Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2017 Issue

The World as it will Be

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Books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera are real but their world has, for years, been losing locations on Main Streets, High Streets and Broadways around the world.  Why?  Parts of it are, [1] changing tastes, [2] rising prices, [3] thinning markets, [4] the Internationalization of these markets, and [5] the aging of core buyers and collectors.  These changes have remade the field into a more event based business with a succession of collector/collecting shows and auctions to capture the attention of the everyday market.

 

The decline of shops has long been understood to be a disaster because many, possibly most collectors today, received their introduction to the field by browsing the shelves of the used and rare book shops that not so long ago, were found nearby.

 

The Internet of course is remaking commerce, aggregating many fields on-line, while undermining the shops and businesses that emerged in the final decades of what historians will someday call “the end of the traditional retail period.”  For book dealers, their clients increasingly interact on line, pursuing best or most appropriate copies over those nearer by.  These days the traditional methodology slips away, older practitioners continuing as their fathers and grandfathers did, their children now living deeply in an electronic world that, beyond communicating, increasingly shapes our understanding of the book and its materiality to our lives.  And it is their generation that will remake the field.

 

Here is what I think will happen.

 

Collectible paper, be it books, manuscripts, maps or ephemera, is a distinctive niche but only a niche in the world of commerce but it should be able to support a reimagined location in the electronic ether that combines our understanding of the world we leave behind with the world, with its increasing capabilities, it now becomes.

 

The good news is that shops will return to a Main Street if not to the same Main Street they were once a part.  But they will return because they are remembered and wished for, if not in quite enough numbers to support actual locations much anymore.

 

How will this happen.

 

It is now possible to create alternative realities online and the world of old and rare books will either be its own reality or a part of another or other larger realities.  Books, one hopes, will be able to support their own world.

 

In such a reimaged world there will be dealers, collectors, auction houses and libraries.  They are already part of indexed listing sites, be they eBay, Amazon, Rare Book Hub, OCLC, ILAB, ABAA, ABA and others.  Indexed sites are the norm.  What will now happen is that the world we remember will be projected as the starting point of an electronic one with increasingly supernatural capabilities.

 

Consider

 

If the world of books is reimagined as a village there will be dealers and their listings.  There will be auction history as reference for valuation and probability of reappearance and several hundred auction houses whose listings contribute to the never-ending flow of upcoming auction lots.  And eZines such as Rare Book Monthly and Weekly Auction Update.  And libraries and collector presentations will be here as well with options to share, acquire and sell as preferred.  And because would-be buyers have unique interests their search terms will reconfigure the village to mute the less relevant and hoist high the most relevant.  Someone browsing this world will instinctively understand the scale and importance of subjects, something that is difficult to access today.

 

And perhaps the form of collectible will be a defining search term.  These days ephemera are rising so being able to recast the village to rank dealers according to their ephemera holdings would be quite useful.  Who will I visit and what will I browse?  The question will be:  who has what and can I open a conversation.  So think for a moment what the ABAA Fair in New York would be like if, in an online re-imagination, we could see who’s bringing what and map out a plan to meet.    It’s within their power.

 

In this reimagined world every firm and entity will have the option but not the obligation to answer questions by phone, facetime or email.  Some will and others won’t.  So why will some organizations do this?  To build rapport.  I’ve been fielding members’ calls for fifteen years and value these interactions above all others.  Hearing people’s questions first-hand as well as how they frame their questions helps define the changing expectations that will be met in this new world.

 

Essentially this is an understandable 3D place that reconfigures based on subjects, searches and perspective; one that changes form in response to questions and is unique to each participant.  In other words, an engrossing experience.

 

So if looking for auctions, auctions then assume center stage while comparables and research lurk nearby, the searches already done in background anticipation, they then waiting for the click that says “show me what you got.”

 

So you woke up this morning thinking it would be just another day.  Nope!  Welcome to the future.

 

The bad news is we can’t hold on to the past.  The good news we get the chance to shape the future.

 

With this article 10 images are posted.  They have been identified and sequenced by Paul Yu.  The final image, created by Mark West, is one showing the world of Alice in Wonderland, in this article a metaphor for the imaginary world we will someday inhabit.  Mr. West is an illustrator and musician working in London, England.  Links are provided at the end of this article.

 

The 10 image set portrays the setting of the sun on the world we have known and the sunrise of this world reconsidered.  Many people will have ideas about what this world should look like.  Please send them to me and we’ll include them in follow-up articles as we add features to this emerging concept.

 

The good news is that the world of rare paper, already on the net primarily as databases, will soon move decisively to become an integrated world and its strangest aspect may be that it will be designed mostly by people with grey and white hair.

 

About Mr. West:   Mark West is an illustrator and musician working in London, England.  This illustration was originally created for a club night called 'Wonderland' which raises money for www.wyce.org.uk helping communities in The Gambia, and it features every scene and character from Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, in event order from bottom left.  For more information please visit www.mixedcasesspaces.co.uk

 

Whether you agree or disagree we'll appreciate your perspective.  RBH members can directly post while they are signed into their account.  Others can sign-up for a free account and then post.  To join click the Become a Member link in the upper right corner.  Alternatively you can email me at bmckinney@rarebookhub.com or call me at 415.823.6678.

 


Posted On: 2017-05-01 08:42
User Name: PeterReynolds

I've been 17 years as an online-only bookseller (though anyone can visit if they make an appointment). And the mail order bookseller existed long before that.


Posted On: 2017-05-01 16:40
User Name: biohish

I am not sure if I correctly understand your "re-imagined" future of the collectible book "village" as you referred to it, but I am 38 years of age, have been collecting since my dental school days, and have amassed a respectable collection of dental books, manuscripts, art, and instruments dating as far back as 350 BC, with a 13th century manuscript leaf, and printed books of royal provenance, all within the dental themed sphere, and almost all, to the tune of 99.99%, have been acquired via online relationships. I have been purchasing from certain dealers for more than a decade without having met them in person, or even the chance to hear their voices.

While the "death" of the book shop browsing experience can be debated, and justifiably so, this is not the point of this article I gather, but rather how the future of the rare book world should evolve.

Well, I believe I have been living in this "re-imagined collectible book village" for almost 15 years now. I wake up every morning and log in to my notifications at Vialibri, RareBookHub, Invaluable, The-Saleroom, Drouot, Liveauctioneers, Lot-Tissimo, etc, etc. Not to mention the plethora of direct emails from dealers and auction representatives that I have had the pleasure of structuring a deep and thoughtful relationship with throughout my earl collecting years.

Again, unless I am misunderstanding your vision of this re-imagined village, I must respectfully say that this article is 10 to 15 years late.

Sincerely,
H. S. Ayoub, DMD
www.hsayoub.com


Posted On: 2017-05-01 16:47
User Name: biohish

I forgot to mention the current excitement regarding the opportunities presented by social networking sites, especially Instagram, where dealers, librarians, curators, and the youth of the rare book collecting world have been interconnecting in a novel way, on an unprecedented scale, utilizing the current generation's affinity for the visual.

I believe, short of a massive facebook-style effort geared just towards the collectors of the past, we are all already living in the "future" of rare book collecting.

H. S. Ayoub, DMD
www.hsayoub.com


Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
    <center><b>California Virtual Book Fair<br>March 4-6, 2021<br>www.abaa.org/vbf</b>
  • <center><b>The Collectors’ Sale<br>March 3, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Verlag, Luzern, Publishers: <i>The Book of Kells,</i> the most precious illuminated manuscript of the early Middle Ages, now reproduced, the FIRST AND ONLY COMPLETE FINE ART FACSIMILE EDITION. €5,000 to €6,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone,</i> 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1997, First Deluxe Edn., Signed by the Author on title page. €4,000 to €5,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Gilbert (John T.) Account of Facsimiles of National Manuscripts of Ireland, from the earliest extant specimens to A.D. 719. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <center><b>The Collectors’ Sale<br>March 3, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> <i>The Georgian Society Records of Eighteenth-Century Domestic Architecture in Dublin [-Ireland],</i> 5 vols. lg. 4to D. 1909 - 1913. Limited Editions. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Yeats (W.B.) <i>The Poems of W.B. Yeats,</i> 2 vols., roy 8vo, L. (MacMillan & Co.) 1949, Limited Edn., No. 185 (of 375 copies). Signed. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Crone (John S.)ed. <i>The Irish Book Lover, A Monthly Review of Irish Literature and Bibliography.</i> Vol. I No 1 August 1909 - Vol. XXXII No. 6, September 1957. €1,250 to €2,000.
    <center><b>The Collectors’ Sale<br>March 3, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Yeats (John Butler) <i>An original self-portrait Sketch,</i> Signed and dated April 1919, N[ew] York. €1,200 to €1,500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Photograph Album. Entitled ''A Souvenir of the Visit to Jeypore Samasthanam of His Excellency the Right Hon'ble Viscount Goschen of Hawkhurst… 14th December 1927''. €1,000 to €1,500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Pistolesi (Erasmo) <i>Il Vaticano,</i> 8vols. large atlas, folio Rome (Tipografia della Societa..) 1829. €500 to €600.
    <center><b>The Collectors’ Sale<br>March 3, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Chagall (Marc)illus., Legmarie (Jean) comp., <i>The Jerusalem Windows,</i> folio N.Y. (George Braziller) 1962. €400 to €500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Bullitt (Thos. W.) <i>My Life at Oxmoor,</i> Life on a Farm in Kentucky before the War. Roy 8vo Louisville, Kentucky, 1911. Privately Printed No. 86 of 100 Copies Only. €300 to €400.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Popish Plot: Oates (Titus) <i>The Popes Whore House or The Merchandise of The Whore of Rome,</i> folio L. 1679. First Edn. €100 to €150.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 11:</b> Dorothea Lange, <i>Migrant Mother (horizontal),</i> silver print, 1936. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 11:</b> Group of 32 WWII-era identification badges for manufacturing & military-related companies, 1940-50s. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 11:</b> Julia Margaret Cameron, <i>Alfred, Lord Tennyson,</i> albumen print, 1869. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 11:</b> Arnold Genthe, <i>Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt,</i> silver print, circa 1908. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 11:</b> Edward Curtis, <I>Oasis in the Badlands,</I> toned platinum print, 1905. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 11:</b> Francis Frith, three volumes, approximately 140 photographs, 1860-70s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 11:</b> Eugène Atget, <i>20 Photographs,</i> gold-toned silver prints by Berenice Abbott, 1898-1927. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 11:</b> Neil Leifer, <i>Muhammad Ali,</i> chromogenic print, 1965. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 11:</b><br>A group of approximately 50 Photomatic selfies of the same man taken over a period of time, 1940s. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b><center>Hindman Auctions<br>Literature from a Private New Orleans Collection<br>March 19, 2021</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> STEINBECK, John (1902-1968). <i>The Pastures of Heaven.</i> New York: Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1932. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> FITZGERALD, F. Scott (1896-1940). <i>Tender is the Night.</i> New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> STOKER, Bram (1847-1912). <i>Dracula.</i> Westminster: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b><center>Hindman Auctions<br>Literature from a Private New Orleans Collection<br>March 19, 2021</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> GOLDING, William (1911-1993). <i>Lord of the Flies.</i> London: Faber and Faber, 1954. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> SALINGER, J. D. (1919-2010). The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1951. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> HEMINGWAY, Ernest (1899-1961). <i>The Torrents of Spring.</i> New York: Scribner's, 1926. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b><center>Hindman Auctions<br>Literature from a Private New Orleans Collection<br>March 19, 2021</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> HUXLEY, Aldous (1894-1963). <i>Brave New World.</i> London: Chatto & Windus, 1932. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> WELLS, H.G. <i>The Time Machine, an Invention.</i> New York: Henry Holt, 1895. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> DAHL, Roald (1916-1990). <i>Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.</i> New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b><center>Hindman Auctions<br>Literature from a Private New Orleans Collection<br>March 19, 2021</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> HERBERT, Frank (1920-1986). Dune. Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> KESEY, Ken (1935-2001). <i>One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.</i> New York: The Viking Press, 1962. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Mar. 19:</b> VONNEGUT, Kurt, Jr. (1922-2007). <i>Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade.</i> New York: Seymour Lawrence Delacorte Press, 1969. $2,000 to $3,000.

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