June 6, 2019
Value of a Rare Miniature Book
We just purchased this rather charming miniature book – c. 1820s and bound in lovely Mother of Pearl. It is approx. 1″ tall, and if you are aquainted with collectors of miniatures books they are emphatic that the books must meet the definition of being less than 3″. Sometimes, I am forced to shrug my shoulders how a few millimeters extra considerably narrows the field of buyers, but this one easily qualifies.
The book is formally a Dance Card, or, Le Carnet de bal in French and was used by a woman to record the names of the gentlemen with whom she intends to dance each successive dance at a formal bal. It even comes with a miniature little pencil.
These were delicate productions and not too many survive as they were often discarded since they could not be re-used and children didn’t likely care to preserve a record of their Mother’s dance partners and suitors.
What is the value of such a charming miniature book? The standard auction databases such as Rare Book Hub yield little clues and searches on OCLC turn up almost no Institutional copies. It is not that they are that rare, but there is scant bibliographic information for librarians to catalog, and it is more probable they are just lying uncatalogued in boxes.
Outside of the world of books, the major auction houses used to regularly conduct sales of Objects of Vertu, but these have been often been lamentably discontinued both to a lack of supply, changing tastes, and the quest of auction houses for more financially rewarding auctions (like Modern Art). At a sale in 2006 at Christies, there was described a much finer “Louis XVI gold-mounted ivory carnet-de-bal set with two enamels, and dated 1776/1777” and that rather mesmerizing beauty only realized 750 GBP.
This much more modest example, while undeniably charming, probably only has a fair retail value of $200 or so by comparison. Still, like a fine dance partner, she is a pleasure to hold with the hand.
If you have any miniature book (or any rare book or manuscript) in general, and would like me to value it, don’t hesitate to send photos by email or text 6464691851.