Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2009 Issue

<i>In The News:</i> Goodbye to Card Catalogues, $1 Million Comic Book Sale, Abe's Top 10

Sccard

Card for a book that sounds as dated as a card catalogue.


By Michael Stillman

Back in the day, before computers, digital databases and even microfiche readers, the way you found books in a library was through a "card catalogue." You may remember. Three-by-five index cards, containing pertinent data about each book, were filed alphabetically in drawers slightly larger than 3 x 5. They were arranged by author, title, or subject, some libraries with multiple sets of alphabetically arranged cards for each, some just mixing them all together.

At the University of South Carolina Library, they had almost 4 million of these cards, filling 3,168 drawers. The last were added in 1991. Since then, the files have gradually become dated to the point of irrelevance. Eighteen years out of date, the age of a typical freshman, it is doubtful that even the hardiest traditionalist could have used these any longer. Still, there they stood in a corner, taking up space. This will no longer be the case. The University of South Carolina Library has come up with some ingenious ideas to rid themselves of these relics of the past. We might have suggested putting them in the antiquarian book room (not the rare book room, as with 4 million examples, they are hardly rare). However, while the library does plan to keep some for historical display, most will be deleted, to use the digital term for throwing away. The library's clever idea was to hold a contest. Students and others are encouraged to take the cards and make something creative out of them. There will be prizes for the most functional use, fashionable (wearable), foundational (building models), and free form. With any luck, the library should be able to remove thousands of them this way, impressive were it not for the fact that they have millions to get rid of. At least it's a start, and when the year is out, we understand that recyclers will get the rest.

A comic book auction near St. Louis in early November brought in a staggering $1 million plus in sales. At least some types of "books" are still bringing in top dollar. The leading item was a first issue of X-Men comics, which sold for $101,000 (against an original price of 12 cents). For those keeping track, that's a little over an 84 million percent return on investment.

The story behind the sale is that the comics were found in the basement of a modest home in St. Charles that Mound City Auctions had been called on to sell. Mound City specializes in local real estate, estate and business sales, so this was an unusual sale for them. The home and its contents had been owned by an elderly lady who recently passed away. However, she was not the collector. That was her son, who predeceased her. He had loved comic books as a child and had purchased around 3,000 of them. Fortunately, his mother, unlike yours and mine, did not throw his collection away when he came of age. It seems unlikely he recognized just how valuable they were, and almost certainly his mother had no idea. When she died, the house and its contents were inherited by a cousin who has chosen to remain anonymous. The heir had no clue of the value either until an appraisal revealed that some of these comics were extremely valued by collectors in the field. Sometimes having a cousin of modest means is just as good as a rich uncle.

AbeBooks has released its list of the top 10 highest prices paid for books on their site during the month of October.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <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>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…

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