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Book Collectors on Book Collecting

· Fine Book Collecting,Halifax,First Editions,Plans for Collecting,Books as Investments

Today’s topic is a continuation of my Books on Books series. If you want to learn the ins and outs of book collecting, who better to provide guidance than book collectors who have gone on before you. Today’s musing features two books from the 1930s and three from the 1970s, all of which I acquired and read in my early book collecting days. For each featured book, I am providing a photo of the dust jacket and the table of contents, which will show some similarities as well as some dramatic differences in the collectors approach that they have followed. These books all preceded the “www world” so the role of the internet is not addressed, which has been covered by almost all such books published in the 2000s.

The Book Collector’s Vade Mecum; by Andrew Block; Denis Archer, London, 1932.

I bought this book in December 1984, from Booked Up, a dealer in Dallas. I paid US$70 so it was an expensive book but well thought of in the book marketplace. I have always considered this book to be one of the most pristine books in the library. Block split the contents into two sections, one very general and the second dealt with specific authors – the usual gang of suspects – Shakespeare, Scott, Shelley, Dickens, Tennyson and so on.

The general section has 24 chapters, again covering the usual suspects – Modern First Editions, Incunabula, Bindings , Travel, Military and 3 chapters on my favourite subject – Illustrated books. There were also some chapters on unusual items – Early Theology, The Occult, Newspapers, and a chapter entitled “A. L. S. and MSS.”

The Delightful Diversion; by Reginald Brewer; The Macmillan Company, New York, 1935.

A delightful name and dust jacket, indeed. I bought this book in November 1980 from a bookstore in Toronto, Abelard Books.

His table of contents is completely different than the one outlined above. This is terrific! It is looking at the book collecting world through a different lens. And this reminds me of my management consulting practice. I often make my clients look at their business through a different lens, For example, I was conducting an offsite two-day strategic planning session with the Board and senior management staff of a credit union. I asked the question “What business are you in?” and the responses included “financial institution” and “banking”. I said “Yes, that is true but lets look at it as a service business”.

Here the author has chapters on The Why of the First Editions, Identifying First Editions, Presentation and Association copies, Buying and Selling and an area of common interest – 2 chapters on Illustrated books. No wonder why I like them so much!

Book Collecting; by Seumas Stewart; E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York, 1973.

I bought this book in August 1976, again from a bookstore in Toronto, Britnell’s. A shop long gone, unfortunately. I love the dust jacket on this book. You just know that the folio book Seumas is looking at is illustrated! Look at all those scrumptious bindings but the item that really stands out is the impressive bookcase. And is Seumas not the picture of a seventies guy!

Again, his table of contents is yet another lens into the world of book collecting – chapter titles include The Quarry and its Anatomy, Adventure, Topography, Natural history, and Farming (really!).

The Pleasures of Book Collecting; by Salvatore J. Iacone; Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1976.

I also bought this book from Britnell’s, in February 1977.

His table of contents covers some of the same topics of the three books above – this is inevitable! Nevertheless, he does introduce some new topics – What makes a book worth collecting, Impression, Issue and State, A plan for collecting (so necessary), and The care and protection of rare books.

Collecting Rare Books for Pleasure and Profit; by Jack Matthews; G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1977.

I also bought this book from Britnell’s, in March 1977.

In my Books on Books No. 1, I highlighted the following item:

Books and Booksellers in Ancient and Modern Times, A lecture delivered by John Britnell, published by John Britnell’s Son, Toronto, 1923. Deluxe leather bound edition. Signed.

(See why I lament the shops passing!)

This author has introduced the concept of “Profit”, which might lead you to think he was an accountant. But no, he was a Professor of English at Ohio University, in addition to being “an avid book collector”.

Again we are seeing some duplication of chapter titles but Jack has found some new topics for the collector – Rare books as investments, High-spot collecting, One author and first-book collections, Some strategies and tactics for buying and selling, and A brief sampling of estimated price values of books by contemporary authors.

And if I were to write such a book, I have a few wrinkles up my sleeve!

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