How much is a collection of wine books worth? $2 million, maybe…

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We love wine books. And many of us are quite proud of our wine reference collections, but few libraries hold a decanting candle like that of the California winemaker. Sean Thackery. He’s been compiling books and manuscripts on wine for decades, and now his massive collection of more than 700 tomes and documents—which date back to the sixth century—is on sale at the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair. Asking price: $2 million.

“Any establishment [that] bought it would put itself on the map as one of the most important places in the world to come and research wine history,” Sonoma-based antiquarian bookseller Ben Kinmont Told wine spectator. Kinmont, a specialist in wine and food texts, worked with Thackery to preserve and sell the library. “[It’s] of immense importance, for it contains so many early printed books, so many books which [were] printed before the year 1600.

the Thahacky Library is one of the largest private collections of texts on wine in the world. Of course, it means much more to whoever put it together. Thackery has consulted his collection for decades as a guide to growing grapes and making wine.

According to Kinmont, only one other winemaker has amassed such a collection in the past 150 years: the founder of Inglenook Gustave Niebaum. “I think the reason [Thackrey] didn’t sell it before, he was still using the collection,” Kinmont said. “A collection like Sean’s can be an incredible source of information for today’s winemakers to reconsider their own craft.” But it’s not just wine for Thackery; as Kinmont explained, the collection is deeply important to him as a broader record of the progress of human civilization.

This 6th-century papyrus sheet records the sale of vineyards from a monastery to a local farmer in Egypt. (Courtesy of bookseller Ben Kinmont)

The oldest document in the Thackery Library is a 6th century papyrus receipt for the vines, and among the approximately 50 pieces Kinmont exhibits at the fair are a 14th century illuminated sheet of a man trampling grapes, a 15th century edition of Arnalde de Villanovait is From Vinis (one of the first important works on winemaking) and several 16th century manuscripts that belonged to the wine merchant and writer Andre Simon. If you don’t attend the fair or drop $2 million on the collection, Thackery has helpfully transcribed some of his library, viewable on his website, wine-maker.net.

“We’re going to exhibit and show things that have never been seen before at a fair or even any exhibit,” Kinmont said. “Some books are so rare that it will be my only chance in my life to handle them and see them.”


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