Books and Crannies

Books and Crannies

A photo essay. (To view all the photos, check out the email version of this story.)

Unlike the pastoral, fleetingly autumnal lands that surround it, Whitlock’s Book Barn, established in Bethany in 1948, is leafy year-round. Sellers leave interesting used books and other oddities behind, their pockets a little heavier; buyers leaf through those and other leavings, their pockets soon becoming a little lighter.

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“Little” is an important, albeit relative, word here. “Buy low, sell low” is the tweaked mantra by which founder Gilbert Whitlock—“a yankee through and through,” store manager Meg Turner says, by which she means he was extremely frugal—ran his business. Mr. Whitlock’s approach, good for keeping inventory and cash flow moving, has continued in the 12 years since he passed away, though some items, like a rare, early printing of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, still demand a hefty price tag.

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While its often cramped maze of aisles and shelves keeps a fair amount of fiction in seemingly every major genre, Turner says the bookshop’s bread and butter is nonfiction, particularly history. That sensibility extends to the angle-peaked “prints and maps” room, which fills the upper floor of the store’s second building—like the first, a former barn—with disheveled, disorganized piles of old documents, from midcentury advertisements to 19th-century maps to prints of someone’s prized bulls. It’s another fun place to leaf, capable of producing, among other things in a short time, wonky outdated political cartoons, charming pages from ancient children’s books and aerial renderings of old factories that are likely no longer operating.

Whitlock’s, on the other hand, continues to stand the test of time, even if, after 68 years, many of its bookshelves and floor boards now bow down to greet you.

Whitlock’s Book Barn
20 Sperry Rd, Bethany (map)
Wed-Sun 10am-5pm
(203) 393-1240 |

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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