Provo bookstore connects patrons to history through rare book finds

Unique bookstores, like Moon’s Rare Books at the Shops at Riverwoods, provide the public with the opportunity to connect with history through texts, documents and art.

Store owner Reid Moon described the bookstore as a “museum disguised as a bookstore.” It is home to items like the Tyndale Bible, a first edition “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” signed by Daniel Radcliffe and the largest private Book of Mormon collection in the world, according to Moon.

Before settling in Provo, Moon owned a bookstore in Dallas, Texas, which sold new, used and rare books. He began exclusively selling rare books in 2005 after his new book section began to suffer due to digital books and websites like Amazon, Moon said.

After selling his Dallas store, Moon began traveling the world to buy and sell rare books. Moon described himself as a “treasure hunter.”

“I’m always looking for a treasure. And it’s never dull because you never know what you’re going to see,” he said.

Moon realized that in his travels he was frequently passing through Utah, so he decided it would be beneficial to settle in Provo.

Patrons can come into Moon’s Rare Books and view various books, documents and art displayed in the store’s main room. Employees, who act more like docents in a museum, answer questions and give short tours, Moon said.

Toward the back of the shop are four themed display rooms modeled after English village shops. The rooms’ themes are children’s literature from the 1800s, British literature, Bibles and Latter-day Saint prophets and Utah history, Moon explained.

Inside the various rooms are items like a first edition King James Bible, glasses of former Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President David O. McKay, a first edition “Winnie the Pooh” and first editions of all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, according to Moon.

“You don’t start from where I am now; you have to work your way up. I didn’t inherit any money, so (collecting) was book by book,” Moon said.

Each book in Moon’s collection has a story behind it, he said.

Moon shares these stories in lectures and firesides where he displays various items and answers questions for the public. Some of his lectures have covered a 500-year history of the Bible, others have covered William Shakespeare and Tolkien.

“With any book comes the story,” said Ron Fox, who sells and buys rare items.

Fox said Moon’s Rare Books gives the “experience of holding onto something that has an electric feel to it” by giving a close view of many rare and historical texts and items.

BYU history professor Matthew Mason said seeing original documents and texts gives the viewer a personal and tangible connection to the past.

“To be able to read historical documents in person is irreplaceable,” Mason said.

BYU history professor Brian Cannon said rare bookstores like Moon’s benefit the public by offering access to materials that would otherwise only be available to those wealthy or fortunate enough to own or purchase them.

The actual documents (and books) transport us in time back to the moment when they were created. We are reminded that they were created and handled by real people in response to real issues,” Cannon said. “The physical documents convey a sense of authenticity and immediacy that a scan or a reproduction can’t convey. They allow us to touch the past.”

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