• <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Sotheby’s New York: Fine Books & Manuscripts. December 11, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 11:</b> Wright, Frank Lloyd. An important collection of early letters from Wright to members of his family. 1909–1926. $60,000 to $80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 11:</b> Rand, Ayn. Ayn Rand's important first speech delivered at the Ford Hall Forum. $60,000 to $80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 11:</b> Tolkien, J.R.R. <i>The Hobbit or There and Back Again</i>. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1937. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 11:</b> [Flemish Flower Manuscript]. Lille, Spanish Netherlands: 1630. $50,000 to $60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 11:</b> García Márquez, Gabriel. Two drafts of an early short story, "Rosas Artificiales.” $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Sotheby’s New York: History of Science and Technology. December 12, 2017</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 12:</b> Enigma M4. A Fully Operational Four-Rotor ("M4") Kriegsmarine Enigma Cipher Machine, 1944. $350,000 To $500,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 12:</b> The "Polio" Nobel Prize. The 1954 Nobel Prize Medal for Physiology or Medicine Awarded to Frederick C. Robbins. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 12:</b> ENIGMA I. A Fully Operational Early Three-Rotor Enigma I Cipher Machine. Berlin, Heimsoeth Und Rinke, Early 1930s. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 12:</b> Bonestell, Chesley. "Saturn, Viewed From Titan, One of Its Satellites." A Mid 1950's Study for the 360° Titan Panorama. 1 ½ x 20’. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s NY, Dec. 12:</b> Descartes, René. <i>Discours de la Méthode pour Bien Conduire Sa Raison, & Chercher la Verité dans les Sciences... 1637. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Unique Association Copy of Signed Limited Roosevelt, African Game Trails, Extra-Illustrated. $5,000 - 7,500
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 24 Volumes Henry James in 1/2 Morocco - Alvin Langdon Coburn Frontis Illustrations. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> French Surrealism by Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, 1930 Limited Edition in Lovely Condition. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Unique and Beautifully Written Manuscript of 650 Quarto Pages - Unpublished History of Belle-Isle-En-Mer, 1754. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> William Beebe's Classic 4 Volume Work on "The Pheasants," Signed and Inscribed in 1919. $2,000 - $3,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Three Volumes of Washington's War Era Letters Published in New York in 1796. $1,500 - $2,000
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 19th C. Vintage Album with 48 Sepia Toned Albumen Prints by Fratelli Alinari et. al.<br>$1,500 - $2,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Report of Phipps' Voyage in 1773 In Search of a Passage to India Via the North Pole. $1,500 - $2,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 17 Volumes of Wallace's American Trotting Register, 1874-1891. $1,500 - $2,500
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: Fine Books, Including the Alan Culpin WWI Art Collection – Live Online Auction. Dec. 18, 2017</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Rare First English Edition of Monardes, Joyfull Newes, 1577, Woodcut Illustrations.<br>$1,500 - $3,000
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> 6 Volume Shakespeare Presented to Virginia Congressman Involved in the "Trent Affair". $1,200 - $1,500
    <b>Cowan’s, Dec. 18:</b> Classic Lothar Meggendorfer Movable Book Complete with 8 Chromolithograph Plates, Ca. 1890. $750 - $1,000
  • <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 95. Turing. <i>Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals</i>. Offprint. London, 1939. Robin Gandy's Copy. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 98. Zernike, Fritz. The 1953 Nobel Prize for Physics: The Invention of the Phase-Contrast Microscope. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 111. Apple 1 Computer, operational, with exceptional provenance. $400,000 to $600,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1074. Bruce, Lenny. An unreleased 16 mm film by "Count" Lewis DePasquale featuring Lenny Bruce. $7,000 to $10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1254. Hirohito. Manuscript in Japanese, "The Emperor's Monologue," transcribed by Terasaki Hidenari. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1095. Goldman. Emma. Large archive of correspondence, much of it to Warren Starr Van Valkenburgh. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 109. Wozniak and Jobs. The First Digital "Blue Box", Berkeley, 1972. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 46. Newton, Isaac. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. 1st issue. London, 1687. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 49. Newton. Autograph Manuscript in English, a portion of a draft of Newton's study on revelation. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. Wednesday, December 6, 2017. New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1027. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1st edition, 1st issue. Scribners, 1925. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1042. Hemingway., Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. Presentation copy, one of 15 copies. Scribners, 1940. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 6:</b> Lot 1215. A 48-star American Flag, flown from LCT-703, sunk on Omaha Beach, December 1944. $15,000 to $20,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2014 Issue

A1 Books – Down for the Final Count

3d00257c-f9e1-4ad7-8485-9795deec77c4

Goodnight A1 – all merchants are “on vacation.”

Usually, we react to the passing of an old friend with shock and sorrow. Once in awhile, however, it is with astonishment, as in “I didn't know he was still alive.” Such is the inevitable reaction to the passing (again) of the latest incarnation of internet bookselling pioneer A1 Books. Yes, they were, sort of, still alive. This time, it looks like it is down for the final count, there really not being much point in prolonging it any longer. The battle was lost a long time ago.

 

A1 began selling books in 1995 using that strange new invention – the internet. They beat Amazon to the punch. One can only imagine what might have been if they had maintained their head start. They didn't. At the time, A1 specialized in textbooks. However, founder Shinu Gupta soon expanded into the business of selling remainders and other books online. By the late 1990's, the firm was claiming an inventory of half a million books, and that would grow to 1 million early in the new century. A1 would open a large bricks and mortar store near its headquarters in New Jersey, and a sister online business in Gupta's native India, convincing the Times of India to go into partnership with them.

 

A1's calling card was low prices, a business model much like that of Amazon. The ideas were there, but not the level of financial backing to keep up. By the middle of the first decade of the new century, A1 had opened its site to outside sellers, becoming both a listing site and a seller itself, similar to Amazon. It announced a new site – A1 Outlet – which would sell all kinds of merchandise, again similar to Amazon, but the idea languished, not opening until 2009. By then, A1 was just about out of money. A1 even took to becoming a mega-seller of its books on Amazon, focusing on low prices.

 

It is hard to know how successful the company was at its peak, it being privately held. It certainly was on a different level from most booksellers, possibly a couple of tens of millions of dollars in sales, reportedly millions of customers in total. It did very well for itself, just not well enough. It was attempting to compete with giants on a relatively small budget, and once it got behind, catching up was almost impossible. It was late to the game of being a listing site, and way too late to becoming a department store online like Amazon. It spent most of the first decade of the 21st century trying to hold back the tide, generally an exercise in futility. It was too little too late.

 

In 2010, A1 Books filed for bankruptcy protection. It attempted to reorganize itself, but no one was interested in financing an army for a war it had already lost. The courts shut the business down, selling off its assets at auction. A1 was no more.

 

But... old book sites can be like old soldiers - they don't die, they just fade away. A buyer took over the name and some of the assets, reopening the business in 2011 under the A1 Outlet name. Books were the major specialty, but a wide variety of other merchandise was also sold. Perhaps, attempted to be sold would be a more accurate description. All indications are that very few merchants sold much of anything on the site, perhaps a book or two now and then, but no more. If the reborn A1 made much of an attempt to promote itself, it was not obvious. Certainly, the level of investment needed to resurrect the site was not employed, and investing heavily in an attempt to go up against Amazon would likely have been a foolish use of money. A1 may not have been dead, but no one knew it was alive. It was just fading into oblivion.

 

It appears that earlier this year, A1 threw in the towel. There was no announcement. The site had slid into such insignificance it is unlikely anyone would have noticed. Sellers were apparently emailed a message that the site was closing. On the site itself, nothing was posted. It's just that when you went to purchase something from a seller, there was a notice that the seller was “on vacation.” Every seller was “on vacation.” This was so as not to worry people who had placed orders on the site earlier. However, this time it looks like A1's sellers, and A1 itself, are on permanent vacation.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>Christie’s Online, Dec. 5 – Dec. 12:</b> <i>John the Baptist</i>. initial 'H' cut from a choirbook [Lombardy or Siena, c. 1470s]. US$6,000–9,000
    <b>Christie’s Online, Dec. 5 – Dec. 12:</b> <i>Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) seated on a terrace with Sikh noblemen</i>. [Punjab, North India, circa 1830-40]. Estimate: US$10,000–15,000
  • <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Books and Works on Paper, including Fine Photographs. December 14, 2017</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Rowling (J.K.). Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, original fine black pen and ink manuscript book by the author J.K.Rowling, with 31pp of text and illustrations. £80,000 to £120,000
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Blaeu (Johannes). <i>Vierde Stuck der Aerdrycks-Beschryving, welck vervat Engelandt</i>, i.e. <i>Theatrum Orbis Terrarum</i>. vol 4, England & Wales. £10,500 to £12,500
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Miró (Joan). L'Homme au Balencier, etching, aquatint and carborundum, printed in colours on Japan paper, signed in pencil lower right. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Books and Works on Paper, including Fine Photographs. December 14, 2017</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Steve McCurry (b.1950). Afghan Girl, 1984, pigment inkjet print, signed and numbered 48/250 in pencil on lower margin. £2,500 to £3,500
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Keough (Pat and Rosemarie). <i>Antarctica</i>, no 228 of 950 copies, signed by the authors, many colour illustrations, original dark grey morocco. £2,800 to £3,200
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Rowlandson (Thomas). Darby & Joan, the idyllically contended couple sit either side of a stove in a cosy domestic interior, ink and watercolour on wove paper. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Books and Works on Paper, including Fine Photographs. December 14, 2017</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Procktor (Patrick). Tiny blue-eyed goldfish, watercolour, 310 x 460mm., signed in blue crayon, lower right, titled and inscribed Muscat Jan 19. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Iouri Abramochkin (b.1936). Horsemen, Dagestan, 1968, Lambda print, printed later, signed, dated, editioned 1/8 and annotated in black ink verso. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Ravilious (Eric).- Shakespeare (William). Twelfth NIght, or, What You Will, number 79 of 275 copies , wood-engraved title. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Books and Works on Paper, including Fine Photographs. December 14, 2017</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Michelangelo.- Chastel (André). <i>The Vatican Frescoes of Michelangelo</i>, Photography by Takashi Okamura, 2 vol., one of 600 sets, colour plates. £500 to £700
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Wyndham (John). <i>The Day of the Triffids; The Kraken Wakes; The Chrysalids;</i> together with 8 other volumes. All first editions. £400 to £600
    <b>Bloomsbury, Dec. 14:</b> Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). Goats Along The Seine, 1894. Photogravure, printed 1990s by Dorothy Norman, one from an edition of 40 published by Aperture. £400 to £600
  • <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> SAINT-EXUPERY, ANTOINE DE. Kodachrome Film (16mm) showing Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Consuelo on a boat, 1942. JOINED: Guestbook for the Boat, signed, with a drawing of the Little Prince. 15 000 to 20 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> CANDEE, HELEN CHURCHILL. Autograph manuscript. TITANIC, 40 leaves. Original account of the most famous shipwreck, by a survivor of the ordeal. 300 000 to 400 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> TITANIC. Collection of 7 documents relating to the shipwreck of the Titanic (14 April 1912). 20 000 to<br>30 000 €
    <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> DUPLEIX DE CADIGNAN, JEANBAPTISTE. Signed autograph manuscript. Thirty years of memoirs related to military services and important information on the American War of Independence.<br>40 000 to 50 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> CURTIUS. Faiz et Conquestes d'Alexandre [Histoire d'Alexandre le Grand]. In French, illuminated manuscript on paper and parchment, 16 large miniatures. 300 000 to<br>500 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> NELSON, HORATIO. Signed autograph letter, ‘Nelson & Bronte,” aboard the Amazon, 14 October 1801, addressed to Sir William Hamilton. 4 000 to 5 000 €
    <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> GIROLAMO FRANCESCO MARIA MAZZUOLI DIT LE PARMESAN. Le couple amoureux. Pen and brown ink. 80 000 to 120 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> SADE, DONATIEN-ALPHONSE-FRANÇOIS, MARQUIS DE. Autograph manuscript. The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinage, 1785.<br>4 000 000 to 6 000 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> MIRÓ, JOAN. Signed autograph correspondence to Thomas and Diane Bouchard (1949-1976). 50 000 to 60 000 €
    <b>Les Collections Aristophil:<br>December 20, 2017</b>
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> BALZAC, HONORÉ DE. Signed autograph manuscript, Ursule Mirouët, [1841]. One of only two manuscripts of novels by Balzac in private hands. 800 000 to<br>1 200 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> LENOIR, ALEXANDRE. Essai sur l'histoire des arts en Egypte pouvant servir d'appendice au grand ouvrage de la Commission. autograph manuscript with numerous additions and corrections. 40 000 to 50 000 €
    <b>Collections Aristophil, Dec. 20:</b> SCHRÖDINGER, ERWIN. Autograph manuscript [Spring 1946, sent to Albert Einstein]. 1 500 to 2 000 €
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Friend, Wife</i>, graphite & watercolor cover for Judge magazine, May 1920. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Georges Lepape, <i>Après la Tempête</i>, watercolor, ink & graphite cover for <i>Vogue</i>, April 1919, inscribed to Madame Condé Nast. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Maurice Sendak, <i>Little Bear & His Parents </i>, pencil study & finished watercolor for <i>Bears of the World</i>, 1981. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b><br>Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), <i>A Great Gallumphing Galoot!</i>, original drawing & inscription, signed twice, in <i>Dr. Seuss's ABC</i>. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Scrapbook relating to the production of <i>Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs</i>, with 20 original drawings, circa 1937. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Charles M. Schulz, <i>Gentleman Biographer</i>, pen & ink, <i>Peanuts</i> comic strip, 1972. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Jerry Pinkney, <i>[Brer Rabbit & Brer Bear]</i>, watercolor, pen & ink on paper, 1990. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> <i>Daffydils</i>, festschrift for Harry Hershfield, signed with cartoons & caricatures by George Herriman, Winsor McCay & others, 1911. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> W.W. Denslow, <i>Higglepy, Piggleby, My Black Hen</i>, ink & gouache, for <i>Denslow's Mother Goose </i>, 1901. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Pavel Tchelitchew, <i>Savonarola</i>, graphite & gouache, sketch for the production at Theater in der Königgrätzer Straße, 1923. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> John Philip Falter, <i>Strictly Off the Record</i>, oil on canvas, for Four Roses Whiskey, 1942. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Movie Scream</i>, pen, ink & watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker</i>, January 1947. $12,000 to $18,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions