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    

Rare First Edition Of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four With Dust JacketAlice In Wonderland Antique First Edition Alice's Rare Adventures Lewis Carroll15th. Century: 4 Page Manuscript On Vellum Fragment! Ot Or World - Chronicle!Harry Potter *1st/1st* Chamber Of Secrets *1998* J. K. Rowling Bloomsbury DjRare History Of Inquisition *1734* Spain Portugal Indies Hereticks ExecutionsFreemasonry Book Of The Dead Egyptian Free Mason Occult Illuminati RosicrucianPost Incunable Bartolomeo Platina *1518* Vitae Pontificum Halley's Comet WoodcutCirca 1864-1872 Handwritten Diary 200 Pages Insane Asylum Smallpox Amazing !!Agatha Christie - Ten Little Niggers 1st Ed' Hb+dj 1939 Looks FantasticA Huge 12th. Century Manuscript On Vellum Fragment ---hagiography Of Konstanz---Signed Sir Walter Scott *1803* Binding Scenes Infancy Manuscript Poem Lady Hood1962 1st Edition March Chagall Lithographs Jerusalem Windows Book, Jean Leymarie1st George Orwell *1949* Nineteen Eighty Four Dystopian NovelArthur Rackham. Charles Dickens. Christmas Carol 1915. Original Dust-wrapperModern Navigator *1734* Kelly Celestial Terrestrial Globe Astronomy TrigonometryBrassai/morand 1933 Paris De Nuit 1st Edition/1st Printing 64 PhotogravuresEarly 1200's: Large Bifolium Manuscript On Fine Vellum! Must See!Arthur Rackham 1st Edition 1st Issue. A Midsummer-night's Dream 1908 ShakespeareAlice In Wonderland - 1899 - Alice's Adventures In Wonderland -lewis Carroll1813 George Washington Life Revolutionary War President Signed Document HistoryWilly Pogany Tannhauser. Art Nouveau, Gothic 1st Ed 1911. Richard WagnerRobert Burton Anatomy Of Melancholy 1676 Folio Engraved Title No Reserve1713 Life Of Leopold I Holy Roman Emperor Bohemia Hungary Turks Secrets GermanCormac Mccarthy: Suttree, 1979 Random House, 1st Printing, Hard Cover W. DjEdmund Dulac. The Sleeping Beauty 1st Ed 1st Issue. 30 Stunning Colour Plates1833 Holy Bible Fine Binding American Andrus Hartford Leather Antique Pocket Old1480 Antoninus Summa Iii Medieval Society Law Economy Theology Ethics *incunableConchologist's First Book, 1839 Edgar Allen Poe, 12 Plates Malacology, Bal 16131Edmund Dulac, Tanglewood Tales, Signed De Luxe Edition, Ltd To 500, 1st Edn 19181612 Decretals Of Pope Boniface Viii Liber Sextus Vellum Folio Woodcuts Rare!!!!Isaac Barrow Euclidis Elementorum 1659 2nd Ed. Euclidis Data Diagrams No ReserveInstructor *1741* Arithmetic Astronomy Maths Engrvs Fisher Pickling Farrier1942 The Hobbit First Edition/ Third Impression J.r.r Tolkien Lord Of The RingsCollins Horizontal Projection 1657 & Speidell Spherical Triangles 1627 1st Ed NrJ K Rowling. Harry Potter. Bloomsbury. Signed 2003. Order Of The Phoenix. D/jC1240 Latin Holy Bible Medieval Manuscript Vellum Illuminated Biblia Latina Rare1676 1st Ed Epistles Of Ovid Jean Barrin Mythology Trojan War Achilles ClassicalCormac Mccarthy: Blood Meridian, Hard Cover, Random House 1985, 1st Printing, DjCormac Mccarthy: Child Of God, Hard Cover, Random House 1973, 1st Printing W. Dj1893 Alice In Wonderland Lewis Carroll Tenniel Victorian Fine Binding ChildrensDumas Leather Set 12 Vols Fine Bindings Three Musketeers Count Of Monte Cristo[ 1984 ] Nineteen Eighty-four By George Orwell 1949 1st Edition1855 Mount Vernon Monticello Presidents Americans Us Homes Leather Illustrated (5) C1860s Antique Victorian Decorative Fine Binding Shelf Lot Books Novels DecoRare Stephen King Signed Revival-with Original Signed Art By Don MaitzMillennial Dawn / Volume 4 / The Day Of Vengeance / 1897 / Watch TowerDarwin *1907* Journal Researches Voyage Beagle Binding Natural History Fitz Roy1887 Battle And Leaders Of The Civil War 4 Vol Set Illustrated Gilt Leather 1966 Octopussy First Issue First Edition Ian Fleming James Bond Lovely CopyThe Andromeda Strain Michael Crichton Easton Press SignedThe Princess Bride William Goldman Easton Press Leather1836 Holy Bible Pocket American Leather Antique New Testament Abs Fanshaw Rare1100's. A Very Rare Manuscript On Vellum Fragment With Intiale! Coronation-mass!Millennial Dawn / Volume 6 / The New Creation / 1904 / Watch TowerCirca 1900 Handwritten Diary Soldier Philippines Insurrection War Rare Content 1860 Antique George Washington President Revolutionary War American RevolutionHistory Jacobite Rebellion *1717* Patten Battles Sheriff-moor Scottish Earl MarConspiracy Proof *1797* Illuminati Freemasons Secret Society Robison RevolutionThunderball By Ian Fleming 1st Edition + Dust JacketAubrey's Miscellanies *1784* Magic Angels Appartitions Prophecy Occult Phenomena

Recent News: Books

Source: Google News

How much is a first edition 'The Hobbit' worth? The Pasadena Antiquarian Book ...
The Pasadena Star-News, February 11th

Bookseller John Knott, Left, who specializes in rare science fiction, detective and mystery novels, is shown here with his sister as he prepared for the 2014 California International Antiquarian Book Fair at Pasadena Convention Center. The 49th edition...Read more

The most expensive books you can find at the Pasadena Antiquarian Book Fair
The Pasadena Star-News, February 10th

Bookseller John Knott, Left, who specializes in rare science fiction, detective and mystery novels, is shown here with his sister as he prepared for the 2014 California International Antiquarian Book Fair at Pasadena Convention Center. The 49th edition...Read more

42nd ILAB Congress and the 1st International Antiquarian Book Fair of Budapest,
ILAB, February 10th

It is a great pleasure and honour for me that Budapest will have the privilege to host this prestigious event, as we are proud to present the Hungarian capital to you as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with a rich and colourful cultural...Read more

'Alice in Wonderland' exhibit at Antiquarian Book Fair celebrates 150 years of ...
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, February 8th

The 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair will cater to these passionate book lovers Friday, Saturday and Feb. 14 at the Pasadena Convention Center, which will include a special exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first...Read more

41st Annual Washington Antiquarian Book Fair Returns March 4-5
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, February 4th

WASHINGTON - Book lovers rejoice: the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair returns to our nation's capital! Celebrating its 41st year, the Fair returns this March 4-5, 2016 featuring new and longtime favorite exhibitors and collections. Over the course of...Read more

Man found guilty of possessing antique books from Carton House
Irish Times, February 2nd

A man has been found guilty of possessing 67 stolen antique books, including an extremely rare King James Bible. Andrew Shannon (51) was accused of illegally handling the books which originated in the library of Carton House in Kildare, the historical ...Read more

The 35th Annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair Slated for March 11-13
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, January 28th

The 35th Annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair Slated for March 11-13. January 28, 2016 10:23 AM. | More. The 35th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair returns to St. Petersburg's Historic Coliseum March 11-13, 2016. The book fair is the third largest...Read more

BUDAPEST 2016 - ILAB CONGRESS & INTERNATIONAL ANTIQUARIAN BOOK FAIR
ILAB, January 25th

For the first time ever the Hungarian rare book dealers invite colleagues and collectors from across the world to Budapest. The 42nd ILAB Congress and 26th ILAB International Antiquarian Book Fair from 21 to 25 September 2016 will present Budapest as ...Read more