Shelf Help: The Best Guides to Book Collectingby Scott Laming
At times, even the most knowledgeable collector must seek help in identifying a specific edition or completing their collection. And then there is the legion of people who love books but are baffled by the jargon of the rare book industry.
This selection of key reference books is designed to help beginners and perhaps some advanced collectors too. When it comes to learning about rare books, it is necessary to read more books. We have also included a couple of books that shed a little light on the rare book world itself and give some context to all the terminology.
The single indispensible book for the beginner collector would have to be ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter which contains over 450 terms listed alphabetically. Although ABC for Book Collectors is a reference book, Carter's personality comes through as he explains the terms and often their origins too. An old Etonian, Carter was a former managing director of Scribner's and also worked for Sotheby's. There is a well-thumbed copy of ABC in the AbeBooks' marketing department and it is our main reference tool, but we have heard of veteran booksellers who still refer to this timeless book.
The list includes contributions from rare booksellers David and Natalie Bauman and the late Matthew Bruccoli, a professor of English at the University of South Carolina and renowned F. Scott Fitzgerald expert. Although it is not a reference book, we urge everyone to read A Gentle Madness by Nicholas Basbanes – rarely has anyone described the passion for books in a more perceptive fashion.
See our video review of ABC for Book Collectors. › Play Video
Books about Book Collecting
Collected Books: The Guide to Values 2011 edition
Explains how to identify first editions and also covers Americana, early printed books, literature, mysteries, sci-fi, children's books, natural history, photography, and travel.
Rare Finds: A Guide to Book Collecting
David and Natalie Bauman
A beginner's introduction to book collecting that includes numerous beautiful full color photos from the inventory found in the Baumans' rare bookshops.
Modern Book Collecting
Robert A. Wilson
A serviceable introduction to collecting modern editions – the focus is on 20th century authors.
At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries
Includes chapters on starting a collection, organizing the library, book care and other useful information on categorizing, editing, storage and space saving.
Living with Books
This book offers basic do-it-yourself designs for building your own shelves, and some book care tips. It could also be a beautiful coffee table book.
Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book-Hunter in the 21st Century
Renowned book collector and author Basbanes provides a compendium of information on collecting books in the Internet age. Lots of anecdotes too.
Ian C. Ellis
This book reveals the secrets of locating rare and valuable books including information on first editions, reading copies, auctions, catalogs, and the strategies of book scouts.
First Editions: A Guide to Identification
Edward N. Zempel
Many publishers do not readily display the edition and there are many different systems in use. This book explains the intricacies of spotting firsts from as far back as 1928.
Instant Expert: Collecting Books
A solid beginner's guide to buying and selling books, perhaps a bit general but a good place to start.
A Primer of Book-collecting
John Tracy Winterich
Winterich covers books as an investment, the mechanics of collecting, and answers the age old question: what makes a book rare?
Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions
A quality guide with the added bonus of being highly portable, great for taking to book sales and book fairs.
The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New: A Simple Repair Manual for Book Lovers
Simple tips and tricks for caring for your books and basic repair techniques.
Miller's Collecting Modern Books
This guide to prices and quality focuses on basic categories such as English and American literature, children's books, illustrated books and more.
Out of Print & Into Profit
A history of the rare and secondhand book trade in Britain in the 20th century – offers much context on the industry itself.
The Care of Fine Books
Greenfield offers advice on storage, handling, cleaning, and repair, as well as how to handle books of value.
First Printings of American Authors: Contributions Towards Descriptive Checklists
Matthew J. Bruccoli
A five-volume set includes a compiled list of initial appearances of works by American authors in American and English editions.
How to Identify Prints: A Complete Guide to Manual and Mechanical Process from Woodcut to Ink-Jet
This comprehensive reference work provides all the answers to the questions that constantly arise when trying to identify accurately any kind of print.
The Book Collector's Fact Book
A practical introduction to rare and valuable books, including the 'new antiques' - books on photography, the movies, comics - as well as modern first editions.
Bookmen's Bedlam: An Olio of Literary Oddities
Walter Hart Blumenthal
Just as the subtitle proclaims, a book about books full of weird and wonderful bindings, strange tales, and books from miniature to elephant folios.
Fifty Years of Collecting Americana for the Library of the American Antiquarian Society (1908-1958)
Clarence S. Brigham
A memoir from this famous bookman – worth reading to gain a perspective on the rare book world during the wars.