Bookseller profile: Honey & Wax

A few weeks ago, while shopping at The Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair (a.k.a. the Shadow Show), I came across a relatively new antiquarian bookseller -- Honey & Wax Booksellers -- and was blown away by their carefully curated booth and beautiful catalogue (which has already gotten some buzz, excuse the pun).

Heather O'Donnell founded Honey & Wax Booksellers in 2011, after learning the business at the venerable Bauman Rare Books. Wanting to focus solely on literature, she started Honey & Wax in her Brooklyn dining room and has since carved out a unique niche for herself in the book world. As her website states, "Honey & Wax Booksellers offers great works of literature: rare first printings, beautiful and curious editions, copies with surprising stories of their own. We handle unique books, striking books, books with no downloadable equivalent." 

The name "Honey & Wax" is itself drawn from a nineteenth-century epigram: “use books as bees use flowers." O'Donnell also addresses the conventional wisdom that books are dead in the introduction to her catalogue. "Our easy access to digital text makes us more aware of the qualities unique to the printed book. Some people rarely miss those qualities. Others really do. As artifacts, books communicate more than the words on their pages in type and design, materials and construction, they remind us that ours is not the only historical moment. They satisfy our desire to own and handle well-made objects, to live among them, to give each other something lasting, rather than simply clicking 'share.'"

Lovers of Shakespeare are never going to own a first folio but at Honey & Wax they can pick up Dramatic Characters of Different Portraits of the English Stage, colorfully illustrated and published in London in 1770 (Price $6000) or promotional broadsides for performances of Shakespeare staged in London, New York and Philadelphia in the first half of the 19th century. The posters are beautifully illustrated in O’Donnell’s catalogue and are being offered individually (priced between $500 and $850).

In my conversation with her, O'Donnell said she's “increasingly drawn to unique copies and things that exist around the edge of great literature.” For example her current stock includes a first edition of American poet Wallace Stevens' Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction but she has also acquired a blank sheet of Stevens' letterhead from his job at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company that stands in contrast to poems.

To see more of Honey & Wax's splendid inventory visit their website:

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