I spoke with Bert Babcock of Derry, New Hampshire, one of the dealers whose catalogue is included in the attached file of firsts. He believes that he issued his first catalogue in 1977. Since then he has lived through the end of the old way of bookselling, used and seen the demise of AB Weekly, sold at book shows, sold online and now has a website: www.babcockbooks.com. At 63 he remains interested and energetic. Perhaps it will be people like Bert who help the field to navigate its way to a successful landing on the net. In 1977 Mr. Babcock issued Catalogue 1. Today he's working on 130 but he's the exception. Most of the companies whose catalogues are included with this piece are out-of-business or have simply stopped issuing catalogues.
So when you look at the first catalogues of dealers remember that fewer new catalogues are being offered today and that catalogues have played an important role in educating new collectors. It isn't clear who is going to take up this slack but it seems likely it will become one of the net's functions. Perhaps the big listing sites will understand that their future sales and success are dependent on new collectors entering the field. Only when this issue is successfully addressed will the transition from traditional bookselling to internet bookselling be complete. In any event I'll personally hope that the best dealers continue to find the financial justification to do the great work of explicating the books and encouraging interest in the collection of old and rare material.
Here is a link to First Catalogues.