Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2018 Issue

FIRSTS - Bibliography Made Easy

A150c725-8796-4030-8dae-28254e4c3f3c

FIRSTS - The Book Collector’s Magazine excels in popular bibliography.

You'd think that 20 years into the digital age there would be no place for a printed magazine devoted mostly to bibliography of books, mostly from the late 19th century to the present day, but you'd be wrong.

 

FIRSTS - the Book Collector's Magazine, established in 1991 by Robin and Kathryn Smiley, is still going strong and still a good place to turn as a convenient reference for those collecting specific authors or genres. The Tuscon, AZ based publication comes out six times a year; almost without exception each issue is a keeper.

 

Now in their 28th year the magazine has a paid circulation of about 1,500 subscribers and a well honed format which typically includes one or two longish biographical articles on a writer of note or a genre such as mysteries, science fiction, or children's books, followed by a checklist of important titles. The checklist gives first and important editions, points, notes and related values. All of it is well illustrated with photos of the books discussed. From time to time the magazine looks back at past featured authors and their works and updates the estimated market values. It also has a regular column called “Points” that answers particular questions sent in by readers. "Books into Film" has been a standing feature since the magazine’s inception. It typically profiles a well known book and gives details of how it was made into a motion picture.

 

Editor Kathryn Smiley recently spoke with Rare Book Hub about the evolution and staying power of their publication. She said that she and her husband Robin (or the "Bearded One" as she called him) were originally magazine print brokers based in LA when a client mentioned there would be a book fair in the city. The couple attended what turned out to be an ABAA event. They were hooked.

 

"It opened a whole new world,” she said, “we went from buyers to collectors, and we immediately started to look for education. The need to know more evolved into FIRSTS. It started as a monthly, tapered off a little to ten times a year and in 2014 reduced its schedule to six issues a year.

 

Authors and topics that have proved popular with FIRST readers include Ian Fleming, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, as well as Western Americana, and Naval Fiction. But the list of popular bibliography they have published is wide and deep and includes practically every writer you’ve ever heard of and some you haven’t.

 

She also noted that they typically print an overrun of several hundred so that the back issues are still in print. Back issues from 1991-to 1995 are $12 per copy while more recent ones are $10 apiece. An annual subscription is $40/year.

 

While the biographical and topical articles are well done, it's the checklists that give the magazine its unique appeal. "Robin gets most credit in that department," she said, "he’s a born list maker, and an enthusiastic one at that. When he gets interested he dives in headlong."

 

"It's hard to write about books you haven't actually handled and read," Smiley said. The couple buy as many of the books they write about as they can, "We keep the ones we want and sell the others."

 

When they lived in California we would "take all the books we didn’t want to keep to an annual sale, that took care of a lot. But since we moved to Arizona, 24 years ago, there's not as much interest hereabout, and as a result, we're bursting at the seams with books."

 

They write about, "whatever catches our fancy, but really it's not that random… We like to venture outside of the standard Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck territory. If we just stuck to those kind of books we'd be bored in no time." Publishing FIRSTS, she said, has been "a wonderful voyage of discovery. "

 

Among the upcoming topics are articles/checklists about biographer Richard Holmes, Ben Franklin, and Children's Books to name a few. While the pair seems to write most of the issues themselves, there are also a good many articles from outside contributors, and the masthead lists a distinguished group of booksellers as an advisory board, many of whom are also advertisers. Smiley said they research values “by looking at what's offered by people we know or we know of.”

 

Their advice to collectors is not to look at books as an investment. “Collect what you love; if it appreciates, swell, if it doesn’t, so be it. Their own personal taste runs to opera. "We have a huge collection in all formats."

 

Like the Smileys, many of their collector friends are getting older. "We get about one call a week about downsizing," she said. A letter of advice from FIRSTS on the subject of selling your collection is at the end of this article.

 

"I don’t have a sense of where the market's going,” she said, “and I’m not concerned.” She's sick of "urban angst", she doesn't do podcasts or text, hates eBooks, admits that the internet has caused major changes in the world of books, but for herself, “I don’t want to spend anymore time than necessary looking at a screen.” On making a living she said, "Money is nice but it's not my primary focus.”

 

"The world changes,” she said, “but I can predict there will always be people who love books, not just as literature but as physical objects….We love what we do and we'll just keep on keeping on."

 

Link: firstsmagazine.com

 

 

 

Slightly edited advice from FIRSTS on downsizing:

 

A few years ago we announced plans for a series of articles about how to sell books you no longer want to keep in your collection. We cancelled those plans when it became apparent that with the economy in such disarray and things in general changing at a rapid rate, any specific advice we could give was likely to be outdated before we could publish it.

 

But since the inquiries keep coming in, we’ve put together this list of things to keep in mind about selling your books. We cannot act as appraisers or agents in this process, but we hope this information will be of help.

 

Ask yourself these questions, and answer them honestly: Do I know today’s market value for the books I want to sell (not what you paid for them years ago or what you think or wish they’re worth), and how much under that am I willing to accept for any or all of them? How much work do I want to do, and how much personal contact do I want to have with potential buyers?

 

Theoretically, you’ll do the most work and receive the highest prices if you sell books to another collector. It will require research, compiling inventory lists, making contact through advertising or an Internet listing service (which itself will require registering with that service, learning how to use it and paying its fees) and packing and shipping small lots. It’s highly unlikely you’ll sell all your books to one buyer, so this will require a lot of time and effort and contact with many individuals.

 

You’ll do the least work and receive the lowest price if you sell the lot to a bookseller. As with any other enterprise, booksellers must be able to make a profit on the books they buy—it’s how they make a living. They cannot pay you full market value for your books if they are to stay in business.

 

They also cannot afford to tie up large amounts of money in books for which they have no customers, so they are much more likely to buy books they know they can sell right away.

 

In addition, the value of many books has declined. This is simply a function of the supply-and-demand aspect of the marketplace: it happens with any collectible or commodity. If you decide to go this route, our best advice right now is that you make a descriptive list of your best books and mail or email it, along with a letter of inquiry, to a wide range of booksellers. Start with our advertisers: they are all reputable professionals, most of whom we know personally.

 

Auction houses are another possibility for selling your books. Just make sure you’re fully informed and completely clear about their fees and terms of sale and payment before signing on.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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 €
  • <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.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions