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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A Morning With Ron Jolly, Minus The MicrophoneTraverse City Ticker, September 2nd
I have the best collection of books about northern Michigan, including old antique books, books about the region or by regional authors, even rare books about Traverse City from the 1880s. It's a crazy collection. I also serve as a mentor for a [grown...Read more
VIP tour to AgiasosHurriyet Daily News, September 2nd
Behind him in the library were hundreds, maybe even thousands, of antique books. When we entered, the man stopped playing music and looked at us. It was impossible to communicate with the guy because the only language he knew was Greek, but the he ...Read more
Literary and spiritual treasure discovered in central KentuckyGlasgow Daily Times, August 30th
“Years and years ago in my graduate classes at Western (Kentucky University), I'd done a lot of work with antiquarian books and done a lot of research on the antiquarian book business,” Pike explained. “And in that process, I'd learned of the Carey...Read more
'Books and Beeswax'Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, August 29th
She also likes to include scans from both the interiors and exteriors of old books in her compositions, sometimes as central elements, and other times as embellishments to the story she is telling. Floyd says she has been entranced by antique books...Read more
Peter Parley, who was he?The Ridgefield Press, August 28th
Ms. Coleburn's talk will also include information about children's antique books and their authors although with emphasis on Peter Parley, a local boy who made good. Light refreshments will be served after the presentation and there will be time to...Read more
ILAB Library - All You Need To Know About Rare Books and the Antiquarian ...ILAB, August 11th
On July 26, 1984, Edward Gein died in a state mental institution. Gein's case stole the headlines in November 1957, when police went to his farmhouse to investigate the disappearance of local hardware store clerk Bernice Worden. Gein had been the last ...Read more
Tokyo International Antiquarian Book Fair – 5th to 7th March 2015. Subscribe now!ILAB, August 8th
The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Japan (ABAJ) is pleased to announce the Tokyo International Antiquarian Book Fair 2015. As a celebration of its 50th anniversary, the ABAJ will be holding the International Antiquarian Book Fair in Tokyo from...Read more
Antiquarian Book Fairs - Why do I have to play Lotto?ILAB, August 6th
When one stands in the queue outside Ludwigsburg, the small fair that starts one day before the Stuttgart Antiquarian Book Fair, one gets a glimpse of all the well-known people of the global book-dealing community. As we are all very busy keeping up...Read more