Nestled in a corner of Jackson Armory and adjacent to Snider Plaza, Rosedale Rare Books is as unassuming as, well, one would expect an independently-owned, antiquarian bookstore to be. Due to the nature of its surroundings - the armory specializes in antique weaponry, and its walls are lined with rifles, muskets, pistols and bayonets - the exterior doors are kept locked and one must buzz for entry. Inside, a gruff (but courteous) gentleman directed me to the bookstore, tucked away in what would most accurately be described as a small office or spacious broom closet. But, small packages reveal gargantuan treasures.
While I am, by no means, a connoisseur or authority in the rare books game, I have marked a few pretentious playgrounds off my bucket list: Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, where one might have found Hemingway or Joyce browsing before Apéritifs; Manhattan's The Strand, boasting "18 miles of books;" The Boston Athaneum, where Hawthorne read during bitter New England snowstorms. And, while I do avidly haunt Half Price Books, Paperbacks Plus and Lucky Dog books here in DFW, I had somehow ignorantly missed Rosedale all these years. Quite to my surprise, Dallas is home to one of the most eclectic and artistic collections I have ever seen.
Owned and operated by Wrenda Coughran and Forrest Jackson, the store has been in Jackson Armory for six years. Before that, Coughran worked in a similar store on Routh, and she has been in the industry for close to seventeen years. Determining a book's collectability, she says, is based on its desirability and scarcity first-and-foremost, and only after those criteria are established does condition come into play. Like most any art form, particular famous binders fetch a premium, and signed copies and ephemera - like, for instance, a presentation card from the people to whom a book was dedicated by its author - are especially desirable. Children's books tend to do very well because they are for obvious reasons less likely to survive unscathed from their owners' love.
Among some of the most interesting items that Rosedale currently has on hand, however, is a small collection of miniature books, encased in custom-designed cases like a hand-bound copy of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot that stretches like an accordion from the bowls of an adorable mechanical friend. One of only 30 copies, at Rosedale, such would go for a cool $700.00.
Similarly, a $650.00 copy of Poe's "The Premature Burial" in a coffin case with macabre interior detail is one of 20 made and is signed by the binders.
A copy of Shakespeare's sonnets with dos-à-dos binding and a laser cut cover.
While The Cat in the Hat is not a rare Seuss title (and, Rosedale does have signed, first-edition copies of his more scarce work for upward of $1,750), this reader has not only a signature, but also an "extra hat" drawn by the writer near the end of his life for the granddaughter of his nurse. It sells for $350.
This copy of Jack Kerouac's The Town and the City has the rare distinction of his signing his name "John." Kerouac's first book, it was published under his given-name.
This copy of The Political Writings of George Herbert is particularly unusual due to its fore-edge painting. Most books with such design are painted only on one side, rather than the three shown here, with a scene that continuously wraps around the edges.
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Rosedale Rare Books is located at 3416 Rosedale within the Jackson Armory. Visit rosedalerarebooks.com for more details.