Holiday Shopping Ideas for the Collector
By Bruce McKinney
The opportunities to find interesting material for the book collector have never been greater. Neither have the options for bidding and buying been better. How you approach the holidays though depends on perspective. A collector will consider all the options but when you buy for a collector it's more complicated. Here goes an effort to simplify it.
If you are buying for a collector it is always a good idea to talk to them about it. "I'd like to buy you something for the collection" expresses both interest and support and often they can point you in the right direction. Collecting is after all an uncertain process even to the collector and support for the endeavor often more important than any specific object. A collector's dealers will often have ideas, will appreciate your interest and try to provide something appropriate. If you can contact them they will be helpful.
Relatively inexpensive gifts that are much appreciated are dealer, collector and auction house histories and biographies. Reading about the chase is often as interesting as engaging in it and always less expensive. The best biography of a book dealer ever written is Rosenbach, a Biography by Edwin Wolf 2nd with John F. Fleming. Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach [1876 - 1952] was an exceptional dealer in the exceptional era of book collecting in America. Wolf and Fleming recreate his life and remember his significance. It is in itself, in the first edition, a collectible book and an exceptional read. There is no better book to give. There are nine copies of various editions available in the Books for Sale database right here on AE. See Books For Sale.
If you are looking for coffee table books think about Adventures in Americana 1492-1897. This is a selection of books from the library of Hershel V. Jones. Two volumes describing 300 items, each illustrated, was issued in 1928. A checklist was offered as a third volume in 1938. At many levels this is an important set for collectors. The material is both interesting and well illustrated and there are just enough errors to make the set an intellectual challenge. The material, while American, is eclectic so there is a chance several items the collector owns will be mentioned, at least in the third volume. This set is available as a reprint but I prefer the original. The two volumes printed in 1928 are understood to be part of a limited run of 200. See Books For Sale.
One of the most useful resources extant is "A History of American Magazines" by Frank Luther Mott. Everyone who collects encounters ephemera. When it's early magazines you find they can be difficult to understand and value. I prefer the five volume version and am wearing out my set which was printed in 1957. Volume I covering magazines printed in continental America between 1741 and 1850 is most useful but I also use volumes II and III. The later volumes cover more recent material. In Books for Sale there is one very good set with dust jackets. See Books For Sale.