Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2005 Issue

Publishing Promotions From Alexander Rare Books

R0602

Trade Publishing Promotional Items from Alexander Rare Books.


By Michael Stillman

Alexander Rare Books
of Barre, Vermont, has published a catalogue of unusual and most interesting items. The focus here is rare, though not antiquarian. These are publishers' promotional items, most often early copies meant for booksellers, often just a first chapter, or beginnings of several different books. A few are even more promotional, such as displays. This is ephemeral material, but all tied to specific books and authors.

The majority of the items come from what Alexander calls "the golden age of marketing." This was the period from 1985-2000. Starting in the 1970s, there was an upsurge in booksellers. Smaller chains such as Walden and Dalton sprung up, while independents flourished. Publishers, pressed to sell more and more books, increased their marketing efforts. Material was distributed to encourage these stores to stock their books. However, since 2000, the number of independent bookstores has dropped precipitously. A few big chains, like Barnes and Noble and Borders, replaced the Mom and Pop stores. Then, much of the business shifted to the internet, through Amazon or listings on cooperative sites. The days when publishers needed to distribute their material to large numbers of independents was replaced by sales pitches to a few major buyers. There is no longer the quantity of this material being printed that there was during the "golden age."

How will collectors view this type of material over the long run? That's a question which is hard to answer. It is still too early to know how history will value a unique category of items that are still mostly under two decades old. We do not yet even know what value most of the underlying books will command as they age. Many come from relatively new authors. Some will be household names for generations yet to come; other will soon be forgotten. What we can say is that these will be uncommon items relating to works of recent authors, some of whom will become very collectible in the years ahead. These items will most likely be of great interest to those who collect these authors. Your job is to pick the right ones, because today, the great majority of these unusual items are priced very low. This is a field where anyone can collect, regardless of budget. We are on the ground floor, and while no one yet knows how many stories are in this building, we do know that the only way is up.

Here are some examples. Three authors are represented in this 1992 advance excerpt from their novels. There is The Tax Man by Peter Carey, Ever After, by Graham Swift, and Dreaming in Cuban from Cristina Garcia. For Garcia, it was her first novel. This promotional piece was put together by publisher Alfred A. Knopf. It is still in its original shrinkwrap. Item 37. Priced at $20.

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.

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions