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What’s in the signature?

What’s in the signature?

A question often asked about rare and first edition books. Of course the answer is not as straight forward as it might seem. To put it simply, the interest of a signature in a book depends on who it is and what else is included in the writing.

Of course the “who” goes without saying. It has to be the author or illustrator who is well known to add value to a book.  And factor in whether the person is still alive or was a serial signer or not. For example, a signed Bram Stoker or Rudyard Kipling book is both of value due to the fact both are long deceased and both signed very few of their books.

Signatures of people associated with a book’s film adaptation have interest too, so a first edition Ian Fleming book signed by the Bond actor, whilst not worth as much as one signed by Fleming himself, would still add considerable value to the book. Even other actors who featured in the film add a degree of interest, with the likes of Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore from Goldfinger) leading the list.

In the book world there are so many sorts of signatures. And there seems to be a hierarchy of sorts among it all.

One level of the hierarchy is the signature written with nothing else and this can add interest to a book. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis Signed Kingsley Amis signed books are a good example. This simple signature of an author or illustrator maybe more valuable if it is dated and written directly on the pages of the book. Book plates or tipped in signatures are considered less desirable. Owners sometimes like to write their own name on a book and occasionally this can be of interest to a book collector if the person is on interest. Even a bookplate of a related and interesting character can add value to a book.

Nest step up in the ladder is the inscription signature. This is the signature which has been written especially for a particular person and naturally is especially interesting if that person is well known themselves. Of course a dedication inscription that is written to an unknown person may actually detract from a books value.

Any story behind a signature can add interest and value to a book and is called an association copy. This is where the author or illustrator’s signature is inscribed to someone associated with the writer. Links of association could be family members, other famous authors, politicians or anyone of note. Our ephemera within  Now We Are Six depicting connections between H. G. Wells and A. A. Milne is a fascinating find. Occasionally the person who collects the books may become an association of interest. These can tell a story, delving into a piece of literary history so this will always add value and interest to any bibliophile. Finding a date alongside the writing may pin point the interest to a significant event. Now We Are Six with signed ephemera by A.A. Milne & H.G Wells

A dedication signature is the ultimate level of signatures and can add significant value and attention to a bibliophile. Finding a signature dedicated to the person to whom the book was written for is quite special and rare to locate. Example

The worth of a signature will naturally be dependent slightly on market forces – the more generous an author is in signing their publication the less value the signature might have. Books of famous authors who rarely scribbled their names on their books are sought after items example. An author whose books are highly collectable will obviously attract more attention (usually if signed or not!).

For identification purposes the more that is written the better to confirm the authenticity of the writing and establishing the accuracy of the writer is best done through a specialist service to avoid costly mistakes.

Such a wealth of choices of signed books makes the bibliophile’s search for what’s in the signature of the next book such an interesting and enduring task.

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Collection of Winnie the Pooh Books

Winnie the Pooh, that well known little bear is again making publicity. The film, Goodbye Christopher Robin, is being released this October. What a great opportunity to revisit the fascinating story of the author behind the beloved classic children’s character.Winnie the Pooh, First Edition by A. A. Milne

And a chance to remind a bibliophile of the appeal and value in acquiring a set of the Winnie The Pooh volumes. There is certainly plenty of scope for building up a varied collection of books along this theme.

A. A Milne spent his early literary career writing suspense novels and plays yet he presented the character of the lovable bear to his publishers, Methuen in the mid 1920’s. They agreed to publish his book of poetry, When We Were Very Young, in 1924 and the rest, as we know, is history.

Winnie the Pooh quickly followed and was published in late 1926 with great success. The third book, Now We Are Six, was released in 1927 with a run of 50,000 trade copies. It success was immediate achieving more sales of the previous two books in just two months. The House at Pooh Corner, 1928 was Milne’s final book in the series and one in which he introduced the character of Tigger. With the public’s knowledge that this was the last in the series the publication of 75,000 copies sold out quickly and Tigger became a popular new character. The books with their iconic illustrations by the talented Ernest H. Shepard have remained highly sought after collectors items.A. A. Milne When We Were Very Young

Collectors of these books need to look out for particular markers of their first edition status. The first book of poems, When We Were Very Young, has blue boards with gilt character illustrations. It has no “page ix” marked and is distinctive from the second printing copies which do have that printed on the contents page. A first edition and first printing copy is the clearly the rarest of the four titles and in a fine condition with a dust jacket it can fetch a four figure sum.

Milne’s next book, Winnie the Pooh, features Christopher Robin and Pooh as the central characters in a series of stories in their own right. Copies with immaculate green cloth bindings and E. H. Shepard’s stamped gilt illustrations of Pooh and Christopher Robin are sought after items. First edition copies are distinguished by the yellow pictorial dust jacket and 117th thousand printed on the back flap with 7/6 net pricing on the spine. The book has distinctive illustrations of the map of the “100 Aker Wood” on the front free pages.

Milne wrote Now We Are Six as a collection of 35 verse poems. He dedicates the book to Christopher Robin’s childhood friend, Anne Darlington stating, “now she is seven and because she is so speshal.” The UK edition is bound in maroon cloth with the typical gilt illustrations. Likewise, the pink endpapers feature E. H. Shepard’s illustrations. The first edition dust jacket is very pale and a fine copy is hard to find. Any copy with a provenance is clearly a bonus. Our copy with playful comments between the authors, H. G. Wells and A. A. Milne, is a lovely find.  They comment of the words “now she is seven and because she is so speshal” with H. G. Wells adding “when Alan was six, I was nix”.

The House at Pooh Corner is last of the Milne’s books in the series. Fine 1928 first editions will be notable for bright salmon pinks covers with gilt illustrations of Pooh and Christopher Robin stamped on the front board. Again the end papers are illustrated by E. H. Shepard. Any accompanying dust jackets will have the charming illustrations of the characters on the front covers and spine. This edition is prone to fading so a bright copy can be hard to track down.

For a collector a wish list would include deluxe versions of all the books. These deluxe editions came out in the same year as the trade editions except for When We Were Very Young which was released at the time of the seventh edition. Of course signed copies of the quartet with dust jackets in fine condition would complete the wish list. A bibliophile can seek a library of UK editions published by Methuen, London or U.S versions published by Dutton & Co, New York.

All the first editions were followed by a limited first edition run printed on handmade paper, and often known as “Large Paper” copies. Small numbers were released making them scarce and valuable items. Only 100 copies of When We Were Very Young were ever published. 350 copies of Winnie the Pooh signed by Milne and Shepard were released by Methuen in 1926. These copies are distinctive because of their two-tone blue boards. The U.S. limited edition of this book was also published in 1926 with blue and pink boards. Only 200 numbered copies and 26 lettered copies are available. The third book had only 200 “Large Paper” copies released with salmon paper boards, a beige buckram spine and a printed paper label on the front board. Finally the last in the series, 350 signed copies of The House at Pooh Corner was released with cream paper-covered boards, a blue buckram spine and a printed paper label on the front cover. All of these editions are highly sought after books and make a very desirable set.

Of course, once you have sought out a fine set of the Pooh books you might want to move onto completing the collection of all of Milne’s other fine works  – but that is another story…

Here are more A .A. Milne first editions

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How The Book Got It’s Jacket

“How the book got it’s jacket” sounds like a good title from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories yet it is an interesting question, when did books acquire their dust wrappers?

Hans Andersen Fairy Tales and Legends illus by Rex Whistler

Before the 1820’s the text of a book was often bound in a commissioned binding of the owners choice. If a cover was needed to protect a book it was a plain paper wrapper, known as a “bastard title” that was quickly discarded once the book was purchased. An early forerunner version of a book protector was a slip case or sheath which were used for the covering of ornate gift publications or special books. From 1820 these covers progressed to a more paper like version and occasionally included the name of the book title on the cover. The golden age of illustration ensured that ornate and beautiful books were designed which required no decorative covers so any dust jackets for these books were frequently removed to enable the book to be displayed. As any dust jacket collector of 19th and 20th century dust jackets knows a dust jacket from this period is a rare item indeed.

Over time techniques of printing and marketing advanced allowing publishers to make book covers more colourful and appealing – although at the time continued scrapping of  lovely jackets as “wrapping paper” continued. Many books were issued with a plain glassine dust jacket which was instantly dismissed on opening but are now sought after items.

A Christmas Carol dust jacket Arthur Rackham

By the 1920’s dust jackets were becoming familiar. The use of the flap on a jacket became refined providing protection of the book and allowing the owner to read the book too. An added bonus for the publisher was that there was space for promotional information about the author and the book. As the ornately designed book waned the dust jacket became the focus of attraction. The artistic and commercial developments in the art world encouraged more designers to move into corporate employment. The golden Age illustrators even moved into the area of dust jacket design as in the 1925 edition of A Christmas Carol with Arthur Rackham designed dust wrapper. Book designs became objects of art themselves.

World War II interrupted the development of the jackets for a while as shortages of paper restricted publication. Yet since then the dust jacket has gained importance in the field of book collecting. As every book collector will know, a good quality first editionjacket can add considerable value to any book. The value and interest can very often now be in the illustration and design of the dust jacket. Unusual information about an author or the book on the dust jacket can now make it a rare and sought after object.

The Ring by Richard Chopping

Moonraker by Ian Fleming 1st Edition

Author designed jackets such as Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, 1930, or Moonraker by Ian Fleming,  are unusual items. Illustrators who then write a book and illustrate their dust jackets are interesting too as in The Ring by Richard Chopping (illustrator to many of Ian Fleming, James Bond novels).

It can probably be assumed that if How the book got it’s jacket was indeed a Kipling publication it would no doubt have had no jacket on – or maybe it might be covered in the popular glassine covers of the time – and would indeed now be a collectors item!

 

 

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A Clockwork Orange dust jacket

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William Golding books inspiring light.

William Golding books inspiring light.

“At the moment of vision, the eyes see nothing.” writes William Golding in his novel of The Spire. A book which deals with the construction of the 404-foot high spire and is loosely based on Salisbury Cathedral. Indeed visitors to the tallest tower in Britain have carefully trod in semi- darkness. That is until a volunteer guide, Robert Stiby,  paid with his own money to have new lights installed inside the ancient scaffolding of the tower. Visitors are now able to marvel at the medieval structures. What has this story to do with book collecting you might wonder? As a bibliophile it is a reminder of the endurance and interest of classic authors.

William Golding (19 September 1911 – 19 June 1993)

Golding remains a recognised novelist, playwright and poet being ranked third on The Times list of “The Greatest Writer since 1945”. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983 for his most famous work, The Lord of the FliesLordOfTheFlies. Golding wrote many fine novels yet it is this book which he is most remembered for.

Fine copies of the classic, The Lord of The Flies, remains attractive to collectors of modern first editions. Indeed it could be argued that “A collection of modern fiction would never be complete without it” (Connolly, 136).  As always the main factors affecting the appeal of a first edition book is the condition and the dust jacket.US Lord of the Flies

The first UK edition of The Lord of The Flies published by Faber & Faber in 1954. It features the iconic jungle artwork on the dust wrapper. The children trapped on the island blend into the wild, jungle environment around them.

The US edition was published a year later in 1955. It was not popular and sold around 2,383 copies before quickly going out of print. This makes it a rare find. The dust jacket of this edition has a more dense foliage and darker colouring than the British publication.

When writing The Lord of the Flies  Golding sought to “…illuminate the human condition in the world of today”. Almost as an echo to the past Canon Edward Probert, chancellor of Salisbury Cathedral commented on the new spire lighting. He states that, “…what was once clothed in darkness is now illuminated…”

To see more modern first editions and copies of William Golding books go here.

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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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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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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