Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2006 Issue

Decorating With Books

Bookd

You can purchase books suitable for decorating from Book Décor.


By Michael Stillman

There was an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram a little while back that addresses books and book collecting in a way that makes me a bit uncomfortable. The issue involves the purpose of books, or books as sources of knowledge versus books as objects. It's a dichotomy that probably crosses the minds of most book collectors at some point, and I suspect most address it by believing, or perhaps convincing themselves, that their collecting serves both purposes.

Here is the issue more bluntly. Books were created to be read, to impart wisdom, knowledge, and information. However, collectors do not necessarily collect them for the intended purpose. They may never read the books they collect. They may have a passion for the physical object; spend millions of dollars to obtain it. Yet, that totally misses the intention of the author, who probably only received a few pennies for that book and ended up dying in poverty. The author wanted to impart something of great import to the book's owner, and now the owner, who spent more to obtain that book than the author made in his lifetime, doesn't even bother to read it!

I have books which I value though I have never read them. However, I have, at least, looked through them, skimmed their pages, enjoyed the illustrations. And, they are about topics with which I have a reasonable amount of familiarity, though I certainly don't know everything the author wrote. I have, sort of, managed to find a way to justify my interest in having the book without making the effort to read it. Naturally, with collectible books, I have the excuse of not wanting to cause the wear and tear that actually reading them would inflict. Through some twists in logic, I have somehow managed to justify my owning the book even in light of my, for the most part, ignoring the author's purpose.

So now, the Star-Telegram informs us of a type of collecting that essentially breaks all connections with the author's role in the book, the writing within. The book becomes object and nothing more. It is strictly a decoration, a piece of furniture, but with no utilitarian purpose. It cites an example where books were placed on a shelf backwards, spines in, fore-edges out, useless for identification, but neater and more uniform in appearance. Others pile them on tables (I guess to look learned), use them to raise table lamps higher, or create color schemes based on the books' colors. My favorite is a company called Book Decor. Rather than buying books the old fashioned way, by the title, you can buy them by the foot. Danish books go for $100 per foot, German ones $150 per foot, while French ones (everything French is expensive) will set you back $200 per foot. There's nothing about American books, which is sad, as I have many feet of them that I would part with for far less. Perhaps I need to sell mine in Europe. You can visit Book Decor by clicking the following link: www.bookdecor.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Shakespeare’s Sonnets, In Two Parts,</i> limited Saint Dunstan edition, Oxford University Press, 1901. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. $18,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b><br>Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b><br>Ian Fleming, <i>The Man with the Golden Gun,</i> first edition, first state with the dust jacket, London, 1965. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>The Voyage Out,</i> first American edition of the author’s first book, in rare dust jacket, NY, 1920. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b> Gabriel García Márquez, <i>Cien años de soledad,</i> Buenos Aires, 1967. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b> Mary Mapes Dodge, <i>Along the Way,</i> first edition, author’s copy, annotated in her hand, NY, 1879. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b> <i>The Dial: A Monthly Magazine for Literature, Philosophy and Religion,</i> first edition, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s copy, Cincinnati, 1860. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b> Gaston Leroux, <i>The Phantom of the Opera,</i> first American edition, first printing, New York, 1911. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 14:</b> Walt Whitman, <i>Leaves of Grass,</i> signed, Camden, 1876. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>New York | June 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 11:</b> Faulkner, William. <i>The Sound and the Fury.</i> New York: Jonathan Cape, [1929]. First edition in dust jacket. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 11:</b> Trautz-Bauzonnet bindery. Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 11:</b> Thompson, Kay. <i>Eloise at Christmastime.</i> New York: Random House, [1958]. First edition. In custom binding by Asprey. $2,000 to $3,000
    <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>New York | June 11, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 11:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 11:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. $6,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 11:</b> Taylor, Deems. <i>Walt Disney’s Fantasia.</i> New York: 1940. In custom binding by Asprey. $2,500 to $3,500

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