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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David Leroy shows off his antique booksThe Idaho Statesman, March 23rd
The former Idaho Attorney General has been a book collector for years. He showed off some of the 17th century books he purchased in Italy last year. (Katy Moeller/Idaho Statesman). Join The Conversation. Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this ...Read more
3rd Milan International Antiquarian Book Fair, 27-29 March 2015ILAB, March 23rd
For the third time antiquarian booksellers and collectors will meet at the Palazzo Mezzanotte in Milan from Friday 27 March to Sunday 29 March to celebrate the Milan International Antiquarian Book Fair. The fair will be officially opened on Friday 5.30...Read more
Mystery writer, local actor highlights of annual Akron Antiquarian Book FairThe-News-Leader, March 22nd
A mystery writer and a local actor known for portraying Mark Twain are among the highlights of the 33rd annual Antiquarian Book Fair. The two-day fair is April 3 and 4 at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron. Nationally recognized Twain-centric ...Read more
Florida Antiquarian Book Fair Adds Literary FestivalPublishers Weekly, March 12th
The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, set this year for March 13-15 at the St. Petersburg Coliseum, is the oldest and largest event of its kind in the southeastern United States. Now, in its 34th year, it's expanding to include the SunLit Festival, a nine...Read more
Events: Antiquarian Book Fair runs through March 15Tampabay.com, March 11th
11 a.m.-4 p.m.: The 34th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair brings more than 100 book dealers together for this event, with rare and unusual books, maps, photographs and more. The Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Tickets cost $6. • 2 p.m...Read more
Antique Books Turned Into Exquisite Paper SculpturesCo.Design, March 6th
South African artist Barbara Wildenboer thinks of books as living things. In her art, she operates on them, cutting apart old books to reveal the sprawling yet delicate central nervous systems trapped within the pages. Inspired by the delicate fractal...Read more
The Time is Nigh! – York Antiquarian Book Seminar, 14-16 September 2015ILAB, March 4th
After the resounding success of last year's inaugural York Antiquarian Book Seminar the faculty went back temporarily to what they do best; selling books, composing prize winning catalogues and attending book fairs with meticulously chosen stocks of ...Read more
2 antique books in SF among stolen trove feds have returned to Italian governmentSan Jose Mercury News, February 26th
Federal agents have returned 19 cultural treasures to the Italian government after they were found here in the United States, including two antique books from the San Francisco area, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland ...Read more