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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New short story from F. Scott FitzgeraldNewsradio 620, August 4th
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: A first edition of F Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair in the Olympia exhibition centre on June 13, 2013 in London, England. The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association was ...Read more
The Bizarre Tale of 'ISIS Book Club'Atlas Obscura, August 4th
“You have a clique in Berlin, a clique in Paris, a clique in London, a clique in Italy, a clique in Spain, you have some mad Dutch antique books dealers. It's very, very ad hoc.” The Lion of Al-l?t in Palmyra, Syria, from early 1st century AD. It was...Read more
Antiquarian book expert visits libraryRepublican Journal, July 24th
Camden — Craig Olson will visit Camden Public Library Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 7 p.m. to give a talk on Identifying First Editions: The Treasures You Might Find on your Bookshelf. Olson runs the antiquarian book dealership Artisan Books & Bindery on Islesboro...Read more
From Seoul to London – An interview with TJ Kim, antiquarian bookseller in the ...ILAB, July 20th
And now, for the first time, the South Korean colleagues exhibited at this year's London International Antiquarian Book Fair. T.J. Kim, owner of Tmecca Korea, Inc. in Seoul, was one of them. He tells us about rare bookselling in his home country, his...Read more
In the Press - US Returns To Sweden Millions in Antique Books Stolen by ...ILAB, July 13th
In the 1990s rare and valuable 17th century books were stolen from the National Library of Sweden. Now some of them have been returned to Sweden with the help of two American antiquarian booksellers. The official repatriation ceremony took place in ...Read more
Make Plans Now for the 2015 Tennessee Antiquarian Book FairMemphis Magazine (blog), July 6th
Now in its fifth year, the Tennessee Antiquarian Book Fair, held at the Sewanee Inn on the campus of the University of the South, offers book lovers a chance to view (and purchase) rare and vintage publications from some of the best booksellers in this...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
With owners aging and money tight, Whately Antiquarian Book Center is up for saleMassLive.com, June 4th
For more than 25 years, dozens of booksellers have set up shop within the red brick walls of the Whately Antiquarian Book Center. Loyal customers have grown accustomed to the rows on rows of used books, acquired by the hundreds and thousands in ...Read more