Rare Books
Book collecting guide

Collecting an author

One popular theme for collections is books by your favorite author. This could be as simple as finding a single copy of every title published by your beloved writer, or the more specific goal of finding each first edition. Alternately you could include articles written in periodicals as well as short stories, or poems that could have appear in collections.

No matter how you choose to define your collection, you will need to learn what has been written by that particular author and when those various editions were published. This can be done by finding an appropriate bibliography. A bibliography is a systematic list of books and other works published by an author. Bibliographies are common and can be found by searching various library catalogs. Beware of out-of-date bibliographies for modern writers.

Key things to consider when collecting by author

  • Many authors have written under multiple aliases, pseudonyms or pen-names. Be familiar with all nom-de-plumes associated with a writer.
  • When an author is published in different countries by different publishers, their books will usually have different cover art. The British edition could look significantly different to the American one.
  • The publishing date may vary from country to country, therefore the first American edition may not actually be the true first edition.  For more information, see First editions.
  • Did the author ever sign or inscribe anything? See Signed Copies.
  • Is it possible to find any ephemera associated with the author such as photos, manuscripts or letters?  See Ephemera.

Research your authors biography

  • –This website describes itself as the world’s largest library catalog with 1.5 billion searchable items.  You can research books by author, title and keyword and search results offer a publication history of each work.  This can be very helpful in finding out the order of precedence of editions as well as an author’s lesser known works.  Worldcat also contains foreign language editions.
  • – America’s Library of Congress, located in Washington DC, is the largest library in the world with more than 30 million books. This is an invaluable resource and easily searchable.
  • – The British Library, located in London, was founded in 1753 and contains more than 14 million books and hundreds of thousands of journal and newspaper titles.
  • - The Online Computer Library Center was founded in 1967 as the Ohio College Library Center but expanded beyond state boundaries to become one of the better online repositories of bibliographic information.