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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Susan LarsonMy New Orleans, October 1st
Q: Do you have any guilty pleasure books? I'm a junkie for Scandinavian crime fiction – like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books. I collect antique gardening books and antique books about tattoos, because tattoos fascinate me. So those are kind of my...Read more
Talk on antique books at museumWorcester Telegram, September 27th
GARDNER - Kenneth Gloss, proprietor of the Brattle Book Shop in Boston, will talk about the value of old and rare books at the Gardner Museum, 28 Pearl St., on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m.. Attendees may bring books for a free verbal appraisals. telegram...Read more
Under the Auspices of ILAB – International Antiquarian Book Fairs Across the WorldILAB, September 17th
Over the year and on all continents, there is an exquisite selection of antiquarian book fairs, where book collectors and the world's leading experts share their passion for the printed book and our written heritage. Under the auspices of the...Read more
Tip Sheet for Sept. 14-20: Dust off those antique books for an expert opinionMontreal Gazette, September 14th
14-20: Dust off those antique books for an expert opinion. 1021 photo reimagined Montreal Gazette More from Montreal Gazette. Published on: September 14, 2015 | Last Updated: September 14, 2015 8:00 AM EDT. Get your collectibles appraised at the ...Read more
Between the Lines: Find the rare at the Antiquarian Book FairSacramento Bee, September 6th
If you love the printed word and all things related, there's a window to browse thousands of rare and collectible books, maps, photos, graphics, postcards, “ephemeral items” and more. That would be at the Antiquarian Book Fair, where 60 exhibitors will...Read more
Assistance League of Albuquerque to hold sale of more than 2500 antique booksAlbuquerque Journal, September 5th
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Assistance League of Albuquerque recently received a donation of more than 2,500 antique books and will hold a sale of them from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8, through Saturday, Sept. 12 at its thrift shop, 5211 Lomas NE...Read more
One for the books: Next month brings the 43rd Annual Antiquarian Book Fair in ...MPNnow.com, August 22nd
ROCHESTER — An antique book dealer and a librarian meet for lunch. This is not the set-up for a punchline. Instead, the 1972 meal at a Mt. Hope Avenue restaurant in Rochester yielded satisfaction beyond that of hunger, setting in motion an antiquarian ...Read more
United States Returns Stolen Antique Books to the National Library of SwedenFederal Bureau of Investigation (press release) (blog), June 17th
Richard Zabel, the Deputy United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the return of two...Read more