Collecting Rare Books

"Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one." ~Augustine Birrell


[what is a] rare book


  1. a book that is distinguished by its early printing date, its limited issue, the special character of the edition or binding, or its historical interest.

So you’re a book collector?

Allow us to be a resource for you as you work to build your collection. Whether you’re motivated to amass a library of your own for financial reasons, for the personal satisfaction and enjoyment you get from this ‘hobby’, or for posterity’s sake, we have the tools to assist you.

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Glossary of Rare Book Terms


We’ve put together a running Glossary of Rare Book Terms and you can find it here. Collectors know firsthand how important it is to recognize the terminology used in descriptions of books for sale. After all, no one wants to be bamboozled because they failed to understand just what they were buying.

Of course, the process of printing and publishing a book has many steps, and when it comes to collecting rare books, the pre-publication material can be as valuable (if not more so) than the actual book. For example, what do you know about Advanced Reading Copies? What are the terms to distinguish these unique collectible items? Read More >>

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Gauging a Book’s Value

Age or scarcity alone are hardly sufficient to make a rare book also valuable. Books are valued for the significance of their contents, their scarcity, their imprint or date of publication, their physical characteristics or condition, or their associations (signed or annotated by a famous author, for instance). The importance of the text and its sources, the condition of the book, and demand for it will determine the financial valuation of an old book. Learn more about the following factors in gauging a book's value by clicking on the links below.

Caring For Your Rare Books

There is never a wrong time to think about how best to care for your rare books. Factors such as moisture and humidity and the storage of your collection can have a significant impact on how well your books retain their value.

  • Foxing: The name for the splotches, spots, and specks you often see on older books. It's rare to find a book from the eighteenth or nineteenth century that doesn’t show signs of foxing. How can you prevent and reverse foxing? Better yet, how can you prevent foxing in your rare books? Read More >>
  • Bookworms: If you're interested in learning more about how to identify and beat the bookworm in order to keep your books and collection safe, you're in the right place. Read More >>

A Brief Guide to Beginning a Rare Book Collection

If you’re a novice collector and looking for a place to start your book collection, what should you consider? The process is filled with nuances, and there are perhaps as many ways to go about forming a collection as there are collectors. However, some universal truths are present in the book collecting world. Here, we’ve compiled a brief guide to help you along your collecting ways. Read More >>

Want even more information? Click the links below.

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What’s the deal with Dust Jackets?

As most collectors are aware, a dust jacket in fine condition can greatly enhance the value of a book. Indeed, for modern first editions, a book without the dust jacket will sell for only a fraction of the price. Once intended to be temporary and disposable protection for beautifully bound books, dust jackets have become--in some ways--more valuable than the books they protect. Read More >>

Throughout the nineteenth century--and even beyond--dust jackets were intended to be disposable. As such, they were often discarded after purchase. Given their frail construction and the likelihood of them being thrown away, it can be quite rare to find nineteenth century books that retain their original dust jackets. Books Tell You Why is pleased to offer a remarkable selection of such titles.

Buying or Selling Signed Books

A signed book is a sought-after collectible for a bibliophile, and it can add exponential value to a book collection. Learn the difference between a dedication copy, an association copy, a presentation copy, and an inscribed copy in order to best add to your book collection. You can read more about the types of signatures and inscriptions, as well as good places to find signed copies, through our guide here.

The authenticity of signed books and signatures in particular is the number one element of the trust a reputable seller of autographed books is hoping to establish and maintain with their customer.

We are proud to offer a table of author signatures, obtained in controlled environments, to assist in the authentication process of signed books.

Samuel Johnson


Book Collecting Spotlight: James Bond

For the James Bond collector, acquiring a rare or unique copy of any number of the fourteen Ian Fleming classics is an accomplishment. Here is additional input on collectible Ian Fleming editions.


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Collecting Books Around the World

"How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!”  ~Walter Benjamin

If you’re traveling, be sure to research accredited book stores in the city you’ll be visiting. The ILAB and AABA provide lists that are helpful. Also, check ahead to ascertain working hours of bookstores you’d like to visit. We’ve traversed the world over in pursuit of collectibles, so we’ve done some of the footwork in the following locations. Click on the links to find personalized book collecting travel guides.

Buying Rare Books in Italy Buying Rare Books in Dublin
Buying Rare Books in Poland Buying Rare Books in Finland
Buying Rare Books in Costa Rica Buying Rare Books in Sydney, Australia
Buying Rare Books in Mexico City Buying Rare Books in Seoul
Buying Rare Books in Stockholm Buying Rare Books in Spain



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