Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2015 Issue

Breaking Down Borders: London Bookseller Peter Harrington Reaches Into the American Market

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Peter Harrington's new website, with free shipping to the U.S.A., is primed for American customers.

The advent of the internet twenty years ago changed the centuries-old bookselling process virtually overnight. Books had been sold locally by a local book shop going back to antiquity, when they were produced by scribes, not printers. Advertising in trade publications, magazines and newspapers created a mail order trade in books to more distant locations, but that remained a small part of sales until the internet threw open the doors to commerce with customers who would never be able to visit the bookseller's shop.

 

However, even as sales through internet sites rapidly expanded and flourished, international borders still formed a barrier to sales. International telephone calls were prohibitively expensive, shipping costly and complicated. Concerns about the standards and integrity of merchants from another country were always present. Payment in foreign currencies, and constantly adjusting exchange rates, added the element of uncertainty as to how much you would end up paying for the book you purchased. Add to that the general unease of buying from someone so far away and national borders remained a wall to sales despite the international reach of the internet.

 

British bookseller Peter Harrington has been selling books in London since 1969. The firm is now in its second generation, operated by Peter Harrington's son, Pom Harrington. Over the years, they have developed into one of England's major booksellers, selling important material to discerning collectors. Clients for these sorts of books know no national borders. Interest in Shakespeare is not limited to the British, Joyce to the Irish, Twain to Americans. The very best of these and other authors have passed through Harrington's shop in London in recent years.

 

Recently, Harrington has sold a Shakespeare First Folio, almost unobtainable these days when even a Fourth Folio is beyond the reach of most collectors. A first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses, one of only 100 copies printed on Dutch paper and in its original wrappers, has passed through the shop. Samuel de Champlain's 1613 Voyages, and the publisher's copy of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, "the first copy ever bound," with Clemen's handwritten, unused dedication, have also changed hands through Harrington's shop.

 

Harrington has long reached out to buyers in America through shows and a website, but has recently upped the ante in terms of reaching American collectors. Just as two decades ago, booksellers who resisted adjusting to the internet often fell by the wayside, the same may happen to top tier booksellers who are unable to reach out beyond their own national borders. We recently asked Pom Harrington about how bookselling has changed, its challenges, and what his firm is doing to reach out to new markets overseas.

 

"Change has primarily come around due to the impact of the internet," Harrington explained. "On one hand we have a much greater outreach and effectively a 24-hour shop window to the world, but on the other, specialist knowledge being shared means that trying to distinguish our knowledge from someone copying it in the marketplace is quite a challenge." Nevertheless, local sales remain important, and Harrington maintains two shops in London to reach locals and visitors to the city. "The biggest benefit of having a physical shop now is primarily as a meeting point rather than a place to browse. With this in mind, we opened up a flagship store in Mayfair with a selection of our stock in central west London for this purpose. We find that the website works hand in hand with a shop of this nature – customers browse online, then pop in to collect their books."

 

Peter Harrington still uses traditional methods of marketing overseas. "We still exhibit in new marketplaces, and have had moderate success meeting new clients over the years, but it’s a slow process. At American fairs you’re used to going, selling and coming home with sales. At other international fairs you can expect to take nothing and hope things come through in the next six months, which can be a bit hit-and-miss. Then there’s the alternative of exhibiting at antiques fairs etc. We have chosen Masterpiece as it’s local, held in London. It’s an interesting way to meet new customers, but there’s a very different atmosphere to get used to."

 

They have recently added a website targeted more specifically to America – www.peterharringtonbooks.com. The differences may be subtle, such as the use of a "dot-com" (.com) rather than a "dot-co-dot-uk"(.co.uk) to make it easier for Americans to find, and pricing in U.S. dollars rather than British pounds. That, Mr. Harrington has found, is a major consideration. "Being a UK company, we’re not as prominent in the U.S. as we would like, and a level of resistance or misunderstanding has come from the pricing of our books in pounds. We know that U.S. customers like to browse in their own currency and, importantly, pay in their own currency. The ability nowadays for a non-U.S. business to accept U.S. dollars and credit cards means transparency for the U.S. book buyer. We take on the currency risk, not the customer/client, which we hope is a way of overcoming barriers." Harrington also addressed a couple of other traditional challenges – postage and hours. "International postage is more than capable of competing with national delivery these days," he explained, "so that’s also not an issue for either party. Telephone hours have been extended in the shops to help work around time zone issues."

 

Overseas sales now form the largest part of Harrington's higher priced books. "At the lower end, the majority tend to be sold domestically, mainly due to the perceived difficulties in that market of ordering from abroad. When it comes to higher-priced items more than half are sold overseas."

 

International expansion is one way Harrington's has responded to the changing market. They will connect with collectors wherever they may be. Interestingly, while many booksellers see the changing market as a sign of decline, Pom Harrington does not see it that way at all. It is simply different today. "At the higher end, the number of dealers is reducing, mainly due to competition from the auction houses that have taken on a larger market share than in previous years. On the other hand, the market has grown and grown in terms of sale values, which indicates strength. At the lower end, ABE, eBay and the number of part time dealers has increased tremendously, which I think is actually very healthy. There’s a genuine market out there." Harrington continues to reach that market, just as they have done for the past 45 years.

 

Here are some links to categories specifically connected to America on Peter Harrington's website:

 

Americana - www.peterharringtonbooks.com/rare/americana

 

American Literature - www.peterharringtonbooks.com/rare/american-literature-literature-history

 

This is the link to the home page of PeterHarrington's American website - www.peterharringtonbooks.com

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest Hemingway's Typewriter Used to Write "A Moveable Feast", Impeccable Provenance From His Biographer A. E. Hotchner. $50,000 to $100,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Samuel Colt, "The Gun that Won the West": 3 Signed Patent Items for "Revolving Cylinder Guns". $40,000 to $50,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Jack Kerouac's Own Typewriter From His Estate Used to Write His Very Last Book. $18,000 to $20,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Rare Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence Printed in 1848. $15,000 to $18,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Superb Tchaikovsky ALS to Napravnik, 4pp on "Mazeppa". $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Wounded Knee Massacre Same Day Eyewitness Account by Participant, "the 7th needn't be ashamed of today's record". $10,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> F. Scott Fitzgerald Signed Gordon Bryant Portrait -- Finest Known. $8,000 to $9,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Neil Armstrong ALS on NASA Letterhead Regarding His X-15 Flights. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> M. Gandhi Letter: "the life span of human beings is preordained..." -- Fantastic Spiritual Content. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> "Damn the torpedoes!" Riveting 24pp ALS of Admiral Farragut's Steward Describing the "Battle of Mobile Bay”. $6,000 to $7,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Abraham Lincoln Signed Order to Suspend Execution. $5,000 to $6,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Napoleon DS Featuring Imperial Eagle and Enormous Great Seal Appointing Norman Politician Baron of the Empire. $4,000 to $5,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Bolaños, Joaquín. La Portentosa Vida de la Muerte... (“The Portentous Life of Death”) México, 1792. $50,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,777 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Tratado de Paz… entre la República Mexicana y los Estados Unidos. (“Treaty of Peace… Between the Mexican Republic and the United States”) 1848. $80,000 - $90,000 MXN / USD $4,444 - $5,000
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Fabregat, Josep Joaquín. Vista de la Plaza de México… (“View of the Square of Mexico”) México, 1797. $60,000 - $100,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $5,555
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Hidalgo y Costilla, Miguel. Invitación al Coronel Narciso de la Canal… (“Invitation to Coronel Narciso de la Canal…”) 1810. $170,000 - $200,000 MXN / USD $9,444 - $11,111
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Gálvez, Joseph de. Real Cédula de Erección de la Compañía de Filipinas. (“Royal Notice of the Creation of the Company of the Philippines”) 1785. $40,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,222 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Colección de Constituciones de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (“Collection of Constitutions of the United Mexican States”) México, 1828. $50,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,777 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Ruelas, Julio. Poemario Manuscrito Ilustrado, Dedicado a Lorencita Braniff (“Collection of Illustrated Poem Manuscripts, Dedicated to Lorencita Braniff”). 1903. $60,000 - $70,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $3,888
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Espinosa de los Monteros, Juan J. Aviso de la Junta Soberana al Público (“Notice of the Sovereign Meeting to the Public”) 1821. $60,000 - $80,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $4,444
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos... (“Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States”) México, 1824. $140,000 - $150,000 MXN / USD $7,777 - $8,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Alcaraz, Ramón. Apuntes para la Historia de la Guerra entre México y los EU (“Notes on the History of the War between Mexico and the United States”). 1848. $40,000 - $50,000 MXN / USD $2,222 - $2,777
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

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