Holding on to history’s books
In a town so full of history, it doesn’t seem odd to walk into Bryant’s Rare Books and Documents, and come across a letter sent by General Ulysses S. Grant to Confederate General Leonidas Polk during the Civil War.Nor is it surprising to find first editions of everything from George McGlashen’s “Donner Party,” Capt. William Bligh’s first-hand account of the mutiny on the Bounty and E.B. White’s beloved children’s novel “Charlotte’s Web” all in the same display case.Recently opened in the old Truckee Train & Toy building in downtown Truckee, the storefront evolved out of proprietor Guy Bryant’s passion for collecting rare and important books, documents and maps.”I had always been a book freak – a bibliophile as they call it – and I started collecting rare books about 25 years ago,” he said.Bryant’s passion was limited by his professional life. He spent 35 years in the securities industry, retiring as the chief compliance officer for Charles Schwab in San Francisco until eight years ago when he retired and moved to the Truckee area.
Bryant’s Northstar home was custom designed to accommodate his 4,000-book library, and after quickly tiring of golf during his retirement, he decided to pursue his passion for historical documents by becoming a rare book dealer on the Internet.However, “just hearing about something on the Internet doesn’t captivate people nearly as much,” Bryant said of his reason for opening his store three weeks ago. “People like to go to retail stores and look at the merchandise they’re buying.”A passion for explorationThough Bryant’s Rare Books and Documents carries a wide range of historic items, the proprietor admits that his personal interests skew the selection available in the store.”I specialize primarily in voyages of exploration,” he said, “and the reason I do that is because I was a sailor for many years.”
Bryant went so far as to pilot his sailboat from San Francisco to Hawaii with the help of radar, GPS and other navigational aids, none of which were available to early explorers on the high seas.During the trip, Bryant said, “I realized that Cook and William Bligh and Vancouver and Bougainville and some of the early explorers were sailing around in leaky wooden boats, they had no charts where they were going, they had no way of knowing where they were, they could only sail in very narrow areas of wind, and I just developed an incredible respect for what they did and I became fascinated with their accounts of their voyages.”Thus, Bryant’s shelves are now filled with first editions by famous explorers such as Capt. Cook’s “Official Account of Cook’s Second Voyage” and William Bligh’s “Official Account of the Bounty Expedition and Mutiny.”Bryant’s other passions include science and medicine (he has a first edition of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity on his shelves), literature (a first edition of John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” is a personal favorite), history and biography and some children’s literature. In addition to books, Bryant stocks a number of original and beautifully illustrated maps, some of which are more than 400 years old, as well as historical documents such as a presidential pardon signed by Ulysses S. Grant.
A new clienteleThough years of experience have connected Bryant with many loyal customers over the Internet, he is still trying to figure out what kind of merchandise will work well in his Truckee store.”Most of what I stock and deal with are things which interest me,” he said. “Whether or not that translates to commercial success, I don’t know. But I do this because I love books and I love the books I deal with, so hopefully somebody will feel similarly.”Prices in the store range from $25 for relatively common first editions of important books, up to $45,000 for a first edition of Darwin’s account of the voyages of the Beagle, upon which he formulated many of his ideas on evolution. That price tag, Bryant argues, is actually “incredibly cheap” for a text in excellent condition.Bryant’s Rare Books & Documents is located at 10156 Donner Pass Road . Call 582-1008.
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