There's a richness to antique books that transcends their status as one of the world’s most beloved collectibles. Books document the evolution of our need to make sense of the world around us. This urge can be seen in the first Gutenberg bible of 1455; the ‘First Folio’ of plays by William Shakespeare, published in 1623; John James Audubon’s monumental “Birds of America,” which was printed between 1827 and 1838; and even the pocket-size Beat-poetry paperbacks, published by City Lights bookstore in the 1950s and ’60s. Each, in its own way, reveals the priorities and passions of the culture.
Whatever the genre—be it biographies or cookbooks, children’s books or classic works of science fiction—and regardless of the title, most collectors focus on first editions. First editions are coveted because their print runs tend to be small. They're also considered to be the closest a reader can get to the author’s original intent for his or her work. Thus, first editions are particularly desirable if a book has been changed for the second printing.
Especially collectible are first editions of books that went on to win literary awards. The landmark children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” earned author and illustrator Maurice Sendak a Caldecott Medal in 1964, so its first-edition cover from 1963 does not feature the famous Caldecott seal.
Another, more recent, famous first edition is the 1997 version of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” which was published by Bloomsbury in the U.K. in a print run of 1,000. The book went on to sell millions of copies for Scholastic in 1998, when it was re-titled for the U.S. market as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” No wonder copies of the Bloomsbury first edition routinely sell in the five figures.
Some people collect books for their aesthetic value. For these collectors, antique and vintage leather-bound books and sets are particular favorites. Some are covered in calf skin, which book binders found easy to dye. Others were made of Levant leather, which is goat skin and sometimes called Moroccan leather.
Examples of leather-bound books include individual works or collections by 19th century authors, from naturalist Charles Darwin, whose “On the Origins of Species” was first published in 1859 before being re-titled as “The Origins of Species” in 1872, to novelist Charles Dickens, whose monthly and weekly serialized stories were bound into classics such as “The Adventures of Oliver Twist” and “A Tale of Two Cities.”
American 20th-century novels such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” (1925), John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939), and J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” ...
Prized science-fiction books from the past 150 years include Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” which was first published in France in 1870 before being translated into English in 1872. H.G. Wells gave us “The War of the Worlds” in 1898 and “When the Sleeper Wakes” a year later. Collectible modern science-fiction authors range from Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke to Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, and Philip K. Dick, whose 1968 “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” was the basis for the 1982 sci-fi-film classic, “Blade Runner.”
In all cases, a book that has been signed by its author is more sought-after than one that has not, although books with inscriptions (eg: ‘To my dear friend, so-and-so’) are usually not as collectible as ones with just a signature. Biographies and memoirs are a favorite of former politicians and retired generals, who have been known to use the bully pulpit of a book to tell their version of history. Such books can often be found with the author’s signature on the title page.
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AbeBooks Supports the Antiquarian Book Seminars in Colorado and YorkILAB, April 20th
Young antiquarian booksellers and beginners in the trade will head for Colorado in July and York in September 2015. The Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar and the York Antiquarian Book Seminar, established last year after the example of Colorado, offer ...Read more
Weekend-long sale of 20000 antique books kicks off Friday at Eastworks in ...GazetteNET, April 16th
Partners in Paper co-owners Peter Luke, front, and Rich West work on setting out an estimated 20,000 books for sale over the weekend at Eastworks in Easthampton. The books originated from the private collection of Clarendon Van Norman in Neversink, ...Read more
On top of Vienna – Make the Antiquarian Book Business even more colourful on ...ILAB, April 15th
Moving to new premises is a great and exhausting adventure. Moving with an antiquarian bookshop to new premises is even a greater adventure – and much more exhausting. Every antiquarian bookseller who has undergone this experience, or torture, ...Read more
Photos: Lose Yourself In First Edition Fitzgeralds At 55th Annual Antiquarian ...Gothamist, April 11th
Grab your bifocals and shake out your dust gloves, because the 55th Annual Antiquarian Book Fair is up and running, at the Park Avenue Armory. This year, over 200 dealers from around the world have shipped in their papery wares for the weekend-long ...Read more
VIDEO: Annual Antiquarian Book Fair features book, collectible vendors from ...The-News-Leader, April 10th
Many book vendors, from as close as Kent and Peninsula and as far away as New York and Wisconsin, set up booths at the annual Antiquarian Book Fair at the John S. Night Center April 3 and 4. One feature this year was a presentation on Mark Twain, ...Read more
Tokyo, World Antiquarian Book Plaza - How to support literacy on UNESCO ...ILAB, April 10th
The World Antiquarian Book Plaza is located in Tokyo's city centre, only five minutes away from famous Ginza. The elegant rooms of this very special bookshop on the third floor of Maruzen is open to visitors 364 days a year. It is the ultimate...Read more
Antiquarian Book Fair Offers Victorian Children's Peep ShowsNew York Times, April 2nd
Victorian children peered into mass-produced accordion boxes of paper prints called peep shows, which gave the illusion of depth and motion. The layers of scenes, pierced with viewing holes, represented parks, gardens, battlefields, theaters and ...Read more
Mystery writer, local actor highlights of annual Akron Antiquarian Book FairThe-News-Leader, March 22nd
A mystery writer and a local actor known for portraying Mark Twain are among the highlights of the 33rd annual Antiquarian Book Fair. The two-day fair is April 3 and 4 at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron. Nationally recognized Twain-centric ...Read more