Jay Walker's Library
was just profiled by Wired [via]
, but they failed to mention where
many of those books came from. Big players like Maggs
, Simon Finch
and the Baumans
still compose most of the rare book world. (Heritage is gone but Michael Sharp
got four of their employees.) They're all excellent places to shop if you're building an Überlibrary, but, if you're Jay Walker, you start with Phillip J. Pirages.
I had the pleasure of working for Phil for about two years starting in 2000. I won't go into detail, but I owed my job to Mr. Walker's insatiable appetite for books. Having heard so much about the Walker library as it was being built, I was thrilled to see the photos in the Wired piece. (I even recognized some of the books.) The rare book world is small, peculiar, and, besides the intrusion of the internet, probably operates in much the same way as it always has. Reputation and specialized knowledge matter. Phil's small firm, located in charmingly rural
McMinnville, OR, is known to be as trustworthy and considerate as they get (despite my time there, ha ha) and regularly produces massive, meticulously-researched catalogues so full of charming anectdotes and useful bibliography that they sometimes end up for sale on eBay. Don't let the web 1.0 look of their site fool you (remember this is the rare book world) -- they are
one of the big players now. I won't go into business arrangements, but it's well known now that Mr. Walker worked more closely with Phil than any other dealer to build that amazing library. As Phil used to say when he outbid one of the Big Guys, "Not bad for a farmboy from Iowa." I doubt that I'll ever again work for someone as honest and fair as Phil. If you have a chance to visit the New York, California, or Seattle Book Fairs, do yourself a favor and stop by Phil's booth. It should be easy to find, as it usually sparkles. Yeah, most of the stuff is phenomenally expensive, but he'll treat you well regardless of how much money you have, and even the cheap stuff is pretty great. Say hi for me.