IMPERIAL FINE BOOKS
If you skip over some of my other columns, (the ones that don’t involve celebs, sports, or gossip,) please do yourself a favor and read this one! It’s about a fascinating store in New York, Imperial Fine Books. I never even knew a place like this existed! Books are so very precious. I’m always worried that younger people won’t realize it.
And this is something collectors, interior/set designers, sophisticated people everywhere, or ones who are just thirsty for knowledge, should really know about, especially with so many holidays coming up this Spring.
Here’s my personal story with this antiquarian bookshop:
On what was a particularly hard day for me recently, the doorbell rang, very unexpectedly, and Mr. X answered it, bringing up a giant box. He hates when big things come into the house, so we were both prepared to be upset with what we thought were unsolicited contents.
When we finally got through layers and layers of tissue picture, we discovered three not-big-but-solid objects, wrapped in thick brown paper. We could not imagine what that wrapping was hiding.
When we opened them, we were overwhelmed!!! Someone had sent me a gift of a trio of classic, vintage, leather-bound volumes, all from Imperial Fine Books in Manhattan. I actually broke down and cried just looking at all the gloriousness! And I knew right away that I had to share my discovery of this place.
Not only are the books gorgeous, but these selections are all so perfect for not only me, but Mr. X, as well. And one even ties into my precious little mother. I’ll tell you that story in a minute, but first I want to point-out that even the packaging shows how much care this establishment takes with their wares.
This is what that kind gift-giver sent me, with knowing me for only a fleeting moment in life:
Wuthering Heights—by Emily Bronte. Published in 1945. Illustrated, and bound in three quarters red morocco.
Alice In Wonderland–By Lewis Carroll. (Duh.) Published in 1899!!! Illustrated. Bound in the full red morocco.
Canterbury Tales– By Chaucer, of course. Published in 1934. Illustrated. Bound in full green morocco.
Bibliophiles will understand how significant the binding of the books is. I just appreciate the beauty of them. In such a digital world, what an absolute treasure these volumes are.
And I love that they have personal inscriptions from the original purchasers to the recipients. That meant so much to someone at the time. I cannot even explain what this selection means to me.
Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite stories of all time, (I love Catherine’s quote, “Ellen, I am Heathcliff!,”) and Alice in Wonderland is a classic children’s book that I’ve never even fully read, so this will be my chance. Mr. X is excited about them all, as well. And here’s the amusing story of how one of these novels ties into my mother:
Years ago, when May Rose Salkin was considered the unofficial Poet Laureate of Aspen, the big news station from Denver came to do a story on her one summer because there was an insane controversy over her cute poems that always appeared in the daily newspapers. The piece they did on her was a delightful one. The whole town got a kick out of the story, and my mother was adorable and charming on it. But what came immediately after the segment was even more special to me.
As a segue, the news anchor said something to the effect of, “Now on to a story of another literary endeavor. A rare edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales was discovered…” I don’t really remember anything after that because I was absolutely floored that they were comparing my mother’s pleasant little ditties to a rare edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales! That was just mind-blowing!
So to now own a rare edition of that book myself means so much to me. Every time I look at it, I think of my funny little mother.
So back to present-day. After I calmed down after crying over these new gifts, I researched Imperial Fine Books, and knew immediately that I had to let you all know about it. I only wish that I had known about this store a few months ago, before my siblings just trashed the hundreds of old and rare books that were in my deceased parents home in New York! I want to prevent other families from doing that wasteful thing. If I had known of this bookshop, I would have brought all my family’s books to them.
The person who sent me these gifts chose all novels for me, which is perfect, but, although Imperial Fine Books carries mostly leather-bound sets with fine bindings, they also specialize in children’s literature, illustrations, color-plates, ones on travel and Americana, and all fine and rare books in every field imaginable. They can even assist with the rare, hard-to-find first editions!
My parents would have gone nuts in there!!! Speaking of that, any of these volumes would be perfect gifts for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Or anybody on any day! I can’t even tell you how much this gift means to me, and I’m someone who always loves receiving just shallow gifts, such as make-up, clothing, and other basically trivial items. This was one of the most creative choices for me ever!
I can’t wait to visit Imperial Fine Books on my next trip to New York, which I hope will be soon. My desire to see this shop may just be getting me to the East Coast quicker than planned!
Imperial Fine Books
790 Madison Avenue New York 212-861-6620