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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Powell's $350, 000 Gift: For The Person Who Has EverythingOPB News, November 27th
His obsession took him across the country and deep into the world of antiquarian book collecting. In a way, it all led to a moment. After approximately a decade of collecting, there in front of him was the 1814 journal — like the one at Powell's...Read more
Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios opens its doorsSan Francisco Chronicle, November 27th
On display will be everything from hand-blown glass and ceramic kitchenware to hand-wrought silver jewelry and furniture made from antique books. Open Studios will continue over four weekends leading up to Christmas. The event offers the public a ...Read more
If you hold this antique book just right, you'll see a hidden masterpieceTech Insider (blog), November 25th
This technique is visually arresting, and actually fairly common for antique books. It's called fore-edge painting, and it dates back to the 16th century. Book with fore-edge paintings can come in two varieties: paintings visible when the book is...Read more
In Memoriam Mitsuo Nitta - We have Lost a Giant of the Antiquarian Book WorldILAB, November 11th
My “boss” has passed away. It is true that all humans must one day face this inevitable fate. When I met Mitsuo Nitta in the middle of October after returning back from the ILAB Presidents Meeting in Seville, aside from thinking his stomach looked...Read more
The 39th Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair Returns to the Hynes ...ILAB, November 11th
The annual fall gathering for booklovers, the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, will return to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston's beautiful Back Bay, November 13- 15, 2015. More than 120 dealers from the United States, Australia, England...Read more
The 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair Will Celebrate “Alice”Fine Books & Collections Magazine, November 10th
LOS ANGELES—From February 12 - 14, 2016, thousands of book lovers, rare book dealers, and scholars will converge at the Pasadena Convention Center for the 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Recognized as one of the world's largest ...Read more
Make it old: The Toronto Antiquarian Book Fair returnsNational Post, November 5th
This weekend, the Toronto Antiquarian Book Fair returns to the Art Gallery of Ontario, bringing with it a renewed sense of hope for rare book dealers and collectors alike. Attendance numbers are up, Wesley Begg, the president of the Antiquarian Book...Read more
Friendly, stylish, hip - Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair, November 6-7, 2015ILAB, November 2nd
Warmer than Boston, more intimate and less formal than most other antiquarian book fairs - over its life, the Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair has become a fixture in the November calendar for book collectors which leads book-people from Sydney in...Read more