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Book Collecting

Book Collecting

Rare and Antique Books have recently acquired four signed Kinglesy Amis books from the Dr Philip Murray Collection. It is a great opportunity to remind ourselves of  the obsession of book collecting, or biblomania. Murray gamely recognises that it “is the only form of collecting other than kleptomania that has a medical name attached to it”. He is clearly qualified to make the statement because as well as being one of Ireland’s leading book collectors, he is also a doctor.One Fat Gentleman Signed Kingsley Amis P Murray

Murray’s  interest in books started at a young age in his home of Tipperary, Ireland. He collected the Dandy and Beano comics. His interests quickly led onto more literary works as he ventured in the many bookshops of his university city of Dublin. His passion for book collecting continued during his time abroad. Murray sought specialist catalogues, literary festivals and many, many second hand bookshops in his travels. Much of his joy was also in the befriending of authors along the way.

auctioneersMurray amassed an impressively rare collection of twentieth century literary fiction and poetry. Over many years he built up an extensive range of books by some of Ireland’s most significant poets and novelists. Also including the best of British, American (North and South) and European authors. Names such as C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Beckett, O’Flaherty, J.B. Keane, McGahern, Kingsley Amis, Arthur Miller and many more litter his book collection. Murray’s quiet determination in sending first edition books with self addressed envelopes to authors enabled him to gather an enviable collection. A case in point is the ‘The Whoseday Book’ which contains the signatures of all but twelve of its over 360 contributors. Authors were inclined to add personal dedications which add to the charm and value of his collection. Seamus Heaney even submitted an original poem for his copy.

Murray has recently sold much of his compilation to relieve his family of disposing of such an enormous and significant collection. Around 2,200 books were handled by Dublin Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers in July 2016. These included Literature prize winners, Seamus Heaney, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Patrick White, attracting world wide interest and high prices.

Dr Philip MurrayDr Murray describes the excitement of his “obsession” in his book, “Adventures of a Book Collector” ( Currach Press, 2011). Many a bibliophile may well relate the the joy of finding a gem of a book. The thrill of the chase is one feeling that many a book collector will recognise, even if the finding is now often in online purchases rather than in dusty corners of a book shop. The comradeship of discussing the merits and pleasures of a special book is a special experience. Murray explains it beautifully. “When I started collecting books, I wasn’t to know that it would turn into a lifetime pursuit and would give me such pleasure in both reading some great books and making many valued friendships”. Holding a book that Murray gathered for his collection allows a moment of reflection on the joys of this crazy obsession, Bibiliomania!

To see more books of Dr Philip Murray’s collection go here

 

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Remembering the First World War

Remembering the First World War

The memorial for The Battle of the Somme have been a remarkable and sobering reminder of the fall out from war. The battle took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the River Somme in France. It was one of the largest of World War I. MIMG_1857ore than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

The UK has seen many events to mark this tragically important historian event. A local commemoration to mark the date was The Shrouds of the Somme.  The artist, Rob Heard created 19,240 shrouds to represent the 19,240 soldiers who died during the first day of the battle. They are arranged in rows on the ground as a way to physicalise the number of dead and to illustrate the enormity of the rare horror.

The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project describes the process. “Each figure is associated with a name so that each soldier is individually acknowledged and remembered. Rob works his way down the  list, crossing off one name each time a soldier is created as he reflects on their individual experience. He creates the figures unaided, cutting and hand-stitching their calico shrouds, covering and binding them in a ritual of creation, remembrance and personal introspection. As each soldier is wrapped they take on their own form, twisting  and bending into their own unique shape – not only representing the dead – but death itself. The  sight of the figures both individually and collectively presents a poignant and provocative experience for the viewer, providing a moment for reflection within themselves about the physical reality of the war, in approximately 1:6 scale.” It is a poignant and emotional  piece of work.

The Wipers Times 1918The BBC also repeated the film, The Wipers Times, which was first broadcast in 2013. It tells the story of Captain Fred Roberts discovery of a printing press in the ruins of Ypres, Belgium in 1916. With the help of ex-printer Sergeant Harris and with his friend Jack Pearson as his assistant, he sets up the satirical, Wipers Times. The name “Wipers” being the soldiers’ slang pronunciation of the town Ypres. Full of gallows humor the paper was poignant, subversive and very funny. Enemy fire nor authority and gas attacks halted the production of the magazine. It proved to be a huge success with the troops on the Western Front. It was, above all a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity. In his spare time Roberts also managed to win the Military Cross for gallantry.

For more information about The Shrouds of the Somme go here

To see a copy of The Wipers Times go here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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C. S. Lewis- A Remarkable Life

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) A Remarkable Life

The William Nicholson’s play “Shadowlands” is currently touring the UK portraying the remarkable romance between C.S. Lewis and an American called Joy Davidman. It provides opportunity to be learn more about the personal life of the bachelor academic and author and to be reminded of the works of C.S. Lewis. His books have been translated into over 30 languages and sold over million copies. The interest in him and his books does not seem to wain.C s Lewis

Born in Ireland, as a youngster Lewis had an interest in anthropomorphic animals, mythology and Norse legends. These early interests developed into studies of theology, poetry, and academic to name a few of his talents. He went onto hold academic positions in Oxford and Cambridge University. He is probably best know for his epic series, the Chronicles of Narnia, of which The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) is the most popular.

The Narnia books are some of the most sought after books by collectors. The works are all more valuable in their original state rather than rebound, particularly if the dust-jackets are well preserved. First editions of the Chronicles are often kept as a complete collection although individual volumes can achieve hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds, especially if they are signed. For example, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, first edition (1950) signed by the author, sold for £17,000 in October 2010 at the Bloomsbury Auctions. Or a price of £4,200 was achieved for The Last Battle, The Bodley Head (1956), first edition with dust-jacket, signed by the author at Sotherby’s in July 2007.The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis First Edition

Lewis’s other notable works of Mere Christianity and The Ransom Trilogy are also popular and rare to find in good condition with their dust jackets. The Heritage Auctions achieved a sale of $5,676.25 in April 2007 for The Ransom Trilogy, first editions (1938, 1943, 1945), in a dust-jacket.

C. S Lewis completed works remain valuable and collectable items. Yet it is charming to also see that the personal effects of this remarkable man are also valued. A collection of unpublished correspondence between C. S. Lewis and his wife Joy, sold for £4,025 in April 1966. Lewis achieved exceptional success in his literary career and Shadowlands shows that he achieved much in his personal life too.

To see more works of C. S. Lewis go here.

 

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The charm of the Babar’s ABC

The charm of the Babar’s ABCFirst Edition of ABC Babar Methuen

Rare and Antique books has just acquired a rare first edition Babar’s ABC published by Methuen, London and what a treasure it is!First Edition of ABC Babar Methuen

There is a double charm of the book: one that the book does not tell a story as Jean de Brunhoff’s other works did, and two, that the illustrations to link into the alphabet are in French yet it was sold in an English market. The French version,  ABC de Babar, was released by Editions du Jardin des Modes, Paris, in 1934. Jean de Brunhoff used characters and setting from his previous three books to create the alphabet book. His first book of the little, orphan elephant, Babar  was published in 1931, and by his death in 1937 seven further stories about Babar had been released with
his son, Lawrence, continuing the legacy writing and illustrating thirty more titles.

The London publishers, Methuen, released their first edition of the alphabet book on October 14th 1937 and their second publication was in 1949. In order to be able to identify the objects on the page a child would need to be fairly fluent in French – maybe a rare ability at the time! De Brunhoof did assist his readers by providing a list of French and English words listed alphabetically at the end of the book. However, it is a challenge to identify all the words on a given page – how many of the words for the illustrations for the “B” page can you find?

A rare collection of the original sketches and hand coloured proofs of the 1934 ABC de Babar have been gifted by Laurent de Brunhoff, the son of de Brunhoff, to the Houghton Library at Harvard University and are displayed until August 31st. It is a chance to see eighteen of the images from the preparatory stages of the book  and glimpse into the creative process behind the books. Failing a viewing at the exhibition have a look at the Babar books here to understand their enduring the appeal since their time of publication in the 1930’s. First Edition of ABC Babar Methuen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking after your book collection

Looking after your book collection

When it comes to rare and antique books condition is crucial so it’s important to look after a book collection carefully. Here are a few tips in how to preserve your treasured books:

Storage:

Keep your books upright on a shelf – unless they are large folio sized and then it’s best to lie them flat. Be careful not to lean books which may warp them so use other books or book ends to support the books – but not too jammed together! Take care when removing books from the shelf so the spine is not pulled away first. This is especially true if the books are a little fragile to start with.

Check that the temBooks Imageperature of the room is constant – any extremes of hot or cold, wet or dry may cause problems with mould from fungi, drying out of fine leathers or bleaching from sunlight. Hot radiators or damp corners are obviously to be well avoided as is a “sunny spot”! The ideal temperature of the room should be within the range of 16 to 19 degrees centigrade and humidity within 45 – 60%. Preferably both temperature and humidity needs to be constant and not variable. Measuring the temperature and humidty can be done with thermometer of a portable electric thermohygrometre or hygrometre if needed.

All books should be handled and stored with care, in order to preserve their good condition or to prevent existing damage becoming even worse. Remember that modern first edition books printed from the mid-19th century onwards are often printed on mechanical ground wood pulp paper, which often has a high acidic content and can quickly become discoloured and brittle if not kept in the right conditions. A specialized clear jacket cover can be helpful to protect valuable dust jackets and avoid finger marks. Caution is required when eating and drinking around fine books! A note too about keeping books together – don’t use elastic bands to hold groups of similar books as these will dry out and become brittle – much safer to use a cotton tape. Needless to say sellotape and rare books do not go together!

Cleaning books: 

Books that are left on shelves for a long period will collect dust and this could encourage the growth of mould. Cleaning a dusty book is best done by carefully brushing a closed book’s pages with a soft dry paintbrush – brushed away from the book shelf to clear the dust away. As well as dust collection silverfish or bookworms may infiltrate a fine book collection. These can be identified by the traces of larvae droppings called Frass which is usually found under the spines of books.

Repairing books:

There is a large difference between light dusting to clean a book and repairing  a broken hinge or page tear! If your book has a problem with it carefully think before embarking on a restoration project – is the value of the book worth less than the restoring bill? If so then it’s probably not a great idea unless the book has sentimental value. It’s worth remembering that restoring a cover is not to make the book look new again, but to make it look good for its age.Ibsen's Peer Gynt illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Repair jobs are tempting – how difficult can it be to simply glue back loose pages! But of course, badly repaired bindings, hinges or covers will devalue a first edition or rare book. Seek a reputable restorer and they may well be able to treat additional damage, spotted or stained material to reduce further erosion from dirt and oils. Leather covers can have restored color and luster. Cloth covers can be cleaned with water-less methods and in some cases cloth can be recolored. However do check that any washing will not shrink dust jackets.  Bindings can be repaired by sanding down boards, gluing spines and attaching free pages to the cover before a final finishing of the cover – all not to be done lightly so a job for a skilled professional.

Remember the condition of books is crucial so a first edition book with no damage is more valuable than a copy with missing pages and weak bindings-  or even worse a badly repaired edition!

 

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Rare and Antique Books at the London International Book Fair

Rare and Antique Books at the London International Book Fair

Last weekend (27 & 28 May), Rare and Antique Books exhibited at the PBFA London International Book Fair – ILEC Conference Centre. These are our highlights of what was a successful two days.

Firstly it’s fair to say that, as booksellers, book selling is what it’s all about, so on that front it was a success. We Diamonds-Are-Forever-Ian-Fleming-1st-edition (6)sold two Ian Fleming first edition books, Diamonds are Forever and From Russia With Love. Both sold fairly early on so a good start to the Friday, having already put two books aside for Pom Harrington of Peter Harringtons.

We were also pleased to say that a Japanese buyer had arranged in advance to take a look at our early edition of Beatrix Potter’s, Peter Rabbit, who subsequently bought it, as well as our signed, limited edition of Arthur Rackham’s Book of Pictures.

We sold an early edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to an American buyer, a third edition of Dickens’ Oliver Twist and a few others too, so a good fair for us.

Such fairs are also an opportunity to acquire rare books and modern first editions, and we added some crackers to our stock. We specialise first edition Lewis Carroll books, so jumped at the opportunity to add a French first edition of Alice in Wonderland – titled Aventures D’Alice au pays des Merveilles, dated 1869; a rare edition and one that will be listed shortly on our site.

Among our other highlights of rare books purchased was an original first paper cover edition of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, with the date hand changed by the publisher from 1885 to 1886, and a beautiful first edition copy of Bram Stoker’s The Lady of the Shroud. The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker (15)Both too will be listed very soon.

With respect to the modern first edition highlights, we acquired a fine first edition, second impression copy with it’s original jacket of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and a first edition, first impression of Graham Green’s The Third Man, again with its jacket.The Third Man by Graham Greene 1st Edition

But it’s not really just about being a bookdealer. We met many interesting people, marveled at the specific and niche subject matters some punters collect books about (and there are some really unusual ones!!), made new friends and had some fun. Two days very well spent.

Being from Exeter, we even got home in time to watch the recording of our home rugby team – The Exeter Chiefs playing in the final of the Rugby Premiership at Twickenham. So proud too!

 

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Starting off a book collection.

Starting off a book collection.

A question often asked is “Where do I begin with book collecting?” There is no straightforward answer but firstly you have to love what you collect! Starting off a book collection begins with finding an area of interest and keeping focused – it is very easy to get distracted with tempting book offers and chasing elusive editions! Honing down the topic can simplify the process and reduces the draw to go “off piste”. 

There are many routes to establishing a fine book collection – here are a few paths that collectors often get started with:

“Author” Collector: These collectors focus on building up a wide number of works from a specific author, perhaps only first editions. Over time the joy can be in acquiring better quality versions of the books. Alternatively the collection can extend to reprints, foreign translations, special editions and magazine appearances of the author. The “Author” could also be an illustrator, for example, collecting all the illustrated books by Arthur Rackham.

First Edition Collection Ian Fleming James Bond“List” Collector: Using an established and well-known literary list, like the winners of the Man Brooker Prize,ng. Or perhaps all the James Bond films? This collection is typically the first editions of these works and can include reprints or other important editions of the authors.

“Niche” collection: Choosing an an obscure but interesting topic makes for a special collection. Topics can be wide ranging and assembling these editions will truly reflect the personality and interest of the collector. The advantage of this type of collector is that there is often less competition for the books – how many people will be seeking books on say the subject of African Insects?

“Artistic” collection:  These collectors will focus on books that have an ascetic appeal. They could be illustrated editions, finely bound or have dust jackets of particular artists. Often this type of collection can be a starting point and can extend to building up a wide range of artifacts. For example, collecting illustrations of work of Pauline Baynes (best known for her Narnia series) may extend to her other images in magazine covers, dust jackets, maps and posters. These types of collections will often have the added value of looking attractive so represent art in themselves.Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis: first edition

Of course it is rare to find a pure collector of just one of the above, as more often they’ll be made up of a little of all the types. (That tendency to go off piste is very alluring!) Whatever is collected the mantra of all book collectors is “Condition, condition, condition” and establishing a set of fine editions can take some time, not to mention money! It is better to have smaller set of fine quality books than a larger number of poorer quality books. Researching your topic is advisable using the wealth of information on the web and in books.  Bibliographies of chosen authors can be essential in extending knowledge. Book dealers can be of a real help too – and making use of the established organisations that promote trustworthy and reliable book sellers is invaluable – as is attending reputable book fairs.

So where is best to buy from? The easiest option is to visit your local antiquarian bookshop and spend pleasurable minutes or even hours studying many an old book. Bargains can best be found on websites like Ebay but beware potentially less than scrupulous sellers. They may not be accredited by associations such as the ABA, the PBFA or the IOBA and, whilst this is by no means always the case, subsequently may describe books poorly or even dishonestly. They may place fascimile dustjackets on books without telling the buyer or massively inflate prices with high ‘Buy it now’ price tags to give the impression the book is worth considerably more than the market rate. Ebay have tightened their rules and process more recently with the buyer’s best interests in mind, so if you’re unhappy with a book, you can now request a return and, as long as the description was dishonest, Ebay will force the seller to refund in full.

Bargains can, of course, be picked up at car boot sales but if you are focused on a specific subject, it can appear like looking for a needle in a haystack! Sometimes a bookshop might have a good deal on book held in stock so it is always worth a look. Similarly traditional antique auction houses can now invariably be viewed online, thus opening literally the whole world to an auction which would previously have only operated on a local level. This is a double-edged sword of course as it can push the price up but good prices are often achieved too.

Books ImageThen there’s the internet and online offerings, which have transformed the way we buy rare and antique books like never before. Many traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ bookshops have now added website to their means of selling, so finding that special book you’ve always wanted can be done quickly and easily. It is best to buy from online book dealers who are accredited for the reasons mentioned above and always check their returns policy, so you don’t get caught with something you wished you hadn’t bought. Generally, a quick Google search for a specific book title or author will then display numerous specialist booksellers holding exactly what you are looking for. 

To go back to the original question, if you are asking yourself “where to begin building up a book collection” you probably already have a vague idea of what you might be interested in and just need to go ahead and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The unique Jean de Brunhoff

The unique Jean de Brunhoff

One of the most beloved characters in children’s literature is Babar the Elephant. Created from bedtime stories that his wife used to soothe an ill son, Jean de Brunhoff went on to write and illustrate six books which have delighted children since their publication in the 1930s. Brunhoff managed to convey important life events in a way that was meaningful to children and often reflected the personal life and philosophy of the creator. In Three Centuries of Children’s Books in Europe, Bettina Hurlimann commented that the author’s life is “inseparable from his books” and several critics believe that Babar is Brunhoff’s characterization of himself.  It is possible to see images of his own life in his work and to imagine the inspirations that generated these final images:

Babar-at-Home-Jean-de-Brunhoff-Methuen-First-edition (2)

Early life: Brunhoff was the last and fourth  child of Maurice de Brunhoff, a publisher, and Marguerite Brunhoff. He was born on December 9th, 1899 in Paris, France.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-MethuenWar: His early schooling was at Protestant schools. After graduation, Brunhoff joined the French army at the end of World War I reaching the front lines when the war was nearly over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Babar-the-King-Jean-De-Brunhoff-first edition

Training: Deciding to become a professional artist, Brunhoff studied painting with Othon Friesz at the Acadamie de la Grand Chamiere in Montparnasse. He created portraits, landscapes, and still life drawings that are reflected in his Babar books.

 

The-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-Methuen

 

 

 

 

 

Family: In 1924, Brunhoff married Cecile Sabourand, a talented pianist from a Catholic family. The couple had three sons: Laurent, born in 1925, Mathieu, born in 1926, and Thierry, born in 1934.

 

 

 

 

Le voyage de Babar by Jean de Brunhoff Roth & Co

Illness: Diagnosed with tuberculosis at a tragically early age, Brunhoff was forced to move into a sanitarium in Switzerland to treat his increasingly poor health. Unable to return home, he rearranged the nature of his Babar stories, making Babar becoming a father himself. He adapted the stories to allow him to offer paternal advice for his own sons. Brunhoff died on October 16, 1937, at the young age of 38.

Jean de Brunhoff’s images portray a wide range of life experiences in a sensitive way that was quite rare and novel in it’s time.  His work was well received by critics and remains iconic today. Maurice Sendak, who wrote an introduction to a 60th Anniversary Album of  Babar, famously comments, “Babar is at the very heart of my conception of what turns a picture book into a work of art.… Beneath the pure fun, the originality of style, and the vivacity of imagination is a serious and touching theme: a father writing to his sons and voicing his natural concern for their welfare, for their lives … Jean’s bequest to his family, and the world, shines from the books.” It is no wonder that first editions of Jean de Brunhoff’s work are so treasured and valued.

To see more first edition illustrations and writings of  Jean de Brunhoff click here

 

 

 

 

 

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Kipling’s Original Jungle Book

Kipling’s Original Jungle Book

The release of a new film about The Jungle Book has generated a good deal of interest in Rudyard Kipling’s tales of the jungle and allows an opportunity to reflect on the original story and influences behind this classic tale.

Jungle-book-two-first-editions-rudyard-kiplingInspiration:

It seems as if becoming a father inspired Kipling to write for children as he began writing the Jungle Book when he was expecting his first child. After living in Pakistan and London he was settling down to domestic bliss in Vermont with his new wife. Kipling dedicated the book to his baby daughter Josephine in 1894 who was, by then, just one year old. Five years later, both she and her father came down with pneumonia and tragically Josephine succumbed to the illness. A rare proof edition which was dedicated to his daughter was found in a collection of Kipling’s works that belonged to his second daughter, Elsie. She lived at Wimpole Hall from 1938 to 1976 and the book is now on display in Cambridgeshire there. Kipling’s loss was only heightened when he lost his son, John, in the first World War. The deaths left Kipling brokenhearted and he wrote in 1920 that “the pain gets acuter when peace comes because one thinks what might have been”. According to Kipling’s surviving daughter, Elsie, Kipling used to recite from the Jungle Books with the lights out in a semi-darkened room.

Imagination:

The Jungle Book stories was purely sourced out of Kipling’s imagination and his talents as an acute observer and storyThe -Second-Jungle-Book-1895-Rudyard-Kipling teller of life may have been honed in his apprenticeship as a journalist in Lahore, Pakistan. He admitted to one colleague that he called upon nearly everything he had “heard or dreamed about the Indian Jungle” to write the stories. Certainly Kipling had never visited the jungle area in India and appears to have been inspired by photographs and stories of his friends who had been there.  He may have been similarly influenced by the writings of Sterndale’s 1877 book, Seonee: Or, Camp Life on the Satpura Range and Robert Armitage Sterndale,  Mammalia of India.

Illustrations:

The iconic images which contributed to the success of the stories were taken from his father, John Lockwood. He was an illustrator, museum curator and art teacher and spent years in India. Rudyard Kipling was born and spent some of his early childhood in Lahore. His father had observed and drawn images of Indian jungle life in his book, Beast and Man in India: A Popular Sketch of Indian Animals in Their Relations with the People, which was published in 1891. He went on to contribute images to The Jungle Book and to Kipling’s later publication of Kim.First Edition of The Second Jungle book by Rudyard Kipling

Social History:

Kipling used more than just his imagination for the story plots as the books hints at Kipling’s philosophy of life and influences of the political and social setting of the time. The Jungle Book has a thread of “the Law of the Jungle” running through it which parallels the state of the British Empire and the politics in his day.The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, First Edition by Rudyard Kipling

The new 3D animation film by Jon Favreaux will attract new audiences and the ownership of a first edition copy of The Jungle Book might make a marvelous gift for those who enjoy the film. Looking at a first edition of The Jungle Book is rare reminder of the remarkable ability of Kipling to write a book that still hold attraction for an audience 122 years since it was first published.

To see more publications of Rudyard Kipling go here

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What makes a rare book?

What makes a rare book?

A question that is often asked. Why do some books sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds, while others are valued for pennies? Does that box in the attic contain collectable books that are worth anything? Firstly, from a book collectors point of view a rare book has to be one that they want badly. If it is generally regarded as desirable and even better, hard to find, then you’re well on the way to having a valuable book, but is it a rare book?  Different booksellers use different criteria and the terms “rare”, “antique” and “old” are not clearly defined. Here are a few factors to consider when looking at a special book and it’s value and rarity.

Just because it’s old doesn’t mean that it’s rare! 

In general books printed in the hand press era (from the 1450’s invention of the printing press to until the mechanism of printing in the early 19th Century) are recognised as rare. Yet many books printed in the 19th century can be classed as rare due to the poorer quality of paper and so may be more fragile than older books. Eighteenth century editions of the Bible survive in such numbers that few are considered valuable or rare.

Is the old book important in some way?

Authors that made a significant contribution to science, history or influencing society in some way are the kind of books that are collectable and therefore often valuable. A first edition book by Charles Darwin, for instance, will fetch thousands of pounds. Also any special bindings, an early use of a new printing process, or an autograph, inscription, or marginal notes from a famous person can contribute to a book’s importance and its value. For example, H. G. Wells is  remembered for his science fiction novels, and is recognised as the father of science fiction being nominated for The Nobel Prize for Literature for four years. His works of “The Time Machine” (1895) and “The War of the Worlds” (1898) would clearly be of far greater value than a more recent science fiction novelist.

How about the condition of the book?

Condition is often everything! A damaged or incomplete book will significantly affect the value and desirability of a book. Badly repaired books will also negatively influence the price of a book. The condition of any dust jacket is also a factor to consider. There is a wider spread view in the trade that dust jackets that have been repaired, even if professionally to a high standard, are not a sought after as those left in their original state. A multi-volume set of books which are all in pristine condition can have considerable value if the set is complete. First edition children’s books are often more rare to find in a good condition because they aren’t the best library archivists! Coloured in and torn pages plus discarded dust jackets are common. This is why, for example, good quality first edition of many Dr Seuss books frequently sell for considerable sums.

What about the history of the book?

The story of where a book came from and who might have owned the book is called provenance in the trade. Having an interesting provenance can add considerable value to a book and it’s rarity. Without any doubt the most highly valued form of provenance is that which shows an association copy or a link between an important owner of a book and its author. This is often with an inscription or a presentation. An inscribed copy usually carries the author’s signature along with the recipient’s name, while a presentation copy is given by the author to the recipient. A personal inscription by the author to a significant person would make the book more appealing to a collector.  For example,  Lewis Carroll’s  “Alice In Wonderland” that was personally signed and dedicated to none other than Alice Liddell, the real-life child on whom Carroll’s fictional Alice was based, fetched £15,400 at auction back in 1928. One can only guess it’s value now! Signed or limited editions of a book can add considerable value to a book.

And how many rare books are out there?

A book can be rare because there were very few copies printed or it was printed for private circulation only. First editions tend to be considered “rare” as publishers might cautiously publish only the number of books they think will sell. This is especially true for first time authors where the demands of the public are not certain. These first editions, especially if printed in small numbers, are particularly prized by book collectors.  For Ian Fleming’s first Bond book Casino Royale, only 3000 of the first edition, first impression, first state (without the Sunday Times mention) were printed. Many went straight into the library system so their jackets were discarded, making complete copies very rare, highly sought after and very valuable. Even in recent times, the first hardback edition of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone’, was a run of only 500 copies printed. A copy sold at Southerby’s in 2015 for £25,000.

Does anyone want it?

This is the million dollar question! The desirability of a book is crucial and is anyone prepared to pay good money for it? Owning an first edition book in pristine condition of an unknown author might not be a book of great value to others – even if it is to you! Collecting books is a often done for very personal reasons. These can be quite varied such as collecting your childhood favourite author, or extending a special interest hobby or even to fill a shelf to show off!

Ultimately, though, the value of a book as a collectable item, is directly related to the book’s relative scarcity and its condition. It is basic supply and demand. When many collectors seek the same book and only a few copies are available, that book value increases. Yet what makes a rare book is a fine mix of numbers, importance, condition and provenance to make it truly rare and valuable.

For more books go to our authors list