Category: Book Condition

Introduction to Book Collecting AABA


The mission of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America is to promote ethical standards and professionalism in the antiquarian book trade, to encourage the collecting and preservation of rare and antiquarian books and related materials, to support educational programs and research into the study of rare books, and to facilitate collegial relations between booksellers, librarians, scholars, and collectors.

They have a very useful selection of articles and information about book collecting, book valuation and rare books. The article Introduction to Book Collecting is one such article written by the highly regarded Allen and Patricia Ahearn in 1999. You may find this excellent article HERE. It is well worth the read

Top Ten: Influences on the Value of a Second Hand Book

Source: Reading Habits Feed Yours Website. We want to thank the author Amber Cross for allowing me to publish this. I hope you will find it interesting…

Thursday, 10 November 2011Reading Habit’s

Top Ten: Influences on the Value of a Second Hand Book

As a second hand bookstore operator I often get asked to value a book. In most cases, the book in question isn’t worth much more than $10 or $20 and I watch as a wave of disappointment creeps across the customers face. This disappointment generally stems from the common misconception that if a book is old it must be worth something. There are two glaring problems with this assumption. The first is the customers’ perception of what defines old. In book collecting terms, a book is not old if it was printed in the 1950s, yet most customers perceive it to be old and therefore valuable. In collecting terms a book must have been around more than 100 years to even begin to be considered old and preferably more like 200 years. The second problem with this perception is that people equate age with value. This is a complete falsehood. Whilst age can contribute to the value of a book, the most important indicator of a book’s value is its rarity. And even this statement needs further elaboration because the truth is that second hand book selling is just like every other global marketplace. It’s controlled by the forces of supply and demand. So whilst a book might be scarce and the only one of its kind in the world, if nobody wants to read it then scarcity means nothing. The book is worth nothing. For a book to be considered rare it must be more than scarce. It must be scarce relative to the demand for it.

All that considered, let’s look at what different characteristics can make a book rare and thus influence its value. I have listed what I consider to be the top ten influences on value below, in no particular order.

Book/Dust Jacket Condition
In real estate its location, location, location. In the second hand book trade its condition, condition, condition. The closer a book is to its original state the more value it will carry. This refers just as much to the dust jacket as it does to the book itself. A book in very good condition is worth little if its’ dust jacket is missing. It’s also important to understand that a very, very old book is worth little if it’s falling apart. The second hand book industry has developed its’ own grading terminology to help describe the condition of a book. This information is usually presented in the form of VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/–, etc. The first part refers to the condition of the book, whilst the second refers to the dust jacket condition. If a “/–” is present, it usually means that the dust jacket is not present. The terminology used is as follows.

New – Unread, in print, perfect condition with no missing or damaged pages.

As New – The book is in the same condition it was published.

Fine – Close to the condition of ‘As New’, but without being crisp and has no defects.

Very Good – The book shows some signs of wear, but has no tears or defects noted.

Good – The average used worn book that has all pages intact and defects are noted.

Fair – A worn book that has all pages intact but may lack endpapers, half-title etc. Binding or jacket may also be worn and defects are noted.

Poor – Describes a book that is sufficiently worn to the point that its only merit is as a reading copy. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc. Defects should still be noted.

NB: Despite this industry standard terminology there will always be discrepancies between people and their perception of the condition of a book. Where possible you should see the book for yourself and when buying over the internet we suggest you ask to see photos.

Generally speaking, if a book has been signed by the author or the illustrator then this will add some value to your book, but don’t get too excited. If no-one has ever heard of the author or no-one wants to read the book then a signature can mean absolutely nothing. Further to this, contemporary authors are known for their book junkets when their latest novel is released. This means they sign many copies of their books at public events in an effort to promote sales. This makes their signature fairly common and adds little to the market value of the book. Also be careful of the printed signature because this is not the same as a penned signature. A printed signature is one that is printed in every copy of the book using the same process as printing the text. A penned signature is added to the book personally by the author after publication. A printed signature is worth nothing, whereas a penned signature can add value. I will also make note here of inscriptions by authors. An inscription generally has more wording than just a signature and can add a little more value. Where inscriptions can really affect the value of a book is when they have been presented to an important associate, friend or family member. These inscribed book copies are often referred to as as presentation or association copies and they can often demand a high price.

NB: Signatures can be a tricky thing to authenticate, particularly if the authors signature is a squiggle and resembles nothing like their name. Do your homework and try and authenticate the signature. There are websites, like TomFolio, that archive scans of author’s signatures just for this purpose, so take the time to check them out.

First Edition
The term ‘edition’ as taken directly from The ABC for Book Collectors (Carter, 1997, p84) refers to “…all copies of a book printed at any time or times from one setting-up of type without substantial change.” Usually, information about editions is included on the copyright page of the book. In cases where this information is not provided you will need to do further research to determine whether a book is a first edition or not. First editions are one of the most collectable types of book and therefore their market value in fine condition can be at a premium. Though, as with all items on this list, just because a book is a first edition doesn’t make it valuable, as there has to be demand for it at the same time. I will also note here the importance of limited editions. This term is used for editions where there is a limitation statement. A limitation statement usually gives the total number of copies and then assigns an individual number to each specific copy (e.g. No 53 of 1000). Limited editions can in some cases derive a high value.

First Book
A first edition of an author’s first book will generally be worth more than their subsequent books. The underlying reasoning here is that in most cases the print run of an author’s first book is general quite small in comparison to the print runs of their later works. The perfect example of this is J.K. Rowling. The first instalment of her Harry Potter series only had a print run of 500, whereas the last in her series had a print run of around 12 million. Needless to say first edition copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone are valued in the tens of thousands, whereas a first edition Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows carries little value unless signed by Rowling herself.

Association with Previous Owner
The association of a book with a previous owner can add value to a book where that person is either famous or important, or if that particular book held special significance. Here’s an example. Let’s say you found a book inscribed to a friend by Hemingway’s wife. This would add value to that copy of the book.

NB: There are pirates in every trade and the book dealing trade is no different. Forged signatures and other distinctive markings like bookplates and ownership stampings are more common than you think. So make sure that any association with a previous owner has been authenticated. A quality book dealer should be able to provide you with the correct documentation.

As I’ve already touched upon, age by itself is not enough to make a book valuable. The importance of the text, the condition of the book, and demand for it will determine the value of an old book. However, certain age categories of books are more sought after. As a general rule, most books printed before 1501 are rare and there is normally value attached. If we are being specific to certain countries, it’s also fair to say that English books printed before 1641 are prized, and books printed in America before 1801 are also highly collectible.

Materials Used
In the era of mass market paperbacks and e-books, book binding is fast becoming a dying art. So much so that many people will never set eyes on a finely crafted book. Leather bound books, bamboo folded books, limp vellum, wooden boards – you name it and there’s probably been a book made out it. There are even books that have been bound in human skin! Techniques used include Coptic binding, Ethiopian binding, long-stitch book binding, Bradel binding, secret Belgian binding, Japanese stab binding – the list goes on. Suffice to say, books that have been published using some of the older and more traditional styles and materials of book binding can often command a high premium.

Importance of the Text
People value books either because of their contents or because of their physical characteristics. First editions of important literary or historical works and initial reports of scientific discoveries or inventions are prime examples of books that are important because of their contents. Illustrated books that give a new interpretation of a text or are the work of an esteemed artist are also valued. Books that were suppressed or censored can be considered both important and scarce, since few copies may have survived. Physical characteristics, such as a special binding, an early use of a new printing process, or an autograph, inscription, or marginal annotations of a famous person, may also contribute to a book’s importance and its market price.

By themselves, the influences I have listed so far add a certain amount of value to a book, but found in combination these characteristics can add a whole lot more. Let’s consider. A first edition of a popular author in good condition might be worth OK money, but a signed first edition of a popular author in good condition will be worth more money. And, a signed first edition of a popular author in fine condition will be worth even more money. You see where I’m going with this. Essentially, the more characteristics listed here that you can find in combination with the one book, the rarer it becomes, and more value is placed upon it.

It might seem like a cop out to finish off with this one, but it’s actually really quite important. So far, this list refers only to the collecting value of a book. It makes no attempt to address any sentimental value that one might have attached to a particular book. The most valuable books I have in my collection are not signed, nor are they first editions. They are made up of the books that my parents read to me in childhood, were given to me by special friends, or include the characters I admire or fell in love with. It may sound a bit cheesy, but sentimentality does add value to a book and the memories we attach to books can often make them seem priceless.


Guide to Preserving Your Rare Book Collection

Source: Paul Fraser Collectibles

Few things can be more personal and cherished than a book. Here’s how to take care of them…

Many collectors go misty-eyed at the thought of dust on a page – and rare book collecting can take this passion to a new level. But rare books are also among the most delicate collectibles, and it is vital that you know how to properly look after your collection.

Handle them as little as possible

It’s a shame not to read them… Yet, if you are a collector of antique books hoping to build a profitable alternative investment, then the less you handle your books the better.

Leafing through your first edition of The Great Gatsby (these, incidentally, have sold for hundreds of thousands at auction) or even a limited first edition Harry Potter has the danger of knocking serious sums of money off the book’s price.

The reason? Every time you touch a book, you leave small marks and layers of dust that are invisible to the naked eye. These, over the course of time, can degrade your book’s pages.

Antique books are often bound in flimsy leather or cloth and are very delicate artefacts. A basic run-down of things you should avoid in order to preserve them includes:

– High humidity

– Sunlight

– Heat

– Dust

– Rough treatment

– Dust jackets

Dust jackets aren’t simply for show

They also serve a valuable purpose, keeping everyday and often invisible dust particles away from your books. As such, a good dust jacket can greatly boost a book’s value on the collectors’ markets.

For instance, when a 1925 first edition copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby sold for $180,000 at auction, it was largely down to the book’s well-preserved and rare dust jacket.

So, wherever and however you store your books, keep them wrapped snugly in their jackets. You’ll definitely thank yourself for it in 30 years.

Storing and positioning your books

The best place to store your books is in a specially-made archival box. These boxes can be bought online, or your local book dealer may be able to point you in the right direction.

Archival boxes are made of acid-free materials and contain an alkaline buffer. This prevents harmful pH factors from acting upon your prized first editions and browning the pages.

Another key tip for storage is: place your books upright, rather than on top of each other, to retain their original shape. If possible, place similarly sized books next to one another. This prevents a larger specimen warping next to its smaller companion.

In other words, a “comfortable fit” is the best way of describing how to stack your books. Whatever you do, don’t jam them in.

If you can’t face the prospect of putting your collection away in a box, or wish to display them to impress the neighbours, place your books spine-outwards on a high shelf, preferably behind a glass case away from small children and the dog.

Also, make sure your shelves are lined with polyester. This prevents the shelves’ wood or paint from adversely affecting the books’ covers or pages.

Storage temperature

Whether you keep your books on display or hidden away, their location in your house is vital.

High humidity can ruin a first edition. Such conditions, often found in basements and attics or even simply near to exterior walls, can lead to mould and also attracts insects.

Your best bet is to store you books in an area with a temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Also keep them away from sunlight, which has the nasty habit of fading both cloth and leather.

Leather bound books are particularly tricky to preserve. Keep them away from both high humidity and low humidity, as leather is prone to cracking in the wrong conditions.

Do a bi-annual inspection

Although you’ll want to touch your rare books as little as possible, it is important to keep an eye on them.

Take your books out for a bi-annual inspection, to ensure that that the ravages of winter or the roaring summer have had no adverse effect. Your inspection should be conducted with special auctioneers’ gloves, easily purchasable on the internet, to stop you getting dust on them.

If you do find dust, a gentle wipe with a special dust-collecting cloth should do the trick. And if you find any more significant problems? The first rule is: take a deep breath, step away and do not try to fix it yourself.

Unless you are a book restorer, you will probably do more harm than good and could significantly damage the condition – and investment potential – of your books. Instead, take it to a professional for advice and expertise. It will be worth it in the long run.

Handling your rare books

When handling you books, grasp them firmly by the spine. If you must open them, dust them first to avoid any particles falling in among the pages. Also, place the book in specially-designed book holder to keep it supported.

Follow these steps, and you can ensure that your book collection’s condition and lifespan will more than match the immense pleasure and profit that rare books can bring.

Click here to view our books and manuscripts for sale


The Nemesis of Book Collectors – Dust

Speck by Speck, Dust Piles Up

Book Collecting Nemesis - Dust

Book Collecting Nemesis - Dust

THE world has a dust problem. There is more of it than there used to be. Apparently, the amount of airborne dust doubled in the 20th century, according to a recent scientific paper in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

The claim sounds outlandish. The amount of dust in the world — like the amount of sin or acne — must be a constant. The finding was somewhat surprising even to Natalie Mahowald, the lead researcher on the study and an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at Cornell University.

Although she was working with inchoate historical data, Dr. Mahowald said, “Nobody has come up to me and said, ‘I don’t believe you.’ ” Climate change seems to be one source for all the new dust. Human land use is another. Anyone looking for a scapegoat — and that’s all of us, isn’t it? — can start with the droughts and desertification in North Africa, she said…

THE term “dustjacket” is typically written as one word, said Bryan A. Garner, editor in chief of “Black’s Law Dictionary” and author of “Garner’s Modern American Usage.” He would know. The 52-year-old keeps a personal library of 31,000 volumes — or 31,100 if you count the titles he has bought in the last two weeks.

In recent years, Mr. Garner has begun wrapping his dustjackets in their own clear Mylar dustjackets. This precaution would seem to be the equivalent of washing soap with soap. So far, some 20,000 of his books have been Mylared. “I’m typically one who is reluctant to make proper nouns into verbs,” he said. “But this is certainly a very convenient one, and we do it.”

Mr. Garner stores most of his collection at the offices of his company, LawProse, including dictionaries and grammar books that date from 1491. A mere 4,500 volumes reside with him and his wife, Karolyne Garner, at their French Country Revival-style home in north Dallas.

The most effective dust management starts before a book ever reaches the shelf. “When I buy a book, I will carefully open it and slam it shut several times,” he said. “Sometimes these big balloons of dust will cascade to the floor.” This is where dust belongs, he said, down at vacuum level. Next, “you sort of riffle the pages.” Finally, he will run a dry paintbrush along the edges.

As protocols go, it’s a good one, Mr. Garner said. Yet at the same time he is dusting his books, many thousands of them are actually turning to dust. Acid paper, which was ubiquitous between 1870 and 1970, “tends to self-destruct,” he said.

There can be a gloom to antiquarian book collecting — the authors are dead, we are dying — and the dust doesn’t help. Mr. Garner likes to place musty books of questionable provenance in the sun to cure. And he opens the windows and airs out the house every fortnight, preferably after a good rain has knocked down the dust outside.

He discovered this advice in Cheryl Mendelson’s “Home Comforts,” he said, “which is my favorite book on housekeeping.”

Mr. Garner hesitated for a moment, as if picturing the book on the shelf. “It’s been a long time since I read it,” he said. “Mine is probably gathering a little bit of dust.”

Read more:

This article goes into a lot of detail about dust and is interesting. I suggest you read it in full…


A Rare Occurance in These Modern Times – Uncut or Unopened Books


Source: strange and random happenstance

Have you ever been reading a book and find that you can’t read the next page because it has never been cut? But this surprisingly happened to me just the other day while I was reading my copy of Lark Rise to Candleford. Of course this used to be a common occurrence with older books, and it was de riguer in Austen’s lifetime. Ever wondered why Mr. Bennet in the BBC miniseries has a knife whilst sitting in his study avoiding the shrill cries of his wife? And no, not just plotting on his behalf. People actually kept knives (“paperknives”) nearby in order to open said pages… they weren’t there to keep away book pilferers as you might have thought. So out of interest I wandered to the lovely web and looked up uncut pages only to find I have been using a misnomer for years, I should have been saying unopened pages! Also it turns out I should have used a parring knife not a regular old knife… but it turned out better than the time I tried to do it with my finger to the first volume of Pride and Prejudice that was my grandmother’s when I was a teenager and it now has a very “badly opened” page indeed (ie torn and raggedy).

As the book collector’s glossary explains unopened pages: “A state where the book’s pages at the fore edge and/or top are still joined from the folding. This cannot occur if the book has been properly cut. At one time many books were issued unopened, and it is not uncommon to find older books still in this pristine state.”

It further goes on to say: “A rare book that is unopened may be considerably more valuable than that same book opened. Therefore, one should consider carefully before opening a book. Of course, you cannot read a book that is unopened, at least not in its entirety.”



I found this article to be quite interesting. I am, however, one of those rare book collectors who actually reads her books. I know…. How could I? My reply is “How could I NOT?” My collection rose from my desire to have a personal library full of well loved books waiting to be reread and books as yet unread waiting to give me the pleasure of reading. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hunt – the rare find – a lovely, rare book (especially one at a good price). I love the fine, leather bindings and gold gilt page ends – the author signature – the first edition. As strong as this love may be, however, books are all about reading for me – always have been. I read very carefully but I do read.

How about you? Do you read your treasures or place them on a shelf or behind glass and love them from a bit of a distance? I’d love your feedback…


Preservation Box Design – Library of Congress

When The Library of Congress considered the undertaking the conservation and restoration of all the collections which needed immediate attention, they saw a daunting task. Lacking finds and trained staff, they determined to create an in-house Phased Preservation Boxing Program. The details, complete with in depth instructions and diagrams for building the preservation boxes can be found online at the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

The first Phased Preservation Boxing Program at the Library was designed to save a collection of about eight thousand rare European law books dating chiefly from the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, the majority of which were in un-restored, stiff-board vellum bindings. This collection, subjected for many years to an adverse environment (high temperatures and fluctuating humidity), had been shelved in the conventional manner regardless of size.

Over the years the larger volumes, which were free to move, expanded and contracted in response to changes in temperature and humidity. Severe dam-
age to book structures and bindings was the inevitable result. Other types of mechanical damage were also widespread. Some immediate form of protection was urgently needed while awaiting the time when conservation treatment could be undertaken, perhaps within a decade or two.

This prgram is target primarily for books that do not see a lot of regular use as a way to stop or retard the damage done by time and light to the rare collections. A simple adaptation of this program by book collectors could protect and preserve their collections.00000063_tif_100_0

The Library stresses that phased boxes, being somewhat awkward to open and close, are not suitable for frequently used collections and are designed for valuable book collections which need stabilizing but are not handled very often.

I located this valuable resource online and want to share it with you. The first part of the publication consists of very detailed instructions to build the boxes from one or at most two pieces of archival boared. Detailed diagrams can be located at the end of the publication.

I hope you will find this information useful and at the very least will serve to turn your mind towards the important topic of preserving your valuable collections. The program has been very successful for the Library.


Condition Isn’t Everything- It’s the Only Thing

Vince Lombardi was talking about football, but book collectors could well rephrase his famous quote. The condition of a first edition or any collectible book is the major determinant of its value. There is no doubt that certain collectors might pay two or perhaps even three times this amount for an absolutely mint copy of a book.

First-edition collectors are by nature very hard to please. They would like each of their first editions to look new, and they will pay for such copies. The reverse is also true – a book in poor condition is very difficult to sell. Books valued at $100 in fine condition are practically valueless in very poor condition. If the book is rare, it will of course have some value whatever its condition, but only a fraction of what it would be worth if it were a fine to mint copy.

One thing that should be remembered, in spite of the Lombardi restatement, is that lesser copies (unless they are really dogs) will probably increase in value at the same rate as fine copies, except that the starting base is significantly lower.

Unless one is a book collector, dealer, or book scout, it is difficult to understand how to describe the condition of a book. Even within this group there can be wide differences of opinion, which only confirms the fact that condition descriptions are somewhat subjective.

Many people believe that if a book is twenty or thirty years old, it is in very good condition if the covers are still attached, and if the book is one hundred years old, one should not downgrade it just because the covers are no longer attached (“What do you expect, it’s one hundred years old!”). We’re sympathetic with their confusion, but we’re not interested in buying their books.

The following general gradings are used by book dealers:

VERY FINE/NEW: As new, unread.
FINE: Close to new, showing slight signs of age but without any defects.
VERY GOOD: A used book that shows some sign of wear but still has no defects.
GOOD: A book that shows normal wear and aging, still complete and with no major defects.
FAIR: A worn and used copy, probably with cover tears and other defects.
READING COPY: A poor copy with text complete but not much else.

As a guide to condition we have included pictures of the book and dustwrapper of Charles Fort’s first book, The Outcast Manufacturers, which was published in 1909, just to show what a ninety-five-year-old book can look like.

We were called by a family who had been left a copy of Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet published in January of 1776, in which he appealed to the common man to declare his independence. This is a rare and fragile item, having been handed out in the streets during winter, and few have survived intact. Needless to say, we were very excited about the possibility of acquiring this pamphlet. Sad to say, the copy was missing the very last page, on which there was a half page of text. We advised the family to consign it to an auction house. It fetched $8,500 at auction, and later sold with a facsimile page and some cover restoration for about $20,000. Had it been complete, it would probably have sold for $75,000 to $100,000 at the time.

By: Allen and Pat Ahearn, the authors of Collected Books: The Guide to Values (Putnam: 2002), Book Collecting 2000 (Putnam: 2000) and 174 individual Author Price Guides, all of which require they keep current on the market prices for collectible books and make them uniquely qualified to offer professional appraisal services and to establish fair prices when purchasing books or libraries.