It seems every day I encounter someone who says, "Oh I would just love to sell books. I love books myself." Of course they have absolutely no idea of the amount of work involved, nor do they have any conception of the great body of information and knowledge required. Nevertheless, many of these people actually do attempt to become booksellers, thus proving the adage "A rare book dealer is just a collector with duplicates."

Anyone who has just entered the field of selling and/or collecting rare books must make acquiring the necessary reference tools a first priority. This means bibliographies pertinent to your chosen specialty (a topic we will cover later), books on books, price guides in general as well as specialty price guides, catalogues, magazines, monographs, etc. At first the list can seem endless. But, without these basic tools you cannot hope to progress beyond being "someone who sells or accumulates used books."

If you aspire to have a fine collection or to offer the best there is in your field, then you must go to school. As we discuss this topic over the next two weeks, I am asking those dealers who have price guides, bibliographies, references, etc. for sale to offer them up to the list. This is your opportunity to make some sales while helping your fellow fledgling dealers and those new collectors.

Several months ago I asked John Dinsmore to provide us with a bibliography of essential reference works. This list has resided on the web page in the forum section for some time now. The list is geared heavily toward collectors, and experienced dealers are invited to contribute their suggestions and additions to the list. Also, over the next two weeks we will ask people to recommend reference works in specific specialties on a daily basis. If you don't see yours, please ask!

So, here is John's list. And discussion on this topic can begin.

For newcomers to (or those well into) collecting Modern First Editions, here's a reference list of books about collecting that can answer many questions about the field. I've prepared this list for clients, and distribute it without charge. I do not have copies of the following books for sale--check at your library, or local book stores.



Allen & Patricia Ahearn. Book Collecting; A Comprehensive Guide, 1995 Edition. Putnam, 1995. 480p. Price handbook with list of first editions of authors' first books and market prices for 1978, 1986, and 1995. Has a great bibliography of author bibliographies at the back of the book, plus table of author pseudonyms, booksellers, and auction houses.

Allen & Patricia Ahearn. A Collection of First Books. Bethesda, MD, Quill & Brush Books, 1984. Illustrated with B&W photos of dust jackets. Bookseller's catalogue listing first editions of authors' first books and their (then) market prices. Highly useful annotations for 1,035 entries.

Joseph Connolly. Modern First Editions: Their Value to Collectors. Trans-Atlantic Publications, 1987. 2nd ed. Author is a London bookseller; book has British orientation.

John Feather. A Dictionary of Book History. Oxford Univ. Press, 1986. 278p. 650 articles on bibliophile subjects.

Salvatore J. Iacone. The Pleasures of Book Collecting. Harper & Row, 1976. 303p. index. bibliography. glossary. abbreviations. Chapters include first editions, impressions/issue/state, association copies, list of desirable author signed copies, plan for collecting (several lists), first editions, points (list of notable books and their points), care and protection, bookseller psychology.

Jack Matthews. Collecting Rare Books for Pleasure and Profit. Putnam, 1977. 317p. index. bibliography. glossary. Rare books as investments, points (notable books and their points), modern firsts, private presses, association copies, Grolier & Connolly lists of high spots, condition and care, buying/selling strategies.

Jean Peters, ed. Book Collecting: a Modern Guide. R. R. Bowker, 1977. 288p. index. Twelve essays: bookseller relations, auctions, antiquarian market, manuscripts., descriptive bibliography, forgeries, care and condition, appraisal, collection organization, literature of book collecting.

Jean Peters, ed. Collectible Books: Some New Paths. R. R. Bowker, 1979. 294p. index. Nine essays: non-firsts, books in series, book catalogs, "American Fiction Since 1960" (includes bibliography, pp.275-279.

Robert A. Wilson. Modern Book Collecting. Knopf, 1980. 270p. index. glossary. Author collections, bookseller relations, auctions, collector's condition, first edition identification, bibliographies, (includes list of 20th century author bibliographies.), book production, care and condition, forgeries, investment issues, selling a collection. Appendixes: list of book auction firms, bookseller list (modern first editions), clubs for collectors, 50 most important American literary books published since WWII. Emphasis on the HOW, not the why, of book collecting. Author was proprietor of the Phoenix Book Shop, New York City. Paperback reprint edition. NY, Lyons & Burford, 1992. 276p.

Edition Identification

McBride, Bill. Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions. Hartford, CT, Author. 4th ed., 1990. 76p. Pocket size, easy-to-use guide.

McBride, Bill. Points of Issue; A Compendium of Points of Issue of Books by 19th - 20th Century Authors. Hartford, CT, Author. 2nd ed., 1987. 100p. Pocket size, easy-to-use guide.

Edward N. Zempel & Linda A. Verkler, eds. First Editions, A Guide to Identification. Peoria, IL, Spoon River Press, 1989. 2nd ed. 307p. Statements of North American and British publishers on their methods of designating first editions. The most detailed source.

See also Ahearn, Book Collecting (1989), in monographs above.

See also Wilson, Modern Book Collecting (1980), in monographs above.

See also the Identifying First Editions Page on the Biblio web site.


Carter, John. ABC for Book Collectors. New Castle, DE, Oak Knoll Books, 1992. 6th ed., rev. 219p. Includes abbreviations. A classic in the field.

Margaret Haller. The Book Collector's Fact Book. ARCO Pub. Co., 1976. 271p. Handbook for collectors, arranged as a glossary.

Jean Peters, ed. The Bookman's Glossary. R. R. Bowker, 1983. 6th ed. 223p. bibliography.

Ray Prytherch, ed. Harrod's Librarians' Glossary and Reference Book. Gower Pub. Co. [Grafton Book], 6th rev. ed., 1987. 880p. Comprehensive glossary for bibliophiles.

See also Ahearn, Book Collecting (1989), in monographs above.

See also Iacone, Pleasures of Book Collecting (1976), in monographs above.

See also Matthews, Collecting Rare Books for Pleasure and Profit (1977), in monographs above.

See also Wilson, Modern Book Collecting (1980), in monographs above.


FIRSTS: Collecting Modern First Editions. Monthly which began publication January 1991. [Eleven issues per year, beginning 1993.] Feature articles, checklists with market prices, how-to articles. The best single periodical source for collectors of modern first editions. Write for info to FIRSTS Magazine, P.O. Box 65166 - Dept. EO11, Tucson, AZ 85728-5166 USA

Book Price Guides

Allen and Patricia Ahearn. Collected Books: The Guide to Values. Putnam, 1991. 636p. Up-to-date price handbook listing over 15,000 first editions in all fields. Special feature: Bibliography of literary author bibliographies, the best single source available. Acknowledged as the successor to Van Allen Bradley's Book Collector's Handbook of Values.

Allen & Patricia Ahearn. Author Price Guides. Rockville, MD, Quill & Brush Books. Individual guides to first edition prices of over 100 authors. Supplements title above.

See also Ahearn, Book Collecting (1989), in monographs above.

See also Connolly, Modern First Edition (1987), in monographs above.

John Dinsmore & Associates, Booksellers
1037 Castleton Way South
Lexington, KY 40517-2724 USA
(606) 271-8042
Daily 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM Eastern Time

Note that Zempel and Verkler is now in its 3rd edition (1995) and more information about it and many other reference books can be found at Spoon River Press's catalogue page:

Post Office Box 40787
Tucson, AZ 85717
Phone: 520-881-8192
Fax: 520-323-3351
First editions of detective, mystery, and suspense fiction; related bibliography and criticism; and Sherlockiana

The Peters introduction is truly excellent, but the very best modern introduction to book collecting, IMHO, is "Invitation to Book Collecting, Its Pleasures and Practices" by Colton Storm and Howard Peckham, New York: R.R. Bowker, 1947. It often appears in catalogues at anywhere from $15 to $50. As a collector I would highly recommend to the inexperienced bookseller that he/she find out as much as possible about collecting -- as opposed to purchasing books just for reading -- and the collector's mentality, not just out of curiosity, but as a means of increasing the bottom line.

One of my main collecting interests is anything having to do with the history of book collecting in America: collectors', booksellers' and librarians' reminiscences, library catalogues, auction catalogues, etc., etc.

>From the Bookplate...

I have many of the books listed in Shoshana's original e-mail (and outlined by John Dinsmore) re: collecting, identifying first editions, etc. I purchased them "new" from an out-of-print book listing that only sells "brand new," "never used books" (usually publisher overstocks or inventory reductions from new booksellers).

The bookseller/company I buy from is called "Edward Hamilton." They send me a newspaper-like catalog every couple of weeks. The books in their stock seem to rotate, so one week there will be no "books about books" listed, and then two weeks later, 5-6 books will be listed. These 5-6 are consistent every month, and once in a while (the last time I ordered, in fact) they list a new "book about books" in their "New Arrivals" section. I purchased the Ahearn book, Modern Book Collecting (Robert Wilson), Handbook for Booklovers (Joseph LeFontaine), Understanding Book Collecting (Grand Uden), and many others. Not all of the books are from 1996, for example, LeFontaine's book is brand new, but was printed in 1988. The date of the books I have purchased don't really matter to me -- the information is still very valuable no matter how old.

Edward Hamilton is strictly on a first come first serve basis, so if you wait too long to order a book, they may send you an "out of inventory" letter and refund.

If you are interested in writing Edward Hamilton to receive their newspaper/catalog, please e-mail me back and I will save your e-mail address and give you Edward Hamilton's address as soon as I get the next catalog (which should be any day now!).

I hope this information was helpful to some of you!

The Bookplate

>From Mike Justman of Mike's Books....

I just looked over the suggested list of reference materials, and a wonderful list it is, too. I would add one thing, however, for the generalist or for the specialist in first editions:

Merle Johnson (revised by Jacob Blanck). American First Editions. Bowker, revised edition, 1942. For materials published before about 1942 it gives lots of information on identifying the first editions of works whose status is not easily ascertained and points out individual exceptions to the normal identification rules. For me, it's a must.

Mike Justman
Mike's Books
PO Box 928
Myrtle Creek, OR 97457
(541) 863-3545

>From Gene Freeman...

John's list leans heavily toward modern firsts. I would add anything by Eric Quale, Rauri McLean, (on books, not type) Richard Booth and Allen Thomas. These cover a broad range of collecting interests, although many of the books described are ones we'll never see, or be able to afford. What they do though, is give an understanding of the many reasons that book are collected and exemplify the "fields" of collecting much better than many of the references already noted in John's list. I also think that auction records are much more practical as price guides because that is what someone actually paid for the book. The CD-ROM version of ABPC makes it easy to spot price trends and shifting buying patterns. A few price guides (to remain unnamed) are shameless attempts to inflate the price, within the trade, of the type of book specialized in by the compiler.

Gene Freeman
FAX (714) 542-8814

From ST

I was curious about what the "anything by Eric Quale, Rauri McLean, (on books, not type) Richard Booth and Allen Thomas," might include (especially since I've added a "Book Collector's Resources" file to my webpage). So I searched some online libraries. In case anyone else was similarly curious, here's what I found...


Quayle, Eric. The collector's book of books. photos by Gabriel Monro. New York, C.N. Potter [1971], London, Studio Vista, 1971. 144 p. illus. (part col.), facsims. 31 cm. bibliography p. 139.

Quayle, Eric. The collector's book of children's books. photos by Gabriel Monro. [1st ed.] New York, C. N. Potter; distributed by Crown Publishers [1971] 144 p. illus. (part col.) 31 cm. bibliography p. 138.

Quayle, Eric. The collector's book of detective fiction. photos by Gabriel Monro. London, Studio Vista, 1972. 143, [16] p. illus. (some col.), facsims., ports. 31 cm. bibliography p. 129.

Quayle, Eric. Early children's books: a collector's guide. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles; Totowa, N.J. Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. 256 p. ill. 24 cm. bibliography p. 247-248. includes index.

Quayle, Eric. Old cook books: an illustrated history. photos by Gabe Monro. 1st ed. New York: Dutton, 1978. 256 p. ill. 29 cm. "A Brandywine Press book." bibliography p. 249. includes indexes.


Thomas, Alan G(radon). Great books and book collectors. New York: Putnam, c1975. 280 p. ill. (some col.) 32 cm. includes index. bibliography p. 272-274. ISBN: 0-399-11367-3

Thomas, Alan G(radon). Fine books. New York: Putnam [1967] 120 p. illus. (part col.), facsims. 22 cm. bibliography p. 120.

de Hamel, Christopher and Richard A. Linenthal, eds. Fine books and book collecting: books and manuscripts acquired from Alan G. Thomas and described by his customers on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Leamington Spa, Warwickshire: J. Hall, 1981. x, 72 p. ill. 31 cm.


McLean, Ruari. Modern book design; from William Morris to the present day. Fair Lawn, N. J., Essential Books, 1959 [c1958] 115 p. illus. 23 cm.

McLean, Ruari. Victorian book design and colour printing. New York, Oxford University Press, 1963. 182 p. illus. 23 cm.

McLean, Ruari. Victorian book design and colour printing. Berkeley; University of California Press [1972] [2d ed.] xii, 241 p. illus. (part col.) 30 cm. includes bibliographical references.

Are those the ones you had in mind, Gene, or are any important ones missing? I couldn't find anything by Richard Booth that seem related to book collecting. Any hints?

ST Books & Book Collecting, SetMaker...

Instead of messing with the volumes of Books in Print. I buy a CD from Baker and Taylor twice a year for 225.00. (Ingrams also has one) There are around 2 million books listed including out of print books, going back to the 50's.

I use it for everything. If a customer comes in with a title and no author, I type in the author, same goes for author but no title. Publishers names and address are also listed, so if I need a recent op. book, I call the publisher and find what they did with the remainders. You can also but the cd's monthly for $1,200 or more but I do the minimum because thats all I need. This might not work for all of you but for me its great. Baker and Taylor has this for their electronic ordering system for new books so you may have to open an account and do a minimum of $400.00 opening order but its a lot less than purchasing the entire series of Books in Print. If anyone wants any more info. just let me know.

Moni Dravet/Readmore Books

>From Jean Parmer of Parmer Books...

Auction records and price guides need to be used with the utmost care. Last two auctions in one of our areas (Antarctica) were attended by deep-pocket collectors, in a frenzy of auction fever, who set some world record prices on certain titles. Some of the dealers in attendance had some of that material in stock for less.

The price guides are sometimes dealer errors. Even the most experienced among us will have to make a guess from time to time. If the dealer is one of the published ones, the error gets enshrined in print.

We keep complete records on the books in our field (approx 15,000 now). What we paid, how long it was in stock, and what it sold for. The sales figures are probably low for London and New York; high for a general shop in the Midwest. We would make no argument that ours are the 'right' prices...they are the prices that work for us.

Susan is right about "Getting Started"; Get Started.

Jean Parmer

As an antique map dealer specializing in, but not limited to, Western Americana, I find the references that get worn the most include:

Wagner/Camp, The Plains and Rockies
Howes, U.S.iana,
Portinaro & Knirsch, The Cartography of North America,
Tooley, Maps and Map Makers,
Goetzmann, Exploring the American West,
Goetzman, New Lands, New Men,
Potter, Collecting Antique Maps (excellent reproductions).

Essential works that I do not yet have include:

Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, and
Wheat, The Maps of the California Gold Region.

If any of you Biblio'ers would like to quote on these last two, please do so.

Steve Armistead
Deja View Antique Maps and Prints
P O Box 13542
Portland, OR 97213
Online catalog:

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Last Modified: October 15, 1996