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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Gallery of Book Trade Labels

Gallery of Book Trade Labels

Greg Kindall's collection of over 2100 colorful and historic book labels, pasted into books by publishers, printers… [read review or visit site]

Rare Karate Book Collection

Rare Karate Book Collection

This visually interesting and highly specialized collection from the Hawaii Karate Museum focuses on rare and histo… [read review or visit site]

Czech Book Covers

Czech Book Covers

This Smithsonian microsite showcases Czech avant-garde book cover designs from the 1920s and 30s, complete with hig… [read review or visit site]

Google Book Search

Google Book Search

Want to do one quick search and pull up the mother lode of vintage books? Try Google Book Search, a database filled… [read review or visit site]

Bookscans.com

Bookscans.com

Bruce Black's gallery of paperback book covers from the 1940s and 50s. With help from numerous contributors, he's a… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

King James Bible *1668* Leather & Clasps Binding Old New Testament Psalms BarkerAnno 1521: 2 Folio Books Bound In 1, With A Amazing Ancient World-map!!!Sale! 1st Print Winnie The Pooh A A Milne Methuen 1926 Uk H/b 1st Issue Wrapper1650 Philosophy & Logic Manuscript Aristotle Plato Aquinas Descartes ScienceAlice In Wonderland Antique 1st Edition Alice's Lewis Carroll Uk Adventures RareVoyage Hudson's Bay *1748* Ellis Map North West Passage Engrvs California1789 Captain James Cook Voyages Travels Pacific Ocean Kamchatka Eskimos Asia Antique 1576 Ed. Works Of Galen : Medicine, Surgery, Astrology & Herbal PotionsSale! First Edition Wrapper Live And Let Die Ian Fleming Jonathan Cape 1954 UkMemoires D'artillerie *1741* Military 2vol Surirey De Saint-remy 194 Engravings!Rare The Decameron *1602* Boccaccio Vellum Salviati Italian WoodcutsV Rare Accedens Armory *1568* Legh Heraldry Bossewell Woodcuts Crests Coat ArmsRare Second Voyage North West Passage *1835* Ross 2vol Col Plates/maps ArcticA Game Of Thrones By George R.r. Martin ~ First Edition ~ 1st Printing HardcoverSale! Signed 1st Issue Ginger & Pickles Beatrix Potter F. Warne & Co 1909 Uk1890 Antique Herbal Cures Apothecary Homeopathic Medicine Herbs Botany MedicalRare Charles Dickens *1st* Dombey & Son *1848* Engravings Browne Phiz 1st Edition Live And Let Die Ian Fleming Jonathan Cape 1954 Uk H/b James BondIan Fleming 'from Russia With Love' 1st Uk Ed 1957 Original Dj James Bond Casino 1st Edition Animal Farm George Orwell Secker & Warburg Aug 1945 Uk H/b1633 Christian Warfare-puritan-john Downame-four Parts-massive Folio-very ScarceArthur Rackham 1st Edition 1st Issue 1928. The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow.The First Men In The Moon. H G Wells. 1st Edition 1st Issue 1901Sale! 1st Issue When We Were Very Young A A Milne 1924 Uk H/b Winnie The PoohAlice's Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll Alice Antique Fairy Tale Vtg Art1694 Bekker, Le Monde Enchante, Demonology,angels,magic,witchcraft, 4vol,vellum1788-oeuvres Completes De J.j.rousseau/38 Fine Original Tree Calf Leather Bindng(binding)a Wonderful Fine Handpainted Vellum Gold-illuminated Giandotti-binding Rare Verstegan *1607* Theatre Cruautez Hereticques Torture Engravings CatholicsAntique Freemasonry Books 1925 Occult Rosicrucian Illuminati Free Mason HistoryMein Kampf By Adolf Hitler Easton Press Leather Bound1691 John Milton, Paradise Lost, Early Folio Edition, Poetry, Epic, CreationFreemasonry Antique Encyclopedia History Of Knight Templar Free Mason IlluminatiFree Masonry Lodge Monitor Knights Templar Illuminati Antique Rosicrucian MasonThe Fountainhead Ayn Rand Easton Press Liberty Classic LeatherThe Silkworm By Robert Galbraith Aka Jk Rowling Signed Us 1st/1st Hb No Reserve!Rare Tour Sweden Lapland Finland Denmark *1789* Consett 1st Bewick EngravingsThe Anubis Gates By Tim Powers. Centipede Press Signed Numbered Limited Edition.Vintage ~ Lot Of 20 Franklin Library 1/4 Leather Bound Book Lot ~ 100 GreatestArthur Rackham. 1st Edition 1st Issue. 1910. Richard Wagner. Extremely RareVirtue Of Selfishness Ayn Rand Easton Press Liberty Classic LeatherBeautiful & Rare 1868 Leather The Works Of Joseph Addision Six Volume Set1584 Summary Of Sciences Mathematics Music Astrology Economics Occult AlchemyFight Club Chuck Palahniuk Easton Press Leather Signed1809 Bradford, Sketches Of Costume In Spain & Portugal, 53 Aquatint Plates, 1st1894 The Jungle Book First Edition 1st Printing Disney Works Of Rudyard Kipling1629 New Atlantis - Francis Bacon - Utopia - Royal Society - Scarce 2nd Ed Beautiful & Rare 1878 Leather Complete History Of The United States Of AmericaMarijuana Girl N.r. Demexico Vintage Beacon Paperback Sleaze Gga PulpWritings Of Thomas Jefferson 2vol. Easton Press LeatherBradshaw's Railway Companion. 1845. Incredibly Rare. Hand-coloured Maps Sale! 1st Edition Casino Royal Ian Fleming Pan 1955 Uk P/b James Bond 1New York Gazetteer State County City Towns Syracuse Buffalo Troy Hudson RiverThe Morgan 1930 Car Book Three Wheeler Motor Signed1887 First Maine Cavalry Regiment Gettysburg Fredericksburg Union Confederate 1550 Complete Works Of Aristotle Dutch Erasmus Greek Text Basil Bebelius Folio!1594 Menochii Consiliorum Responsorum Giacomo Menochio Law Church GovernmentGet A Life William Shatner Star Trek Easton Press SignedNotebooks Of Leonardo Da Vinci Easton Press Full Leather1939 Mein Kampf Adolf Hitler Nazism Nazi Party Occult Wwii National Socialism

Recent News: Books

Source: Google News

Wizard Of Oz Convention Comes To San Diego
Coronado Eagle and Journal, July 24th

Winkie Con attendees can explore more than fifty daytime presentations on everything from antiquarian book collecting to Oz crafts, from Oz comics to make-up demonstrations, and there's the Oz Costume Contest on Saturday morning where attendees can ...Read more

50 books for students to read this summer: From Ernest Hemingway to Gillian ...
The Independent, July 24th

A first edition of F Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair 9. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. An elderly artist and her six-year-old grand-daughter spend the summer together on a tiny island in the...Read more

James Fenimore Cooper's 'Sea Tales' in silent auction in Redlands
Redlands 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 Magus
New 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

Antiques Appraisal Fair Saturday
Iron 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

Gods and bunnies
City Pulse, July 15th

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

Small sales whet appetites at local auction houses
Tribune-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

Antiquarian Booklovers Rejoice! the 30th Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair ...
PR Web (press release), July 6th

The Used and Antiquarian Book World. Past, Present and Future: An Australian Dealer's Point of View. (Saturday 1pm). Sally Burdon, owner and manager of The Old Bookroom, an antiquarian and secondhand book business in Canberra, Australia will speak ...Read more