Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2009 Issue

Google Books: A Tool for Book Collectors

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Google Books Advanced Search


By Bruce McKinney

I'm using Google Books to identify additional early [or old if you prefer] material for the Rondout & Kingston Wiki Bibliography that I'm building on AE. The subject and purpose are unimportant. You can search for anything for any purpose; for research, collecting or whatever. I am hopeful of finding additional material to add to the one hundred eleven items I've already identified, and given the magnitude of books Google has now scanned - some 8 million and counting, I'm hopeful. I quickly realize though they have not been focusing this year on Rondout or on material that includes Rondout references in the text. I know this because the number of matches for this search has not materially changed from earlier this year. Nevertheless, there are enough references to make a close reading of the search results a worthwhile undertaking and confirm that Google Books is an extraordinary research tool. Many of the references will prove to be irrelevant but nowhere else on earth can you find this type of detail. It takes time to parse the multitude of references but it is worth the effort. There are, as of this writing, 1,085 references in the same text containing both Rondout and a date between 1600 and 1900. Compare that with Abe, 14; the American Antiquarian Society, 30, the Americana Exchange Bibliographic Database 32; and the Rondout-Kingston Wiki Bibliography, 111.

For this article I made a comparison of Google Books and Abe book listings as tools for discovering new material that include references within a narrow focus. Abebooks' database offers a hundred million items, and assuming a 150 word average listing, an instantaneous response within a search of 15 billion words. Google Books is already much larger. It today searches every word in 8 million books. That's probably 320 billion words more or less, more than twenty times the data Abe searches.

The search I'm running in the Advanced Search on both sites is simple, the term "Rondout" in the keyword field and various date ranges in the date fields. On AbeBooks I’ve been doing this type of search for years. It's very effective for identifying both primary and secondary material. When I run such searches on Abe, I sequence results in date posted order by selecting 'SORT RESULTS BY NEWEST'. In this way, before I get too far into the listings I usually recognize material from previous searches and stop there. Google lacks both this feature and its better alternative - 'search memory.' Given the scale of results it's almost an essential for searches that are updated every few months, to know when/where you left off.

So first I run the search on Abebooks and find nothing new. It is not surprising. I have made some great Rondout purchases over the years on Abe but there is nothing new of interest today. Fresh material appears randomly. I then switch to Google Books. It's easy to find. Just do a Google search for it by name: Google Books and then select Advanced Search.

Next I use Rondout as my search term in the title field and enter the date range 1600 to 1900. The results are both very fast and very thin; 39 records, many of them later. I then shift to the full text search and get buried in matches. Because Google Books matches both date range and terms anywhere in the full text of specific sources most references, it turns out, are to prior events rather than to original material. I can live with this because the detail is stunning.

Rondout's history emerges after 1750 but I start earlier because the second earliest known book auction in the colonies was held in Ulster County around 1665. There is a reference to it in Olde Ulster that Google Books hasn't yet found. I look just in case.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Les Cigarettes Mekka,</i> 1919. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Plinio Codognato, <i>Cicli Fiat,</i> circa 1910. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> L.N. Britton, <i>Warning! Consider the Possible Consequences,</i> c. 1917. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonardo Bistolfi, <i>Première Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs Modernes,</i> 1902. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Paquet Pernot / Biscuits Pernot,</i> 1910. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Francesco Nonni, <i>Font Meo / Acqua Minerale Naturale,</i> 1924. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Frederick Winthrop Ramsdell, <i>American Crescent Cycles,</i> 1899. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> <i>Be a Tight Wad! Own Something!</i> designer unknown, 1925. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Candido Aragonese de Faria, <i>Chamonix–Mont–Blanc,</i> c. 1910. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> W.E.J., <i>Irishmen Avenge the Lusitania,</i> c. 1915. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Maitres Affiches by MUCHA - Papier a cigarettes Job. 202. $5,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> De Bry - Map of the West Indies (including Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, Parts of Central & South America, Sea Monsters, Ships). $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gould - Short-billed Toucan (Ramphastos Brevicarinatus). $5,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Redoute, Folio - Pale Iris - Iris flavescens. 375. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gillray - Light Expelling Darkness or The Sun of the Constitution. $200 to $500.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gerard - Wild Hemp or Weed, Cannabis. 708. $150 to $450.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Shaw & Nodder - Head of The Dodo. 165. $100 to $300.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Family photograph album ("The Hughes family Album"), 1957-1962. £30,000 to £50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Typed letter signed, to Ted Hughes, on "my own private doctrine", with a poem, 5 October 1956. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Pen and ink portrait of Ted Hughes, [1956]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Joint autograph letter signed, to William and Edith Hughes, March 1960. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Photographic portrait by David Bailey, inscribed by Plath, 1961, and another press photo. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Tarot de Marseille. Deck of cards owned by Sylvia Plath. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Pair of gold wedding rings. £6,000 to £8,000.

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