Edward Surovell got interested in rare books while working at a theological library as a Columbia University undergrad. After moving to Michigan and becoming a real estate agent in the 1960s, Surovell, who went on to found a namesake real estate company in Ann Arbor, purchased local atlases, history books, and city directories to learn more about the area. Since then, he has amassed a collection of some 15,000 rare and antiquarian books and pamphlets, most of which were published in Michigan in the 19th century. One of his prized possessions is an 1858 edition of Dr. Chase's Recipes, a folksy cookbook that was popular with pioneers. "It's fun to know more about something than anyone else in the world," says Surovell, who is a member of the exclusive Grolier Club, the oldest book society in America.

Extreme Makeover

Surovell converted his garage into the library shown here.

Favorite Find

A second edition of The Book of the Law of the Lord, by James Jesse Strang, a 19th-century Mormon leader who founded a colony on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.

By the Book

The large tome pictured here to Surovell's right is Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, which he used during a stint as a copy editor for New York City publisher Harcourt Brace in the early 1960s.