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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Sultan author adds two to seriesHeraldNet, October 19th
“I've collected antique books, and there's nothing like holding a two-hundred-year-old book in your hands, it's a feeling you can't get with the Internet,” said Kohler, 53. “And there's value in passing books of consequence down to the next generation...Read more
Last Sunday with the AntiquariansComic Book Resources, October 18th
Well, we couldn't buy anything at last week's Antiquarian Book Fair, but we still had fun. We love the Book Fair because it's everything we enjoy about being on a convention floor, without any of the downsides. It's not crowded, there's nobody blocking...Read more
The Rare Book Trade - "Govern Yourselves Accordingly"ILAB, October 17th
This was supposed to have been a review of last weekend's Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair. But the event went so smoothly, and was such a success, that there isn't really much to say about it. Load in and setup proceeded without a hitch. The venue was ...Read more
Antique books, museums, libraries in the firing line for council's cultural cutsNorfolk Eastern Daily Press, October 14th
Antique books, museums, libraries in the firing line for council's cultural cuts. The Norfolk and Norwich Millenium Library in the Forum. Photo: Paul Hewitt. Martin George Wednesday, October 15, 2014 9:27 AM ...Read more
Protection of antique books goes digitalGlobalPost, October 11th
BEIJING, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- China's ancient books will soon be better protected, including a database of digital copies, a cultural official has announced. Lectures, academic workshops and exchanges will be held to bring China's bibliographic legacy...Read more
Friendly, stylish, hip – Chelsea has it all! Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair ...ILAB, October 10th
Warmer than Boston, more intimate and less formal than most other antiquarian book fairs, friendly, stylish, hip – Chelsea has it all! Over its life, the Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair has become a fixture in the November calendar for book collectors...Read more
The Scout List: Baker's Market, Antiquarian Book Fair and OktoberfestThe Globe and Mail, October 1st
Books: The Vancouver Antiquarian Book Fair sets up shop at UBC Robson Square this weekend. Peruse rare antiquarian books, collectible ephemera, old maps and unique prints – all with that awesome “old book” smell. Expect shelves and tables full of ...Read more
Antiquarian Book Fairs - Paper TownILAB, September 23rd
It was a beautiful morning, one of the last fine days of the summer, with trees just beginning to turn the corner toward the explosion of colors that precede winter's monotone. But instead of going into the woods, where I know the swamp maples along...Read more