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Children’s Books to Prime Your Summer Reading List

School’s out for the summer, and it’s time to stock up on vacation reading for the kids. This weekend, we’re presenting an auction of collectible children’s classics. Here are 6 highlights that are sure to tug those nostalgic heart strings and bring your children joy.

Food for thought is a first edition of the Peanuts Lunch Bag Cook Book, which has been signed by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. Published in 1970, the book is in near fine condition in a dust jacket graded very good. It is estimated at $160-$200.

‘Peanuts Lunch Bag Cook Book,’ first edition, 1970, signed by Charles Schulz. Estimate: $160-$200. Jasper52 image

 

Children can have fun learning the alphabet the old-fashioned way by absorbing the words and illustrations of The Teddy Bear ABC, which was published by H.M. Caldwell.

‘The Teddy Bear ABC,’ by Laura Rinkle Johnson, illustrated by Margaret Landers Sanford, published by H.M. Caldwell, Boston. Estimate: $325-$390. Jasper52 image

 

The Book of Fairy Tales illustrated by Henry M. Brock carries a $375-$450 estimate. Brock was a British illustrator and landscape painter of the late 19th and early 20th century. Most of Brock’s illustrations were for classic Victorian and Edwardian fiction.

‘Book of Fairy Tales,’ illustrated by Henry M. Brock, published by Frederick Warne, London & New York. Estimate: $375-$450. Jasper52 image

 

Pike County Ballads is an 1871 book by John Hay. The collection of post-Civil War poems is one of the first works to introduce vernacular styles of writing. Originally published in 1871, a second edition was published in 1890 and this third edition in 1912 by the Houghton Mifflin Co., which contains 35 illustrations by American artist N.C. Wyeth.

‘Pike County Ballads,’ by John Hay and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston. Estimate: $170-$200. Jasper52 image

 

Another classic book of verse is The Bells and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe with illustrations by Edmund Dulac. Laid into the book is a portrait of Dulac at work in his studio.

‘Bells and Other Poems’ by Edgar Allan Poe, illustrated by Edmund Dulac, published by Hodder and Stoughton, London. Estimate: $2,000-$2,400. Jasper52 image

 

Finally, there’s a well-read copy of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s classic A Child’s Garden of Verses, published by R.H. Russell of New York.

‘Child’s Garden of Verses’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, published by R.H. Russell, New York. Estimate: $1,100-$1,320. Jasper52 image

 

There’s a treasure in this collection for you. Take a look at the full catalog and find a new addition for you bookshelf.

Natural History Books: Exploring Nature From Your Armchair

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” – Vincent Van Gogh

One does not need to venture far to experience the wonders of nature. They’re as close as a single step outdoors, a glance out a window, or, the nearest bookshelf.

For centuries, natural history books have provided views and explanations of various elements of nature. These books combine remarkable illustrations with thorough details of complex scientific organisms within ornithology, horticulture, botany, and etymology, among other disciplines.

To gain an expert perspective about natural history books and the current collecting market we turned to Bruce MacMakin, Senior Vice President at PBA Galleries in San Francisco.

“A Picture Book of Beasts, British and Foreign: Or, An Introduction to Natural History,” William Darton, 1822, London. Sold for $4,300 in February 2015 through PBA Galleries. PBA Galleries image.

How is the market today for collecting natural history books? How does it compare with the market a few years ago?

The market for collectible natural history books is much the same as the market for books in general. That is to say, that while prices have basically recovered from the recession that began in the fall of 2008, the long-term effects of the Internet on the marketing and availability of books and the information contained in them has had a continued and profound influence on the values of old books. What was once scarce and hard to find in the thousands of bookstores scattered across the country and around the globe, is now available at the click of a mouse. This has depressed the value of more-common books.

At the same time, the ease with which rare books can be searched for and acquired has broadened the collecting base, and made the geographic location of collectors no longer a barrier to participation. A collector or scholar in the middle of Iowa can acquire books as easily as one in New York City. This growth in the number of collectors, coupled with the lack of intrigue in acquiring the more-common works, has driven up the prices of the more rare and significant material, as buyers vie for the few gems at the top.

“A History of the Birds of New Zealand,” Sir Walter Lawry Buller, circa 1887, London. Limited issue, one of 1,000 sets. (Est. $5,000-$7,000 in a June 3, 2017 auction). Image by Arader Galleries.

Is there a genre of natural history book that is most sought after, or is the appeal equal among various topics (botany, ornithology, marine biology, travels of naturalists, etc.)?

Every collector has reasons for collecting what they do, and for every topic there are star items that bring premium prices. This can be based on the importance of a work, its scarcity, condition or beauty. Many natural history books have striking illustrations, including hand-colored engraved plates, color printed mezzotints that were seminal in the development of printing techniques, or simple line cuts that still presented important records of the subjects. But overall, botanical works seem to have held value and interest to a greater degree than others.

 

Are natural history books more available than in years past? What do you think may be contributing to this?

There are, in general, more books available for ready purchase than ever before, due to the global marketplace provided by the Internet, so this is true of natural history books, as well. But it still takes effort to locate the works of highest quality and importance, and in today’s transparent world, where a significant book is less likely to sneak onto a shelf in a bookstore with its true value unrevealed, one will likely have to pay a healthy price.

“Voyage to the South-Sea and Along the Coasts of Chili and Peru in the Years 1712, 1713, 1714, Particularly Describing the Genius and Constitution of the Inhabitants, as well as Indians and Spaniards: Their Customs and Manners, their Natural History, Mines, Commodities, Traffick with Europe &c.,” by Amedee Francois Frezier, Jonah Bowyer, 1717, London. Sold for $1,230 in April 2016 through PBA Galleries. PBA Galleries image.

In addition to condition, what factors weigh in to the value of natural history books?

One should start with the importance of a book in establishing our knowledge of how the natural world works. A prime example would be the works of Charles Darwin – in particular, On the Origin of Species, the appearance of which in 1859 sent shock waves through not only the scientific community, but through society in general. It is an example of a book whose value continues to grow, and premium copies regularly set price records.

Another reason for natural history books to have value is the illustrations. Beginning with simple woodcuts in the 15th century, illustrations kept pace with, and in many cases engendered, advances in printing, engraving and coloring. Not only are the subjects of the illustrations important, whether botanical, ornithological, or geologic, but the techniques used are very significant as well.

“The English Moths and Butterflies,” Benjamin Wilkes, Georg Dionysius, Ehret and Jacob van Huysum, 19th century, London. (Est. $12,000-$16,000 in a June 3, 2017 auction). Image by Arader Galleries.

What are two essential tips you would offer someone interested in collecting natural history books?

As with any collecting field, concentrate on what interests you. That will make it a pleasant task to acquire the knowledge necessary to form a meaningful collection. Do not collect for value, but for significance (value will follow). And when faced with the choice of purchasing a lesser copy at a bargain price, or a premium copy at a high price, choose the premium copy. Then when you look at the book on your shelf, you will be proud of the acquisition, whereas the lesser book would cause you to regret the money spent. And from a practical point of view, in today’s market, the premium book will become more valuable, while the cheap book will only become cheaper.


Bruce MacMakin is senior vice president of PBA Galleries in San Francisco. The son of a printer, MacMakin began his career in the book-auction trade at California Book Auction Galleries in 1978, fresh out of college. It was an unplanned diversion that has lasted 38 years and counting. In 1992, he became a founding member of Pacific Book Auction Galleries, now PBA Galleries. His areas of expertise range from early incunabula and rare manuscripts to hyper-modern fiction and The Wizard of Oz.

A Book Collection Spanning 500 Years

Great books from the early era of moveable type up to the 20th century are featured in this week’s Book & Ephemera auction ending on Sunday, February 19th. Topics in this eclectic collection range from the history of Queen Elizabeth’s England to mid-century modern furniture.

Perhaps the most colorful volume in the collection is titled Documenti d’arte d’oggi, an experimental magazine of M.A.C. (Concrete Art Movement). Offered in the auction is the last of four issues, published in Milan, Italy in 1958. The 152-page volume contains multiple serigraphs, lithographs, woodcuts, collages of several artists linked to the Concrete Art Movement, as well as an intact pop-up sculpture by Bruno Munari (1907-1998). The original hardcover is a color lithograph by Gianni Monnet (1912-1958). This scarce publication is estimated to generate international interest and sell for $4,000-$5,000.

‘Documenti d’arte d’oggi,’ magazine, first and only edition, published by MAC 1958, New York, George Wittenborn, 152pp. Estimate: $4,000-$5,000. Jasper52 image

 

Fans of mid-century modern furniture will delight in a near fine copy of Knoll Design by Eric Larrabee & Massimo Vignelli (1981: Harry N. Abrams). The large square quarto volume retains its dust jacket, which is also rated near fine. The book’s 307 pages are profusely illustrated in color and black and white. It carries a $300-$400 estimate.

‘Knoll Design’ by Eric Larrabee and Massimo Vignelli, first printing, Harry N. Abrams, New York 1981, large square qurto, 3078pp, profusely illustrated in color and black & white. Estimate: $300-$500. Jasper52 image

 

Elbert Hubbard, an influential exponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, signed and numbered the book titled The Deserted Village, which was published by his Roycrofters in East Aurora, NY in 1989. The book offered in the auction is number 16 of 470 signed by Hubbard; only the first 40 copies of this limited edition were illuminated with extra original watercolor drawings by artist Minnie Gardner. No one knows how many of the original 40 yet exist, but they are considered scarce. This 56-page book is estimated at $400-$500.

‘The Deserted Village,’ by Oliver Goldsmith and illustrated by Minnie Gardner, No. 16 of 470, signed by Elbert Hubbard and Gardner, Roycroft, East Aurora, New York, 1898, 56pp. Estimate: $400-$500. Jasper52 image

 

From the same era and equally scarce is a first edition of George Bird Grinnell’s The Indians of Today (1900: Herbert S. Stone & Co. Chicago and New York). The 185-page book contains portraits of notable Native americans by photographer F.A. Rinehart. This important work is estimated at $900-$1,000.

‘The Indians of Today’ by George Bird Grinnell, photographs by F.A. Rinehart, first edition, Herbert S. Stone & Co., Chicago & New York, 1900. Estimate: $900-$1,000. Jasper52 image

 

Jurists will be interested in the first edition of Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Courts of Pennsylvania, Before and Since the Revolution by A.J. Dallas, published in 1790 by T. Bradford in Philadelphia. The 494-page volume, which shows wear, has a $400-$500 estimate.

‘Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Courts of Pennsylvania, Before and since the Revolution.’ By A.J. Dallas, first edition, T. Bradford, Philadelphia, 1790, 494pp. Estimate: $400-$500. Jasper52 image

 

In amazing condition for its age is a book published in London in 1569 on the history of England up to the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Like most surviving copies, this extremely scarce book is not perfect; missing the title page through page 12 (estimated at $4,000-$5,000).

‘A Chronicle at Large, and Meere History of the Affayres of Englande … ’ by Richard Grafton, London, 1569, full leather cover. Estimate: $4,000-$5,000. Jasper52 image

 

Also worthy of note is a first edition (second state) of The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson by James Boswell, published in London in 1785. Bound in full calf – quite possibly the original binding – it is in overall good condition and expected to sell for $500-$600.

There’s something for everyone in this collection – view the fully illustrated catalog of book and ephemera here.

How Youth Literature Became Big Business

The Many Pens Behind Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Other Youth Fiction Heroes

Juvenile literature is big business. Of the top 10 most successful authors of all time – both in terms of books sold and total revenue generated – three wrote for young audiences. Those titans of youth fiction include Britain’s Enid Blyton, illustrator/cartoonist-turned-writer Dr. Seuss, and, of course, Harry Potter mastermind J.K. Rowling, whose book sales surpass all but those of William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and a few other long-established authors, including Barbara Cartland, Danielle Steele and Harold Robbins.

Today, the names of successful writers of youth-oriented literature – Stephenie Meyer, Veronica Roth, etc. – are virtual “brands” of their own and known the world over. But there was a time when book publishers owned the authors’ invented names and used salaried, in-house ghostwriters to pen the riveting tales of young but confident characters like Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and the earliest protagonists of the late-19th/early 20th-century adolescent-fiction genre: the Rover Boys. The writers were interchangeable, but the tone of each series remained remarkably consistent throughout.

1903 photo portrait of Edward Stratemeyer from the Stratemeyer Syndicate records, Manuscripts and Archives Division. Public domain image

The first book packager to aim its books at children rather than adults was the Stratemeyer Syndicate, founded by New Jersey publisher Edward Stratemeyer. A national survey conducted in 1922 revealed that, by far, most books read at leisure by American children were titles produced by Stratemeyer.

What made Stratemeyer’s books different was their focus on entertainment, as opposed to moral instruction. Children could tap into their imaginations and mentally immerse themselves into the adventures of sci-fi savant Tom Swift or boarding school sleuths the Dana Girls, or for the very young, the Bobbsey Twins.

 

 

Scan of the cover of the original 1910 book Tom Swift and His Motorcycle, 1910, from a series ghostwritten by numerous Stratemeyer Syndicate in-house writers using the pen name Victor Appleton. Public domain image

No fewer than 15 ghostwriters produced the hugely successful Nancy Drew books under the pen name “Carolyn Keene,” although Mildred Wirt (later Mildred Wirt Benson) is credited as having been the principal writer. The writers initially were paid $125 for each book and were required by their contract to relinquish all rights to their work and to maintain confidentiality. That’s a far cry from, say, J.K. Rowling’s lucrative deals, which have led to her astounding net worth of an estimated $750 million.

15 Nancy Drew titles actually used in the filming of the opening sequence of the movie ‘Nancy Drew: Mystery in the Hollywood Hills.’ Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and PBA Galleries

The Stratemeyer series of books about teenage detective Nancy Drew began in 1930 with The Secret of the Old Clock. It was followed with a new book release every year for the next 26 years. A joint publishing venture between Stratemeyer and Grosset & Dunlap added 21 more titles from 1959 through 1979, followed by the last 22 books of the series, which were issued as a Stratemeyer/Simon & Schuster collaboration, from 1979 through 1985.

‘The Secret of the Old Clock,’ Nancy Drew mystery originally published in 1930. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Gray’s Auctioneers

A cultural icon, Nancy Drew is cited as a formative influence by a number of successful women, from Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former First Lady Laura Bush. Feminist literary critics have analyzed the character’s enduring appeal, arguing variously that Nancy Drew is a mythic hero, an expression of wish fulfillment, or an embodiment of contradictory ideas about femininity.

‘The Secret of the Golden Pavilion,’ Nancy Drew mystery originally published in 1959. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and PBA Galleries

Where Nancy Drew appealed mostly to girls, amateur detectives Frank and Joe Hardy – the Hardy Boys – attracted a mostly male readership. Like the Nancy Drew books, which all carried the Carolyn Keene byline, the Hardy Boys titles were created by a number of different ghostwriters who used the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon. Nineteen of the first 25 Hardy Boys books were the work of Canadian journalist Leslie McFarlane. The series enjoyed a long original-print run lasting from 1927 through 2005. Worldwide, more than 70 million copies of Hardy Boys books have been sold, and the first title of the series, The Tower Treasure, still sells over 100,000 copies per year worldwide.

‘The Disappearing Floor,’ first edition Hardy Boys mystery published in 1940. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers archive and Heritage Auctions

Both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have reappeared in other forms of entertainment, including feature films, TV shows, board games, and video games. But to collectors, the most imaginative way to experience their teen heroes’ adventures is still through a book from the original series, especially with the colorful dust jacket still intact.

How Dust Jackets Play a Key Role in Value of Collectible Books

In this throwaway society it seems ironic that the 19th-century innovation known as a dust jacket is no longer discarded once the book it was designed to protect is brought home. In collector circles, the paper wrapper is regarded as an integral part of a book.

By definition, the dust jacket is a book’s detachable outer cover, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that secure it inside the front and back book covers.

LEFT: One of the most important literary works of the 20th century and Ernest Hemingway’s most difficult first edition to find with its dust jacket is ‘The Sun Also Rises.’ This first edition with the proper first-edition dust jacket sold at a PBA Galleries auction for $42,000 in 2006. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and PBA Galleries
RIGHT: A first edition of ‘The Sun Also Rises’ without its dust jacket sold at auction in 2006 for only $168. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and PBA Galleries

Early dust jackets looked much different than they do today. After book publishers began using cloth bindings in the 1820s, they started providing dust wrappers, which protected books while being transported from the merchant to the buyer’s home. Because jackets of this type were torn when opened, they were normally discarded. Since they were not intended to be re-used, few survived.

Publishers’ dust jackets of the modern style, which covered just the binding and left the text block exposed, were in wide use by the 1890s.

After 1900, as bookbindings became less decorative, publishers paid greater attention to dust jackets, adding multiple colors, graphics, information and advertising. As dust jackets became more attractive than the bindings, more people began to keep the jackets on their books.

Today it would be unthinkable to discard a book’s dust jacket. Booksellers and collectors generally consider it essential to the package. A dust jacket on a book can be compared to the original finish on a fine piece of antique furniture.

“Not all dust jackets are created equal. It matters most with books that are avidly collected – that usually means some 20th-century literary first editions and fine press books. It can matter much less where the content is the major factor when purchasing the book,” said Dale A. Sorenson, PhD, ISA AM, a rare book expert and former owner of Waverly Auctions Inc. (now Waverly Rare Books).

“Of course, condition of the book and condition of dust jacket – or lack of a dust jacket – can play an important part in determining value. Recent literary first editions without a dust jacket become very difficult to sell unless priced at a few dollars,” said Sorenson.

In many instances a book with its dust jacket will appeal to collectors, but without it? Not so much. “It matters most where the dust jacket becomes the wide swing factor in value – first editions by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, where depending upon the condition of the dust jacket, the presence of one can raise the price 5, 10, sometimes 20 or more times than one without dust jacket,” said Sorenson.

A dust jacket can also support the distinction of whether or not the book is a first edition. As an example, a short statement by Truman Capote is printed in green on the inside front flap of first-edition dust jackets of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Such examples are scarce and highly prized.

“On Our way” by Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1934, hardcover with dust jacket. Sold for $1,000 by Jasper52.

Since the mid-20th century, it has become a widespread practice for publishers to print the price of a book on the inside flap on the dust jacket, and for many years it was common for the buyer to clip off the corner of the jacket bearing the price. Most book collectors frown upon this practice. In some cases – one being John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath – the lower inside corner of the dust jacket states “First Edition.” Sorenson says,“If clipped, much of the value is gone, as it becomes unclear if the dust jacket is the one that was actually issued with a first-edition copy.”

Another problematic practice is matching a found dust jacket with a book that lacks one. “It is done, but there could be a subtle difference between the original dust jacket and the one supplied, negating the value hoped for by supplying the dust jacket from another source,” said Sorenson, adding that the marriage should be noted along with the source.

Sorenson said that the subject of just jackets is complicated and that there are many exceptions to be considered. Dust jackets add only nominal monetary value to books in general circulation. They function as intended, i.e., to attract the initial buyer and to protect the book from too much direct handling and wear. “Where they do become important is when the book is a title that attracts collectors as opposed to readers,” Sorenson said.

For more information, Sorenson recommends Book Collecting 2000 by Allen and Patricia Ahearn. The first section contains extensive detail on the various aspects of collecting books. He also recommends Collected Books The Guide to Identification and Values by the same authors. It contains less detail about collecting and is primarily an extensive list of books in various categories, with current market prices.

Check out this week’s book auction for excellent antiquarian book finds.


Dale A. Sorenson, Ph.D., is former owner of Waverly Auctions Inc. and currently an ISA accredited personal property appraiser of used and rare books, maps, prints and autographs.

Collecting Modern Editions – An Expert Guide on Doing It Right

Embarking on an adventure in collecting something new and unfamiliar can be very exciting, but it can also be a bit overwhelming.

Case in point: turning a fascination for books into a passion for collecting them. The beauty of collecting books is that there’s a niche in the marketplace for just about everyone. The increase in modern edition books showing up in auctions – and in some cases fetching tidy sums – speaks to an opportunity that many are seizing as first-time collectors.

To gain a bit of perspective about the modern book market and gain a few tips for bibliophiles at any level of experience, we turned to Rebecca Rego Barry, author of Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places, and editor of Fine Books & Collections magazine.

What do you feel are some of the most intriguing aspects of collecting modern editions?

For collectors of modern firsts, there is probably an element of capturing the history one has lived through, or celebrating some part of that history. All collectors are trying to tell a story with their collections, and for collectors of modern firsts, that story is often very personal.

Also, for those who collect firsts—modern or not—part of the draw is to see and experience the book exactly as the author did.

Casino Royale, Ian Fleming, Jonathan Cape 1953, First Edition, Author’s Presentation copy, inscribed on front endpaper, marks the first appearance of the character James Bond, sold for $52,344 at Sotheby’s July 12, 2016 auction.

Casino Royale, Ian Fleming, Jonathan Cape 1953, First Edition, Author’s Presentation copy, inscribed on front endpaper, marks the first appearance of the character James Bond, sold for $52,344 at Sotheby’s July 12, 2016 auction.

How should the beginning collector proceed if they want to focus on modern editions but have a limited budget?

Slowly! Beginning collectors can and will make mistakes, so it’s best to take it slowly as you find your focus and educate yourself about book-collecting basics. I would advise new collectors to attend a few books fairs if they can, get the ‘lay of the land,’ so to speak, and talk to booksellers who specialize in the areas that pique your interest. Affordability doesn’t have to be an issue, unless you’re aiming for a collection of high spots (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Updike, etc.). If you secretly cherish some quirky or offbeat topic or author, that can be the perfect start for a unique and inexpensive collection.

Why do you think modern editions, like the Harry Potter series, are so attractive to collectors?

I think people are driven to collect books that are meaningful to them, so if the first book that truly appealed to you as a reader was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997, maybe that’s the book that will launch your collection of modern firsts, or the works of J.K. Rowling, or every different edition of HP, or high points of children’s literature – who knows?!

Collectible modern firsts are typically in very good (or better) condition, so they also tend to look aesthetically pleasing on a shelf, as opposed to, say, flaking, sheepskin-bound medical books from the mid-nineteenth century. For some, that may be a consideration.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury 1997, First Edition, First Issue (With an error found on page 53 — duplicate listing for ‘1 wand’ in the list of Hogwarts school supplies), sold for $55,628 at a Nov. 9, 2016 auction at Bonhams. The final price was more than double the high estimate.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury 1997, First Edition, First Issue (With an error found on page 53 — duplicate listing for ‘1 wand’ in the list of Hogwarts school supplies), sold for $55,628 at a Nov. 9, 2016 auction at Bonhams. The final price was more than double the high estimate.

What are four things every collector should keep in mind when collecting modern editions?

  1. Can three of them be ‘condition?’ All joking aside, condition is perhaps the most important consideration in modern first editions.
  2. Because modern books are produced in quantity, they are rarely ‘rare,’ so their monetary value is often based on condition, both of the book and, sometimes even more importantly, the dust jacket.
  3. But to back up a little, first you’ll need to determine whether the book actually is a first edition, and that can be tricky, which is why there are guides to help, like McBride’s Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions. If you’re working with a bookseller you know and trust, you won’t have to puzzle it out yourself.
  4. While some may like their books pristine and untouched, collectible modern books are occasionally signed or inscribed—so authenticity is obviously an issue, but so is the quality of the inscription. The ‘best’ or most interesting inscribed modern firsts can tell a story about the author and the person he/she inscribed it to: e.g., a friend, a lover, someone involved in the book’s production, a fellow author.
PT 109: John F. Kennedy in World War II, Robert J. Donovan, McGraw-Hill Book Company, inscribed and signed by JFK and all 10 surviving PT 109 crew members, sold for $13,750 at a Dec. 3, 2016 auction conducted by Heritage Auctions.

PT 109: John F. Kennedy in World War II, Robert J. Donovan, McGraw-Hill Book Company, inscribed and signed by JFK and all 10 surviving PT 109 crew members, sold for $13,750 at a Dec. 3, 2016 auction conducted by Heritage Auctions.

What are some of the lesser-known places one can find rare modern issues?

I think church and library book sales are still viable book-hunting venues. Just in the past few years, I’ve found a couple of ‘sleepers’ in this way, one at a church jumble sale in Syracuse, New York, and one at a university library book sale, also in New York. My very best find happened at a church book sale in Massachusetts back in 1999. That was a first edition of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, in its jacket, no less.

Several people I interviewed for my book mentioned Goodwill and other charity shops as great places to find modern and ‘hypermodern’ firsts.

What is one of the best quotes you’ve ever come across regarding books?

Well, that one’s easy for me. The quote from Larry McMurtry’s novel, Cadillac Jack, which was the guiding light for my book – ‘Anything can be anywhere.’ And this is borne out almost on a weekly basis when some unknown or ‘missing’ manuscript, book, or piece of art is ‘found.’ It appeals to the treasure hunter in all of us.


Rebecca Rego BarryRebecca Rego Barry is the author of Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places (2015) and the editor of Fine Books & Collections magazine. She also writes about books, history and auctions for The AwlSlate, and JSTOR Daily, and her chapter on the Warner sisters will appear in the forthcoming anthology From Page to Place: American Literary Tourism and the Afterlives of Authors (2017).

 

First Edition Books: What Every Book Collector Needs to Know

Nothing gets a book collector’s pulse racing faster than the discovery of a first edition – especially a rare one by a famous author. But how can you be sure that a book is, indeed, a first edition? Deciphering the clues can be perplexing, especially if you’re a novice bibliophile.

To learn more about first editions, we turned to book expert Bruce MacMakin, who is Senior Vice President of the San Francisco auction house PBA Galleries. PBA specializes in fine antiquarian and collectible books, autographed ephemera, and works on paper.

How does one identify a first edition?
Each publisher has its own way of identifying first editions of its publications, and even those are not always consistent, especially when taken over a span of years or decades. Many state “First Edition,” usually on the copyright page, which is generally the back of the title page. For some, such as Putnam, the absence of any indication of later printings means it is a first edition. Beginning in 1929, Scribner’s placed an “A” on the copyright page of first editions. If the date on the title page of Houghton Mifflin publications matched that on the copyright page, and there were no indications of later printings, that meant it was a first edition. And English publications generally would state “First Published in [year].” These do change over the years, and more recently publishers have become less mysterious in their modes of indicating a first edition.

 

"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," by L. Frank Baum, published by George M. Hill Co., First Edition, Second state, 1900. PBA Galleries. Estimate: $700-$1,000

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” by L. Frank Baum, published by George M. Hill Co., First Edition, Second state, 1900. PBA Galleries. Estimate: $700-$1,000

What can be learned from the printer’s key, and where is that found on a book?
The printer’s key, also known as the number line, is a line of text printed on the copyright page (the verso of the title page) of books. It is used to indicate the print run. Publishers started to use this convention around the middle of the 20th century. An example follows: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. After the first printing, the 1 would be removed, so the lowest number would be the 2, indicating a second printing, or print run, and so on. Sometimes there is a series of years, to indicate the year in which the book was printed. Note that Random House did not, for many years, use the 1, so if 2 was the lowest number on one of their books, it was a first printing.

What is the difference between a “first edition” and a “first edition, first impression,” and is there a great deal of difference in value between the two? Is a first impression identified as such in the front of a book?
A first edition may go through a number of impressions, or printings. The edition is the way the book is set up, with movable type in the days of letterpress, through photo typesetting for offset, and digital printing of today. The first printing, or impression, is the first print run from the original printing plates (regardless of their form or the mode of printing). Subsequent printings from substantially the same setting of type, even if there are minor typographical changes or variations, can still be considered first editions, but bibliographic honesty dictates that the fact of a later printing be noted. Later printings are often indicated, as in the number key, but there are also many cases where later printings are determined by more obscure means, varying by publisher or even individual book. There are usually substantial differences in value between first and later printings of a book.

Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises," Scribners 1926, First Edition, Faux dust cover. Jasper52. Estimate: $300-$500

Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” Scribners 1926, First Edition, Faux dust cover. Jasper52. Estimate: $300-$500

What are some of the most valuable first editions?
The value of modern first editions is closely tied to the presence of, and condition of, the dust jacket. Most books from the 20th century and thereafter originally came out with dust jackets, and some of the earlier examples can be quite scarce and valuable. As an extreme example, a first edition copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in dust jacket, has sold for as much as $310,000 at auction, whereas copies without the dust jacket usually go for around $2,000 to $3,000. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises can bring as much as $130,000 in dust jacket, but less than a thousand without. Books signed or inscribed by their authors also can bring a premium. One of the most notable examples is a fairly modern author, Thomas Pynchon, who is notoriously unwilling to sign books. An inscribed copy of Gravity’s Rainbow has brought $15,000 at auction, whereas copies not signed or inscribed top out at around $1,000, depending on condition, particularly of the dust jacket.

If you were a beginning collector and wanted to focus on modern first editions but didn’t have a great deal of money to spend, which titles or genres would you recommend to them?
There are many reasons and strategies collectors employ when acquiring modern first editions. Some collect the first books of many different authors, others seek books that have won Pulitzer Prizes or similar awards, and some focus on what are considered “high spots” of literature. But for a beginning collector, I would recommend collecting books by an author whose works you enjoy reading and which have meaning to you. One does not have to be wealthy, or even comfortably well off, to find collecting books an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating activity. Many collectors have begun by accumulating paperbacks and reading copies, then moving on to first editions and copies with dust jackets. Usually an author’s later books can be readily acquired at modest prices. As collectors progress, they will then work backwards towards the rarer, more expensive early books. Then there are inscribed and signed copies, uncorrected proofs, limited editions of some of the works, even the original manuscripts for the advanced and better-heeled collectors. ‘Completists’ can branch out to periodical appearances, illustrated editions, omnibus printings, fine press editions, and so on and so on. Finally, when satiated, one can move on to the next author of choice.


bruce-pba-galleriesBruce MacMakin is senior vice president of PBA Galleries in San Francisco. The son of a printer, MacMakin began his career in the book-auction trade at California Book Auction Galleries in 1978, fresh out of college. It was an unplanned diversion that has lasted 38 years and counting. In 1992, MacMakin became a founding member of Pacific Book Auction Galleries, now PBA Galleries. His areas of expertise range from early incunabula and rare manuscripts to hyper-modern fiction and The Wizard of Oz.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Ernest Hemingway

Novelist, short story writer and journalist Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was one of America’s most accomplished and influential writers of the 20th century. His economical and understated style influenced scores of writers who followed, and many of his works are considered literary classics.

'The Sun Also Rise,' one of three early edition books by Ernest Hemingway. Estimate: $50-$150

‘The Sun Also Rise,’ one of three early edition books by Ernest Hemingway. Estimate: $50-$150

It has been said that Hemingway’s work focused on themes of love, war, wilderness and loss. His first novel, The Sun Also Rises, tells the story of a group of American and British expats who traveled from Paris to Pamplona, Spain, to watch the running of the bulls. Although some critics gave it a lukewarm review, the New York Times wrote in 1926, the year of the book’s publication, “No amount of analysis can convey the quality of The Sun Also Rises. It is a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame.” The book has never been out of print.

'The Old Man & Sea,' Ernest Hemingway, First Club Edition, 1952. Estimate: $15-$30

‘The Old Man & Sea,’ Ernest Hemingway, First Club Edition, 1952. Estimate: $15-$30

The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway’s tale of an aging Cuban fisherman’s struggle with a giant marlin off the coast of Florida, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952. It was the last of Hemingway’s major works of fiction to be published in his lifetime.

Hemingway cultivated a life of adventure, immersing himself in the atmosphere of numerous exotic ports of call, including Africa and the Caribbean islands. During the 1920s, he took up residence in Paris, a place where his American dollars would go a long way and, more importantly, where he would encounter “interesting people” – artists like Picasso, Miro and Gris; and writers such as James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, who became his mentor. Hemingway later maintained permanent homes in Cuba (1930s) and Key West (1940s/’50s). In 1959, he acquired a property in Ketchum, Idaho. It was there that Hemingway died in 1961 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

'A Portrait of Mister Papa,' by author Malcolm Cowley for Life Magazine, January 10, 1949. Estimate: $15-$30

‘A Portrait of Mister Papa,’ by author Malcolm Cowley for Life Magazine, January 10, 1949. Estimate: $15-$30

Although much has been written about his remarkable life and peerless body of work, here are five things you may not have known about the writer known affectionately as “Papa Hemingway.”

  1. He was a volunteer ambulance driver for the Allied Powers in Italy during World War I.
  2. In 1918 he received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery for assisting Italian soldiers to safety, even though he had just been seriously wounded by mortar fire while trying to get cigarettes and candy to troops on the front lines.
  3. Hemingway kept dozens of cats at his Cuban property, but it was a white, six-toed cat he received from a ship’s captain that began the many generations of similar six- and seven-toed cats at Hemingway House in Key West. Descendants of the original cats continue to live on the premises.
  4. Hemingway was almost killed in two successive airplane crashes while on safari in Africa in 1952.
  5. There’s a life-size bronze statue of Hemingway inside El Floridita bar in Havana, with a framed photo of the author with Fidel Castro on the wall behind it.

Whether you’re a veteran collector of Hemingway, or just getting started, be sure to bid in this curated Hemingway Book Auction.

5 Unique Finds in This Rare Book Auction

Rare books and documents dating from the 16th to the 20th century are highlighted in this week’s upcoming book auction. With subjects spanning from design to Jungian psychology, this collection will ignite your imagination and broaden your horizons. Below you’ll find 5 hidden gems in this sale.

Signed Mountain Interval by Robert Frost

Poetry lovers will be interested in this 1924 printing of Mountain Interval by Robert Frost, which is signed by the author under his crossed-out name on the title page. The 74-page volume of poetry is estimated at $1,000-$1,500.

‘Mountain Interval,’ signed by poet Robert Frost, published by Henry Holt, 1924 printing (first published in 1916). Estimate: $1,000-$1,500

‘Mountain Interval,’ signed by poet Robert Frost, published by Henry Holt, 1924 printing (first published in 1916). Estimate: $1,000-$1,500

 

Freedom and Responsibility in the American Way of Life by Carl Becker

What makes a first edition of Carl Becker’s Freedom and Responsibility in the American Way of Life special are its unique signatures. The book is signed by both American authors and political activists Helen Keller and Clare Booth Luce. Knopf published the hardcover book in 1945. Lacking the dust jacket, this book is estimated at $400-$600.

First edition of ‘Freedom and Responsibility in the American Way of Life,’ by Carl Becker, from the library of and signed by Clare Booth Luce as well as Helen Keller, Knopf, 1945. Estimate: $450-$600

First edition of ‘Freedom and Responsibility in the American Way of Life,’ by Carl Becker, from the library of and signed by Clare Booth Luce as well as Helen Keller, Knopf, 1945. Estimate: $450-$600

 

Signature of King Louis XIV

The signature of King Louis XIV of France is found on a document dated 1694. The framed document is also signed by chancellor Michel Le Tellier. It carries a $1,000-$1,250 estimate.

Louis XIV of France signed document, 1694. Estimate: $1,000-$1,250

Louis XIV of France signed document, 1694. Estimate: $1,000-$1,250

 

Native Son by Richard Wright

This first edition Native Son by Richard Wright, published by Harper & Brothers in 1940 will appeal to the modern collectors. It is offered with a $100-$200 estimate.

First edition of ‘Native Son,’ by Richard Wright, Harper & Brothers, 1940. Estimate: $100-$200

First edition of ‘Native Son,’ by Richard Wright, Harper & Brothers, 1940. Estimate: $100-$200

 

Ackermann’s Poetical Magazine

A handsome four-volume set of Ackermann’s Poetical Magazine, 1809 is featured this week. This illustrated set contains the first appearance of the famous poem by William Combe featuring the great Dr. Syntax and his horse Grizzle. The four volumes are bound in half calf over marbled boards with oxblood morocco spine labels.

Ackermann's Poetical Magazine, Dedicated to the Lovers of the Muse by the Agent of the Goddess by Rudolph Ackermann, 1809. Estimate: $700-$1,000

‘Ackermann’s Poetical Magazine, Dedicated to the Lovers of the Muse by the Agent of the Goddess’ by Rudolph Ackermann, 1809. Estimate: $700-$1,000

Looking for your book treasure? Discover more unique items in this 16th-20th century book auction.

Getting Hooked on Rare Books: 3 Experts Share Their Stories

From the time you learn to read as a child, you are invited to explore new cultures and discover new worlds through books. This nostalgic root of reading is core to why antiquarian and rare books are eternally popular, even despite the rise of e-readers and the Internet. But how does one make the leap from book lover to rare book obsessor? We reached out to three rare book experts and asked them to answer our burning question: What was the first book that got you hooked on rare books and collecting?

Angel Webster, Specialist in the New Rare Books

By Source, Fair use

By Source, Fair use

I read Moby Dick in High School and then wrote an essay on it to help me get into a good college. I got an A and I moved on. And on and on. I couldn’t wait to leave my small town. The next thing I knew I was 40 and there it was one day in front of me…a First Edition of Moby Dick. The book that I used to get me into college. It was squat, battered and faded. It looked like a tired, useless, old, used book. Moby Dick — where all Americans are represented as afloat, isolated on the waters, in danger, working, struggling, suffering — but as one tireless unit. And it was complete, that love I had for it, how it, like me, had struggled to exist and be seen and read, against all odds.

The first book in my collection was “The Old Huntsman and Other Poems” by Siegfried Sassoon. Second American Printing, 1920. I discovered it in a corner section of books in a used furniture store. Books from that era are hard to spot but if you squint your eyes and look for bland, buckram spines, you sometimes get lucky.

Erik DuRon, Rare Book Expert

By Glenn Cravath - http://www.fullyarticulated.com/page30/page36/page35/page24/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49572764

By Glenn Cravath – http://www.fullyarticulated.com/page30/page36/page35/page24/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49572764

The first book I bought for myself, when I was 8, was an Ace paperback reprint of the novelization of the original King Kong film from the 1930s. I found it in a spinning rack at an old drugstore in Greenwich Village, the kind of place with a mosaic tile floor and glass jars on wooden shelves behind the counter. The dusty, slightly medicinal smell of the place is forever associated in my mind with books. I still have that paperback.

Jennifer Robertson, Book and Paper Conservator

Via @bookandpaperconservation on Instagram

Via @bookandpaperconservation on Instagram

I don’t know if there was one particular book I could trace to, but when I started a part-time job at a used book store that also dealt in antiquarian books, my world was changed.

At the time, I came from a fine art background, so I started working with prints, maps and ephemera. But they got me cataloguing some of the rare books as well, and the tactility of the materials – leather, cords, parchment, gold tooling, etc. – really captured my attention.

Working at that bookstore led me to a career in conservation, where I now specialize in the conservation and restoration of fine art on paper, archival materials and rare books. I work privately and treat items for a variety of museums, libraries and archives, as well as private collectors. So, I own very few rare books myself, but I feel that every time that passes through my studio is a little bit mine, for a short time.

One of my biggest thrills was when, during an internship position, I worked on a page from the Gutenberg Bible. Not many people in the world can say they’ve handled a piece of history like that!


What got you hooked on book collecting? Do you have a distinct memory of the first book you collected? Share your stories with us on Twitter @ByJasper52 – We can’t wait to hear and retweet our favorites.