Part One: Collecting Terms

It has been nearly five years since Firsts published its “Book Collector’s Glossary,” in the April 2000 issue. In the interim, we have received many inquiries from collectors about the basics of book collecting. This series will present some of the nuts and bolts of collecting, giving newcomers an opportunity to get started and older …Read More

Part Two: Why Collect Books?

The world of book lovers is broken into two opposing and irreconcilable groups. The first, and much the largest, is made up of those who see books as consumables. The second, less common, includes those who see books as beautiful objects. We will discuss book consumers first, and then dismiss them, for they need not …Read More

Part Three: The What and Why of First Editions

ONE OF THE INEVITABLE QUESTIONS that arises in every book collecting seminar is “Why do you collect first editions?” I always give the same answer, “I collect firsts because I can’t afford to buy reprints.” And there is some kernel of truth in this seemingly contradictory answer. If you buy a first edition of any …Read More

Part Four: What Should I Collect?

ONE OF THE MOST DELIGHTFUL ASPECTS of book collecting is that everybody’s personal library is an expression of his or her interests. A famous Egyptologist owns an extensive collection of books about Ancient Egypt. A physicist may have a collection of books about mathematics and science. A gourmet chef might have a cookbook collection with …Read More

Part Five: Where Do I Find the Books?

JUST AS THERE ARE ANY NUMBER OF POSSIBILITIES FOR COLLECTING, there are a large variety of strategies for finding books for your collection. The most natural place for many of us to look for books has always been a bookstore. Nearly every city has a large number of chain bookstores that sell new books, and …Read More

Part Six: What’s My Book Worth?

WHENEVER WE GIVE BOOK COLLECTING seminars we are asked the inevitable question, “What are books worth?” We generally answer, “Whatever someone is willing to pay for them.” This response seems facetious, but unlike government bonds, precious metals and items traded daily in securities markets, collectable objects—books included—have no instantly verifiable monetary value. There are too …Read More

Part Eight: Protecting My Investment II – Shelving

THE TWO GREATEST ENEMIES of paper-based products are direct sunlight and water. Daily exposure to the sun will fade almost all printed papers and, over time, can bleach them out completely. Water causes paper to swell and curl. Even mild dampness can promote mildew, which leaves ugly stains and an offensive odor. None of these …Read More

Part Nine: Protecting My Investment III – Storage

ONE OF THE AXIOMS OF BOOK COLLECTING is that no matter how much room you have in your bookcases, it will never be quite enough. If you live in a small apartment and have room for only 50 books, your collection will grow to 100. If you live in a huge mansion with glorious built-ins …Read More

Part Ten: Protecting My Investment IV – Insurance

DESPITE EVERY EFFORT WE MAKE to protect the books in our collections from harm, sometimes disaster strikes, and they are either severely damaged or lost altogether. These disasters fall into two categories: natural ones, such as flood and fire; and man-made varieties, such as theft and damage or loss during shipment. Like every other major …Read More

Part Eleven: How to Read

Despite popular myths to the contrary, book collectors are readers. They value their books as beautiful objects, wrap them in dust jacket protectors, and take care to store them properly. As a result, collectors’ libraries are often quite beautiful. But having beautiful copies is only one aspect of book collecting. The other has to do …Read More