Deep in the southern Vermont countryside, you will find an ornate Italianate villa simply packed with sumptuous books worthy of any collector’s bookshelf. Welcome to Raptis Rare Books and the world of husband-and-wife bookselling team Matthew and Adrienne Raptis.
Matthew and Adrienne specialize in fine first editions, signed and inscribed books, and books that are quite simply important.
You will see them at the major books fairs in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, and you can visit their Vermont villa, if you have an appointment.
They have sold via AbeBooks since 2003 and their inventory covers the biggest names in literature.
Raptis Rare Books stands out for the high-quality photography that accompanies their listings on AbeBooks. Just browsing their books is fascinating – a first edition of Ulysses, a first edition of The Great Gatsby complete with its dust jacket, a Fourth Folio of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. These are books that are simply important.
Prices range from $20 for signed copy of The Flaming Corsage by William Kennedy to $160,000 for a first edition of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
Adrienne kindly took a few minutes away from the business to answer our questions.
AbeBooks: How did you get into the bookselling trade?
Adrienne: “Matthew started collecting books when he was a young child. He was very interested in history, particularly the American Civil War, and started with a small collection of antiquarian books. His collection grew over the years to encompass many other fields, such as literature, economics, architecture, and photography. The business in rare books was a natural development from his passions.
“I came into the business by virtue of being married to Matthew, so it was less of a direct journey. My degrees are in the sciences, but I have always loved books and read voraciously. A funny thing is that I used to pretend when I was a child that I was a bookseller. We actually came across a photo a number of years ago after we returned from the San Francisco book fair that shows me with my books fanned out in a very similar way to how our books our displayed when we are at a fair. It must have been destiny because I love this business and being surrounded by such amazing pieces of history.”
AbeBooks: “What’s the most expensive book you have ever sold?”
Adrienne: “We’ve sold a number of books in the six figures, but we’d rather not say specific titles or amounts. (Editor’s note – Adrienne is being discreet. In September 2015, Raptis sold a signed 1964 first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl for $25,000 on the AbeBooks marketplace, so you can see their inventory can command top dollar prices.)
AbeBooks: “What’s the first edition you have always wanted to offer for sale but never yet found?”
Adrienne: “Our holy grail of books would be a first edition Don Quixote. There was one that was known in the 1980s and went for around $1.5 million. If you find one in your attic, give us a call.”
AbeBooks: “How do you acquire your inventory?”
Adrienne: “This is a question we get asked quite often. We do a lot of travelling and have both been to over 65 countries. W e travel to purchase items from private collections, bookstores, rare books, and auctions.”
AbeBooks: “What’s the most thrilling aspect of bookselling – discovery, closing a sale, making customers happy?”
Adrienne: “We love making our customers happy and finding specific titles that they are looking for. ”
AbeBooks: “You are located in the heart of New England – would you describe it as a bookish part of the world?”
Adrienne: “This is definitely a bookish part of the world. New England is known for its schools of higher education and literary events. You can still find many small and used bookstores in the area. Brattleboro in particular has a literary history, with famous authors such as Rudyard Kipling, Saul Bellow, and many others living and writing in the area. We also have a wonderful yearly literary festival.”