Rare Book Care and Information

Some information about the care of rare and antique books.

What makes a book valuable?

The books in Rare and Antique Books are all, to one degree or another, considered desirable and in demand to a collector. The attraction of the book is often because of it’s importance in history or it’s meaning to any person’s heart of mind. The allure of a rare book could be that it is a first edition, signed by the author, have a significant binding or maybe made into a popular film. Of course, the condition of an antique book will also add considerably to it’s value too- a well loved dog eared children’s book may well have sentimental value to the owner yet may not be of monetary value compared to the same book in a fine condition.

What makes a first edition?

All the copies of a book printed from the first print run is considered a first edition, and this can be done in several formats such as on cheaper paper or as a limited edition. Arthur Rackham’s publications are often a good example of multiple first edition types. Within this there can be several re-printings and if minor changes to the text or illustrations are needed within the printing then they are known as states or issues. It can get complicated as you can have a first edition, third printing and second state of a book! If the edition requires significant changes then a new edition will be printed as a second edition. It is also interesting to know where the book was published as this can add value or interest to the edition. For example, Jean De Brunhoff’s Babar elephant books were originally published in France by Jardin Des Modes and then in the U.S.A. by Smith and Hass. As the books became popular more editions were produced by larger publishers Hachett in France and Random House in the U.S.A. Consequently versions of the Babar books by the original publishers are rarer and more valuable.

How do you recognise a first edition book?

This can be tricky as some publishers use different practices to identify first editions. In the UK most books have a print history recorded on the reverse of the title page. Sometimes publishers make it easy by stating “First printed in 1945, reprinted in 1946″! In more recent times a “strike-line” has been introduced which is a series of numbers from 10 to 1 written after the publisher’s details. The lowest number of the strike line indicates the impression of the book. For example, if the numbers go from 10 to 1 the book is a first impression, 10 to 2 means that it is a second impression.

What is the value of a dust jacket?

Having a pristine dust jacket will certainly contribute to the value of a book. Dust jackets were employed in the 19th century and were initially made to provide a simple cover which was frequently discarded or deteriorated soon after purchase, so any good condition, early dust jacket is often quite rare to find! For an example, of this Rare and Antique Books have a Sylvia and Bruno listed which has a very early and basic dust jacket. Over time the dust jacket gained more significance and the art work of the jacket was given greater value. For example the Ian Fleming, James Bond dust jackets have iconic images and a fine condition jacket will add considerable value to the book. Owners frequently cut off the price of a book (especially if it has been given as a gift) and so if a dust jacket has an intact “unclipped” price tag on the front flap then this can add value to a book.

What about the condition of a book? 

Every book seller will tell you that the condition of a book is very important and will affect the value of any rare book. Significant tears, marks, stamps or stains are clearly significant factors to consider. Signatures and inscriptions are generally valuable only when they add interest to the history of the book.

How to look after rare and antique books?

Once purchased a rare or antique book needs to be kept with care to maintain it’s value and condition. Ultra violet light can fade the colour of a book so a safe place out of direct sunlight is important. Also find somewhere away from fluctuations in temperature so avoid placing them near radiators or heat sources which may promote warping of the book. The storage of books should be free from damp and dust to avoid mould or dirt damage. A protective cover can be helpful to keep the condition of the book intact. Our James Bond Collection is housed in a custom made clear box which is ideal for very valuable purchases. Piling the books on top of each other or in tight bookcases could damage the spines so adequate space for your collection is a factor to consider too. Handle the books with some care and ensure that your hands are clean and free from grease stains. After all these considerations the most important factor of all is to enjoy the rare books we have to offer.

Read more Top Tips from Book Lovers: Q & A Advice from the Experts.

Item added to cart.
0 items - £0.00

Our bookshop is on holiday from 30th June to 21st July and will not fulfil any orders until our return. We can still respond to queries via email. Thank you.