• <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868
  • <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Andrew Wyeth, an archive of 43 unpublished letters. $80,000-120,000 [lot 1106]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Abraham Lincoln, signed document granting pensions to surviving Revolutionary War Veterans, 1865. $60,000-80,000 [lot 1058]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Forlani Map of North America, 1566. $40,000-60,000 [lot 1555]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> <i>Journal des Dames et des Modes</i>, 1912-1914. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1294]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Book of Hours, Use of Rouen, late 14th Century. $30,000-40,000 [lot 1162]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Schedel, World Map, 1493. $5,000-7,000 [lot 1589]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Sir Isaac Newton’s copy of <i>Le Grand’s Institutio Philosophiae</i>, 1675. $5,000-7,000 [lot 1308]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Muhammad Mu'min Husaini’s Tuhfat al-Mu'minin, 17th century Persian medical manuscript on paper. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1118]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Persian Calligraphy, an album. $4,000-6,000 [lot 1119]
    <b>Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts: Books & Manuscripts Online Auction. May 23 - June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> Edgar Allan Poe, <i>Tales</i>, New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845. $3,00-5,000 [lot 1361]
    <b>Skinner Auction May 23 - Jun 2:</b> English New Testament, Douay-Rheims, 1582, first edition. $10,000-15,000 [lot 1154]
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b><br>Shaw & Nodder, <i>The Naturalist's Miscellany</i>, complete, London, 1789-1813. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Samuel Baker, <i>A New and Exact Map of the Island of St. Christopher</i>, London, 1753. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Henry Briggs, <i>The North Part of America</i>, London, 1625. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b><br>John James Audubon, <i>Herring Gull</i>, CCXCI, hand-colored plate, London, 1836. $7,000 to $10,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Montanus & Ogilby, <i>America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World</i>, London, 1671. $10,000 to $15,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Robert Cruikshank, portfolio of 25 watercolors, London, 1830s. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Group of 55 French watercolors depicting the life and deeds of Napoleon, 1800s. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Aaron & Samuel Arrowsmith, <i>Chart of the Sandwich Islands</i>, London, 1830. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Herman Moll, <i>A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain</i>, London, 1735. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7: Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Jacques-Nicolas Bellin,<i> L'Hydrographie Françoise</i>, Paris, circa 1770. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres, <i>Charlestown the Capital of South Carolina</i>, London, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jun 7:</b> Arnold Colom, <i>Pascaarte van Nieu Nederlandt</i>, Amsterdam, circa 1658. $7,000 to $10,000.
  • <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Hobson, R.L. <i>A catalogue of Chinese pottery and porcelain in the collection of Sir Percival David</i> (London, 1934). Est. € 8.000-10.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Chagall, M. <i>Drawings for the bible</i>. (Paris, 1960). Est. € 1.500-2.500
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Zwart, P. [N.K.F.]. <i>Delft kabels</i> (Delft, 1933). Est. € 20.000-30.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> Zwart, P. [N.K.F.]. <i>Normalieënboekje</i> (Delft, 1924-1926). Est. € 30.000-50.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> [Russian children's books]. Mayakovsky, V. Kem byt'? (What to be?) (Moscow, 1932). Est. € 500-700
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 30:</b> [Léger, F.]. Cendrars, B. <i>La Fin du Monde filmée par l'Ange</i> N.-D (Paris, 1919). Est. € 2.000-3.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b><br>La Roche, E. <i>Indische Baukunst</i> (Munich, 1921-1922). Est. € 3.000-5.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> Blume, C.L. <i>Flora Javae nec non insularum adjacentium./ Flora Javae nec non insularum adjacentium </i> (Brussels, 1828). Est. € 7.000-9.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> <i>Description de l'Égypte (…) pendant l'expédition de l'armée francaise</i> (Paris, 1820-1829). Est. € 30.000-50.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions: Sale of Books, Prints and Manuscripts.<br>May 30 – June 2, 2017</b>
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b><br>La Fontaine, J. de. <i>Fables choisies, mises en vers </i> (Paris, 1756).<br>Est. € 1.500-2.500
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions May 31:</b> [VOC and WIC]. Pelsaert, F. <i>Ongeluckige Voyagie, Van 't Schip Batavia, Nae de Oost-Indien</i> (Amsterdam, 1647).<br>Est. € 40.000-60.000
    <b>Bubb Kuyper Auctions June 2:</b> Goya y Lucientes, F.J. de. <i>La Taureaumachie </i> (Paris, 1876), 40 etchings and aquatints. Est. € 8.000-10.000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2013 Issue

AltaVista RIP

Altavista98

Alta Vista during its heyday.

This is not a story about books. There... now that I have lost most of my readers, I can write about whatever I want. This is about how access to information changes. Once slowly, changes now flash by as quickly as you can unwind an 8-track tape. And yes, there are comparisons to bookselling.

The 1990s began with small bookshops trying to fight off the large chains. It ended with the chains trying to fend off internet sellers. It all happens so fast. A few become large, the rest either disappear or find a niche where they can outperform the giants. There really isn't much other space. Evolve or die applies to bookselling as surely as it does to dinosaurs. And to the internet. We are entering another time of change for bookselling, but that is an issue for another day. For now, we will take a look back at an early giant of the internet. RIP, AltaVista.

My own introduction to the internet came in the second half of the 1990s. There were lots of alternatives if you wanted to search that vast universe of information out there you never could access before. An internet search was filled with excitement then. Basically, there were two types of search sites. There were the directories. Frequently compiled by hand, they placed links to sites under topic headings. Yahoo had the most notable one, but there was LookSmart, Overture and thousands of smaller ones, the bigger ones trying to extract a fee from the sites they listed, the others hoping to get by on advertising. Does anyone ever use a directory any more?

The second way to search the internet was through a search engine. There were lots, each with its own formula. America Online (AOL), which was the largest online service provider in the era of dial-up, and their largest competitor, CompuServe, also provided search. So did early dial-up rival Prodigy. Non-service provider search engines were all over. Yahoo had a search engine as well as a directory. And there was Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, MSN, Snap, Ask Jeeves, HotBot, Inktomi, Webcrawler, and many others I have forgotten. But, the best of the lot was AltaVista. Most of the others were web portals, as Yahoo and AOL still are today. They provided news and everything else, search being just one feature. Not AltaVista. They offered search, that's all, but were the best at it. Sound familiar? Whatever their formula, and each search engine had its algorithm, AltaVista provided the best matches. I don't recall anyone ever turning AltaVista into a verb. I never said I was “Altavista-ing” anything, but I AltaVistaed a lot of topics in the late 1990s.

AltaVista was born in 1996. It was the child of Digital Equipment Corporation, another great tech name from the past. It moved on to Compaq in 1998 when DEQ was sold, then to CMGI. Remember CMGI? Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, was originally named CMGI Field. That's how big CMGI was. The Patriots never played a game on CMGI field. By the time construction was completed, the internet bubble burst and CMGI could no longer afford the naming rights. Those rights moved on to safety razor manufacturer Gillette. What an ironic backward twist of technology that was. In 2003, AltaVista moved on to Overture, which itself was taken over by Yahoo later that year. It has remained there ever since. At least until July 8, 2013. That is when Yahoo shut it down. Rest in peace, AltaVista.

At the turn of the millennium, one of my jobs involved finding websites, directories and search engines to post links to my employer's website. Search engines might not know your website existed if you didn't tell them. One day in performing my AltaVista searches for sites I didn't know, I came across a new search engine with a funny name. It was called “Google.” Obviously, you can guess the rest of this story. AltaVista had turned itself into a web portal like Yahoo and AOL, Lycos and Excite, its owners believing there was a greater audience for these multi-purpose sites. Google was like the original AltaVista. Even today, while Google offers much more, its home page remains a simple search page, just as it was when I first stumbled across it. AltaVista later returned to simplicity, but by then it was too late.

Why did Google become such a huge success, eventually crowding everyone else either out of the business or to minor status? Today, Bing, successor to Live, successor to MSN, still competes. Parent Microsoft can afford to compete. It is a distant second. If someone else still competes, it escapes me. AOL uses Google searches; Yahoo uses Bing's searches. Truth be told, in recent years AltaVista just used Yahoo/Bing searches. Google swamped everyone else. How? They used a formula that determined which sites were most popular, rather than those which just matched your search terms most often. I didn't know about algorithms at the time. What I did notice was that I got better matches, better even than AltaVista. I switched. I don't recall anyone else I knew knowing about Google then. I had just stumbled upon it and found it significantly better. Obviously, in the years ahead, just about everyone else had the same experience. It was noticeably better, enough so to switch. Microsoft and Bing offer a capable search engine, but they have never been able to match that first Google experience, no matter how much they tell us their searches are better. Maybe they are better as claimed, but they just don't seem that different. You need a reason to change.

What does this have to do with bookselling? Not much directly. It's just a reminder of how quickly things can change. The heyday of AltaVista in many ways matched the heyday of internet bookselling. The internet opened customers all over the world to every small town bookseller. Dozens of book listing sites appeared. The Advanced Book Exchange (now AbeBooks), Alibris, successor to the pioneering Interloc, and Amazon were the largest and still are. Most of the others either disappeared or soldier on in irrelevancy, though European ZVAB, later arrival Biblio, and a few local sites are still significant. However, none can perform quite as they did when internet bookselling was new. Buyers were accessing this incredible new medium for the first time and filling their shelves with books they never thought they would find. Meanwhile, the price of listing was incredibly cheap, often just a small percentage of the sales price if, and only if, the book sold. Today, listing is more expensive, the number of books listed competing for attention far greater, and sales harder to come by. It's no longer easy. The bookseller needs to adapt. Adapt or perish. Adapt or become AltaVista.  


Posted On: 2013-08-01 00:00
User Name: PeterReynolds

I used AlltheWeb.com a.k.a. Fast.no . It was better than Google in Google's early days. It had a larger number of results and I don't think Google had as good previewing of sites. See http://web.archive.org/web/20061227221338/http://fastsearch.com=63&amid=1383


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Joyce (James), An Original Manuscript Page of text from <i>Finnegan’s Wake</i>, the opening of the Anna Livia Plurabelle section. €7,500-10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Joyce (James), <i>Chamber Music,</i> 1907. First Edition of his First Book, First Issue. €1,500-2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Lady Gregory’s Copy Signed by W.B. Yeats, Cuala Press: Yeats (W.B.), <i>Poems Written in Discouragement</i>, 1913. Limited to 50 Copies Only. €2,500-4,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> A Twentieth Century Masterpiece: O’Brien (Flann), <i>At Swim-Two-Birds</i>, 8vo, 1939. First Edn. €1,750-2,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> The Missing Log of the H.M.S. Liffey Manuscript Journal, 1867. €1,500-2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Exceptionally Rare First Publication: Gregory (Augusta Lady), <i>Over the River: An appeal for aid to a poor parish in South London</i>. 1887. €1,000-1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Ex. Rare Irish Broadsheet: An Irish Perspective on the Execution of Louis XVI, 1793 Broadsheet with engraving of the event, headed: “Massacre of the French King.” €500-700
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Original Manuscript Poem, Heaney (Seamus), <i>The Schoolbag</i>. In Memoriam John Hewitt. Signed and dated November 8 1991. €1,000-1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Sowerby (J.E.), <i>English Botany; or Coloured Figures of British Plants</i>. Ed. by J.T. Boswell Syme. 10 vols, with 1696 hand-coloured plates. €750-1,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature & Sporting Collectibles. May 30, 2017</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Collection of Signed First Editions incl. Francis (Dick), <i>Nerve</i> (London 1964); <i>For Kicks</i> (London 1965); <i>Forfeit</i> (London 1968). €400-500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Le Carre (John), <i>The Spy who came in from the Cold</i>, 8vo, 1963, First Edn., with author’s signature tipped in on t.p. €350-500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy May 30:</b> Adams (Richard), <i>Watership Down</i>, 8vo, 1976, First Illustrated Edn., Signed on f.e.p. by Author & Artist, and also signed by Artist on hf. title. €200-300
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> The 1936 Nobel Prize Medal for Physics, Presented to Victor Franz Hess for His Discovery of Cosmic Radiation. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Sangorski & Sutcliffe: Jewelled Binding. Byron, Lord [George Gordon]. An illuminated manuscript on vellum, being Byron's <i>Ode to Napoleon.</i> $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Ruscha, Ed. Complete Set of 16 Artist's Books by Ed Ruscha. Various Places: Various Publishers, 1968-1973. All first printings, seven signed or with early inscriptions. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> McKenney, Thomas L. and James Hall. <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America.</i> Fine and unsophisticated subscriber's copy in early state. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Williams, Thomas Lanier ("Tennessee Williams"). Producer Charles K. Feldman's file on the production of <i>The Glass Menagerie</i>(Warner Bros., 1950). $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Lee, Harper. Archive of correspondence including 35 autograph letters signed (mostly "Harper", but a few "H", "H.L." or "Nelle Harper"). $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Tocqueville, Alexis de. <i>De la Démocratie en Amérique.</i> First editions of both parts of Tocqueville's classic <i>Democracy In America</i>. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Complete set of all periodical publications of The Royal Geographical Society 1831-1948, comprising 203 volumes with thousands of plates and maps, many folding. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Alchemy. Loewens and Richard. <i>Universal Medicin ex regulo stellato.</i> Original alchemical manuscript written in German and Latin, ink on paper. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Illustration Art. June 7, 2017</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Bray, Anna Eliza. <i>Life of Thomas Stothard, R.A. with Personal Reminiscences.</i> Remarkable 10-volume collection of Stothard's work, expansively extra-illustrated. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Algren, Nelson. Producer Charles Feldman's extensive production archive of <i>Walk on the Wild Side</i> (Columbia 1962). $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams June 7:</b> Elliot, Daniel Giraud. <i>The New and Heretofore Unfigured Species of the Birds of North America.</i> First edition, one of only 200 copies printed. $10,000 to $15,000
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant

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