Category Archives: Book Collecting

Collecting Ex-Libris Bookplates

Ex-Libris Bookplate

Originally uploaded by Deborah Swain

There’s an increasingly popular field of specialization in book collection – collecting books because of the ex-libris bookplates found pasted inside them. I’ve just launched a new Website dedicated exclusively to this area – The Ex-Libris and Bookplate Store

This particular bookplate looks very much like a Rockwell Kent design however I’m not certain…if anybody has any further thoughts or any ideas as to the identity of David Adams, please do leave a comment below. The ex-libris is pasted into a 1931 First American Edition of The Waves by Virginia Woolf, published by Harcourt, Brace and Company.

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Monkey by Wu Cheng-en | Translated by Arthur Waley | Dust Jacket by Duncan Grant

Monkey is the title of Arthur Waley’s popular 1942 abridged translation of the traditional Chinese folk tale Journey to the West which was first published during the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century and is now ascribed to the scholar Wu Cheng-en. It actually translates only thirty of the hundred chapters of the original tale.

This 1944 War Economy Standard edition was the fourth impression of the book and features a very beautiful dust jacket design by Bloomsbury Group painter Duncan Grant.

Monkey: Journey to the West has recently been adapted for the stage in the form of a circus-opera by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the co-creators of the virtual pop band Gorillaz, and Chen Shi-zheng.

Why Collect Science Fiction Books?

By Alan Chudnow

It all begins with sense of wonder.

At some point it hits you, an almost magical attraction to books. It may be books by a particular author or books about a distinctly engaging concept or it may be the sheer joy of holding a unique volume with a compelling physical appeal. However it happens, what ever causes it, there is an upwelling of affection and a sudden sense of wonder.

It is important to keep in mind that almost all book collectors begin as readers. Readers become collectors when they find that the books themselves have become important objects in and of themselves. The book has transcended the state of being merely a vehicle for passing on the author’s stories and thoughts and becomes an object with intrinsic beauty and value. Object and content enhance each other, heightening the unique experience the book brings to its owner.

By most accounts, the origin of Science Fiction as a distinct literary genre dates back to 1926, when Hugo Gernsback started publishing what he called “scientifiction” in a new magazine known as Amazing Stories. Gernsback said,

“…sense of wonder comes not from brilliant writing, nor even from brilliant conceptualizing; it comes from a sudden opening of a closed door in the reader’s mind.”

Collecting the objects that initiated that amazement is the best way to keep it vivid, alive and immediately accessible.

Consumers vs. Collectors

Almost all Science Fiction and Fantasy book collectors begin as readers. This is an important point for by far the largest numbers of F&SF readers see books as consumables. They are content with reading a library copy or a paperback reprint and think of the book as simply a medium for conveying the author’s subject matter and deserve no more consideration than that.

Most readers use, and often abuse, the book as they please, dog-ear corners, make notes in the margins, bend the covers back and break the spine. For them, books are as disposable as a McDonald’s hamburger wrapper. They are book consumers.

For such readers things like the edition of a book, or its condition don’t matter. They perceive little difference between a hardcover first printing and a paperback reprint. The joy they receive from a book, and one must acknowledge that very real pleasure, comes from the author’s content alone. All other considerations are inconsequential.

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The Book as an object of beauty and inspiration

For those of us who are not book consumers but book collectors, the joy of the text is but one of several delights in a book. Look, feel, the very tactile uniqueness of a volume elevate the book from simple container to an object of physical beauty and romance which augments the thoughts and ideas of its author.

We take care of our books like we would other valuable objects. We treat them gently, store them properly and do our best to protect them from injury. The very act of owning our books, being able to take them down off the shelf, turn them over in our hands and take pleasure in their presence, enriches our lives and gives continued delight.

Most collectors of Science Fiction books begin to do so because they have found something in the genre that is inspiring. Science Fiction stretches your imagination, introduces you to a future of endless possibilities and creates a sense of wonder. Included within the realm of Science Fiction are also Fantasy books that take you into the world of magic and myth and Magic Realism books where everyday life is transformed into the supernatural, while yet remaining grounded in reality.

Science Fiction Collections can be valuable

There are other reasons to collect Science Fiction and Fantasy books, the economic value among them. As the popularity of science continues to grow at an astonishing rate the value and desirability of first edition and limited edition Science Fiction books continues to intensify as well. First editions and limited runs ensure that availability decreases over time. There exists a large expanding market for books. A carefully assembled collection of first edition or limited print volumes will become increasingly valuable.

Why collect books? Collect them because they engage your sense of wonder. Collect them because they are beautiful. Collect them because they are valuable. Most important of all, collect them because you love them.

Alan Chudnow has been collecting books for over 30 years. He was one of the original partners in Dangerous Visions, a speculative fiction specialty bookstore in Sherman Oaks, California. Now sadly gone the way of most independent bookshops in this country.

He has been, at various times a motion picture and television film editor, theatrical producer and director, writer, actor, web designer and bookstore owner, all while continuing his pursuit of bibliophilism. He lives in Long Beach, California as close to the beach as he can get.

SF Bookworm is a Blog concerning Science Fiction, Book Collecting and more. Come visit, hang out and join the conversation at

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Collecting First Editions for Pleasure or Profit

By Justin Power

If the idea of making money from a hobby appeals to you, then you should consider collecting first edition books. Let me give you a real-life example. If you had bought a copy of the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney’s first collection of poetry, Death of a Naturalist, in 1999 you would have paid less than £300. Today the same book would sell for at least £1,500. Giving you the double satisfaction of owning a valuable, rare and famous book – and of making a 400% profit in under seven years. Nor is this a one-off fluke. Experienced book collectors will tell you that with careful planning it is possible to regularly earn above average returns from this fascinating and enjoyable hobby. However, as with any ‘alternative’ investment, caution is advisable. You shouldn’t invest money you may need back in a hurry or that you can’t afford to lose.

Books become valuable for a variety of reasons. To begin with the author must be in demand. Collectibility is strongly influenced by fashion and circumstances. Immediately after John Banville’s The Sea won the Man Booker Prize first editions of the book – previously available for under £40 – started changing hands for £160 and above. When Francis Coppola made a film of another great Irish classic, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, first editions increased tenfold in value from around £800 to £8,000. Not that a film version guarantees success. First editions of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres regularly sold for £700 before the film bombed at the box office in 2001, whereas now they barely make half this price.

Interest in an author is not enough. The book itself must be what collectors call a first edition. A best-selling book will be printed many times in different formats. With very few exceptions, the only version that will be of value is the first printing of a book that is offered for sale. Over the years millions of copies of Ulysses have been printed but it is the initial 1,000 run – published on James Joyce’s fortieth birthday, 2nd February 1922, in Paris – that are worth the most money. Furthermore, of this edition, it is the 100 books actually signed by the author that command the highest prices.

Condition is another crucially important factor. If a book has been damaged, repaired or – in the case of modern novels – no longer has its dust jacket, the price will tumble. A signed first edition, on the other hand, will push the value up. This is especially true if there is a connection between the author and the recipient. Interestingly, rarity may have little or no effect on price. Speak to someone who specialises in antique books and you will discover that seventeenth and eighteenth century leather bound volumes, of which few copies may exist, are frequently worth only a few euros. By the same token, a relatively modern book that failed to sell, despite being a first edition and in short supply, is likely to be of no value.

In summary:

Always choose books you will enjoy owning. This way you will never regret your purchase.

Only buy first editions. All other editions are relatively worthless.

Buy the best condition books you can afford. If you are buying new, modern first editions do not read the books. Unread books are worth more.

Remember, rare does not automatically mean desirable.

What sort of books should you buy? Most dealers will advise you to specialise in a particular area. For instance, the value of literature related to medical discoveries is currently on the way up. Twenty years ago an off-print, signed edition of an article written by James Watson and Francis Crick, who discovered DNA, sold for £300. Another one recently came up for sale and made £18,000. I have friends who collect everything from books about the Russian royal family to children’s ‘pop-up’s’ and from modern first editions (relatively inexpensive if you buy when first published) to 19th century travel books. All offer potential for growth. For my own part, I am most interested in twentieth century Irish literature. Many of these authors are still alive (prices tend to increase when an author dies) and although the biggest names such as W B Yeats and Samuel Beckett (whose centenary is this year) are out of my league, a host of others – including Seamus Heaney, William Trevor, Molly Keane, Brian Moore, Flann O’Brien, and the late John McGahern – are still available at reasonable prices.

One final question that needs to be answered is where to buy. I would not, on the whole, recommend the internet. Sites such as Abe Books (, which offers more than 70 million volumes from over 13,000 dealers and sells over 20,000 books a day, are not for the inexperienced. Books are frequently described inaccurately and overvalued. Far better to buy at auction (all the major auction houses hold regular sales) or through a reputable dealer. Incidentally, once you know what you are looking for, you may be surprised by how much you can pick up in ordinary second-hand book shops, charity shops and even privately.

Justin Power

Article Source: Ezine Articles

Book Signings | Penelope Lively | Moon Tiger

When I was a child my favourite contemporary writer was, without a doubt, Penelope Lively. Many of her books dealt with ghosts or the supernatural, or played tricks with layers of time; I remember that I was glued to them and would very nearly have devoured them in one sitting if allowed! The Ghost of Thomas Kempe was actually set reading at school, but her other novels were even more thrilling to me. I particularly loved Astercote, with its creepy Black Death storyline, but the one that stuck in my mind most was the mysterious novel The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy. It fascinated me so much so that I’d even done a little research at the local library in Taunton – back in the old days before one could simply do an Internet search – into the possible folk legends that might have inspired it. Some years later, and quite by accident, I came across a postcard featuring a photograph of a late 19th century Abbots Bromley Horn Dancer and instantly recognised the masked figure with stag horns as being very like the mysterious dancers as I’d imagined them when reading Penelope Lively’s book.

Fast forward to the summer of 1988. I was a Reading University student but spending the summer in London. Again, quite by accident, I was strolling along Islington Upper Street and had stopped to look in a bookshop window when I noticed a poster advertising a Penelope Lively book signing event for the paperback release of her 1987 Booker Prize winning novel Moon Tiger. In fact – the book signing was happening there and then! I peered into the shop and sure enough, an elegant middle aged woman whom I presumed must be Penelope Lively was sitting at a little table and signing a book for somebody. So, this was my big chance to meet my favourite childhood author… and also ask her about the Wild Hunt of Hagworthy! And how warm and friendly she was as I gushed about how I’d loved her books; she told me how much she enjoyed meeting people who had read her books as children, and patiently answered my questions about a book she’d written years before!

So that’s the very personal tale of my first signed by author book. I’ve posted some scans below of the signed title page and front cover. If you have a book signing anecdote then feel free to post a comment below – I’d love to hear about it!

Moon Tiger | Front Cover :: Signed by Penelope Lively