by Beth Stebner)
You can get a copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” at the Strand Bookstore for just $3.95 — or you can get a rare edition of the same Lewis Carroll novel, signed and illustrated by Salvador Dali, for $10,000 upstairs.
Welcome to the rare book room at the Strand — the famous used-book store that is also home to hundreds of unique tomes.
The book-lined room on the top floor hosts readings and other literary events, but it mostly serves as a showroom for bibliophile porn: the shelves include such rare finds as a one-of-a-kind edition of “Ulysses,” a rare American first edition of “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” written by “Harry Potter” wizard J.K. Rowling under a pen name, a signed limited edition of Stephen King’s “The Shining” sequel, “Doctor Sleep,” and even a small green book once owned by Marie Antoinette, who famously lost her head.
“Books like this are so significant,” says Vasilis Terpsopoulos, a 24-year veteran of the bargain bookstore, who manages the rare book room with Darren Sutherland.
‘Kempis Imatazione de Cristo,’ which dates to 1550 and is valued at $350, and ‘Collection de Moralistes Anciene,’ once owned by Marie Antoinette dating to 1783 and valued at $750
The pair once sold a 1632 William Shakespeare folio for a staggering $100,000 in 2006. Today, the hits just keep on coming:
In a safe, Terpsopoulos and Sutherland keep a first edition of “Gone with the Wind,” priced to move at $15,000. On a nearby shelf is a 1784 collection of moralist stories from Plato and Socrates. It’s marked at $750 — with the same yellow discount stickers that are used downstairs.
Also under lock and key is perhaps the biggest rarety: “Commentary on the Psalms” dates back to 1480 — and remains a beautiful example of a Medieval manuscript (priced accordingly at $35,000).
Perhaps the greatest feature of the collection is not a rare book, but the room’s accessibility. Unlike other antique book dealers, the Strand’s historic library is open to anyone who heads upstairs.
“People can come in off the street,” Sutherland says. “You don’t need an appointment to see these books. You can interact with them. It’s a wonderful thing.”
The Strand by the numbers
Miles of books: 18
Number of floors: 5
Years in business: 87
Year building was built: 1903
Sale price of Shakespeare folio: $100,000
Latest big sale: $20,000 for Albrect Durer’s “De Symmetria Partium”
The Strand’s rare books manager Vasilis Terpsopoulos displays an Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali.