Books and Crannies

Books and Crannies

A photo essay. To view all 16 images, check out the email edition.

Unlike the pastoral lands that surround it, Whitlock’s Book Barn, established in Bethany since 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 a little lighter.

“Little” is an important 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 flowing, has continued in the years since he passed away, though some items, like a rare, early printing of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, spotted among the stacks some years ago, command an appropriately hefty price.

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While a maze of aisles and shelves holds rows and rows of fiction in every major genre, Turner says the shop’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 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, producing political cartoons whose place and time lie far away, charming pages extracted from ancient children’s books and aerial renderings of old factories that are no longer operating.

Whitlock’s, on the other hand, continues to stand the test of time, even if, after 72 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. This updated story was originally published on November 18, 2016.

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