Category: Uncategorized

January 18, 2020

Rare Book Appraisal – a 1508 Post Incunable “Unicorn” Bookbinding

I bought this lovely 1508 rather rare post incunable at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair for $300. It is a single volume from a 7 volume set – which normally is a fatal flaw in the antiquarian book world and something rare book dealers would not touch with a ten foot pole. Nevertheless, see why – after I studied the bookbinding – I value it at a considerably higher price.

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January 9, 2020

How to value a unique 17th century English manuscript

Recently I purchased this fascinating c. 1650 English manuscript on the famous Philosopher’s Stone. 17th century English alchemy manuscripts are rare in commerce and valuing them with few rare book auction comparables can be a challenge. Below I made a short video of how I, as an antiquarian book dealer, go about evaluating a unique text. Hope you enjoy this brief video with mentions of Crusades, Imprisonment in the Tower, and how to turn lead into gold – as well as a few pointers on how to value antique books.

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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