Allan Blackburn looks at an interesting chapter in the world of antiques...
Books fascinate me. I love a good book, mostly for its entertainment and relaxation value, but with my “work” head on, books are a popular field for collectors. As well as being widely available, there is a sense of kudos attached to collecting old books.
We get some stunning books in the centre. As you would expect, first editions are highly prized and particular authors will give value to a book. But the most important thing when it comes to collecting books (no matter the subject matter) is its condition.
When you buy a second hand book, check that no pages are missing, the spine is intact and that the book still has its original dust jacket. Dust jackets on books began to appear from around 1832.
This paper outer could be colourfully (and cheaply) printed and it protected the book from dust and damage. The presence of a dust jacket in good condition significantly affects the value of a book. (two first editions of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies were at auction – one had a dust cover and sold for £1,100 and the other didn’t.
It sold for £130 – a big difference!) The most valuable of collectable books are unusual copies of common books like the Bible and uncommon books like Ridley’s “Anatomy of the Brain”!
Good copies of uncommon books are the most sought after. Topics like medicine, war and children’s books are particularly popular.
Penguin first edition paperbacks have a particular following. Penguins published during the First and Second World Wars are especially collectable. Check the author, as well known, popular or seminal authors are generally more commercially valuable than an unknown author. Beatrix Potter is a typical example. Over recent years, Potter’s books have continued to increase in value. Her books, letters and drawings are fetching incredible prices. An inscribed first edition of Peter Rabbit reached an auction record value of £55,000!
While some books are regularly making hundreds or even thousands of pounds at auction, the vast majority of books are available for under £20. If you do not restrict yourself to first editions, many are available for under £5.
Choosing to collect books on a topic which interests you, or an author you like, will ensure many hours of enjoyment from collecting. Remember, though, that sometimes you must judge a book by its cover!