Adding Value to Books by Creating a Collection
Since a definitive edition of this work did not appear until the twentieth century, the answer to the question of first edition, in my mind, was that the whole collection was a kind of evolving first edition. And so the idea for the collection was born. We thought it would be fun to acquire most if not all of the major appearances of the book and then connect the dots with scholarly material, photographs, and "packaging".
A collection, however, is not just a group of related books. In addition to researching each book and describing it, we placed it in the flow of translations and reprints. We wrote an article for Americana Exchange describing the evolution of the memoir. This article was picked up by a freelance writer from Antiques Roadshow magazine, who interviewed me for their January publication in celebration of Franklin's tercentenary. We could not have purchased advertising better than our exposure on the Web and in print.
This month, the collection, complete with annotated tags, a poster, a handout, and local press releases, is on exhibit at Sturgis Library in Barnstable, housed in the country's oldest library building. Advertising for the exhibit was initiated by the library. This in turn led to a close-up article on the collection by the Cape Cod Times which will be appearing shortly. It is always a plus when a collection is publicized by someone other than its owner.
We will continue to add additional books to the collection, as well as background materials and expose it in ways that make sense. We now have a library of professional photographs taken of each work and enough written material to create a small booklet. With experience and research, comes additional expertise. When we eventually sell the collection, it will be for significantly more than the sum of the values of each book in it.
The basic technique is this: Find a theme for your collection, one in which you have passion. There are innumerable ways to slice and dice knowledge. You can look at a theme repeated in many different works; the works of one author or illustrator; the works of a publishing house; key works in particular subjects. Secondly, be the expert. Learn and keep learning about the books in your collection. Next, make contributions to the field. Write articles for publications (print and online) that might have an interest in the work. Piggyback one article with others. Expose the collection through exhibits (both bricks-and-mortar) and online. We've even used eBay on more than one occasion (with a very high reserve) to "advertise". Package the collection with custom boxes, signed articles, photographs, along with its history and exhibition itinerary make your collection truly memorable. By the time you sell it, it will not have only geometrically increased in price, but you will have gained invaluable knowledge.