Category: Uncategorized

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

May 4, 2017

An Interesting Deed Indeed

Title and land deeds survive in abundance.  They are often large sheets of particularly sturdy parchment that have escaped the ravages of time that destroy a lot of other early paper counterparts and ephemera.    They are also quite attractive, filled with meticulous calligraphy  and generally remain a very neglected area of collecting.   I am often offered vellum deeds or asked how much they are worth.   Surprisingly, most have very little monetary value in the market unless they are signed by important people, are particularly early, or can shed some light on an interesting household.  Still, any old deed should be properly evaluated as some can fetch substantial sums. For example, a deed to Mohawk land at Schenectady, New York to Johannis Vedder, signed  by 3 Mohawks with their totem signatures, recently got $18,000 at a rare book auction.

This recently purchased 1694 New York deed is not in the high value category of Indian deeds, but it is of scholarly interest.  It conveys a water lot of Peter Sinclair, a mariner on the south side of Pearl Street.   Wait, but Pearl Street does not touch the water?   Well, it once did. In fact, it was the original eastern shoreline of the lower part of Manhattan Island, until the latter half of the 18th century when landfill over the course of several hundred years has extended the shoreline roughly 700–900 feet further into the East River, first to Water Street and later to Front Street.

Besides affording a lesson in early Manhattan geography, if not urban planning, it also gives insight into early immigrant communities. According to Joyce Goodfriend’s “Before the Melting Pot” (1994): “Religious persuasion may also have influenced the marriage choices of British immigrants to New York City. Because of the doctrinal similarity between the Presbyterian church and the Dutch Reformed Church, dissenters may have found it relatively easy to marry into Dutch families. Three Scottish men, for example, married Dutch women in New York City. ”  One of those Scotsman,  Robert Sinclair, married Mary Duycking in the New York City Dutch Reformed Church in 1683. “Sinclair‘s life history shows how a British newcomer was incorporated into a Dutch kinship network in New York City.”

 

 

17th Century Vellum Deed

17th Century Vellum Deed

posted in: Handwritten Document Value, NYC Rare Book Dealer, NYC Rare Books, Old Manuscript Value, old paper, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, Uncategorized, We Buy Manuscripts, We buy old books, We buy Rare Books

October 1, 2016

The Value of Old Paper – Junk in the Trunk

Since we are large buyers of old paper, ephemera and manuscripts, we always caution sellers not to throw ANYTHING out.   It is incredible the number of times I am called to an estate or library to appraise or evaluate books, and after an hour of finding little of interest or value on the shelves, I discover in a drawer, attic, or overlooked closet,  papers that contain something remarkable or valuable.

Ephemera is loosely defined as “items of collectible memorabilia, typically written or printed ones, that were originally expected to have only short-term usefulness or popularity.”  It includes a large variety of old paper, scrapbooks, trade-cards, broadsides, newspapers, and pretty much anything printed.  Sometimes these fragile – ephemeral- pieces of paper survive in very few if any copies and they are often cultural windows into the period in which they were printed.   In today’s market such ephemera has become very fashionable to collect – largely for its rarity.  Everyone wants something interesting and fresh that does not pop up with regularity in commerce or at auction.

About 15 years ago, as an example, I found a thin tissue paper laid in the pages of an old Irish book.  The paper contained the lyrics of the  “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, the now famous “Star Spangled Banner,”  written in 1814, by the young lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships.   It turned out to be an unrecorded and contemporary broadside of the poem and of considerable scholarly and monetary value.

As another example, sitting on the pile of old papers in the photo below is an interesting 1807 broadside that was printed in New Hampshire.   Simply signed by the anonymous ‘Americanus’,  it concerns raising taxes to pay for the cost of the Louisiana purchase- a subject which appeals to scholars interested in the history of economics as well (no doubt) to real estate brokers impressed with (if not envious of)  the greatest real estate deal in history.   As a rare broadside, it is worth up to $750 to the right buyer.

So, don’t throw any old paper out!  Sift through those trunks! Empty those drawers and shoeboxes.   There are lots of undiscovered treasures out there- it’s not just junk in a trunk.

[BROADSIDE] [AMERICANA] [DIRECT TAX]  Author: Americanus  [United States] : [publisher not identified], [New Hampshire, c. 1807] Moderately foxed, margins slightly chipped & frayed, several insignificant separations along folds. Uncut. VERY RARE. Top with “In such a country, so happily circumstanced,” [etc.—quotation from Washington’s Farewell Address]. 1 p. 45.2 x 28 cm. “Concerns the cost of the Louisiana purchase, with a table showing the proportionate cost per county of the $15 million bill, and describing how the Embargo Act makes it difficult if not impossible to pay France without a special tax. The writer, ”Americanus,” also warns of the threat of European war.” Ref: Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04073

 

 

webuyoldpaper-1

posted in: ephemera, Handwritten Document Value, old paper, sell rare books, Uncategorized

September 4, 2016

Value of a ‘Dust Jacket’ on a Rare First Edition

As a rare book dealer, I get calls on a weekly basis to provide valuations of first editions. These requests usually involves some household names of authors of the 20th century from Faulkner to Hemingway and Steinbeck to Fitzgerald.  One of the first questions that comes up is “does the book have the dust jacket?”  This often leads to great disappointment as it is difficult for someone not familiar with the antiquarian and rare book market to fully appreciate the value of a dust jacket on a literary first edition.   Once can see a copy of a particular first edition online for $20,000 and it can be incomprehensible how merely missing a piece of paper wrapper can reduce its value to a few hundred.

I won’t get involved in this brief post as to why dust jackets are so valuable. Suffice it to say, they can both be extremely rare given their ephemeral nature and beautiful as icons of graphic art.   Here, I would rather focus on an early type of “dust jacket.”   The earliest-known book dust wrapper dates from 1829 and was intended to protect a finely-bound gift book entitled Friendship’s Offering.  You can read about that Bodleian treasure here.    The dust jacket was therefore born as a simple protective wrapper and only later evolved into works of art and tools of marketing.  Oftentimes, the earliest jackets were used to protect expensive volumes bound in fine materials such as leather or silk.

The book below is not one of those finely bound volumes but a rather inexpensively produced and issued American imprint.  Specifically, it is a 1814 Boston edition (a first American edition) of “Some Details concerning General Moreau”, the French general who helped Napoleon to power, but later as a rival was banished to the United States and whose abode near Trenton eventually became the refuge of many political exiles.   Nevertheless, despite this rich history and actually being a scarce imprint in commerce, the book itself is not particularly valuable if one takes values in the auction databases as a gauge. In fact, I bought it in a lot myself at the very modest price of $20 from an antique dealer at the fun DCFlea.

One can notice in the photo a sort of dust jacket on the book that is almost contemporary with the date of publication.  That does not make it the earliest such jacket as I would have to make the reasonable assumption that this was not a wrapper issued by the publisher but rather placed on for protection slightly later by a reference library in Bath Maine of the American Colonization Society.   The book is inscribed by Jonathan Hyde who was one of the society’s earliest members.  Most interestingly,  the American Colonization Society promoted the relocation of free blacks to West Africa and transported 12,000 blacks to Liberia.

So, in keeping with the theme of this blog, I do try to place a monetary value on the work and give some indication of how I arrived at a figure.  Despite it being a relatively early American imprint of French history,  it probably would not have a market value of anything more then $100 or so.  Still, with the added value of the early paper wrappers as well as its provenance and historical connection to free blacks, it has broader appeal both as a bibliographical curiosity and to the African-Americana collectors.  As such, I would place a fair value more likely in the $400 range.

Monetary value aside it, it is a wonderful example of how by unfolding the story of a simple unnoticed paper jacket, history itself unfolds.

RareBookAuctionValue

posted in: First Edition Appraisal, RARE BOOK APPRAISAL, Rare Book Auction Value, Rare book auctions, Rare Books, sell rare books, selling rare books, Uncategorized, Value First Edition, We Buy Manuscripts, We buy old books, We buy Rare Books