Literary Langley

This small Pacific Northwest town is big on books

By: By Marty Wentzel


Gregor Rare Books

Lowry-James Rare Prints & Books

Moonraker Bookstore

Words and Pictures Bookshop

 Storefront of Gregor Rare Books in Langley, Wash. // © David Gregor
Storefront of Gregor Rare
Books in Langley, Wash

Langley, Wash., may be little, but it’s big on books. Less than one square mile with slightly more than 1,000 residents, the sweet seaside village on south Whidbey Island draws visitors with its galleries, antique shops, restaurants — and a whopping four bookstores.

Lowry-James Rare Prints and Books, fittingly located in a 1920’s bank building on the corner of First and Anthes streets, is owned by one of the few American women accepted to the prestigious Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) and International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). Her name is Priscilla Lowry-Gregor, and her shop is a showcase of rare books and prints from the Age of Discovery (c. 1500-1800). With a knowledge base that would wow academic circles anywhere, Lowry-Gregor has a passion for researching, collecting and educating clients who are interested in rare books and prints. She started out as a private collector, acquiring such rare botanical books as a small assemblage of John James Audubon prints. Today her collection has grown to 20,000 titles, many of which demonstrate her love of natural history.

In 2003, David Gregor — well known in the world of book collectors and another member of ABAA and ILAB — met Lowry-Gregor at the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair (an event which Gregor has co-produced since 1997). One year later they married, and he relocated his established West Seattle shop to Langley. Today, at Gregor Rare Books on Langley’s Second Street, his shelves are brimming with first-edition 20th-century literary works in fine condition. Since 1987, Gregor Rare Books has specialized in books about Paris in the 1920s, the works of Charles Bukowski, Vietnam War literature, literary translations, poetry, art, photography and signed books.

Longtime Langley resident Josh Hauser is the owner of Moonraker, a well-established bookstore on Langley’s historic First Street. Open since 1972, Moonraker — unlike many independent booksellers — has been able to hold its own despite the emergence in recent years of bookselling giant Amazon and bookstore chains like Border’s and Barnes and Noble.

The newest bookstore to make its mark on Langley, Words and Pictures Bookshop, opened in May 2008, diagonally across Second Street from Gregor’s shop. It’s run by John and Joy Williams, who also started as private book collectors. For two decades they have been building their inventory, and they are excited to make the many volumes — including a remarkable selection of photography books — available to the public.