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You can judge a book by its cover

By Staff | Nov 30, 2014

When stepping into Mark Iverson’s Brush Creek Antiquarian Bookstore, the aroma of old, used books stirs the senses and rekindles memories of past adventures taken through the pages of a novel.

Thousands of books line the walls of the shed that was built specifically to house Iverson’s more than 15,000 piece collection.

Some of the volumes date back more than 100 years, and a number of his books contain the author’s signature.

Rare first editions of classics, such as Harper Lee’s first novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” released in 1960, fill the ‘vault,’ a showcase brimming with Iverson’s most prized possessions.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the Brush Creek Antiquarian Bookstore is that each title is actually up for sale even those sought after by book collectors throughout the nation.

“The quality you’ll find here isn’t something you’ll find in your average walk-in store,” Iverson says.

There is no doubt that Iverson’s collection has the potential to appeal to any reader in Faribault County, no matter what type of books he or she is interested in.

Iverson has arranged his books based on their content. Whether a patron is searching for a novel about dogs, religion, travel, military or even more specifically, Cocker Spaniels, Haitian voodoo, the Galapagos Islands or the Battle at Gettysburg there is bound to be a section of the small bookstore dedicated to nearly any subject imaginable.

Iverson’s fascination with reading and book collecting began at a young age. His mother read the Uncle Wiggily books, stories about an “old gentleman rabbit that traveled the lot,” to him as a child.

He didn’t truly begin amassing books until the mid-1980s, between his time in the Army Guard and the Air Force and while he was running his own heating and air conditioning business, Brush Creek Appliance Repair.

To many, it may seem that perhaps the books served as a relaxing hobby for such an assiduous man, but Iverson saw his hobby as another adventure.

“You’ve got to travel to find books,” Iverson says with a smile. “But to me, book hunting is the most fun part. I’ve driven thousands of miles to find books, but it’s all in fun; there is no cost when you’re having a good time.”

Iverson is no stranger when it comes to routine voyages. While in the military the Marines from 1961-1964, the Army from 1965-1970, the Army Guard from 1981-1985, and the Air Force from 1985-1995 Iverson was able to visit 15 different countries and all 50 states in the U.S.

While on active duty, he trekked through areas of the world that he had only read about in books; places such as Israel, Vietnam and the South Pacific.

He has missed a few opportunities to purchase rare books throughout the world, but he has also scooped up quite the assortment of iconic titles:

A limited edition, signed copy of “Roots,” written by Alex Haley; a first edition of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, of which only 5,000 copies were printed; a first edition of “The Orchard Keepers,” by Cormac McCarthy; a first edition of “The Maltese Falcon,” by Dashiell Hammett; and many others.

Concerning the conglomeration of extraordinary books in Iverson’s possession, he often refers to Allan and Patricia Ahearn, proprietors of the “Book Collecting: The Guide to Values,” anthology, to put a price tag on the books.

“Ahearn wanted to figure out which books would stand the test of time which books would still be read, used and referred to decades after they were written.

“Together, they have observed that of all the books printed, 90 percent are destined for oblivion and the remaining 10 percent fall into the ‘keeper’ category,” he explains.

Iverson has taken it upon himself to recover pieces of that 90 percent to add to his collection.

However, after more than two decades of accruing various texts, his home began to overflow with volumes upon volumes of antiquated novels.

Therefore, in 2002, Iverson built a store next to his home where he could begin to sell certain books to members of the public.

In addition to the Brush Creek Antiquarian Bookstore, Iverson has attended the Wells Gun Show for the past 20 years to display and promote his collection.

Furthermore, he is also a regular dealer at the Midwest Bookhunters Association’s Book Fair held in Minneapolis each year.

There, he may run across “the serendipitous discovery of a choice volume,” but he has also highlighted some of his more esteemed tomes for the past 14 years.

He prefers to interact with buyers directly, one reason that the dealer is not keen on the idea of selling pieces of his collection online.

“The Internet is great if you know exactly what you’re looking for,” Iverson says. “But there are 180 million books on the Internet you just cannot browse 180 million books.”

The antiquarian book connoisseur believes that many of Faribault County’s avid readers would enjoy perusing through shelf after shelf of classic novels, but it seems that many residents are unaware of the store’s existence.

“Those wishing to experience what was once the birthright of the functionally literate are welcome to make an appointment to browse,” Iverson says. “Sunday afternoons are ideal people must have leisure time to browse.”

For those interested in checking out the Brush Creek Antiquarian Bookstore, call Mark Iverson at (507) 653-4396 to set up an appointment.