We drove from Marshall, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois today, and our first stop in the Windy City was O’Gara & Wilson, Ltd. in the Hyde Park area (used book dealers since 1937, reportedly the oldest book store in Chicago). This is a cozy and enticing shop, everything you hope for in a used book shop. Floor to ceiling shelves, interesting art and artifacts, loads of well organized books — scholarly subjects, religion, philosophy, old novels…its all there. I climbed a lot of ladders, looking for the good stuff!
Just down the block is the original Powell’s at 1501 East 57th Street (before it expanded to Portland, Oregon). When we first entered the store, I wandered around looking at all the newish books and felt we were going to be disappointed here…but first impressions can be deceiving. Off in a corner of the store were cases of some very fine antiquarian books, and in the basement, of all places, there were more we gained access to after talking with a helpful member of the staff and explaining the type of books we were looking for…he then led us into the bowels of Powells, behind the locked door. It always pays to introduce yourself and seek out the most knowledgeable person you can find in a book shop, and give them some idea of the kind of books you are seeking. Open shops put the books out on their shelves which appeal to their walk-in clientele; often they have the good stuff stashed away.
Chicago has a large number of interesting used & rare book shops; it would be easy to spend at least a week there exploring them. But we have an appointment with an author in St. Paul, Minnesota on Wednesday, so we really had to move on toward Wisconsin and Minnesota. Traffic was heavy as we crawled through the city to I-94 West (but when isn’t the traffic heavy in Chicago?). Sometimes as we’re sweating in the attic floor of a hot building, getting lost in a spaghetti highway system, or stuck in a mile of traffic, Ron and I give each other the look — like, “Are we insane?” But this is what we do to gather the best books for our customers, and we enjoy all of it, even the hard parts.
Here are some of our latest finds (sorry about the bedspread backdrop — not a lot of choices in tonight’s hotel room (-: )
Stay with us as we make our way through Wisconsin and on to….?