Ed Albritton inside Ed’s Editions on Meeting Street (Photos by Ariel Meriwether/Carolina News and Reporter)
Tucked in the corner of West Columbia sits more than 30,000 books with titles ranging from 1935’s “Shirley Temple in The Littlest Rebel” to Ana Haung’s recent romance “Twisted Love.”
“That (last book) is my wife’s doing,” manager of Ed’s Editions Eric Albritton joked as he typed away behind a shelf of books.
The store doesn’t usually carry contemporary titles.
Founder Ed Albritton and his son Eric specialize in rare, collectable books to cater to the collectors in the community. The family-owned business has been around for 22 years and is one of the few independent bookstores left in Columbia, let alone one that deals in rare books.
“Opening up in 2001 and over the next years through 2008, there was really only bookstores shutting down, not opening up,” Eric said. “There was a lack of other bookstores to do it, so we pick up that demand.”
In the ’90s, Ed sold rare books to bookstores and eventually collected enough of his own to sell in several antique malls. The collection grew into the shop that now sits on the high-profile corner of Meeting and State streets.
Ed found the 117-year-old building and immediately knew it was perfect for a bookstore.
Eric said rare books have always been their focus.
“We don’t do new books, like new releases, but we still have books printed in 2023 nonetheless,” he said. “We do try and tread a fine line between having popular, newer titles along with the older collectable stuff.”
The collection of books in Ed’s storefront brings in high-priced sales unseen anywhere else in Columbia.
The store recently got a limited edition signed by Eleanor Roosevelt, and has others signed by famous figures.
“Right now, I know up in our glass case, too, that I like is one signed by Muhammad Ali,” Eric said. “Another one is a signed first edition of the expedition of Lewis and Clark.”
He and his father receive and buy large collections often, sometimes buying around 16,000 volumes at a time, he said. The pair recently sold a book for $15,000 that was brought in by someone in a trash bag along with other materials.
“You never know what somebody’s going to bring in,” Eric said.
The shop also sells other historical treasures. They’re a small part of what’s for sale but still bring in large revenue.
“The biggest sale we’ve had this year has been $12,000, and that was actually not a book,” Albritton said. “This was actually one of the (Colonial-era) stamps from the Stamp Act tax.”
The shelves are stocked with valuable items that anyone can bring in. Ed and Eric also offer appraisals for individuals and corporations that they have valued as high as $1 million.
In terms of acquisitions, the process is more thorough.
“We just got to look at … condition, do we think it’ll sell quickly enough, do we already have five copies of it,” Eric said.
He thinks the art of collecting rare books is something he’ll never stop learning. And the timelessness of books is something he loves.
Father and son share their love of being surrounded by books with their store cat. The black cat walks between the shelves, searching for a place to lounge for the day.
“That’s Solo,” Eric said with a laugh. “He’s about 19, and he’s now blind.”