April 7, 2019

SIGNED LITTLE PRINCE – 1 of 525 – WHAT IS MY SIGNED BOOK WORTH?

One of the most common questions I receive is : What is my SIGNED  book worth?   Naturally, a book signed or inscribed by a well known author (we are not talking just previous book owners here who have scrawled their name) can be worth a considerable amount of money if the book is important and the author revered.  There are of course many types of signatures.

Some books have simply been signed on the title page.  These can be collectible,  but for me without the greater context of a dedication, they tend to be the least interesting.  Such books also require special scrutiny. Many books have been advertised on the internet as  “flat signed” by their author (or just simply  signed) , and this is a term that is not really acceptable among serious dealers.   The area is ripe with fraud as all it takes is an unscrupulous seller to buy an unsigned first edition and with a practiced flourish imitate the hand of an author.

After that, there are association copies – books inscribed by the author to someone.  These are far more interesting as they have a narrative  associated with them that requires explaining, context and research.   These are often much harder to fake given the extra words beyond the signature, which can often contain handwriting gaffes or “tells” that betray a forger.

Finally, there are signed numbered limited editions.  These were books specifically produced by the publisher largely for collectors and additional profit.  They required the author to sit there patiently wasting his literary talents  ;), tediously inscribing books for collectors’ pleasure – something for which we bibliophiles are often nevertheless quite thankful.   Numbered limited editions are understandably extremely difficult to forge.  Unlike more unique association copies, finding auction record comparables for signed limited editions is often easy.  There is a little bit of the cookie cutter pricing model involved when previous copies sold for a specific price  in the various databases (albeit one must make adjustments for condition etc. )

One of the signed limited edition books I am frequently asked to evaluate is The Little Prince.  Impressively, for a book that was printed in relatively few copies,  I probably have seen 10 copies in the past 3 years alone.

The Little Prince was first published in English by Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc. in New York on 6 April 1943 and a few  few days later in French, appropriately translated as  Le Petit Prince.   The beloved book of the famed French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, has become a staple of bedtime reading for children.   It is highly collectible both for the elegance of its simple meaningful story but also for the nostalgia of childhood that it evokes in all of us.   Anyway, I am not here to wax nostalgic about one of my favorite books, but like the businessman on the  the fourth planet, I am concerned with number crunching and matters of consequence.

525 copies (of which 25 were not for sale), were printed and autographed by the author of the original first English language edition. Additionally, there is the scarcer run of 260 of the French edition (10 of which were not for sale)

It is quite important to have the original dust jacket with the book.  Notably, the publisher did not print a separate jacket for the signed limited edition, so the USD 2.00 price was clipped and the limitation number written in ink above the publisher’s name on the spine.  A copy of the scarcer French edition sold at Heritage in 2008  described as ” jacket is slightly browned and a little rubbed, with a few small chips and tears, some repaired with tissue, those at the foot of the spine affecting a couple of letters in the publisher’s name.”   It realized $8962.50  inc. the buyer’s premium.  Prices have been rising at a strong clip as Forum Auction recently sold the English edition (1 of 525 and described as ” original pictorial cloth, light rubbing to tips of spine and corners, first state dust-jacket with publisher’s address listed as “386 Fourth Avenue” on front flap, priced $2.00, spine browned, spine ends and corners chipped)  for 10,000 GBP inc. premium.  Without the jacket, prices can fall as much as 50%, but it is still a very desirable book even in that state.

If you have any inscribed or signed book by any major authors, please email me for a free evaluation.  We are always interesting in buying signed copies of the Little Prince at competitive prices as well as inscribed book by Ernest Hemingway,  Mark Twain, A.A. Milne, James Joyce, Ian Fleming. Virginia Woolf, Khalil Gibran, F. Scott Fitzgerald et al.   I am always happy to provide actual auction record comps as well.

 

posted in: Uncategorized, valued signed book

December 30, 2018

Value of a Rare Chinese Book

This 1705 edition of George Psalmanazar’s An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa (i.e. Taiwan) is a long time favorite title of mine.   Indeed, the book is one of the greatest hoaxes of the 18th century. The mysterious author, George Psalmanazar, invented a book on Taiwan for eager English readers filled with tales of infant sacrifices,
breakfasts of viper’s blood, devil worship, all inventively illustrated.  For good measure, he included a fictitious alphabet of the Formosan language (depicted below), an effort that was so convincing that German grammarians included samples of  it well into the 19th century.  The book itself was a great success and went through two English editions, as well as later French and German translations.

Despite being blond with a faux French accent, and an opium addiction, Psalmanazar hobnobbed with the upper crust of London society including Swift, Johnson, and even Isaac Newton.  In this copy in an 18th century hand,  someone describes  Johnson’s love of the man who he called, “the most pious man he had ever met”

So, what is a 1705 edition of the book worth?

This copy sadly is not in pristine condition:  the calf is worn and dry, the front board is detached, and the title page has some inner marginal loss (perhaps slight gnawing) that just touches the outer border   Additionally, it has a one plate lacking.   Generally, in the antiquarian book world, when anything is lacking, it is often considered a fatal condition flaw.

If we look in the rare book auction record, we can see a copy perhaps in similar condition, albeit complete,  in 2015 that sold for a modest price of  $344 (including the buyer’s premium).  It was described as:

PSALMANAZAR, GEORGE An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa. London: Wotton, et al, 1705. Second edition. Half red morocco gilt. 7 3/8 x 4 1/4 inches (19 x 11 cm); 296 pp., with folding map and 17 plates (one folding). Some spotting, worming to lower margin of rear of volume not affecting text, rear joint cracked. C Estate of William W. Appleton.

The low price at auction for such an interesting  antiquarian volume is largely a consequence of its popularity.   Its success meant that it had a relatively large print run in its day and many copies survive in the trade.  Law of supply and demand as always.

So, what is value of this charming, albeit imperfect volume?   Well, it does have one interesting redeeming aspect: as mentioned above on the front paste-down , in 18th century  contemporary hand, someone has recounted Samuel Johnson’s love of the author.  While it would take more careful research to see if there is new information not previously known to scholars about their relationship, it dovetails nicely with the remarkable story of this forged account.   As such, it probably adds a couple hundred dollars to the value.

So, overall I would judge the book to be worth $400.

If you have any rare Chinese books, you would like valued,  please send photos to webuyrarebooks@gmail.com or text 6464691851.    I am always interested in purchasing old and antique books on China and the Far East.  

 

 

posted in: antiquarian chinese book, antiquarian chinese books, chinese book appraisal, rare chinese book, Uncategorized, we buy chinese books, we buy old books on china

October 24, 2018

What is my Historical Document Worth? – Vellum Manuscript

Sometimes, given the name of the site – “Rare Book Buyer”- I am asked if I only buy rare books.
While that is a focus of course, I also buy historical manuscripts, early autographs, and other documents. Except at the highest end of the market for the flashiest names, interesting  historical documents can often fall below the radar and are not as appreciated as they should be. Recently, I bought a small collection from a fine gentleman collector in Florida – the type of old school erudite man who bought for the love of research and learning and not to profit.

It is easy to sell Alexander Hamilton and George Washington letters. There are a many fine auction houses who will happily evaluate them and take them on favorable selling terms.  However, it is the low to the middle range of the market that is really struggling. The manuscripts can be hard to read and many, written on vellum, can be cumbersome to display. Their market is often small and the joy of deciphering and studying them is not rewarded financially when they are sold.

When I evaluate manuscript these days, I have to keep that in mind.  It is amazing how affordable interesting documents are that give great insight into history.

One of the manuscripts in the aforementioned collection was the handsome specimen below.   Just look at the superb minuscule hand and imagine how much time it took a scribe  to write out in 1603.  The manuscript is addressed to to King Phillip III of Spain, who historians have called  a ‘undistinguished and insignificant man,’ a ‘miserable monarch,’ whose ‘only virtue appeared to reside in a total absence of vice.”  Nevertheless, Philip’s reign remains a critical period in Spanish history.

So what is a manuscript by Francisco Ruiz de Castro, a Spanish nobleman, to the King worth?  Generally, these type of documents might get $200 or but perhaps, as an unusually  fine specimen of penmanship,  this one might  get more appropriately in the $300-350 range.

 

 

The manuscript:

KING PHILIP III and DON FRANCISCO RUIZ DE CASTRO. Vellum manuscript in Latin, approx 15×25.5 inches, 15 lines of beautiful calligraphy.  Very good condition with minor holes on the folds not affecting the text. Had a seal attached at one time with a silk ribbon of red and yellow, the colors of the Spanish flag, which is still attached. Document signed in good faith by Don Francisco Ruiz, Viceroy of Naples for the great King and Catholic Mjeesty in the King’s Palace, Naples, 12 March 1603. Although untranslated it is evident that this is a political and historical document. In the text there is a “Count of Lemos” identified with the date 12 April 1601. Don Francisco Ruis de Castro was the 8th Count of Lemos and became Viceroy of Naples in 1601. (12 April?). He left Naples 12 April 1603, no longer Viceroy, exactly one month after this manuscript was written. Numerous people are mentioned in the manuscript including many members of the Pignatelli family, a noble Renaisance family from Calabria, near Naples. Especially Giulio Pignatelli, 1587-1658, Marquis of Cerchiana, a town near Naples and the Marquis of Briatico, Zenobio Pignatelli another town in Calibria.

 

posted in: Appraisal Manuscript, Handwritten Document Value, Rare Manuscript

July 11, 2018

Appraisal of a Rare Early English Book – How much is my 17th century book worth?

I am a very active buyer of early English books and tracts from the 1500s  through the 18th century.

I recently received this interesting 17th century work  – Walter Cradock’s “Gospel-libertie: in the extensions limitations of it.”

One of the difficulties of buying a rare book like this from private person or family, is making a fair evaluation and offer.  After all, somebody who has inherited a book or library, may not have a full sense of the value of their book or collection.  They may also have high expectations-  as many people reasonably would for a book that is 370 years old!

In such circumstances, a rare book dealer should try to be as transparent as possible.  Usually, one is not dealing with unique works of art, but rather with books – even rare ones – that have nevertheless sold previously and for which their are comparable examples in the auction records.  I am always happy to supply such comparables from databases such as Rare Book Hub or the American book prices current etc. for books that are emailed or sent to me.

So, what is  this 1648 copy of  Gospel-libertie worth?  When considering this important question, one has to consider many aspects the book.

1) It’s rare: According to Rare Book Hub, no copy has been offer for sale at auction since it appeared at  Sothebys in 1994 (albeit in a group lot for GBP 1,265). That is a plus.

2) It’s interesting: The author, Walter Cradock, was an unflinching advocate of  liberty of conscience. Some considered him a Puritan dissenter or a radical troublemaker (who doesn’t like books by troublemakers?). A reading of the work shows he was no doubt influenced by the religious upheaval of the English Civil War as well as the early preaching of the Gospel in the new English colonies.   As an early work that  promoted religious liberty,  it resonates with modern readers. All good.

3) It’s charming:  Wrapped in old paper boards and with a 19th century (or earlier) string holding the loose signatures together, it certainly has some vintage charm and visual appeal.

4) Nevertheless, it is (at least for serious collectors) in poor condition.  The text block is broken, some pages are detached and internally, it has had its fair share of the ravages of time.  Frustratingly, it is also lacking a single page of the table at the end (underscoring the importance of properly ‘collating’ a book and verifying its completeness).

Therefore, despite its intellectual appeal and even the visual authenticity of book that survived great upheavals, it is a book probably only worth $250 or so – and even at that only to the right customer ready to overlook its flaws (something that is as hard to do in the dating world as in the world of selling antiquarian books 😉
If you have an early English book, and you would like a free evaluation, feel free to send photos to webuyrarebooks@gmail.com or text them to 646 469 1851.


Adam Weinberger, Member ABAA
Rare Book Buyer
1510 Lexington Ave 9D
NY, NY 10029
(646) 469 1851
Note:  By Appointment Only

posted in: Early English Books, NYC Rare Book Dealer, NYC Rare Books, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL

May 15, 2018

Autograph Appraisal & Value

I am often asked if I can offer an appraisal or an evaluation of an autograph.   The short answer is yes.  And, of course, we do buy autographs and signed documents in the regular course of our business.   While the fields of autograph collecting and rare books and manuscripts are separate, they often do intersect.   Generally, I shy away from 20th century sports autographs (just too many fakes), and prefer to concentrate on autographs of historical and literary importance.

I was recently was offered a charming album containing the signature of our illustrious 16th President.  There is something poetic, at least in my mind, about just the signature of Abraham Lincoln sitting isolated and dead center on a barren single page.   I enjoy contemplating it-  staring at a the modest hand, in keeping with the character of  the President, and knowing that 150 odd years or so ago, his hand rested with a quill on this very page.

Cut signatures of Lincoln from documents can be had for reasonable sums.  Here, as an example, is a record culled from the manuscript sales database in American Book Prices current (an excellent reference for evaluating autographs)

Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-65 – Cut signature, [1861 to 1865]. On .75 by 3.75 inch strip of vellum. Sgd as President. Minor smudging to his last name. Left edge touching the extreme beginning of the first “A”. Mtd at right & left edges. – Swann, Nov 3, 2011, lot 187, $1,100

Of course that is towards the very bottom of the price range, and prices can quickly escalate:

Full autograph letters of interest can command $10,000+ such as this one:

Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-65 – ALs, 15 Dec 1862. 1 p, 8vo. On bifolium. To Sec of the Navy Gideon Welles. Regarding a request for an appointment from controversial congressman Alfred Ely. With 3-line holograph postscript sgd (“A. Lincoln”) & dated 16 Dec 1862. Soiled & creased with some marginal tears (1 into text & signature of postscript). Signature of letter slightly smeared. Not in Basler. – Sotheby’s New York, Jun 13, 2017, lot 97, $11,000

And of course pieces of great historic importance in the history of our nation can bring staggering sums:

Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-65 – Ds, [June 1864]. 1 p, 16.25 by 9.25 inch copy of the “Authorized Edition” oof the Emancipation Proclamation, printed to benefit the United States Sanitary Commission. Sgd by Lincoln as President. Countersgd by William H. Seward as Secretary of State & by “Jno. G. Nicolay” as the President’s Private Secretary, who additionally certifies that this printing of the Emancipation Proclamation is “A true copy, with autograph signatures of the President and the Secretary of State”. Several inches of blank margin trimmed from original sheet. With mat burn at edges touching the Nicolay signature but not affecting other signatures or text. Foxed & spotted. – Illus in cat – Sotheby’s New York, May 25, 2016, lot 78, $1,800,000

Naturally, the first step in evaluating an historical autograph is authenticity.    Lincoln is a frequently forged autographed, given the nation’s reverence and his consequent desirability.  Perhaps the most notorious forgers of “Lincolniana” were Joseph Cosey and Charles Weinburg.  However, there are many less famous but still accomplished forgers as well- so one must always be wary.

It is imperative to study the handwriting and to determine if it is correct-  to make sure it is in keeping with the President’s known hand at that date and that it possesses the small ‘tells’ of a fluidly written signature that are hard to copy without evidence of hesitation.

Besides the signature itself, it is importance to look at the paper, the ink, and whether it makes sense that it is a document that the President would even sign.   Provenance is very desirable as well, but not always obtainable as documents often pass from hand to hand through families and collectors without record kepts.

In the example we were offered below, the authenticity is without question.   If the leaf were seen only in isolation, one may not be certain of this, but our example is bound in an album filled with many of Lincoln’s cabinet and contemporaries and was compiled as a courtship gift for a woman by a Washington gentleman of means and access.  I would love to relate the full provenance and story here of the album, but don’t want to steal the thunder of the Institution that will likely acquire it.

 

FreeAutographAppraisal

posted in: Appraisal Manuscript, Free autograph Appraisal, Free Autograph Evaluation, We buy autographs