Monday, July 29, 2013

W30: Book-Prices Current

This week’s Biblio-Mat book was a bit surprising in that the subject matter was so relevant it was a wonder why I hadn’t received a book on this earlier.

Note to self: Don't name anything "current".
As the title suggests, Book-Prices Current was a book on the current market value of books. Edited by F. Partridge, it was published in 1940 and covered the book auction sales from October, 1939 to August, 1940. With a dark greenish-blue waxed cover and decently thick binding, it felt heavier than its 507 pages suggested. An ex-libris from the Mills Memorial Library at McMaster University, it gave good insight into book collecting and what the trends leaned towards back in the day. 

Pennies on the dollar would be my guess.
The first few pages before the title page were actually advertisements for not only other books, but publishers and rare booksellers as well, which is not surprising since there are usually relevant ads in most trades. What was surprising, though, was that the first ad was actually selling the Book-Prices Current book itself with a tongue in cheek self-referential description.

Sadly, the humour stopped after that and jumped into a small intro that talked about a few highlight sales from that year:

- The first being a Library of books on Angling by Arthur N. Gilbey which fetched £4,126 16s. 10d., the equivalent of £195,250 after adjustment for inflation.

- The second highlight was £1,600 for a first edition set of I. Walton’s Compleat Angler, which translates to £75,720 in today’s money.

- Number three was £170, the equivalent of £8,000, paid by a Mrs. W. H. Robinson for a copy of Dame J. Berner’s Booke of Haukyng, Huntyng and Fysshyng.

The conclusion? People in 1940s Europe spelled things funny and really loved their fishing and hunting books.

After this intro, the book jumped straight into 507 pages of nothing but auction records. Having collected comic books since I was in elementary school, I was already quite familiar with the format of trade price guides thanks to The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Unlike standard price guides, though, Book-Prices Current gave in-depth descriptions of each book as each entry was an individual sale.

Not unlike reading a dictionary.
Reading through the entries, some notable sales included:

- 1859 first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection sold for $130 USD ($2100 after inflation). Current 2013 market value: $45,000 - $130,000.

- The super rare 1924 first edition of Hemingway’s in our time sold for $20 USD ($323 after inflation). Current 2013 market value: $36,000.

- 1816 first edition of Austen’s Emma in 3 volumes sold for £5 (£240 after inflation) on three separate occasions. Current market value: $10,000 - $30,000.

As an avid collector of rare books, I was intrigued by the possibility of looking some of pieces of my library up. Unfortunately, most of my collection consists of contemporary editions and as expected, none were found in the Book-Prices Current records. However, if this book is any indication, picking up rare books is a sound investment strategy, which is why visiting The Monkey’s Paw regularly has kept my bank account in check.

My favourite scores: 1910 copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, 1902 Roycroft edition of Self Reliance.

Book rating: 7/10 (Great historical values for reference)

Random quote: “Demy 8vo, bound in blue cloth, and printed on good paper, with fine margin for notes.” (The Book-Prices Current entry on the Book-Prices Current book)

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