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Anthropologie's $2,175 book set -- and how to get it for $250

November 2, 2011 |  6:32 am

Anthropologie's "society" and "drinks" book set s
What do six books in a custom-made wooden case add up to? A $2,175 price tag at Anthropologie. Just six books. And that's not all -- here's the catalog copy:

A one-of-a-kind set in a custom-made case, curated by Kinsey Marable, who left his job as an investment banker to deal with a more exotic commodity: rare and out-of-print books. His passion to create distinctive libraries led him to select these books; the mahogany-stained Baltic birch bookshelf is custom built for the custom collection.

That's right, the creator of this book set left his job as an investment banker to create a set of books with a small wooden shelf that costs so much it would take a minimum-wage worker almost two months to earn enough to buy it.

Because the set is custom-made for the books included, and the books are used, Anthropologie has just a handful available; each is organized by theme. The $2,175 "society" set is the most expensive. The "drinks" set is several hundred dollars cheaper -- at $1,400, the buyer can afford a few bottles of special edition Dom Perignon, 40-some 12-packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon, or anything in between.

After the jump: what those "rare and out-of-print books" are, and how to find them for much, much less. Build your own version of Anthropologie's custom book sets for less than $250!

All the books are "rare and out-of-print" -- in other words, old. In each case, Jacket Copy found first editions with dust jackets that are being sold by used-book sellers through the aggregator sites Alibris or Abebooks, although you might get lucky and find a copy at a local yard sale.

The "society" set:

"The Face of the World" by Cecil Beaton (1957) -- from this seller for $25
"The Spirit of Paris" by Paul Cohen-Portheim (1937) -- including shipping from Britain, $33
"The Best of Beaton" by Cecil Beaton and Truman Capote (1968) -- from this seller for $33
"The World in Vogue" by Katharine Tweed, Bryan Holme, Jessica Daves and Alexander Liberman (1963) -- from this seller for $40
"The Blessing" by Nancy Mitford (1951) -- the jacket is designed by Cecil Beaton. Sense a theme? Just $8
"The Artist in His Studio" by Alexander Liberman (1988) -- if you would prefer the original edition, published in 1960, it's less expensive. The 1988 edition is $69     

And then there are the supplies to make the case for the set.

Baltic birch plywood: I'd say one 1/2-inch thick, 12-inch wide, 60-inch sheet should cover it: $14
8-ounce bottle of Titebond Professional Wood Glue, $3
One quart of Minwax mahogany stain, $8

You'll also need some basic tools, like a ruler, saw, sandpaper, a couple of clamps and/or a vice grip, and someone who knows how to use them. Measure the wood to create book-sized slots. Cut, stain and glue the pieces together -- or if you prefer, cut, glue the pieces together, then stain -- and voila! You're in the society set for just $233. And you've saved $1,942.

Who would have thought drinking would cost you more than society? It's true. The books in the "drinks" set are far more valuable than the "society" set. 

The "drinks" set:

"Esquire Drink Book" by Frederic A. Birmingham (1956) -- the original with dust jacket: $77
"The Official Mixer's Manual" by Patrick Gavin Duffy (1940) -- also not cheap: $50
"Drinks: How to Make and How to Serve Them" by Bill Edwards (1936) -- with dust jacket, it's $500
"Ninety Dozen Glasses" by Marguerite Cullman (1960) -- this is more like it: just $4
"Drinking in Vogue" by Henry McNulty (1979) -- a reasonable $10

Adding in the cost of materials to make the wooden case, the do-it-yourself cost of the "drinks" set is $666. You'll save $734, and sure, that means you could make a second "drinks" set with room to spare, but the difference is nowhere near that of the "society" set. It looks like a bargain -- comparatively.

Thanks to Alison Devers who posted a link to the Anthropologie book sets on Twitter. If you build your own version, please let us know how it goes -- and send a photo, of course.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Anthropologie's vintage books box sets, "society," left, and "drinks," right. Credit: Anthropologie

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