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By Lori Verderame
Assembling An Enviable Library
I have a lovely, scholarly sister who works as an English professor. She, better than anyone else I know, certainly is acquainted with and knowledgeable about great books. This level of education and passion is what makes someone a great book collector. My sister is not a book collector by any means but what she knows about books can help interested collectors select the best titles for both their bedside tables and their bank accounts.
Informed book collectors know which books to covet and which ones to condemn. If you want a recommendation about a great book to read, I say that your best bet is to consult with an avid reader. And if you want to know about the market for a particularly great book, ask an appraiser who is an avid reader. If you want to start your own collection of fine literary masterpieces that are as interesting as they are valuable, my advice is to start reading.
In this age of Nooks, Kindles, and other electronic readers, I have found over the years that the best collectors in any field are the ones who know their stuff inside and out — no matter the format. When it comes to books, knowing the field surely describes my sister. And, if I need the inside scoop on the best titles, she’s my “go to girl” on the topic.
Whether you are interested in displaying or digesting your collection of old books, the book collector is not a thing of the past. Many people are enjoying the process of seeking out and assembling enviable libraries. Here are some tips to remember when collecting old books:
- Books were made differently in bygone days compared to the way that they are made today. The paper used in centuries past had a high acid content and wood pulp, which promotes yellowing over time. These pages can easily rip, crease, tear, and discolor. Touching them repeatedly can also result in drying out your hands as you read these cherished titles. Be gentle.If you are reading your old books solely for enjoyment, take care when turning the pages and when opening the cover. Don’t stress the binding by opening and closing the book too often. Books should be placed on their side, not upright upon a shelf.
- Use a book stand to host an aging book whenever it is convenient. This accessory will help to keep the binding strong, the pages intact, and protect the overall structure of the book. The condition of your old book will impact value, too.
- Books featuring imagery by important illustrators hold their value in the marketplace, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with John Tenniel illustrations or Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson with illustrations by N. C. Wyeth. Other famous illustrators can impact a vintage book’s value like Beatrix Potter, E.B. Lewis, Rockwell Kent, etc.
- Good condition is very important. If you can, purchase or retain original wrappers, dust jackets, and slipcases as these accessories can increase the value of a vintage book.
Great novels that masterfully chronicle a time period and place in the world such as Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind are desirable and valuable. And, books that highlight a particular genre or make an impact on the history of literature itself, like J. K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series, are favorites with collectors, too.
So, before you put old books that are gathering dust into a box and take them to the a local book barn or neighborhood yard sale, find out what your bookshelves hold in terms of historical content and cash.
Arts & Antiques by Dr. Lori