Category: Early English Books

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