Some people go to Vegas to gamble, others to buy really rare books

Open a book: one customer spent more than $600,000 in a single visit

What reward does one buy after winning at the gambling tables in Las Vegas or sitting through an excruciatingly dull convention there? A Rolex? A designer handbag? A new bracelet? How about a rare book?

It was 11 years ago that David and Natalie Bauman, owners of a successful rare book store in Manhattan, open since 1988, decided to expand to Las Vegas, with a store on a relatively quiet second floor walkway among the Grande Canal Shoppes between the Venetian and Palace hotels. On the main floor, ersatz gondolas with gondoliers ferry tourists from end to end.

Their shop is wedged next to Lazarou, a custom men’s clothing store, and just across from Mezlan, which sells shoes. Its two-story elegant bookcases are filled with carefully arranged volumes, many bound in embossed leather. A reading table at the centre of the store recalls an Ivy League library. A patient salesperson awaits visitors at a podium close to the entrance.

On a recent day, in a locked vitrine, were first editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass in full leather pictorial bindings. Printed in 1866 and 1872, they sell together for $23,000 (£17,800). For $700 one could buy a first edition of Margaret Thatcher’s The Path to Power, signed by the former prime minister.