Kemo Sabi, which way did they go?
By Bruce McKinney
Ken Leach, the New Hampshire book dealer, has been in the trade for more than a quarter century. He is an independent sort as would be expected of a book dealer and doubly expected of one plying the trade in New England. A while ago he lent us a complete run of his catalogues to add to the AED and we have been working by fits and starts this year to complete them. Recently we added 1,390 of his catalogue entries from 1982, 1983 and 1985 and they are searchable as a group as part of this article. They are all searchable in a search box provided on page 4 of this article.
These catalogues afford an opportunity to see how his prices then compare to prices asked today. The material falls into the following categories: 18th & 19th century American printings, author collections, autographs and manuscripts, juveniles, American books of the 20th century and English imprints. There is of course a dose of miscellaneous material as well. In a few cases where multiple copies of the same title were offered in one catalogue we have selected only the best of several copies. A link is provided at the end of this article to a database of these catalogue descriptions.
First we'll do a test search. Select the AUTHOR field and search for Smith. We find 8 records that match. One is printed in 1776. It is "An Oration in Memory of General Montgomery". Using information contained in this record I now construct a search in the advanced search field on ABE. I put "Smith" in the author field, "Oration" in the title field and 1776 in the date range and find one match. This is a well described copy from Helen Kahn and Associates of Montreal. The price is $900. When Mr. Leach offered his copy in 1983 he priced it at $75. This gives you a direct comparison of then and now and it's very interesting.
To look at all the material in these catalogues I suggest you now select the default "Show me all records" option in the search screen. This will take a few seconds to load because we are going to bring up all the records in these five catalogues. Now you can quickly view brief lot descriptions with the option to open any records of interest. In a short time you will see how the pricing has changed. Every person will look up different things. If there are eight million stories in the naked city there are also millions of unique perspectives in book collecting.