Business was fine, but the building was sold and co-owner Ben Weinstein got a good offer for what Scott Timberg calls in the Times about $10 million worth of inventory. Weinstein and his brother Lou are praised as "the best businessmen in our field, anywhere in the world," by another rare books dealer.
To the extent that this world-famous shop was a presence in L.A., it was more directly connected to the luxury trade, and to Hollywood money, than to the city's literary life. An unofficial poll of scholars, writers and local book lovers shows almost no experiences with the place, and some of those who have been there associate the place with brusque treatment.
But when the TV show "Frasier" wrapped in 2004, the show's producers bought nearly 20 going-away presents for cast and crew, Weinstein said — all books priced from $5,000 to $10,000.
Although Heritage does not discuss its clientele, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Michael Ovitz are known to be rare book collectors or gifters. Winona Ryder once gave Martin Scorsese a 19th-century manuscript purchased at Heritage. Sarah Michelle Gellar is a regular at the shop and calls it "my church." Mitch Glazer and other top-tier screenwriters are also known to collect rare books, sometimes based on the novels or time periods they've adapted.
Glenn Horowitz, godfather of the New York rare-book world and a frequent L.A. visitor, describes the place as "delivering a craft service to the film business."
At Heritage you could find a 1922 first edition of James Joyce's "Ulysses" (one of 750 printed in Paris because of obscenity concerns in the English-speaking world); an original copy of Beethoven's opera "Fidelio;" and depending on when you arrived, any of Shakespeare's Folios. If you had $45,000 and read Russian, you could grab an 1860s first edition of Tolstoy's "Voina i Mir" ("War and Peace"). A safe stored things such as a 1656 printing of one of Galileo's texts in Italian, and a vellum Renaissance manuscript with hand-colored pages, as vibrant as the ones shown at the Getty.
The shop on Melrose near the Pacific Design Center used to be a mortuary, Timberg writes.