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Rare Book Collecting

A beginner's guide
Rare Book Collecting Shapero Rare Books

Embarking on a journey into the world of rare book collecting is like becoming a treasure hunter. You'll uncover long-forgotten tales and hold history in your hands. To help you navigate this fascinating realm, we've curated a comprehensive beginner’s guide that provides insights into every aspect of rare book collecting.
Rare Book Collecting Shapero Rare Books

What makes a book rare?

The value of old books isn't just sentimental. Factors like historical significance, the author's reputation, and even the book's physical components contribute to its value. 

To start collecting, you need to know how to identify features that make a book rare. Some features rare book collectors look out for include:

  • EDITION - First editions are generally the most sought-after, and identifying them is a crucial skill for any serious book collector.
  • CONDITION - The better the condition, the more valuable the book. Factors like wear and tear, foxing, and the quality of the binding can greatly impact on its value.
  • COMPLETENESS - The completeness of the book. Ensuring it has all its pages, illustrations, and supplementary materials, ensures its integrity and value.
  • SCARCITY – How often the book is seen in the marketplace can determine its rarity. Books that are hard to find typically fetch a higher price.
  • PROVENANCE - The history of a book, such as its previous ownership or its journey through history, add to its value. Well-documented provenance is often highly desirable.
  • SIGNED – by the author, illustrator, or another notable person linked to the book.
  • ASSOCIATION COPIES – has the book been owned by a notable person?<

Start with passion.

Begin by thinking about the rare books you are passionate about. If you love the books you acquire, that will be reflected in your collection.

There are books on every imaginable subject. Finding your Subject Area will allow you to craft your collection meaningfully. There are many ways to approach finding your particular subject: whether that be collecting around a theme, an author, a historical event, or geographical region. Narrowing it down is the best approach as you can always branch out later.

Buy from the best.

Shapero Rare Books is a member of the ABA and ILAB.  Always ensure that you buy from reputable sources, members of one of the trade associations, which include:

  • The Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association (ABA)
  • The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA)
  • The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB).

Work with experts.

One of the pleasures of collecting rare books is the opportunity to build lasting relationships with experts in your field. Specialists can advise you and help you to curate your collection, building as your budget grows. At Shapero Rare Books our specialists have over 250 years of experience between them, with expertise in:

Do your research.

There are many books that you can read to start off your book collecting journey. We recommend the ABC for Book Collectors, which is regarded as the Bible for book collectors. It also suggests sources for further reading. If you feel ready to take your expertise to the next level, there are paid courses available both online and offline.

Enjoy collecting!

Embarking on your own rare book collection journey is not just fulfilling but also intellectually stimulating. It's not merely about owning pieces of paper, but about preserving fragments of history, culture, and human thought. Careful planning and a well-rounded understanding of the market are essential stepping stones in your adventure.

Imagine housing some of the world's rarest books, curiosities that are the crown jewels of bibliophilic lore. As you expand your collection, each book becomes not just an asset but a story, a piece of the puzzle that makes up the human experience.

Ready to start your own collection? Browse our carefully curated selection to find your next treasured possession. Visit our Bond Street bookshop and gallery to begin your journey today!

For further insights on understanding the worth of your finds, explore our latest guide on finding the value of old books, a comprehensive read for budding book collectors.

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