the setups and breakdowns. After driving past his bookstore twice now on my way between Bennington and Brattleboro, and looking wistfully in my rear view mirror (but not for too long, because Route 9 is a bit twisty), I was determined to get out for a visit.

Garry and Karen graciously agreed to meet us at their shop on one of our mutual days off (or was this my first "or by appointment" antiquarian bookstore visit?) for a quick tour and then we headed out for a bookseller's lunch. Their shop has two floors full of beautiful bindings and interesting antiquarian titles. There are all sorts of book alcoves tucked into corners of the first floor, crowned by large front room with a majestic stone fireplace. At all turns there were interesting displays of handsome and tempting books and it was hard to break away from browsing and be social.

Some of the bookstore specialties include books about Theodore Roosevelt, Western Americana, flyfishing, natural history and travel, and each had its own nook.

The Book Trout couldn't resist this shot of a print of its cousin, the Brook Trout, hanging on the wall.

I headed upstairs for a bit of browsing with my good friend BABS, the Books about Books section, and looked over a wide selection of literary biographies, gardening books and history titles. Every book was in impeccable condition, and each section was populated with interesting choices in a range of prices. You can browse 2,000 or so books that have been been catalogued on the shop's website, but the serious bibliophile will want to head over in person to ferret out those hard-to-find titles in the Austin's specialties.

The shop is spacious, well-lighted and invites luxurious browsing. I picked up a few interior design tips for our shop, but, mindful of our hosts' post-lunch need to get back to packing last-minute holiday book orders, I had to rein in my desire to while away the rest of a very pleasant afternoon in the stacks and headed out with our party of four for some local grub and book shop talk. The Austins ran several used and rare bookshops in Maine before opening their present location in 1993 and it was great to hear their stories about bookselling in the pre-Internet era.

Austin's Antiquarian Books is open Thursday through Sunday from 10:30 to 6. The shop is located at 123 West Main Street (Vermont Route 9) overlooking the Deerfield River. Garry and Karen are open all five seasons (summer, fall, winter, mud and spring) and can be reached by phone: 802-464-8438 or by email: mail@austinsbooks.com.