Collector Articles and Tips
The best collector is an educated one. The Educated Collector
will feature information about antique and collectible objects
to help collectors learn more about what they collect. Each
column will give a brief history of a particular type of antique
or collectible, known makers, and something about the market
the Pitfalls of Book Collecting
by Bob Brooke
has been centuries since anyone could afford to be a general
collector of books. Money aside, there are simply too many
volumes published-52,000 last year alone--in any single year
for a collector to acquire a copy of everything issued. To
maintain control over a book collection, a novice collector
must choose an area of special interest when beginning a collection.
there are no hard and fast rules for collecting, there are
ways to avoid the pitfalls beginners encounter. There are
several excellent Web sites catering to book collectors, including
that of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America
and Bibliofind.com, (http://www.bibliofind.com/),
the Internet's largest inventory of old, used and rare books.
way to find information on book collecting is to read any
two of the following: Modern Book Collecting by Robert Wilson;
Book Collecting by Allan & Patricia Ahearn; How to Buy
Rare Books by William Rees-Mogg, and for your permanent collection,
John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors.
an area of interest, such as children 's books, or juveniles,
illustrated books, western Americana, first editions, limited
editions, or books with inscribed bindings. Illustrated books
contain engravings, etchings, photos, or other mechanical
reproductions, either uncolored or colored; sometimes they
are hand-colored. Western Americana includes everything published
west of the Mississippi River, plus books on voyages, explorations,
and western politics.
a first edition is often the most difficult part of collecting
books. One thing you'll need to do is rid yourself of the
belief that just because a book says "First Edition"
it must be important or valuable. Non-collectors looking to
sell books often say, "It must be worth a lot of money,
because it's a First Edition." Every book has a First
Edition; for many, it's the only edition. In fact, if publishers
had their way, there would only be First Editions, at least
for fiction. As far as they're concerned, a second edition
(or even second printing) means the extra cost of going back
to press, because they didn't accurately gauge the demand
for the book. After all, the publisher never makes any money
on future price increases for First Editions of an author's
editions for beginners relate to modern fiction, while limited
editions are books issued simply to line a publisher's pockets.
The most personal of items-inscribed books-are highly regarded
by book collectors and autograph collectors. And, lastly,
fine bindings are books which are a pleasure to own and a
joy to hold and examine because some craftsman took pride
in its manufacture.
of the keys to verifying that the book is at least a first
printing is to look at the "number line" on the
copyright page. The lowest number is the printing. If you
see "1 2 3 4 5 78 77 76 75 74", this indicates a
first printing, and in 1974.
book-club editions collectable? Certainly. There was a time
when collectors could easily identify them. They were smaller,
looked cheap, were lighter in weight, and each had "Bookclub
Edition" on the dust jacket. Today, book clubs try hard
to disguise their editions, and with original editions getting
junkier, there's often little apparent difference between
the two. It's quite common for book-club editions to use the
original publishers' first-edition negatives or printing plates.
According to Robert Wilson in his book Modern Book Collecting,
many book-club editions come from the original publishers
in identical format. Either way, book-club editions can bear
"First Edition" on their copyright-pages.
you find a circle, square, maple leaf, dot, or star blind-stamped
on the bottom right of the outside back cover, it's a Book
of the Month Club (BOMC) edition. The great majority have
this stamp. BOMC has been doing this since 1948. And BOMC
books published prior to that time are very difficult to distinguish
from true first editions. So buyer and collector beware.
do book collectors refer to book sizes? They refer to the
way printers print and bind them. A folio puts two pages on
each side of one sheet of paper-a single sheet of paper with
two pages on it is called a leaf. When you print a quarto,
you put four pages on each side of a leaf, so that eight pages
are printed on one sheet of paper.
book sellers refer to eight pages printed on a leaf as an
octavo. This just isn't true.
It was-and sometimes still is-eight pages printed on each
side of a leaf, or 16 pages printed on one sheet of paper.
This bundle of 16 pages is called a signature. A signature
can be as few as four pages in the case of a quarto. Many
modern paperbacks have 48-page signatures. Basically, 8, 12,
and 24 leaves are the most common number to be printed on
a single sheet of paper.
all hardbound books come with dust jackets. Those published
after 1930 can be expected to come with a jacket. Books between
1915 and 1930 weren't always published with a jacket and you
should consider them scarce. Jackets before 1915 should be
framed and usually come with a high price tag. However, most
books in the science fiction and fantasy fields didn't have
jackets prior to 1915.
as with any antique, a book collector should what he or she
likes to read and the best copy he or she can afford.
an avid collector of a variety of antiques and collectibles
for the last 20 years, Bob Brooke knows what he's writing
about. Beginning with one modest English writing box, he's
developed a variety of collections. Besides writing about
antiques, specializing in furniture, Brooke has also sold
at flea markets and worked in an antique shop, so he knows
the business side, too. He's a regular feature writer for
AntiqueWeek, and also writes for a number of other publications
and Web sites, including British Heritage, Southeastern Antiquing
and Collecting Magazine, OldandSold.com, and many others.
URLs: The Antiques Almanac - www.theantiquesalmanac.com
Writing at Its Best - www.bobbrooke.com