Rare Books
Book collecting guide

Best books about book collecting

The key to being a successful book collector is knowledge. While our book collecting guide is a useful resource for novice collectors who want to learn more about book collecting, we recommend building a mini-library of books designed to help book collectors.

If you only own one book about book collecting then it should to be ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter. It was first published in 1952 and it’s still the cream of the crop. At the front and back, it displays the names of all the important pages (pastedown endpaper, free endpaper etc) on the relevant pages. It defines all the key rare book collecting technical terms, from first editions to signed books, and is interspersed with Carter’s wry comments about what’s right and wrong.

We also recommend book collectors use bibliographies. These books systematically list the works of an author or publisher or even a genre. Bibliographies are exhaustive, covering translations, short stories, anthologies, and even articles in magazines along with key information such as publisher and publishing date. If you want to collect the complete works of a major author, then a bibliography is essential. For immediate assistance in understanding rare book jargon, our glossary explains dozens of terms.

Books about book collecting

By John Carter
If there was a single book that any would-be collector should own, it is this. More than 450 terms are alphabetically described and cross-referencing is easy. Highly recommended.
By Patricia and Allen Ahearn
This hefty book explains how to identify first editions and covers a list of 20,000+ books. Used by collectors, probably all rare book dealers in the US and librarians.
By David and Natalie Bauman
A beginner's introduction to book collecting that includes numerous beautiful full color photos. The Baumans are famous rare booksellers.
By Robert A. Wilson
A serviceable introduction to collecting of modern editions - the focus is on 20th century authors.
By Estelle Ellis
Includes chapters on starting a collection, organizing the library, caring for books and other useful information on categorizing, editing, storage and space saving.
By Alan Powers
When looking for new and interesting ways to display your collection, basic do-it-yourself designs for building your own shelves, and some basic book care tips, this is a very useful book. Additionally the beautiful photos make this a great coffee table book.
By Nicholas Basbanes
Book collector and author Nicolas Basbanes provides a compendium of information on collecting books in the Internet age. Alongside the tips of the trade are anecdotes about famous bibliophiles.
By Ian C. Ellis
This book reveals the secrets of locating rare and valuable books including information on first editions, reader's copies, auctions, catalogs and the strategies of book scouts.
By Edward N. Zempel
Many publishers do not readily display the edition of a book, and many that do use different systems. This book explains the intricacies of spotting first editions from as far back as 1928.
By John Tracy Winterich
Winterich covers topics like books as an investment, the mechanics of collecting and answers the age old question: what makes a book rare?
By Bill McBride
A quality guide with the added bonus of portability, great for taking to book sales and book fairs.
By Walter Hart Blumenthal
Just as the sub-title proclaims, a book about books full of weird and wonderful bindings, strange tales, and books miniature to elephant folios.
By Matthew Budman
A concise guide to building a collection that celebrates young, diverse book collectors.
By Jane Greenfield
Covers various techniques and materials used in bookbinding to advice on handling and storage.
By Jeff Canja
A price guide to vintage paperback books and condition. Illustrated with hundreds of photos.
By Henry Petroski
A guide to understanding the book as a physical object from handwritten manuscripts to the Internet.
By Eric Quayle
Quayle describes children's books from the late 16th century to the 1970s.
By R.B. Russell
More than 700 author bibliographies, and over 50,000 values for first and collectable editions.
By Martin J Hopkinson
More than 100 examples of bookplates with details of the artists.
By Stephen Miller
Published by the PBFA in the UK, this is designed to help collectors of older books.


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