Every issue of the Avid Collector, our Expert Booksellers will answer your questions on rare and collectible books. [Have a Question?]


Q. Some of the pages in this book are unopened (they are still joined at fold) Why is it this way? Does this make my book more valuable? The book is complete and in very good condition. - Linda

A. Traditionally, books are printed on large sheets of paper. The sheets are then folded to create 'gathers' of ordered pages. These are then placed in order, with other gathers, and are bound together to form the entire book. When the sheets are folded, there will be folds at the fore and top edges. Usually, these are trimmed before the book is bound, but sometimes the trimming does not cut deeply enough to open all the folds. This is why we sometimes see books that are unopened and this is also why we see books that have been opened roughly, by somewhat careless readers. An unopened book may have a greater collectible value, but there is nothing intrinsically desirable about it. The extra value may be derived from the simple fact that an unopened book is also an unread book, and therefore may be in superior condition. However, if left unopened, it wont be readable.
-- Neil Cournoyer - Bookseller (ABAC, ILAB), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Q. In your opinion, who would be some of the authors whose signatures would stand the test of time and appreciate? - Matt

A. Be careful of popular authors. Taste in authors changes like the weather. Ever hear of James Branch Cabell? He was really popular 80 years ago, but all but forgotten now. Stick to themes: Pulitzer Prize or Nobel Prize winners, Presidents, Generals or Admirals, Academy Award Winners, and the like. Someone, some time down the road, is going to have the same idea and want to start up a collection like yours, and that's when the value of your collection rises.
-- John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.

Q. I've collected a few signed first editions. I'd like to put them on display but I don't want to devalue them. So far I've just left them in plastic in a box. What should I do? - Paul

A. You don't say where you would like to display your books. Perhaps you mean in your home and for your personal satisfaction, or maybe at a local or school library for instructional purposes or even at a book fair. In any case, a few basic practices hold true. Keep your books away from excessive moisture and/or dryness, keep them out of direct sunlight (no, they aren't mushrooms; just don't put them on a window sill or tabletop under a window) and shelve them so they are standing on their bottom edges with a flat surface supporting either side. If you want your books facing foward on a shelf, then you should place them on book pedestals that are available from library supply shops. Keep your books from leaning to avoid spinecocking and continue to use your archival dustjacket covers. That, and keeping them away from rough hands, are the basics that should keep them nicely for you.
-- Revere Books, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Q. I've recently started collecting all the 1st edition hardbacks of the books I've loved over the last 40 years, mostly science fiction. Is there an authorative source on science fiction books, who published what when? - Richard

A. The following book is an excellent resource: Currey, J. W. Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: A Bibliography of First Printings of Their Fiction. It lists over 200 authors and gives enough bibliographic detail to identify first editions, as well as research resources for individual authors.
-- Neil Cournoyer - Bookseller (ABAC, ILAB), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada