AbeBooks' Reading Copy » antiquarian http://www.abebooks.com/blog AbeBooks book blog Thu, 17 Jul 2014 22:48:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Copy of Das Kapital sells for $40k just as Dow Jones hits record high http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2014/07/04/copy-of-das-kapital-sells-for-40k-just-as-dow-jones-hits-record-high/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2014/07/04/copy-of-das-kapital-sells-for-40k-just-as-dow-jones-hits-record-high/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 01:53:29 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=21280 On Thursday,  the day that the Dow Jones index closed at an all-time high of 17,068 points, AbeBooks.com sold a first edition of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital for $40,000.

Published in 1867 by Otto Meissner with German text, this copy of Das Kapital was the only one published in Marx’s lifetime (he died in 1883). The book is housed in a slipcover with cloth wrapping.

Das Kapital famously attributes the growth of capitalism to the exploitation of labor and the book became the basis for Marxism, which influenced many subsequent political systems and labor movements, including Communism. Marx lived in London from 1849 until his death. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

It’s not the first time that a copy of Das Kapital has sold for a high price via AbeBooks. In November 2011, a very rare copy in three volumes sold for $51,739. Interest in Marx’s book, which arguably did indeed help change the world, remains as strong as ever.

The $40,000 sale is AbeBooks’ second most expensive sale of the year. A collection of French Art Nouveau posters sold for $43,450 in March.

On a bumper day for the stock markets and used bookselling, a copy of the first ever Rupert the Bear annual from 1936 sold for $8,497 on Thursday. The first edition, illustrated by Alfred Bestall, was unmarked with the “Belongs to” box left empty, a rarity for this children’s favorite.

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Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar 2014 contest http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2014/04/22/colorado-antiquarian-book-seminar-2014-contest/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2014/04/22/colorado-antiquarian-book-seminar-2014-contest/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:02:08 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=21077 Are you thinking of becoming a rare bookseller? Or have you just started to sell collectible books? The Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar is a week-long educational event held in Colorado Springs in August, 2014 for booksellers, librarians and collectors that offers expert discussion about rare books.

This is your opportunity to enter for a chance to win admission to attend the event, including instructional materials, breakfasts and lunches, and accommodations. There will be two lucky winners. Each prize package is worth U.S. $1,610.00. Transportation to and from the event is not included.

More details about the contest.

Contest rules.

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A fishy rare book tale from the pope’s doctor http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2014/03/08/a-fishy-rare-book-tale-from-the-popes-doctor/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2014/03/08/a-fishy-rare-book-tale-from-the-popes-doctor/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 23:37:01 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=20820

Who needs to sail when you have Rome’s fish markets?

Last month’s most expensive sales on AbeBooks.com span five centuries of natural history, physics and philosophy, and fiction from John Steinbeck. There is also 20th century art and the ultimate book for North American tree-spotters.

The oldest book to sell last month, published in 1554, was also our most expensive – Aquatilium animalium historiae, a study of Mediterranean fish, from a Vatican doctor called Ippolito Salviani, who showed that research can come in many forms. Rather than going to sea to find samples, the man who kept popes healthy trawled the fish markets of Rome.

See the list

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The ultimate philanthropist: David Rubenstein spends $14.2m on Bay Psalm Book http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/11/27/the-ultimate-philanthropist-david-rubenstein-spends-14-2m-on-bay-psalm-book/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/11/27/the-ultimate-philanthropist-david-rubenstein-spends-14-2m-on-bay-psalm-book/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 19:36:36 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=20209

As predicted by almost everyone, this small book of psalms from 1640, known as the Bay Psalm Book, has become the world’s most expensive printed book after being auctioned by Sotheby’s last night in New York for $14.2 million.

The Bay Psalm Book is the first known book to be printed in what became the United States. Sotheby’s reported the buyer was US financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein, who planned to loan it to libraries. That’s a special gesture from a very rich man but we have seen it before. In 2007, Rubenstein purchased a copy of the Magna Carta at auction for $21.3 million, and then loaned it to the National Archives in Washington DC.

A remarkable piece of Puritan and American history, the book is an English translation of the original Hebrew psalms, and was owned by a church in Boston. The book sold is one of 11 copies known to exist from about 1,700 copies originally printed.

Leonardo da Vinci’s handwritten notebook is the most expensive book ever sold at $30.8 million.

So who is David Rubenstein?

He is the co-founder of The Carlyle Group, a private equity investment firm and, according to Forbes, he is apparently worth $3 billion although I’m never sure how those figures are calculated. He also has an amazing track record of donating to good causes – $4.5 million to the US National Zoo for its panda reproduction program (goodness, those pandas need a lot of financial encouragement to get it on), $7.5 million to repair the Washington Monument, $13.5 million to the National Archives, and $50 million to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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America’s first printed book visits Amazon in Seattle http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/11/13/americas-first-printed-book-visits-amazon-in-seattle/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/11/13/americas-first-printed-book-visits-amazon-in-seattle/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 22:36:22 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=20117 Yesterday I attended a reception for the Bay Psalm Book hosted by Amazon to celebrate Sotheby’s forthcoming auction of this historic book. Seattle was the latest stop on a tour of the United States that has delighted bibliophiles from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. The interesting juxtaposition of the first book printed in what became the United States and the e-commerce giant Amazon (who is AbeBooks’ parent company and the creator of the Kindle) was not lost on anyone in the room.

The book itself is modest but looks robust enough. It entered the room accompanied by two burly security guards and was carried in a reinforced custom case. Selby Kiffer, Sotheby’s international senior books specialist, carefully balanced the book on his lap as he prepared it for the viewing. I couldn’t help noticing that he wasn’t wearing gloves.

“No, we don’t use gloves,” explained Selby. “It’s important that we have the full ability to touch and handle an item like that. You lose something with gloves.”

The book was placed open on a pedestal and encased in a perspex case. The two security guards would not have looked out of place outside a nightclub. One of them, Tom, was perhaps the most bookish bouncer in the security business at the moment. He had guarded the Bay Psalm Book in USC’s Doheny Library, Chicago’s Newberry Library, Cleveland’s public library, St. Louis Mercantile Library and a number of other important institutions around the US.

The book was placed open at Psalm 23 and it was easy to see how different this version of the ‘Lord is my Shepherd’ psalm is from the text commonly known today. Not satisfied with the English editions in circulation, the puritan publishers of the Bay Psalm Book had translated the text from Hebrew in order to stay closer to the psalm’s original meaning.

The reaction of visitors was interesting to see. Some photographed it, while others were photographed with it. For many (including myself), it was hard to grasp that this book was printed in 1640 using paper and a very basic printing press imported from Britain, and yet it is still in remarkable condition today.

Sotheby’s will auction the book in a single item sale on November 26 on behalf of Boston’s Old South Church, which is retaining another copy. The sale estimate is a mind-boggling $15 million to $30 million, and there was widespread speculation at the reception about whether the estimate would be reached and who would buy it. Two local rare booksellers Priscilla Anne Lowry of Lowry-James Rare Prints and Books and John Lang of John Michael Lang Fine Books positively glowed with interest.

“I think it will exceed $30 million,” was the bold prediction of John. While Priscilla Anne added that she thought the book could be sold to a buyer outside the US – something that Selby Kiffer predicted as being “highly unlikely.”

Sotheby’s has worked hard to publicize its auction but the tour has put the Bay Psalm Book in front of a wider audience and definitely added buzz to the rare book world. As Selby Kiffer pointed out last night, the auction has also reminded many people about this important period in American history when a nation’s culture was just being developed.

The auction could be the most furious five minutes of rare bookselling since 1947 when the last copy of a Bay Psalm Book was sold for $151,000 – a record-breaking sum for the time.

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Browse Rare Books at the 2013 Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/10/21/browse-rare-books-at-the-2013-toronto-international-antiquarian-book-fair/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/10/21/browse-rare-books-at-the-2013-toronto-international-antiquarian-book-fair/#comments Mon, 21 Oct 2013 18:48:04 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=20008 TIABF

AbeBooks is again proud to sponsor the 2013 Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair, which begins on Friday, November 8th. Some examples of the kinds of treasures you might see are pictured below.

A special treat on opening night, for both bibiophiles and film buffs, will be Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg’s introduction as the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Canada’s (ABAC) Patron of Honour.

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) began last year to encourage member national associations to nominate distinguished individuals as Patrons of Honour – individuals who have made outstanding contributions within the world of books and manuscripts. Patrons of Honour from around the world include Sir David Attenborough, Umberto Eco, Reiner Speck, and Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark.David_Cronenberg

David Cronenberg’s nomination by the ABAC is based on a life’s work deeply informed by book culture, including highly acclaimed film adaptations of two of the most radical novels of the 20th century, Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs and J.B. Ballard’s Crash. Cronenberg is also known to be an avid book-collector – the Burroughs collection he assembled during the filming of Naked Lunch is legendary in Canadian bookselling circles.

Also in attendance this year will be booksellers from Canada, the United States and Europe, including Abelard Books of Toronto, Patrick McGahern Books of Ottawa, Schooner Books of Halifax, The Kelmscott Bookshop of Baltimore, Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books of San Francisco, Lucius Books from York, UK, and many more. And keep an eye out for AbeBooks’ own Lindsay Thompson, who will be walking the floor. Be sure to say hello.

This year’s fair takes place at Baillie Court at the Art Gallery of Ontario, from Friday, November 8th, to Sunday, November 10th. Entrance is free with Gallery admission.

Learn more about the Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair.






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World’s Oldest Jewish Prayer Book Snapped Up by Collector http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/10/07/worlds-oldest-jewish-prayer-book-snapped-up-by-collector/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/10/07/worlds-oldest-jewish-prayer-book-snapped-up-by-collector/#comments Mon, 07 Oct 2013 20:22:05 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=19877 What is believed by some scholars to be the oldest known Jewish prayer book was recently acquired by the Green Collection, a private collection of biblical texts and artifacts assembled by Steve Green, president of arts and crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby.

The 50-page text, carbon dated to the 9th century, is in its original binding and is written on parchment in an archaic form of Hebrew. It contains a set of prayers, hymns, and poems, including a listing of the 100 Benedictions. The book pre-dates the earliest known copies of the Torah by 300 to 400 years.

Green plans to display the book in the Bible museum he’s building in Washington, D.C., along with the more than 40,000 other artifacts and relics that make up the Green Collection.

While not quite as old as the 9th century, there are many rare and precious Jewish prayer books available on AbeBooks, including this 1745 Seder Keri’ath Shema Al Ha-Mitah (Prayers before Retiring at Night). This rare, illuminated miniature is offered by Les Enluminures of Chicago at just over a quarter of a million dollars.

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Top 10 most expensive books ever sold http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/09/25/top-10-most-expensive-books-ever-sold/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/09/25/top-10-most-expensive-books-ever-sold/#comments Wed, 25 Sep 2013 17:31:19 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=19736 With lots of excitement surrounding the Bay Psalm Book that’s coming up for auction at Sotheby’s, this is a good time to step aside and consider the most expensive books that have ever been sold. By saying books, we are including documents and manuscripts, and not just objects published on a press. I would be thrilled just to see any of these books, but imagine bidding for them?

Codex Leicester (pictured above) by Leonardo da Vinci – $30.8 million (sold in 1994)

Bought by Microsoft mogul Bill Gates. A 72-page document (and therefore not a printed book), Codex Leicester is a collection of scientific writing and gained its named from Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester who bought it in 1719. The journal covers theories on astronomy, water, rock, air, the moon and the heavens.

2 Magna Carta – $21.3 million (sold in 2007)

Bought by American financier David Rubenstein at a Sotheby’s auction. A 1297 copy of the historic document, this was handwritten and has the seal of King Edward I.  The Magna Carta was issued in 1215 by England’s feudal barons to limit the power of the King.

St Cuthbert Gospel (pictured right) – $14.3 million (sold in 2012)

Bought by the British Library. The St Cuthbert Gospel is a tiny leather-bound Latin gospel book from the 7th century that remains in remarkable condition. A very special piece of Anglo-Saxon history. If only all books lasted as well as this one.

4 The Gospels of Henry the Lion – $8.1 million (sold in 1983)

Bought by a German collective including the German government. The Gospels of Henry the Lion was the world’s most expensive book until Bill Gates opened his wallet in 1994. This illuminated masterpiece was produced for the Brunswick Cathedral by the Duke of Saxony late in the 12th century. It contains 50 full page illustrations.

5 The Birds of America (pictured right) by John James Audubon – $11.5 million (sold in 2010)

Bought by London art dealer Michael Tollemache. One of only 120 complete copies. This book was first owned by Henry Witham who subscribed to Audubon’s masterpiece. Birds of America was published in parts between 1827 and 1838, and contains stunning hand-colored, life-size illustrations.

6 The Birds of America by John James Audubon – $8.8 million (sold in 2000)

Bought by Sheikh Saud Al-Thani of Qatar at auction.

7 The Birds of America by John James Audubon – $7.9 million (sold in 2012)

Bought by an unknown buyer. Another complete copy.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – $7.5 million (sold in 1998)

Published in 1477 by William Caxton, the pioneering English printer, this is one of only 12 known first ‘printed’ edition copies.

9 Shakespeare First Folio – $6.1 million (sold in 2001)

Published in 1623, Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies is a collection of the Bard’s 36 plays. I’m sure you are familiar with this writer’s significance.

10 Les Liliacees (pictured below) by Pierre-Joseph Redoute – $5 million (1985)

Bought by a syndicate led by art dealer W. Graham Arader. This was Empress Josephine’s copy of the botanical gem featuring 468 watercolors of flowers on vellum. Sixteen volumes, published between 1802 and 1816.

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Buzz building for Bay Psalm Book auction http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/09/23/buzz-building-for-bay-psalm-book-auction/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/09/23/buzz-building-for-bay-psalm-book-auction/#comments Mon, 23 Sep 2013 19:36:42 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=19704 Buzz is building for the November sale of an ultra-rare Bay Psalm Book. The book, predicted to become the world’s most expensive printed book when it is auctioned by Sotheby’s, has been touring the United States.

It’s interesting to see regional media giving considerable space to the subject of rare books.  David Redden, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Books Department, and David Spadafora, President of Chicago’s Newberry Library, appeared on Chicago Tonight to discuss the book and its significance. The Chicago Tribune previewed the book’s appearance at the Newberry. The St Louis Post-Dispatch did the same for the Missouri leg of the tour and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was another major newspaper to shine the spotlight on rare books.

There will more headlines in the mainstream devoted to this rare book as November comes closer. This interest benefits everyone in the rare book business and serves as a wonderful reminder for the historical significance of books in American culture.

The Bay Psalm Book was printed in 1640 and it’s important because it was the first book printed in what became the United States. It is a psalter – a small book of psalms translated from Hebrew into English by the colonists. The last Bay Psalm Book to be sold was bought at a Sotheby’s auction in 1947 for $151,000 by representatives bidding on behalf of Yale University. Only 11 copies survive, and Sotheby’s estimate the sale price will be between $15 million and $30 million.

Below are some pictures from the book’s recent public appearances.

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Bookshelves of the Rich and Famous http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/08/12/bookshelves-of-the-rich-and-famous-2/ http://www.abebooks.com/blog/index.php/2013/08/12/bookshelves-of-the-rich-and-famous-2/#comments Mon, 12 Aug 2013 17:03:53 +0000 http://www.abebooks.com/blog/?p=19486 audubon-owlsIf money were no object, what would your book collection look like? Would you own an original Hobbit, a signed Einstein or the ultimate Joyce collection for six figures?

I find myself dreaming about this from time to time. I love books so much, in so many different ways – the pleasure of reading (chiefly), the pleasure of display and design as home decor, the pleasure of collection. I think about what elaborate, built-in bookshelves I would commission, what seating would be in the room, what the lighting would be like and more. But mostly, I dream about the rare, collectible, priceless and unforgettable books I could collect, if I had limitless funds with which to do so. In reality, I’m rich already, I know – I’m lucky that I can buy a new book or two quite often, used books very often, and have access to public libraries the rest of the time. A dream in itself, really. But it’s still fun to imagine the sublime and ridiculous.

With that in mind, we’ve combed the site and cherry-picked some of the finest, rarest books to admire. Dare to dream with the most exclusive items available on AbeBooks. And for the rest of us, there are also links to their more affordable counterparts. Enjoy.

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