Hot Shop: Grey Parrot Gallery

Grey Parrot Gallery is a trove of priceless primary sources.
823

Alex Branch removes a slightly browned piece of paper from its plastic
sheath. “Hold it in your hands,” he says. And in an eerie,
pull-back-the-veil sort of moment, the remarkably legible script of
Lilyann Williams comes to life:

I am a woman that in the
year 1787 was taken a prisoner by the Creek Indians in your state and
my husband afterwards died. I was pregnant when taken, and while a
prisoner brought forth a female child—and in May 1795 I was brought
into Savanah and exchanged for, but the Indians refused to give up my
child, which is now near twelve years old—and now being informed that .
. . there is a way . . . to get her from [the] Savages . . . I humbly
petition your Excelency to . . . take such steps as to you may seem
mete. [1799, letter to Georgia Governor James Jackson]

After
more than a decade of amassing historical documents, maps, and rare
books, Branch, founder of real estate investment firm Branch
Properties, signed on managing curator Kenneth Hosley to help transfer
his treasures to a Buckhead shop. A professed cartophile, Branch is
fascinated by the shifting shapes of land over centuries. “A map gives
you so much more feel than reading a history book,” he says, pointing
to a 1625 map that depicts California as an island. “It’s the extent of
what they knew at the time.” Bibliophiles will enjoy browsing through
benchmark titles of American literature, all first editions, rare
printings, or signed—Gone with the Wind, Atlas Shrugged, To Kill a
Mockingbird
, In Cold Blood, an edition of Alice in Wonderland signed
and illustrated by Salvador Dali.

When appraising an item,
Branch explains, you look for three things: authenticity, condition,
and rarity—which is why a 1925 first printing of The Great Gatsby might
be worth $5,000, but its fragile dust jacket would be “a steal” at
$90,000. Similarly, his pristine Audubon turkey, once the much-handled
first page of an “elephant folio,” is worth about $165,000. One might
think it foolhardy to make such an acquisition in a poor economy, but
there’s security in wrapping one’s money around a book or seeing it
mounted in a frame. “It may become a little less liquid,” Branch says,
“but it’s not affected by the price of gasoline.”

Vital Statistics

Address/phone: 2300 Peachtree Road, A-101, 404-352-2990

Website: greyparrotgallery.com

Bargain bin: Early-twentieth-century city maps and signed, first-edition contemporary novels may cost as little as $15.

Photo by Amy Herr

Advertisement