Buying Rare books

Buying rare books

Do you fancy yourself as a book collector? There are many different kinds of book collectors. Some people collect books as reading matter, buying books on a subject that interests them or by a writer they enjoy. Others collect books as material objects, choosing them for their fine bindings, the quality of the printing, or because of their interesting former owners. Because of the variety of books, it is easily possible to start a small collection for a few pounds — or, at the other extreme, to spend millions on acquiring very rare and fine books. A good guide to book collecting and the terminology used is ‘The ABC for Book Collectors’ by John Carter and Nicolas Barker.

Do your background research

Much of the advice given to sellers above is also relevant to buyers. Do check the details of the book you want to buy to make sure it is what you want; do think about the condition of the copy; and do use a reputable bookseller. Sometimes it is possible to make a speculative purchase which turns out to be a bargain — but it is normally only possible to spot a bargain if you have done your homework first.

Getting serious

If you want to start collecting seriously, you will probably need to register with bookdealers specialising in your subject or area of interest. Many bookdealers will search out books for reliable clients and quote interesting books to you as they come on the market. If you have an unusual specialism, you may well be able to build up a good collection more easily. It’s no good setting out to build up a collection of first editions of Shakespeare: the books just aren’t available on the market. It is much easier and cheaper to collect, for example, 20th-century books on the Hebrides, or 19th-century books printed in Dublin.

Final points

It is fun to collect books, but bear in mind that they can take up a lot of space and can be heavy. People living in flats may need to check that their floors are up to supporting lots of full bookshelves. And don’t even think about moving house …

That aside, it is a very rewarding hobby, which can provide hours of pleasure and possibly some profit. Good books do seem to be a reasonable investment — and as long as you are collecting books you also like to read, you will be able to enjoy them while their financial value increases.

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