Peter L. Stern began working as a bookseller when he was still a student in Boston. His first job in the industry was helping to pack and unpack boxes of books. There, he was able to learn from the collectors and dealers who came to visit the shop. Eventually, he struck out on his own, with an antiquarian book mail order catalogue that launched in 1975. His first great love was detective fiction, and specifically, the Sherlock Holmes books. Since, he has branched out into the industry more broadly, buying and selling primarily 19th and 20th century literature, with a particular eye for signed books and manuscripts.
Stern opened his first physical shop in Back Bay in 1988. In 2007, he moved downtown. Today, most of Stern’s business is still done via catalogue and book fair; he attends between fifty and eighty regional book fairs a year. Recent items in his catalogue have included a signed photograph of Willa Cather, an inscribed copy of a Henry James novel, Gene Kelly’s edition of John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday signed by the author, as well as first editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ian Fleming, Ernest Hemingway, HP Lovecraft, Mark Twain, and HG Wells.
The shop, Peter L. Stern & Company, is open “by chance or appointment.”