• The Cary Collection

    Music & Books | Store Profiles  

    Thomas Cary just paid $1,400 for Take Ivy, and it was only the second edition. It doesn’t bother him that it’s being reprinted. “I have clients—I sell to Tommy (Hilfiger?),” he assures me. Over the last decade he has spent up to a quarter million a year on rare and vintage books only to turn around and shrewdly supply them to the likes of Kate Spade, Tory Burch, J.Crew, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. They are just a few of many tapping The Cary Collection for design inspiration and display; furnishing their retail stores stretching from the Hamptons to far east Asia. Though a queer client list for a book dealer, Cary’s aesthete taste has granted him access to this veritable Who’s Who of neo-prep designers.

    “Just watch your step,” Cary warns me as we tight walk our way through the narrow hallway. Stacks of rare and vintage books scale the walls as high as eye level. At first glance, the 900 square foot Upper East Side apartment is a mad experiment in preppy hoarding, but upon further inspection I realize it is actually painstakingly merchandised. He converted his apartment into a showroom 10 years ago (available by appointment). Rare cocktail how-to books amusingly perch near antiquated Stork Club memorabilia, vintage needlepoint pillows of horses and terriers dot the WASPy interior—including one handmade by Brigid Berlin (one of Andy Warhol’s muses), while a vintage Gucci saddle rests on the back of a slipper chair; all showcased in intricate arrangements upon a scad of oriental rugs.

    “Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.”        —Walter Benjamin

    Photographed in New York, NY (click select images to enlarge)

    Thomas W. L. Ashley's Skull and Bones 1948 yearbook

    Cary's Prince Albert velvet slipper collection rivals his books

    He is a merchandising virtuoso having spent 30 years in the fashion industry. During his days at Paul Stuart (and Brooks Brothers prior), he would run down on his lunch hour combing antiquarian book shops then hop on a train, grab a slice and be back on the selling floor in 59 minutes. Such is the life of a rare and vintage book dealer. “As a teen I would skip school and fly into the city when my parents were away,” Cary says. “I was a real wheeler and dealer in high school,” dealing in stamps and uncirculated American coins. In 2001, a home equity loan enabled him to spearhead the acquisition of his unparalleled catalogue.

    Since singularly creating a specialty niche market of selling to high-end global purveyors, Cary has expanded The Cary Collection to lamps, needlepoint and accoutrement from a bygone era when men were (mad) men. One of its most fascinating books is a 1948 Yale Skull & Bones yearbook underscoring a young George Herbert Walker Bush’s betrothal to the secret society. And this is not particularly exotic in relation to its 15,000 other books. The curated stock displayed in the showroom is only the tip of the iceberg. You can peruse the collection online at Abe Books or by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 245 E. 72nd St New York, NY.

    Sep 3, 2010 | Permalink (36) Total Comments

    Principe left a comment on 2/28/2013 at 9:28 AM:

    Great stuff! Some of the colours are a little to polychromatic, (I ‘m a tweeds and flannel type of guy) but all in all most intriguing…. and remember if you visit the premises don’t just ooh and aah… buy something! It’s a commercial enterprise, not a museum….

    richard hammond left a comment on 1/31/2013 at 4:05 PM:

    Wonderful web site, very nice talking with you today Thomas about the Bill Blass auction catalog. Look forward to visiting your gallery.

    Tickled Pink And Green left a comment on 12/15/2010 at 5:19 AM:

    How did I miss this post?
    OMG I want to spend a week there exploring.  Next time my mom says I have too much stuff I’m showing her these pictures.  I’m inspired now to do a million new things….  : )

    isabelle left a comment on 10/19/2010 at 9:08 AM:

    Thanks for sharing this extraordinary collection of vintage books. It is totally fabulous.

    Tippy left a comment on 10/4/2010 at 3:57 PM:

    Darn…he was about 12 blocks away from being my neighbor.  Now that would have been cool.

    MikeZFromHouston left a comment on 9/19/2010 at 12:19 AM:

    Cool post, I will be sure to come back and visit!

    Joey Dee left a comment on 9/7/2010 at 4:36 PM:

    Absolute mad house. Another great piece!

    mara left a comment on 9/5/2010 at 11:21 PM:

    i really really enjoyed this post! thanks so much!!!

    kisses from the philippines xxx


    Christopher Tawney left a comment on 9/5/2010 at 2:13 PM:

    Time to move on,Basher.

    Jay left a comment on 9/5/2010 at 1:57 PM:

    “Hoarders: Prep Edition”  While I love the collection, he needs to get a proper showroom.  I would be afraid to lift a blazer for fear what was underneath.

    Chznone left a comment on 9/4/2010 at 11:58 AM:

    A-MA-ZING!!!!!!! Makes me look like a minimalist, which I am far from….......

    Elizabeth left a comment on 9/4/2010 at 11:30 AM:

    His place is fascinating and his book collection is astounding, but I bet talking to him is even more interesting! Thank you for sharing this.

    bunny left a comment on 9/4/2010 at 2:51 AM:

    amazing. naturally i love the needlepoint pillow of the dog in olde finery and the fox hunt dioramas.

    Laguna Beach Trad left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 10:07 PM:

    Stunning. I’m speechless.

    Ted Roosevelt left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 7:08 PM:

    Perhaps the most extraordinary collection this side of paradise!

    Sophia Redmond left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 7:00 PM:

    That shoe collection puts Carry Bradshaw’s to shame.

    Caron left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 5:26 PM:

    This must be something like falling down the rabbit hole in Greenwich, CT.

    A.W.Keller left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 4:45 PM:

    Gorgeous.  I can only imagine how incredible the photos are in the Skull and Bones yearbook.  The whole place must be incredible in real life.

    pitboss12 left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 4:00 PM:

    @FEC - The images are even more striking when enlarged.

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 3:50 PM:

    @RPOhio—The Official Preppy Handbook (hardback) fetches about $100 on eBay in good condition.

    RPOhio left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 3:40 PM:

    I have the original Official Preppy Handbook in hardback cover, red cloth cover.  Wonder how much it’d fetch?  Need the cash!!

    TWA left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 3:27 PM:

    Ha! I knew this man was a genius. Everyone tried to poo-poo him and critique his pants being wrinkled/ not hemmed. He is a preppy god! The collection of slippers alone is lust worthy but the whole collection is the complete manifestation. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Royar left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 2:12 PM:

    What wonderful pictures! I must visit there when I go to New York next!

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 1:11 PM:

    @Tom & pitboss12—You can know click on select images to enlarge them and take in all the intricate details. Thank you for the suggestion.

    Chens left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 1:10 PM:


    pitboss12 left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 1:01 PM:

    It looks like the Royal Tennenbaums’ house threw up on itself - in a good way. 

    Great pics, definitely need to be able to enlarge to get the full scope of the space.

    Tom left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 11:40 AM:

    Wow!  That is an extraordinary place.  Any chance you can make it so the pictures will enlarge if you click them? There is so much to look at, I get dizzy with the small pictures :)

    Kiel James Patrick left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 11:39 AM:

    “Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.”  I simply must pay this collection a visit.  Job well done young man capturing this vibrant, detailed masterpiece.

    ACH left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 11:28 AM:

    Thank you; I could look at those pictures all day.

    Andrea left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 11:22 AM:

    Great pictures!  All of the color in his apartment is fantastic.  In a way this reminds me of the set from the Royal Tenenbaums. 
    Interesting that his bold style is reflected in his home.

    michael butts left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 11:00 AM:

    some stuff I love, some stuff is not for me, the clothes and slippers I mean.  And that’s what makes this collection awesome in my opinion.  Eclectic, vast, and personal.

    Emily left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 10:46 AM:

    A beautiful and incredible, one of a kind collection.

    robdarko left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 10:35 AM:

    Thank you for this glimpse, F.E.C.

    Cary Randolph left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 10:20 AM:

    This place is fantastic. A mad hatter, fun house library. And Mr. Cary’s taste impeccable; his adventures, no doubt, completely wild. (But then I think there is something to be said about people named Cary.) Gorgeous photos, FEC.

    Christian Bourasseau left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 10:05 AM:

    That’s a lot of velvet sleepers! That place is totally whimsical!

    Deanna (Silly Goose Farm) left a comment on 9/3/2010 at 10:01 AM:

    Ooo… I have to be so careful, or my house would look like that. My husband and I just donated over 300 books to our local library system, and STILL have to build a 2nd library in our house to accommodate our collection.

    LOVE the fox on the director’s chair - have any more information on that?