Rare Books
Book collecting guide

Collecting a single title

Some book collectors choose to focus all of their attention on a single title by a particular author. This may sound simple but can become a monumental task depending on the book in question. A classic work - like Shakespeare’s plays or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales - will have been republished hundreds of times in various formats, with different illustrators and different cover art, by different publishers, in different countries, by different translators, and so forth.

To determine how many different editions a single title might have it would be wise to consult a bibliography. AbeBooks itself is also very useful for researching the various editions of a particular title.

Key things to consider when collecting by title

  • Most titles are published in different countries by different publishers and therefore often have different cover art depending if they were published in the US, UK, Canada or Australia, etc.  Occasionally, the book’s title will change - Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US - even if the content does not.
  • If you are trying to collect the publishing history of a single title consider foreign translation editions which can be numerous.
  • Different illustrated editions may contain different cuts and plates created by different illustrators. See Illustrators
  • It may be possible to find copies of the title prior to the first edition such as galleys, advanced reader copies, or even manuscripts. See Pre-first editions
  • Were any bookmarks, posters, or other ephemera created to promote the title that you could find? See Ephemera
  • Was the book published as a limited or deluxe edition? See Limited Editions

Research the bibliographic history with these websites

    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.