Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2006 Issue

Adding Value to Books by Creating a Collection

Antshow

Bookseller's collection generates outstanding free publicity.


By Renée Magriel Roberts

In today's super-competitive, Internet-dominated marketplace, we have seen the value of good, used books, and even some more common rare books decline, as customers now have the option of comparison-shopping with dealers all over the world. This is not new to the marketplace; computer dealers quickly discovered that once generic machines were available, they could not continue to get the higher margins that once attracted people to name brands. Some went out of business and others quickly made adjustments, creating a total gestalt, a value-added package, that included not only the machine, but software, support and training.

Selling books is not entirely dissimilar from the technology marketplace. Bookselling responds extremely well to value-added efforts and especially to product knowledge. The research and knowledge behind an author, an illustrator, a work, or particular subject areas, for example, adds value to each and every listing. We have seen on many occasions that books we have listed have sold, despite lower-priced, comparable books being available, because of the quality of the listing.

With this in mind, we have also worked at developing book collections. Collections are worth far more than the sum of the values of the individual books because they represent additional time, knowledge, opportunity, aesthetics, and value that a buyer may not wish to simulate. They are rare by design, because as a collection, they are unique.

I learned a little about collecting from my father-in-law, Paul Magriel, a legendary art collector, who collected boxing ephemera, American drawings, art nouveau, American still lifes, and Renaissance bronzes, among many other groups of works. He had an impeccable eye and would send his collections to museums all over the country on exhibit, sell each one, and then start over again to build a new collection.

We became interested in one particular work, Benjamin Franklin's autobiography or memoir, a few years ago when we acquired an inexpensive early American reprint and tried to figure out exactly how it stood with respect to a "first edition". It became clear almost immediately that there were problems with even defining a first edition of this work. The earliest book in print (Paris: Buissson, 1791) was a French translation of a pirated, poorly copied version of Part I only of the four parts and the outline that now are thought to represent the extent of the work. There was a Swedish translation of the French (1792) as well as a German translation. The first appearance in English was a translation from the French, again of Part I only, and with little relationship to the original ms. The second appearance in English was a different translation from the French, again of Part I only. In 1818 the first three parts were published from the ms., but were edited, in some places for style, in others for substance. And in 1868, when John Bigelow for the first time published all four parts and the outline, from the original ms., he edited the work as well.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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