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Columbia's Schilb Antiquarian bookstore brings rare books to town

Turn an old page at Columbia's new rare books store

March 6, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Patrons can touch a book once held by a king. Visitors can handle them, turn the pages and even purchase these rare treasures. Hundreds of years of history rest ready to be experienced via bound pages, and they can all be found at Schilb Antiquarian — Columbia’s newest rare book store.

One side of Schilb’s large central bookshelf contains first editions of Mark Twain and a six-volume set of The Canterbury Tales from 1845. The other side offers a first edition of Arabian Nights, among others.

Produced by Drew Koch

A quick look beyond the shelves reveals other riches: a framed page from The Book of Hours on a wall, a copy of Don Quixote from 1749 between bookends, and maps of what cartographers once thought the world looked like.

As of Feb. 21, this collection worthy of display in New York or Paris can be found on the corner of Walnut and Providence. It’s not exactly cosmopolitan, but owner Scott Schilb has high hopes.

“We’re really bringing something to Columbia that we think is extraordinary,” he says. “Items that you would typically only see in a museum will be here. It’s the kind of thing that will just inspire people, challenge people to think.”

Schilb refers to his business as a gallery rather than a store. He plans to use the space for book sales and rotating exhibitions of his acquisitions. Joel Schilb, Scott’s cousin and researcher at Schilb Antiquarian, says sharing what they have collected is the real goal.

“When people come in and have questions, we are going to be able to provide accurate answers in a way that’s going to let people see what it is they’re holding,” he says. “We want to show people what’s out there.”

Although he would keep the gallery open even without sales, Scott hopes that keeping prices affordable (some titles are as low as $95), will make it possible for people to invest in what inspires them.

“Everybody has dreams,” he says. “Everybody has something they wish they could pursue. I feel like this is a gallery full of dreams, full of potential. This store isn’t about some elitist hobby; it’s about reminding you what you find important.”

Schilb Antiquarian boasts a diverse collection of rare books, including a Catholic prayer book from the 1400s and a 1937 first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men. Photos by ALEX SCOTT

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