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The book-lover’s gift of a lifetime: rare books

Miranda Garno Nesler, Whitmore’s colleague and a former professor of 16th century literature, pointed to an illustrated copy of Dante’s “Paradise Lost” from 1900 bound in cloth and housed in its original publisher’s box as an exceptional, big-ticket item for novice collectors at $500. “When you open the box,” she explained, “it looks like it was made yesterday.” Despite being more than a century old, the fabric is impeccable; as Whitmore turned it over in his hands, the gilded edges gleam.