Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2021 Issue

Peeking into the World of Rare Books

Old books in the era of social media

Rare Book Hub is heavy on old books and paper so it’s reasonable to spend an hour and a half watching a movie on the subject:  The Booksellers directed by D. W. Young.  It was released in September 2019, just a nano second ago in the world of old books.  Nope, I hadn’t been aware but thoroughly enjoyed  it recently.

 

It’s 98 minutes of absorbing dialogue making the case that dealers are the gatekeepers to the great books.  So it has been for 3 centuries.

 

Dealers and librarians have long deserved praise for their efforts to organize and structure the rare book field.  Joseph Sabin was both a dealer and an auctioneer in the second half of the 19th century, when he began his Bibliotheca Americana in 1867 [to be completed posthumously in 1936].  Charles Evans as a librarian created his American Bibliography, adding intellectual structure to the world of collectible books during his 31 year project that completed in 1934.  In the 1950’s Wright Howes, a specialist dealer, introduced Usiana to help the interested to understand and identify early non-fiction Americana.  In his era his book was a boon to understand the relationship between issue, rarity and value.  Such tools have always been essential and widely appreciated.  To dealers and librarians, we owe a profound debt.

 

With  the advent of the internet a different kind of resource emerged; the listing sites that the knowledgeable could initially apply their understanding to look for rarities being offered at low prices.  For this reason during the early years the internet was the skilled dealer’s friend although, since 2001 the garter snake turned into a python as Abebooks alone now lists more than 170 million items.  Scale turned the selling sites into a new kind of reference.

 

Into the transformational year 2019 The Booksellers, filmed between 2015-18, was introduced and spoken of as if the traditional dealer dominated game was continuing, just as Covid-19 was rewriting the script creating a sense of nostalgia for the bookselling world we have long appreciated.  In the juxta-position of the emerging world and the world on view in the film we could see that world was already slipping away.

 

Catalogues and book fairs are now being reconsidered. 

 

Realizing the high expense and limited reach of paper catalogues, dealers are now issuing electronic catalogues. They can now reach everyone everywhere, rather than just a handful of people on their mailing list, and they can update and add to their catalogues in real time. With Covid-19, they opened up virtual fairs, and while with the winding down of Covid-19 live fairs are returning, the virtual fair, with all its advantages in terms of reach and updating, and access any time of the day for any number of days, and lower costs for both dealers and buyers, has become a permanent part of the landscape. And while auctions have eaten into the market, dealers are increasingly responding with an if you can't beat them join them answer by starting their own auctions.

 

So to me this film, wonderfully done, feels out-of-date but can I also say “not-to-be-missed.”

 

I look forward to the next film that will reflect the many changes that are transforming the field:  the first being the surge of both new auction houses and more sales being offered by the established houses; the reliance on auction history as guides to rarity and value; and the intensification of collecting scope based both on what’s possible over variable time frames.  Dealers’ advantage was knowledge and these days information is much more widely shared.  But, as the builder of the largest database of auction and bibliographical history, I want to acknowledge that what separates the facts and the great copies is the wisdom great dealers possess.

 

When you sit down to see the film appreciate that America’s great Americanist, Bill Reese, made his last appearance, in this film.  He was, for more than 20 years, the captain that steered, by suggestion and example, how the principal dealers should be adjusting.

 

It is our tough luck that he passed away 2 years ago.  And our tougher luck that this recent film is feeling dated so quickly.

 

To see this movie on your phone, iPad and computer you have many opinions.. To pursue them search for “The Booksellers”:

 

  1. For free if you are an Amazon Prime member
  2. On Vudu for free
  3. On YouTube from $3.99

 

Here is the story in the New York Times that woke me from my slumber

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/arts/design/booksellers-movie-antiquarian-book-fair.html

 

 


Posted On: 2021-06-02 02:45
User Name: mairin

Always happy to see this 2019 documentary again, Bruce, terrific viewing.
Thank you for this. I knew & dearly loved many of these bibliophilic haunts & destinations; so sad that some are now gone, but a new generation is rising up!
- Maureen E. Mulvihill, Collector
(Brooklyn, 1982-2012)
___________________


Rare Book Monthly

  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000
  • ALDE, May 28: KIPLING (RUDYARD). Le Livre de la Jungle. – Le IIe livre de la Jungle. Paris, Sagittaire, Simon Kra, 1924-1925. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: NOAILLES (ANNA DE). Les Climats. Paris, Société du Livre contemporain, 1924. €50,000 to €60,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MILTON (JOHN). Paradis perdu. Quatrième chant. S.l., Les Bibliophiles de l'Automobile-Club de France, 1974. €2,000 to €3,000.
    ALDE, May 28: LEBEDEV (VLADIMIR). Russian Placards - Placard Russe 1917-1922. Saint-Petersbourg, Sterletz, 1923. €1,000 to €1,200.
    ALDE, May 28: MARDRUS (JOSEPH-CHARLES). Histoire charmante de l'adolescente sucre d'amour. Paris, F.-L. Schmied, 1927. €1,500 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: TABLEAUX DE PARIS. Paris, Émile-Paul Frères, 1927. €2,000 to €3,000.
    ALDE, May 28: LA FONTAINE (JEAN DE). Les Fables illustrées par Paul Jouve. S.l. [Lausanne], Gonin & Cie, 1929. €4,000 to €5,000.
    ALDE, May 28: SARTRE (JEAN-PAUL). Vingt-deux dessins sur le thème du désir. Paris, Fernand Mourlot, 1961. €1,500 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: [BRAQUE (GEORGES)]. 13 mai 1962. Alès, PAB, 1962. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MIRÓ (JOAN). Je travaille comme un jardinier. Avant-propos d'Yvon Taillandier. Paris, Société intenationale d'art XXe siècle, 1963. €1,000 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MAGNAN (JEAN-MARIE). Taureaux. Paris, Michèle Trinckvel, 1965. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: PICASSO (PABLO). Dans l'atelier de Picasso. 1960. €15,000 to €20,000.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions