This month, September 3rd to be exact, marks the 10th anniversary of the posting of the Americana Exchange online. In the beginning AE specialized in documenting the history of Americana but has been broadening its coverage each since. Today we cover collectible printed materials, be they books, manuscripts, maps or ephemera in every field and in most western languages. The primary focus is appearances at auction but also include bibliographic and dealer records. If it happened or is happening and it’s relevant it belongs in the AED. Today we are providing for research, as of August 27th, 3,577,108 records and expect to add more than 300,000 fresh records this year from auctions running across the world and around the clock. For this month alone we are covering more than 60 sales. We also continue to reconstruct the history of the printed word at auction during the early 20th century and expect to add more than 2 million older records over the next 12 months. The first of these priced auctions and their images began to enter the AED recently.
This is not the world I expected. Changing tastes and Internet penetration have convulsed the field over the past decade. Who knew there were so many more books than buyers? Who knew that rare printed materials would become more dependent on images and less dependent on words?
But we have come this far and the piece ahead is shorter than the piece behind, not necessarily because the distance is less but that the speed is greater. Countless holdouts hold out no longer. Today there is a growing consensus that to quote Benjamin Franklin, “we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Libraries, auction houses, dealers and collectors it turns out gain more from cooperation than they lose in independence.
Today the challenge is to encourage collectors. It is their interest, devotion and dollars that will ensure the field’s continuing success. In this pursuit with more than 15,000 members and another 7,000 consistent readers, we stand ready to cooperate for the success of the field. A generation hence these efforts will matter.
For today we are simply grateful to be playing a role in the evolving universe of collectible materials. To those who support AE we express our thanks. To all others we say the future is what we make of it together. Be with us and the distance we’ll both travel will be shorter.