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Bound For Glory

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Some people like their books fresh and new with a taut spine and nary a page that's been turned. Others appreciate the inherent beauty of a book with a past. For anyone who falls in the latter group or knows someone who does, Crescent City Books (204 Chartres St., 524-4997) is a repository of delightful and often unexpected finds.

'We specialize in art and history, but we pretty much carry everything except romance novels," says Mike Deer, manager of the 15-year-old shop, which is owned by antiquarian book dealer Joe Phillips. 'We have a large African-American section, a large gay studies section, women's studies, a lot of fiction, mysteries, a large assortment of older prints that have been matted, maps, New Orleans titles and botanicals."

One of the larger used and antiquarian bookshops in the French Quarter (it lists some 2,000 of its titles on www.abebooks.com), Crescent City occupies two floors of a circa-1830s building. Half of the fun of a shop like this is the thrill of the hunt, and shoppers never know what they might come across.

Current stock includes leather-bound books from the 17th to the 20th centuries; a first-edition of Jules Verne's Tour Of The World In 80 Days; works by Lafcadio Hearn; a 12-volume set of faux leather, miniature works by Shakespeare for $75; 16th century illuminated manuscripts that have been matted, framed and are priced from $600 to $1500; framed woodcuts from the book Bachelor in New Orleans for $45; a well-kept edition of the works of Byron dating from 1835 for $150; a boxed, limited-edition set of works by Shelley for $100; first-edition works by Anne Rice; various cookbooks from the early 20th century, and more. Also popular are drink guides from the 1930s and cookbooks from the '50s and '60s.

'The illustrations and photographs in some of them are pretty kitschy," Deer says of the more unusual books. 'A lot of people collect them for the kitsch value." And then there's the appeal of browsing the Quarter in all of its Old-World charm as the holiday bustle grows more intense.

'It's less hectic," Deer says. 'There are antique stores, clothing stores, bookshops, restaurants and galleries where people can find unique things, not just the generic iPod."

A shopper browses in the stacks at Crescent City Books, a French Quarter shop that specializes in antiquarian books and prints.
  • A shopper browses in the stacks at Crescent City Books, a French Quarter shop that specializes in antiquarian books and prints.

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