Santa Fé for Book Lovers

Harlan Hague


Santa Fé has been a magnet for all sorts of seekers for over four centuries.

Spaniards came north from Mexico in the 16th century looking for fabled rich cities. They liked what they saw, and some stayed.

Americans crossed the prairies from Missouri in the 1820s and 1830s to trade for New Mexican mules and silver and to trap southwestern streams. Some of the Americans liked what they saw and never went home.

Painters and writers made Santa Fé their home in the 1920s and 1930s, attracted by the deserts and mountains, the sky and air and a slower pace.

In recent years, the town has become a popular retirement center, and lately it seems that it is everyone’s vacation destination.

There’s something for everybody in Santa Fé. Well, almost everybody. The planning authorities so far have been able to accommodate growth without sacrificing the town’s charm, which is its Hispanic heritage.

Santa Fé’s summer opera is famous, its chamber music festival outstanding. Art galleries specializing in southwestern art are always popular. There are the Indian market, the old plaza across from the Governor’s Palace, rodeo, the Desert Chorale, the cathedral and chapels, Las Golondrinas, a restored Spanish rancho, residential areas that blend adobe homes with land and sky so harmoniously, and more history than you could absorb in a holiday month.

Visitors are now discovering yet another attraction. Santa Fé has a surprising number of dealers in old books, maps, photographs and prints. “Call us ‘antiquarian paper people,’” said Richard Fitch, who specializes in old maps and books on cartography.

Most of the dealers have shops where visitors can browse and talk with the owners. Others who work from their homes are open by appointment.

There are five shops downtown within a block of the plaza. The collection of Chaparral Books of Santa Fé, located in historic Seña Plaza, includes rare Spanish colonial books and recent out-of-print volumes on Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Betty and Riley Parker are the genial proprietors.

Nicholas Potter--Bookseller, nearby, has been selling books in Santa Fé for 15 years. Most of Potter’s customers are readers rather than collectors. He does not specialize though he has a fine collection of 20th century first editions and books about music. He also has a fascinating stock of used and old classical and jazz records.

Bob Kapoun is adjacent to the plaza. He specializes in vintage original photographs of the West, with particular emphasis on the Indian photographs of Edward S. Curtis.

There are two shops on the opposite side of the plaza. Margolis & Moss is a small, elegant upstairs shop that does not specialize by topic, but does emphasize 19th century books, photographs, maps and the ephemera. According to Jean Moss, the co-owner with David Margolis, they sell primarily to collectors and institutions.

The nearby Santa Fé Bookseller is the largest bookshop in Santa Fé. The tabby dozing in the front window and the spacious open shelf area seem to invite the passerby to come in and look around. The collection is heavy on the Southwest and the visual arts. Indeed, it claims the largest stock of art books in the western United States. The inventory includes new books, out-of-print books and some first editions. Jan Nelson is the proprietor.

The rest of the dealers work by appointment from their homes. Robert Kadlec has been longest in the book business in Santa Fé. He features rare and old, early 20th century American and English first editions. He also has a fine collection of southwestern American.

Territorial Editions is one of the newest dealers in Santa Fé. It specializes in rare and out-of-print books, newspapers, pamphlets and ephemera of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. The owners are Gene and Patricia Kuntz.

The Great Southwest Books of C.J. Stone and C.C. Kimball features fine first editions of the Southwest, particularly New Mexico. Its collection includes both history and fiction and emphasizes signed copies. It is the foremost source of works by Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Horgan.

Richard Fitch is one of the country’s foremost dealers in old maps, prints and rare books on cartography. He emphasizes the West, but also stocks pre-19th foreign materials.

Some of the dealers publish catalogs and sell as much or more by mail as they do by direct sales. Some print no catalogs, but nevertheless do a thriving mail business. Bargains are not long kept secret.

For information on sights, events and shops in Santa Fé, write to the Santa Fé Chamber of Commerce, P. O. Box 1928 (200 W. Marcy), Santa Fé, New Mexico 87501. The sure to ask specifically for the booklet, “Santa Fé Dealers of Old Books, Maps, Photographs & Prints,” which lists the shops with addresses, telephone numbers and specialties. The Santa Fé Convention & Visitor Bureau also has useful materials on the town’s attractions. For general holiday information about New Mexico, call the New Mexico Tourism and Travel Division.

Caveat and disclaimer: This is a freelance travel article that I published some time ago. Some data, especially prices, links and contact information, may not be current.


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