In an age of e-books and tablets, Thomas Macaluso’s used and rare books store in Kennett Square stands out as a staunch defender of manuscripts on paper. The store caters to a selective clientele who want first editions, rare, scare or out of print books.
A shelf in the front room contains hardback works by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Edna Ferber, and a host of other well known literary figures. Macaluso opens a glass fronted cabinet and pulls out a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. “This isn’t a first edition, but it’s the deathbed edition.“ He explains how Whitman had issued several editions, removing certain poems and adding others, with this book being his final revision. He points out Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”, and describes it as, “an important novel in the history and development of fiction.” Macaluso often stresses the word important, when describing a book’s place in literary history and why he has chosen it for his shop.
There are plenty of books that you won’t find in his shop, including romance fiction, self help books or books from public libraries. Macaluso believes that the content of a book is most important. “It has to be of good quality and stand the test of the ages.”
About ten years ago, Macaluso began using technology to broaden his business. “The Internet has changed the trade remarkably.” He points to a world map dotted with colorful pins. “We put books online and sell them, so far to people in 42 countries, thousands of books over the years. Suddenly we have a terrific audience.”
While he is not a fan of reading from a computer monitor, and not entirely sure how he feels about e-readers, he concedes that they can be useful. “I can see the Kindle’s utility for a lot of situations. I suppose if I were traveling a great deal, rather than lugging a dozen books, I could take my Kindle. “
However, Macaluso remains loyal to books. “There is something about the physical book that is attractive to the eye but also to the hand as well. There will always be a place for the book.”