Chapter 578 Questions New Collectors Ought to Ask Booksellers, Or How We Can Help You, Part 2

If you read Part 1 of this post and its related post at The Private Library, welcome back. If you’re just finding this post for the first time, click here, to see what Part 1 was all about. Once again, the always intelligent Private Library has posted more advice to new collectors from the perspective of other collectors. I’m an antiquarian bookseller and I’m answering questions that I am sometimes asked by new collectors.

5. Which reference books will help me identify books that fit my collection?
This is why it is handy to get to know a good antiquarian bookseller. A good antiquarian bookseller, unlike the internet, will have at least a shelf-full (and, I hope, an entire case-full or more) of good print reference books. While it is easy to research current asking prices of books for sale by checking out online aggregators like or, and one can even pay a subscription fee to learn past auction prices on many titles, it is still difficult to find online accurate information for identifying first editions of various books, examples of authors’ signatures, and lists of important books in particular subject areas. Getting to know a good bookseller will help you learn the important references and bibliographies in your subject area and will help you learn. Over time, you can acquire your own copies of these references.

6. How can I learn the terminology associated with book collecting?
A good place to start is John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors. Buy a copy of the book and keep it on hand when you are reading book descriptions. It will go a long way toward helping you to understand the truncated language of many bookseller catalogues. You can also access Carter’s ABC online at the website for the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB):

Another thing to learn early on, perhaps even before you start collecting books, is the meaning of various book condition definitions. The Independent Online Booksellers Association (IOBA) includes definitions of these things here.

Another useful general print resource is Geoffrey Glaister’s Encyclopedia of the Book, a large and comprehensive listing of terms used in papermaking, bookbinding, and publishing.

This list is merely a start. The more you learn, the more you’ll be led to the best reference books in the area in which you like to collect.

7. How do I learn who are the experts in the field in which I am collecting?

Depending on the type of book you collect and the amount of time you have to devote to scouting for books, you may wish to deal primarily with a specialist book dealer. A specialist will not only know and understand your subject area, but, if he is known as a specialist in a particular field, will also frequently be offered books in that field by other booksellers before those books are offered on the open market. Still, there’s a lot to be said for the fun of scouting for books from a general antiquarian bookseller. If you’re in it for the thrill of the hunt, as many collectors are, and you have time to slowly build your collection, make the time to scout out the shop (brick and mortar or online) of the general bookseller or the booths of the variety of sellers at an antiquarian book fair. Check out the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association (ABAA) website to see a directory of some antiquarian booksellers and their various specialties.

8. How do I learn when there are book sales and book fairs in my geographic region?

Shopping for books at book fairs is fun. Where else do you have a gathering of booksellers who sell a huge variety of books under one roof? Book fairs offer one-stop shopping and the chance to see a range of books of all kinds. Library sales, too, can be fun places to hunt for prized tomes hidden amongst the ordinary books. In order to go to book fairs and library sales, you need to have them on your calendar. Book Sale Finder can help you find upcoming library sales, book fairs, and even auctions in your area.

9. What tools will help me keep track of my books and the prices I paid for them?

Keeping record of one’s books, especially if you hope to sell them later, should be a high priority for the new book collector. There are quite a few computer programs that can help you keep track of your books, their authors, their catalogue descriptions, and the price you paid to purchase them. Don’t wait until you have collected hundreds of books to start keeping track of them. Your life will be much easier if you catalogue each book as you get it. (Oh how I wish I took my own advice!) Here are a few that, depending on how extensively you wish to catalogue your books, are worth examining:

Book Hound is designed for booksellers, but could be used by a collector as well.

BookTrakker has both bookseller and book collector editions of its software.

My Book Collection is easy to use and practical for collectors. is useful for those who collect books with an ISBN number (that is to say books published in last 40 or so years.)

If you’re new to book collecting, allow me to be the first to say welcome! And thanks for taking the time to get acquainted with some of the basic points I’ve written about. If you have any other book-related questions I can answer, please ask away in the comment box below.

And don’t forget to read all about what experienced collectors have to share with new collectors over at The Private Library.


Filed under A Bookseller's Education, Bibliography and Reference Books, Getting Started, Internet Resources for Booksellers and Book Collectors, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Chapter 578 Questions New Collectors Ought to Ask Booksellers, Or How We Can Help You, Part 2

  1. I use LibraryThing for my collection. None of the other websites have such an accurate catalog, you can also organize books by tags and sort books into collections. Then you can download the whole thing and print it off, if you’re into that. That’s just the beginning, all for about $20 for a lifetime membership!

  2. I’ve been cataloging and getting fmv estimates for our historic juveniles (not mine, my employer’s), and it’s always entertaining to see what people put in the descriptions. (My favorite: “very sharp corners.” Looked back at the book in my hand… it’s true! Or the check boxes that turn into ludicrous sentences — “Fine in a non-applicable dust jacket.”) Goes to show you not to trust the seller without some knowledge of your own — no, there really can’t be well over 500 firsts of this book for sale, as the first run was 500 total, and they’re not all up for sale at once. No, that’s not signed by the author, as she’d been dead 20 years by the time this edition was published. No, that’s not “no jacket, as issued,” because I have it – with jacket – in my hand. Some of it’s ignorance, some of it’s knowing malice, some (most?) of it is lazy copy cataloging. (See it in WorldCat, too – so many places copy Library X’s original record without modifying it for themselves, so Library Y will have in its catalog record, “volume may not be removed from the Library X collections” or “gift of Z” in fifteen libraries around the country. Lazy bums!)

  3. Heh – one more comment – I much prefer the openly honest sellers (“buy this book only for your own reading – do not give it as a gift! It’s damaged in these ways…”) to the ones who are somewhat open but have heard that a few words will sell their books better (“front hinge broken, flyleaves missing, back cover folded, heavily foxed, Fine/Like New!”) So, buyer, do read the whole description, don’t trust the penny booksellers (“New/Fine. Book may contain highlighting or library marks…”), and don’t get tricked by POD (“This excellent first edition (of our POD edition, that is)…”). That’s all….

  4. Pingback: Chapter 595 Happy Thanksgiving 2010 « Book Hunter’s Holiday

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