Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dusty Tomes

In the autumn of the year, in the Brandywine Valley, Chester County, Pennsylvania , when red and gold leaves pile in corners and blow across bare, newly-harvested fields, there is a chill in the air with a hint of the faint smell of wood-burning stoves. It is a reminder to me that this is the time of the year that I like to visit my favorite book store. It is a rare treasure in the Brandywine Valley and it is called Baldwin's Book Barn. The barn part of the name comes from the fact that it is housed in a five-story structure that used to be a dairy barn that was built in 1822 by a family called Darlington. It was acquired by the Baldwin family in 1946 and they turned it into a bookstore.

This isn't an advertisement, but a book lover's tribute to the originality and creativity of the concept. Unique hardly seems to be an adequate adjective to describe this establishment. It is five floors that are stacked from floor to ceiling with thousands of used, rare books, maps, paintings and a lot of interesting stuff. I have often searched there when I couldn't find an out-of-print book. Sometimes I reserve hours and browse the many,many shelves of used books in this bookstore/museum. I've been a lifelong bibliophile since the days that my mother would sit in her rocking chair and read aloud the library books that my older brother brought home from the school library while my two brothers and I crowded around her shoulders. Therefore, I like to haunt libraries and old, unique bookstores. I always bring tissues because it can be dusty, but that is part of its charm. Dusty tomes.

Baldwin's Book Barn is wood throughout and the floors echo as you walk through and up the tiny staircases. Corners have rocking chairs and wood-burning stoves. That is why I like it in the fall when leaves are burning in back yards, and pumpkins and cornstalks sit on porches. The Book Barn has online book sales available, but a visit to this clever piece of nostalgia shouldn't be missed by anyone within fifty miles. Their website has a great C-SPAN interview with the owner, the manager, and the rare books curator. If you don't live in our region, I recommend visiting their website and clicking on every possible link to get a hint of the charm of this wonderful place of the past. Such a feast for the eyes and the mind. It is incredible any time of the year, but October is my favorite time to visit.

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