Honey & Wax Booksellers: Rescuing the Classics

Heather O’Donnell, founder of Honey & Wax Booksellers, came to Brooklyn in 1997 to finish her dissertation. “Sixteen years later,” she says, “and I’m still here.” O’Donnell tells us, “I was always a big reader, and a great admirer and accumulator of books: the kind of kid who approached a secondhand library sale as though it were Disneyland. In college, I worked at the Strand, and in grad school, at the Beinecke Library. I worked for Bauman Rare Books for seven years, and then, in 2012, I launched Honey & Wax Booksellers, specializing in literary classics.”

Honey & Wax is the perfect answer to anyone who questions print’s relevance in a world of ebooks. O’Donnell’s inspiration is the fascinating, if obscure, “Abbie Pope, an eccentric Brooklyn book collector at the height of the Gilded Age. In 1885, when she was 27, she outbid the British Museum for the only complete copy of Morte d’Arthur printed by William Caxton in 1485: the most famous in a series of amazing acquisitions. She died young a decade later, and her library was sold. The Caxton Malory landed at the Morgan, and is going nowhere, but I’d love to bring one of Abbie’s books back to Brooklyn.” O’Donnell has seized upon the fact that “Everyone talks about Brooklyn as a literary destination, home to new writers and small presses and little magazines and independent bookshops,” and offers something unique to the Brooklyn lit scene—a sense of not only the history of the printed word, but also its future. Last year, she founded the first Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair, an event that she looks forward to expanding in the years ahead. And while we can’t all relate to the lofty literary goals that O’Donnell has set her sights on, we can’t help but be familiar with her favorite type of Brooklyn day—one “that ends with a stack of odd books rescued from brownstone stoops. You never know what you’ll find here.”

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