For anyone who loves books, Columbia has an impressive new enticement. Schilb Antiquarian, which opened in February at the corner of Providence Road and Walnut Street, gives visitors the chance to see, handle and purchase rare books from several centuries past, books important to the world for their history, authors and ideas.
Gallery owner Scott Schilb has “lived and breathed rare books” for close to 10 years. After selling more than 10,000 books online, he decided to open Schilb Antiquarian in Columbia to add “to the cultural beauty” of the city.
“We love our city,” he says, including his wife, Jill, whose parents, Sam and Donna Atkinson, own The Candy Factory. “We hope to inspire our city to think deeply, treasure beauty and remember that which is the best of humanity. This, and so much more, is discovered through rare books.”
In a conversation with Inside Columbia, Schilb shares more about Schilb Antiquarian and the incalculable worth of books.
How did you get into buying and selling books?
I began collecting rare books while in graduate school, and the hobby was intoxicating. My passion for history, reading and collecting eventually persuaded me to end my teaching profession and embark on a bibliophile’s dream of selling rare books. I began a course of relentless study to learn everything one could possibly learn of the trade.
A passion for research combined with my commitment to integrity and customer service soon made waves in the rare book world as my offerings attracted a loyal following of patrons. Ten years later the number of loyal patrons has grown to thousands of clients in nearly every country of the world. I’ve had a few exciting transactions with celebrity clients and prominent CEOs, but the majority of my patrons are individuals who simply love to learn and have an innate appreciation for owning and displaying a book that has significantly impacted humanity.
Where do you buy your books?
Most of my acquisitions come from prominent estates in Europe. I’ve been most fortunate to create friendships and partnerships with many book scouts around the world who present offerings to me that have come from famous monasteries, castles and royal libraries all across the globe. It is also good to have many bookseller friends, as we often purchase books from one another to help our clients find specific titles.
What have been a couple of your favorite acquisitions?
This question is immensely challenging. I’ve been fortunate to own and sell some of the rarest and most important books ever printed. Some of my favorites have been first editions and early printings of Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton.
I’m also very fond of early illustrated books, travelogues filled with rare maps and engravings, as well as important Bibles.
What was the most costly book you’ve sold?
I’ve sold several 16th-century alchemy and herbal masterpieces for upwards of $20,000, but this price range is very much an exception for us. We’ve built our business on offering rare and important titles that are very attractively priced. Most visitors to the gallery have been amazed to see that such titles are available for purchase and even more pleasantly amazed at the purchase price.
When people come into the gallery, what will the experience be like for them? What will they see? What will they learn?
Expect to be immersed in beauty and history with all five senses. Many visitors prefer to explore the gallery as a museum, while classical music and the smell of European leather bindings accompanies [them] from display to display. Others prefer a more engaging experience as I assist with being able to actually handle 500-year-old books and speak of Renaissance printing houses.
Some like to simply drink complimentary espresso while selecting a beautiful work of art from various 19th-century artists’ portfolios. Nearly every experience is unique.
Are children welcome?
I adore children and have three young daughters myself. I confess that I love showing young children my first editions of Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, but most elementary-aged children who have visited would prefer to sit in one of our comfy chairs and play the PBS Kids app on the iPad while mom finds the perfect gift.
What feedback have you gotten from visitors so far?
An overwhelmingly positive response. I can’t help but smile as visitors gasp, point, double-take and talk to themselves while browsing. Most enter expecting chaos and a disarray of random and insignificant titles. Booksellers tend to be a bit eccentric and disorganized. They are instead awed and surprised as nearly every display strikes them as memorable and important. “I can’t wait to tell [name] about this place!” is a very common response.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Inside Columbia?
We are a young, socially minded family that plans to invest in Columbia for life. We genuinely want to engage our city. We look forward to having an espresso with you and talking rare books. We hope you will consider supporting us in this vision by becoming a patron.
Additional perks for our select patrons include quarterly wine and chocolate events, lectures on various facets of rare book collecting, “no reserve” auctions where we begin items at $1 and discounts on all items throughout the year.