Category: Early English Books

October 31, 2019

Appraisal of an 18th century Book – unusual provenance

So, I’m just back from a trip up to Westchester, NY where I bought several boxes of antiquarian volumes that belonged to a prominent lawyer.

One of the volumes fresh out of the box is a copy of Jean Louis de Lolme’s
The Constitution of England, or an Account of the English Government; In Which It Is Compared with the Republican Form of Government, and Occasionally with the Other Monarchies in Europe. Printed in London by  T. Spilsbury and Sold by G. Kearsley, in 1775.

I love Constitutional law, especially anything printed around that magical year of the American Declaration.  This volume was a frequently reprinted (I have had several copies over the years), but it still is an important work that influenced many of the framers of the United States Constitution.

A quick physical  inspection of the book (as seen in the photos below) shows that it is bound in it original 18th century marbled boards.  Unfortunately, the spine is rather dry and worn, but to its credit, the pages are what we call “uncut” – which is a heartwarming word to rare book dealers and collectors who appreciate original condition.

A quick review of the auction databases on sites such as RareBookHub, reveal a rather depressing state of affairs.   A copy of this First English edition sold for $23.50 in 2014 at auction.   I have to retype that for emphasis as it is quite unbelievable to type even.  $23.50!!  Can you imagine an an interesting 18th century work being sold for the price of a few lattes at Starbucks?  It shows that not everything old is gold.

The prices of retail copies is a bit more reassuring.  On sites like ViaLibri, one can find ranges for the book (or at least similar editions) from about $200-900, depending on the exact edition, condition etc.   With that said, there appears to be several copies circulating in commerce, and it is getting harder and harder to sell books of which several copies can be found online at the touch of a few buttons.

This particular copy has some redeeming aspects which I believe raise the value and its desirability – and as a rare book dealer,  it is my passion and job to discover and highlight them.   First, it has a lovely  late 18th century bookplate of CHAINED MONKEYS.  That is enough charm to win over my heart.   A quick Wikipedia search and wee can se that it is the ex-libris of St Andrew St John, 14th Baron St John of Bletso PC FRS (22 August 1759 – 15 October 1817), an English politician who sat in the British House of Commons from 1780 until 1806 when he inherited a peerage.  So, this copy  of a  influential work belonged to a politician during the year that America wrote her Constitution in 1783.   Very cool indeed, but generally even that provenance is not sufficient in the market today to substantially raise the value of the copy – albeit, we are building an interesting story around the book.

However, it gets better.   When I read through the inscriptions in ink on the following page, they contain a very unusual and remarkable record:  the book appears to have been passed AMONG WOMEN READERS and women readers alone.  It contains such jottings in an old hand as “1776   Mrs. Stephenson received this Book Nov 5 || Miss Manley sent this book to Lady Robinson”  The list continues for about 15 lines as the book was clearly circulated among the 18th century  aristocratic women, who perhaps were keenly interested in Constitutional law given the regular news of the increasingly tumultuous state of affairs in America.  The list of names requires additional investigation, but I have not seen a similar list in any book that I can recall handling.

So, overall despite being a relatively common work in commerce, and well represented in various institutions in its many editions, this particular copy is very interesting and unusual.    Its boards are a bit dry and the spine could use some restoration, but generally I would say this is a work that I would be able to price in the $500 range and find some institutional interest from  a special collections that focuses on  women studies or more generally a law library.

If you have any rare books or manuscripts and would like a free evaluation, don’t hesitate to send photos buy email to webuyrarebooks@gmail.com or by text to 646-4691851.

 

Where to sell rare book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

posted in: 18th century book value, Constitution value, Early English Books, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL

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