On Collecting Books


Weekly Highlights

By Rich Rennicks

Our members list new acquisitions and recently cataloged items almost every day of the year. Below, you'll find a few highlights from these recent additions... Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie London: W. Collins Sons & Co, 1934. First Edition, First State. Full leather. Near fine. First edition, first state of Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.. Octavo, 254pp, . Red morocco, gilt trim. No additional printings listed. Title in gilt on spine, with five raised bands. Top edge gilt, marbled endpapers. Publisher's original cloth cover and spine bound in at rear. Solid text block, a touch of shelf wear, light toning to edge of text. A near fine example of a scarce first edition. Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) is the best-selling novelist of all time, outsold only by The Bible and William Shakespeare. Murder on the Orient Express is one of thirty-three mystery novels by Christie that feature the fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Offered by First Edition Rare Books. by BARENGER, JAMES (1780-1831); JAMES SILLETT (1764-1840) AND CHARLES TURNER (1774-1857) London: R. Ackermanns Repository of Arts, 1810. Oblong folio. (17 x 21 1/2 inches). 14 mezzotints, printed in colours and finished by hand, by Charles Turner after Barenger (10), Sillett (2) and Turner (2). Interleaved paper guards and endpapers. Contemporary half red straight grained morocco over marbled paper covered boards. Modern slipcase. A contemporary bound and hand coloured complete su... [more Weekly Highlights]

Rare book donations are being sought for an auction to help "turn the page" on Russian aggression in Ukraine. Helping Ukrainian Books and Booksellers (HUBB for short) is preparing an international rare book sale to support colleagues under fire in Ukraine. They have scheduled an online auction for mid-November and are actively seeking donations of rare and collectible books, manuscripts, artwork, and ephemera. HUBB was founded by Mitchell Kaplan, Jane Unrue of Scholars at Risk, Carolyn Forche, Christopher Merrill, and Askold Melnyczuk shortly after the start of the war. The group has contacted Oleksandr Afonin, president of the Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association (UBPA) to offer assistance. So far, they've raised over $30,000. HUBB recently distributed $10,000 among some 60 publishers and booksellers across Ukraine. Afonin says that these modest grants have made a big impact on individuals whose lives have been disrupted by the war. In the second round, Ukrainian libraries were invited to apply for grants to fund new books. Melnyczuk reports that HUBB has been able to fund 30 out of the nearly 1,000 applications. "Right now, we're asking supporters to aid our effort by donating a rare or collectible book, manuscript, photograph, artwork, or item of ephemera from their personal collection, which Catalog Sale will put up for online auction in mid-November," Melnyczuk says. "This is an immediate opportunity for booksellers, dealers, and collectors to directly aid th... [more Rare Book Donations Sought for Auction to Benefit Ukranian Booksellers]


2023 NCBCC Winners

By Rich Rennicks

The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA) is delighted to announce the winners of the 2023 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest: First Prize Ishaan Prasad (Harvard College) for "Confessions of a Former Sheep Thief: Ten Years of Exploration in Typography". Prasad first became interested in typography while designing arcade-style games for the iPhone, which led to a desire to understand the principles and reasoning behind typography and design. Second Prize Joshua Shelly (Duke University) for "Alte Bücher in Haifa: (Re)building a German Jewish Library in the 21st Century". Shelly came to collecting while working on a dissertation on German Zionist literature and became intrigued by the experiences of “a generation that continued to search for solace in the pages of German literature, even while its members packed their bags and set sail for far-off locales in search of refuge.” Third Prize Enrique Vazquez (Yale University) for "Tales of the Midwestern Northwoods". Minnesota native Vazquez grew up exploring the Boundary Water Canoe Area with family; his collection grew as a way to remain connected to the North Woods while being unable to visit. Essay Award Nichole Nomura (Stanford University) for "Classroom Editions of Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". Nomura's collection explores the evolving discourses around the teaching of race, the value of prose written in the vernacular, and perceptions of educators' obligations to students through ... [more 2023 NCBCC Winners]

J & J Lubrano Music Antiquarians LLC, established in 1977 and long-time members of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, the Professional Autograph Dealers' Association, the Music Library Association, the American Musicological Society, &c., are internationally recognized dealers in rare printed and manuscript music, rare books on music, autograph letters of composers, and music-related iconography, 15th - 21st centuries. We pay special attention to the particular collecting interests of our clientele and over the last 46 years have helped to develop some of the most important antiquarian music collections, both institutional and private, in the U.S. and abroad. We aim to provide accurate and informed descriptions of material offered to best enable our customers to make the wisest decisions regarding their acquisitions. We operate from private premises in the township of Syosset, on the north shore of Long Island. The area is known for its attractive parks, pleasant villages, and proximity to the Long Island Sound, as well as very good schools, hospitals, and high-level healthcare. Syosset is approximately one hour by train from New York City. This is a full-time, on-site position, with compensation commensurate with qualifications and experience but in the range of $45,000-$60,000. Responsibilities - Create original cataloguing for rare music-related material utilizing an in-house music reference library of approximately 5,000 volumes together with online reso... [more J & J Lubrano Music Antiquarians LLC Seeks Cataloguer]

One thing that distinguishes the book collector from the casual reader is a preference for owning first editions. What is a First Edition? A first edition is the format a book took when it was first made available for sale. The ABAA glossary of book terms states: First Edition: “All of the copies printed from the first setting of type; can include multiple printings if all are from the same setting of type.” Collectors distinguish between a first edition (the first printing of a book) and a modern first edition (which more-or-less applies to books printed from 1900 on -- although, the exact definition is open to debate between dealers). What is a First Printing? The first printing is the first batch of books printed from this first setting of type. For a small press, this might be the only printing a book gets, so all copies are first edition, first printings. The ABAA glossary is a master of understatement when it says “Every printed book has a first edition, many never have later editions.” For others, there might be dozens of printings, especially if a book becomes wildly successful. (Witness the recent trend to keep popular young-adult novels -- Veronica Roth's Allegiant and John Green's Turtles All the Way Down, for two examples -- in hardcover for several years, rather than replace the hardcover with a paperback edition a year after first publication.) How Can You Tell if a Book is a First Edition? In general, books before 1900 did not indicate first or subseque... [more Identifying First Editions]

When I hear contemporary politicians invoke Churchill, I usually feel like I'm watching King Louie, the Orangutan who wants to be a man, sing “I wanna be like you” in the 1967 Disney version of The Jungle Book. “You!” sings King Louie, “I wanna be like you I wanna talk like you Walk like you, too” Yeah. Not so much. If you happen to draw a comparison between King Louis and another loud, big-headed, oddly orange, wanna-be-king with impulse control issues and destructive inclinations, well, that's up to you. I refer you to another Disney movie. Cinderella. If the shoe fits… But I digress. “I'm tired of monkeyin' around!” Sure, there's a lot of ways in which most of those who self-flatteringly invoke Churchill fall short. Intelligence. Eloquence, Historical perspective. Foresight. Principle. Conviction. Courage. General capability. But, to me, none of these are the biggest shortcomings of the chorus of King Louie/wannabe Churchills. In my book, here's the most important and most regrettable thing the Louies typically lack – a presumption of shared purpose and the primacy of decency. Churchill could be fiercely partisan and relentless in pursuit of a policy or cause. And he was a true combatant by nature, whether on the battlefield, at the rostrum, on the backbenches, in Cabinet, leading a Government, or leading the Opposition. But Churchill did not confuse mere opponents with actual enemies. He regarded sincerity of convictions that he did not share. He was a... [more Two Pugnacious Personalities]

The ABAA Gender Equity Initiative Committee is proud to announce the second round of the ABAA Mentorship Program. In an effort to further the Association's mission, the mentorship program builds relationships between ABAA dealers and early-career booksellers, provides professional development opportunities for prospective ABAA members, and creates a recruitment pipeline that increases the number and diversity of qualified applicants to the ABAA. Apply as a Mentor (ABAA Members only) Apply as a Mentee During the year-long mentorship period, with support from ABAA Headquarters, mentors and mentees meet monthly to discuss aspects of their individual businesses and the trade as a whole. Knowing that “fit” is key to a successful mentorship, ABAA Headquarters and the Gender Equity Initiative Committee carefully match mentors to mentees, taking into consideration special requests, areas of focus, and business models. Location may also be a factor, but with the availability of technology like Zoom, need not be a requirement. ABAA Headquarters will be available throughout the entire process, from applications to mentorship pairings through the completion of the program, to address any questions or concerns that may arise. More information including a full list of requirements for mentee and mentor applications can be found here... Please feel free to pass this opportunity along to employees, colleagues, or others who may be interested. Don't hesitate to reach out to Xin Yi Zhao, t... [more 2023-2024 ABAA Gender Equity Initiative Mentorship Program]

Recently, I got the opportunity to contribute a short article about the multi-talented architect, engraver, collector, writer, and naturalist Simon Schijnvoet (1652-1727) to the website of the Panpoëticon Batavûm (in Dutch). Schijnvoet not only was a moralistic and witty writer with great knowledge of history and natural philosophy, but he also designed the cabinet called the Panpoëticon Batavûm. So what is the Panpoëticon Batavûm? Many people know the most famous painters from the Dutch Republic, for instance Rembrandt and Vermeer. Besides that, however, around 1700, the painter and engraver Arnoud van Halen (1673-1732) thought that Netherlands' most famous poets and writers also deserved a place of honor. Therefore, he decided to initiate a cabinet in which these writers could be united, and he painted their portraits encasing them with list in the form of a golden laurel. The collection was very progressive for its time, also containing portraits of female and Flemish writers. Even decades after Van Halen's death, his successors kept organising elections to add more authors to the growing collection. In the end it contained over 350 portraits. Unfortunately, in 1807 a catastrophe happened: close to the room in which the Panpoëticon was housed in Leiden, a ship full of gunpowder exploded, ruining a large part of the town. Although the Panpoëticon survived the disaster, it was severely damaged. The explosion financially ruined its owners, so there was no money to res... [more Simon Schijnvoet in the Panpoëticon Batavûm]

What's better: a simple author signature, or an inscription? As a longtime bookseller -- a veteran of Borders, Waldenbooks, and independent bookstores -- I thought I knew the answer. But, once I began working for antiquarian booksellers, I discovered the question is much more complex. A comment on the ABAA Facebook page recently asked why some booksellers appear to prefer plain signed books, rather than inscribed ones? While trying to find the answer, I encountered an interesting tale of changing fashions and the dark side of book collecting. The prevailing wisdom in literary circles over the past decade or two has been to ask an author for a plain signature when getting a book autographed (some collectors even purchase two copies, asking the author to inscribe one to them for their 'permanent collection,' and to simply sign their name to the other one, which they will hold onto in the hopes its value appreciates -- sellers of new books have no qualms about endorsing this point of view, although antiquarian booksellers know there is no certainty of modern firsts becoming valuable collectibles, and strongly caution collectors against viewing them as such). To my shame, I've organized and helped run hundreds of book signings and never previously gave this standard advice much thought. inscribed -- a book, or other printed piece, with a handwritten and signed statement usually written for a specific named person(s) and often located on the end paper or title page; when "inscribe... [more Signed Books Vs. Inscribed Books]

This fascinating blog post about the history of vellum and parchment is written by Richard Norman, an experienced British bookbinder now living in France, where he runs Eden Wookshops with his wife and fellow bookbinder, Margaret, specializing in Family Bibles and liturgical books. The article originally appeared on www.edenworkshops.com, and is reprinted below with the author's permission. --Editor According to the Roman Varro and Pliny's Natural History, vellum and parchment were invented under the patronage of Eumenes of Pergamum, as a substitute for papyrus, which was temporarily not being exported from Alexandria, its only source. Herodotus mentions writing on skins as common in his time, the 5th century BC; and in his Histories (v.58) he states that the Ionians of Asia Minor had been accustomed to give the name of skins (diphtherai) to books; this word was adapted by Hellenized Jews to describe scrolls. Parchment (pergamenum in Latin), however, derives its name from Pergamon, the city where it was perfected (via the French parchemin). In the 2nd century B.C. a great library was set up in Pergamon that rivalled the famous Library of Alexandria. As prices rose for papyrus and the reed used for making it was over-harvested towards local extinction in the two nomes of the Nile delta that produced it, Pergamon adapted by increasing use of vellum and parchment. Writing on prepared animal skins had a long history, however. Some Egyptian Fourth Dynasty texts were written on vel... [more The History Of Vellum And Parchment]