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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James Fenimore Cooper's 'Sea Tales' in silent auction in RedlandsRedlands Daily Facts, July 21st
According to Ted Parsons, Friends of the Library volunteer and head of the Friends' antiquarian book committee, the selection criteria include offering books whose authors were well-known writers of earlier days; selecting a book because the subject is ...Read more
Secrets of the MagusNew Yorker, July 21st
Jay has many loyal friends, a protective circle that includes a lot of people with show-business and antiquarian-book-collecting connections and remarkably few with magic-world connections. Marcus McCorison, a former president of the American...Read more
Michel Gondry's 'Mood Indigo' is wildly inventiveLos Angeles Times, July 17th
To call Michel Gondry's "Mood Indigo" visually inventive is not even scratching the surface, something like characterizing Apple as a company that's had a certain amount of success. Wacky, surreal, insanely playful, "Mood Indigo" is a film that...Read more
Antiques Appraisal Fair SaturdayIron Mountain Daily News, July 17th
Nancy Pellegrini, director of Habitat for Humanity Menominee River, shows some antique books to Juanita Bates of Kingsford. An Antiques Appraisal Fair will be held on Saturday, July 19, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore...Read more
Word Play — caught between the covers of Tampa Bay's literary sceneCreative Loafing Tampa, July 16th
In addition to eliciting hearty laughs with comic routines steeped in geeky author references, she's a regular at the Antiquarian Book Fair and has emceed events like the James Joyce-inspired “Bloomsday” on June 16th and the lit comedy homage “Broad ...Read more
Gods and bunniesCity Pulse, July 16th
Many of Thomas' sculptures are made from antique books. Little figures, such as a mermaid or a primly dressed woman, are constructed from the actual pages and situated on aging tomes. A surprising intricacy is achieved in the deftly constructed little...Read more
Taking a Bibliographical Journey Through Jewish HistoryChabad.org, July 16th
Now showing in Brooklyn: rare Hebrew manuscripts and antique books from the 16th–century and beyond. By Eli Rubin | July 16, 2014 12:16 PM. Share. del.icio.us · Digg this · StumbleUpon · Facebook · Furl · reddit · Google · BlinkList · Twitter · Yahoo!...Read more
Small sales whet appetites at local auction housesTribune-Review, July 13th
Bob Simon returns July 26 for a sale of historical proportions with a trove of rare antique books dating to the first decade of the 19th century. The top page-turner on the book cart is a leather-bound, three-volume “History of the Indian Tribes of...Read more