Collecting guides

From understanding book bindings to tips on collecting vintage airline posters, our collecting guides are for seasoned collectors and beginners alike. Browse collecting guides written by AbeBooks staff and expert contributors and get collecting.

March 17, 2022
In 1941, with Britain facing invasion by Germany, Collins published series of social history books called Britain in Pictures to create a record of British life. George Orwell, Graham Greene and Edith Sitwell were among the writers to contribute books. Today, these books are highly collectible.
1 Min Read
February 08, 2022
Cosway bindings are beautiful books with miniature paintings inset into fine leather bindings. They are named after miniaturist portrait painter Richard Cosway. Bookselling firm Sotheran's invented the concept with Miss C.B. Currie providing the art.
3 Min Read
October 05, 2021
Postcards were collected right from the start, and are still sought after today by collectors of pop culture, photography, advertising, wartime memorabilia, local history, and many other categories.
1 Min Read
August 18, 2021
Move over Hemingway, Steinbeck and Twain. Humble cookbooks have become highly desirable in the book collecting world.
6 Min Read
July 13, 2021
Learn about the most common abbreviations of book terms and more in the AbeBooks Book Collecting Guide
1 Min Read
July 10, 2021
A popular way to narrow down a particularly broad area of interest is to focus on a specific time period. If you're a medical professional and find books about surgeries fascinating you might find it less daunting to begin collecting texts strictly from the Victorian era, for example.
1 Min Read
July 10, 2021
Incunabula, also known as incunable and incunabulum, are printed materials, primarily books, created before the start of the 16th century. The printing era began with the creation of moveable type and the Gutenberg Bible in 1455. Discover more about these early printed books which mark the start of mass communication.
3 Min Read
July 10, 2021
Books are good but signed books are better. An autograph from your favorite author can turn a book into a collectible item and increase its value and desirability. Many collectors based their collections around signed books and they are a staple of the rare book business.
1 Min Read
July 10, 2021
There are two main points to consider when looking at an illustration. Who created the illustration, and what artistic method did they use to create it?
4 Min Read
July 10, 2021
Just as many materials can be used to bind books there are also many types of paper used to make book leaves. Without getting into the names for various thicknesses and modern paper types, here is a basic list of paper varieties used in antiquarian and luxury books.
2 Min Read
July 10, 2021
A list of the best books about book collecting including guides for beginner and experienced book collectors. Discover John Carter’s classic ABC for Book Collectors, modern guides to book collecting in the Internet age, and how to identify first editions.
1 Min Read
July 10, 2021
Ephemera are objects, usually made from paper, created to be used for a short time only - things designed to be temporary. Learn about examples of ephemera, including greeting cards, newspapers, magazines, maps, menus, letters and postcards, and vintage posters.
9 Min Read
July 10, 2021
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.
2 Min Read
July 10, 2021
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.
2 Min Read
July 10, 2021
Since the first goal of book collecting should be to collect books that you are interested in it shouldn't be much of a surprise that collections will often be built around a specific kind of fiction or non-fiction topic. Even if you do not consider yourself a "book collector" you can probably take a look at your bookshelves and find the beginnings of this kind of collection simply based on your reading tastes.
1 Min Read
July 10, 2021
Fine presses, private presses and small presses vary from traditional publishing houses because of their size, scope and intention. Books produced by these publishers are often adored by collectors who desire books that are not run-of-the-mill.
1 Min Read
July 10, 2021
A collection doesn’t have to be based around a particular author or subject matter, books themselves can be things of beauty and many collections are assembled because the books are presented as pieces of art. Art and literature have been closely linked for centuries, and artists can ply their trade on the cover, the binding and even the edges of the pages.
2 Min Read
July 10, 2021
A pre-first edition is any limited run copy of a book printed before the first standard edition is published. These include advance(d) reader copies (ARCs), galleys, salesman’s editions, proofs and sometimes manuscripts. The importance of these editions varies from collector to collector - some enjoy seeing the evolution of a book from concept to publication while others are only interested in collecting the editions meant for public release.
2 Min Read
June 15, 2021
AbeBooks has sold hundreds of copies of Rowling's books at high prices, including a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that sold for $37,000. Do you have a valuable Harry Potter gathering dust under your bed?
June 15, 2021
Humble children's books from years past can be immensely valuable, but only if they are the right edition in the right condition. And condition is doubly important when considering the value of children's books.
June 08, 2021
New to the world of art collecting? Use our art terms guide to help you brush up on all the lingo related to collecting art.
1 Min Read
June 03, 2021
Vintage magazines appeal to people who have a particular interest in old paper, to be sure, but they are also collected for the specific content on and between their covers.
2 Min Read
June 03, 2021
A book’s format refers to the shape and dimensions of the physical book. Learn more in our guide to book collecting.
1 Min Read
By Richard Davies
June 03, 2021
It's easy to understand why people are interested in vintage airline posters that were designed to last for just a few months. The imagery, the colors, and the messaging that air travel was glamorous and accessible to all still catches the eye today.
2 Min Read
June 03, 2021
The binding of a book describes the material that is used to make the upper (front) and lower (back) covers. Books are bound in all manner of materials including various papers, cloths, hides and even metals to increase aesthetic appeal or durability.
1 Min Read
By Edward Halpern
June 03, 2021
The Limited Editions Club of New York was started in 1929 by George Macy. At 29-years-old, he was an avid reader who wanted to make his living from books. His business revolved around publishing beautifully illustrated classic titles in relatively small quantities with club members paying a subscription.
3 Min Read
June 03, 2021
The publication of folio-size sheets of American popular music dates to the late 18th century, but the practice didn't pick up steam until the 1830s, '40s, and '50s. That's when upright pianos first began to find their way into the parlors and salons of U.S. homes.
2 Min Read
June 03, 2021
A limited edition book is one where the number of copies in the print run has been strictly defined prior to its issue, and that number is substantially less than a standard print run, and then no further print runs are issued after the first printing has sold out.
1 Min Read
June 03, 2021
We venture to say that no other piece of terminology has caused so much contention among booksellers and collectors as that of first edition. In publishing terms, an edition is technically all copies of a book that were printed from the same setting of type and the book is only described as a second edition if substantial changes are made to the copy. However, in collecting terms, a very rough description of first edition would be when it is the first appearance of a work in question.
3 Min Read
June 03, 2021
The definitions below are for reference only. Booksellers use these terms, as well as unique terms not included in this list, based on their own criteria. If you would like clarification on any term in a particular seller's description, please contact the bookseller directly for further information.
4 Min Read