Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2012 Issue

On a Soapbox

Screen shot 2011-12-31 at 10.33.22 am

We must all hang together, or we shall assuredly all hang separately"

Collectors collect what they know.  Older collectors have known the classics, older fiction and history and collected these subjects with gusto.  Their children, with ever emerging fresh values and more access to information know both more about the world and much less about the subjects that inspired their parents to collect.  This has lead booksellers to believe this next generation isn’t collecting.   They are but are collecting different things and their interests increasingly fall outside what traditional book, manuscript, map and ephemera dealers handle.

Recently a close to perfect copy of the first appearance of Superman in comic book form [1938] sold for $2,161,000.  An iconic item no doubt but to put it in context it was the second most expensive lot sold at auction in the books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera field in 2011.  Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln had their moments but Superman beat them all.

This kind of makes sense if you believe that people collect what they know.  Today’s collectors grew up with Superman and have lived long enough to see the man transformed from comic book character into screen star.  Such exposure encourages interest and among the millions exposed a few have chosen to pursue him as a collectible.  It’s hardly surprising.

Inadvertently this transaction brackets other collectibles into worth more than and less than categories and it tells us that almost every book on the planet in 2011 was worth less than this comic book.  The commercial value of important paper collectibles, although significant and often rare, is apparently not so much and if so we have only ourselves to blame.  We haven’t tried to make the case to future generations – probably assuming others would.  Or perhaps we are all Darwinians and on the wrong side of the intellectual revolution but I doubt it.
  

Today bookstores disappear with depressing regularity while online data grows exponentially, trends that are probably unalterable.  But with the loss of bookstores so too dies the traditional mechanism by which many the browsing innocent become the fledgling collector.  Certainly collectors, for generations, have come by their passion in myriad ways but whether shops were the primary or a secondary factor in giving impetus to collecting their decline deeply undermines the germination of collector passion.  The “oh it's online if you’re interested” alternative these days is nothing more than saying if you are looking for a squid look in the ocean.  The old and rare bookstore was the often-mysterious place for intense exposure to the unusual and unpredictable and the emotional connection such material could engender.  These days you can find the material online but it does not convey the magic of the old time shop.  Their gathering absence is becoming a significant impediment to the nurturing of new collectors.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…

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