Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2007 Issue

What are the Top 10 Most Common Books in Libraries?


No. 1 on the OCLC list, the all-time bestseller, the Bible.

2. Runner up, and though a distant second, the only other book remotely in the ballpark, is the Census. However, while the Bible does not have too many versions, the Census requires many censuses of many types over many years to accumulate its second-place 460,628 copies.

3. Now we get to a bit lighter fare. Third is Mother Goose, the classic children's stories that come in many varieties. Indeed, it is hard to know when these tales began or connect any particular author to them. This is an amorphous item, but it is nonetheless credited with 67,663 copies.

4. The last book to average over one copy per library is Dante's Divine Comedy. It has had plenty of time to be accumulated in libraries, it being almost seven centuries old, older than printing. At 62,414 copies, chances are your library has one.

5. Next up is a book that makes Dante look modern. In fact, it competes with the Bible for age. It is Homer's Odyssey, still going strong after all of these years. 45,551 copies.

6. Homer accomplished something neither Shakespeare nor even God could -- two books in the OCLC Top 10. Just a little behind his last entry comes the Iliad with 44,093 copies.

7. At last something that's recent enough to come from an American author -- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. His friend Tom Sawyer is number 16. Could there possibly be an American library without this book? 42,724 copies.

8. This one is downright modern, though I'm not sure it deserves this high a ranking: Lord of the Rings (trilogy) by J.R.R. Tolkien. 40,907 copies.

9. The first Shakespeare, the aforementioned Hamlet, and this is behind Lord of the Rings? 39,521 copies.

10. Another worthy Englishman, and a contemporary of Twain -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Like Twain, author "Lewis Carroll" was really someone else. After this book, logic was never the same. 39,277 copies.

The next two are a couple more Middle Ages classics, Don Quixote and Beowolf. While religion is a runaway at number 1 with the Bible, it also captures number 13 with the Koran 230 with the Book of Mormon, and 594 with Dianetics (of Scientology). Number 14 is the Night Before Christmas, but it would be stretching things to call that book religious, even if it is about Christmas. While religion is omnipresence on the list, the state seems more separated from libraries, with the U.S. Constitution managing only 10,330 appearances, good for just 237th place.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> <i>Manhattan Gay Scene Guide 1969, Summer Edition,</i> Mattachine Book Service. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Harvey Milk, 2 autograph letters signed, to Pat Mormon, during US Navy service, 1954. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>“The secret of life is in Art,”</i> autograph quotation dated and signed, 1882. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Daniel Abraham, original art for <i>Stonewall Romances,</i> pen, ink & gouache, 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Antonio Lopez, 9 men’s fashion studies, graphite, 1974. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Susie Gaynes & Amy E. Bartell, <i>March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights,</i> 1987. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> <i>Paris is Burning,</i> photo offset poster by Anne Dutlinger, signed by film director Jennie Livingston, 1991. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Toyen, pen & ink illustration from <i>Marquis de Sade: Justina cili prokletí ctnosti,</i> 1932. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Untitled (Genet with Dog),</i> mixed media collage. $8,000 to $12,000.

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