NFT Rare BookNFTs, or nonfungible tokens, are digital proofs of a purchase for goods like art, digital music and other valuable collectibles. When auction house Christie’s sold the NFT “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” a collage by the artist Beeple, for $69.3 million in March of 2021, it signaled the dawn of a potential virtual fad. Data published by NonFungible, a data analytics company that covers the industry, showed that active NFT wallets dropped 88% during the six months between October 2021 and April 2022. Sales of NFTs also dropped 92% from a daily average of 225,000 to 19,000, during the same period.

Without getting too technical about the storage of NFTs, blockchain, cryptocurrencies etc., it is important to point out the useful aspects of NFTs. NFTs can be used to verify the originality of a collectible, its title, description or owner. NFTs can also be used to authenticate and transfer ownership of a valuable collectible in the real world. A smart contract tracks the NFT token ownership, provenance and transaction history and operates as a ready-made standard for anyone to use. Each case is allocated a token with a unique identifier and its properties are stored as detailed metadata. Needless to say that all data entered in its blockchain must be authentic in order to be reliable. NFTs may also provide special access; they are already being used as tokens or passes into private online groups. Just imagine joining the “ABAA NFT Group” sometime in the near future!

An early adopter of the technology is Bayliss Rare Books based in the U.K. They are offering their first edition collection of Ian Fleming’s, James Bond titles alongside their NFT counterpart on the OpenSea marketplace. Whether the Bayliss venture proves to be successful remains to be seen. Our perspective on the use of such technology is that it would not be suitable for the majority of rare books, because of its additional overhead expenses. Unless the work is an earth-shattering masterpiece, or has some historical significance, it makes no sense to categorize it as “non-fungible”. The book must be unique in the sense that there is no equivalent one can trade it for.

Process innovation in the sense of optimizing the book trade and its logistics processes, is desirable if it results in a better, faster, cheaper trade. The Internet, for example, has unquestionably added to the liquidity of the market and enhanced the ability of booksellers to connect with customers. NFTs have the potential to help dealers and collectors track the provenance of a scarce, one-of-a-kind rare book for which there is no substitute. Every transaction is publicly available on a blockchain, which is a digital transaction ledger.

Unfortunately, for those who want to have their collections in the metaverse, there are a number of drawbacks to consider. First, there are costs to mint and manage NFTs. These additional costs vary of course, but as in most business transactions if the benefits outweigh the costs, it may be worth taking the risk. Secondly, there may be additional taxation implications. Although the IRS has yet to issue specific guidance, NTFs for rare books should be treated as collectibles, and therefore taxed as ordinary income if held for less than a year, or taxed at the top collectibles rate of 28% if held for more than a year. Thirdly, many NFT marketplaces require crypto, which comes with the added risk of the volatile exchange. However, more recently, some marketplaces have begun to accept dollars via credit card. Lastly, there are security concerns. NFTs require a private key that functions as a password. If your key is stolen, you may never again be able to access your NFT. The good news is that you should still have the book in your possession.

In the future, you could own NFT virtual land, with an NFT bookshop decorated with NFT rare books, but at the moment there is no obvious advantage to do so. The technology does not allow you to facilitate transactions which are considered impossible or very complicated and costly in the physical world.

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Ahh spring, with its new life, warm weather, and flowers and trees coming into leaf and blossom. In literature, it is perhaps the most popular of the four seasons. Authors, poets and artists find inspiration in the season’s delightful, blooming fruit trees, native plants, edible annuals and perennials, and plethora of culinary and medicinal herbs. Research shows that in times of stress, exposure to plants yields benefits for both mental and physical health. A 2019 study of over 20,000 people, led by the University of Exeter Medical School, found that spending just two hours a week in nature significantly boosts mental health. Nature and mental health have historically been combined in literature in interesting ways, as writers and illustrators create ideas to spark imaginations and provide essential manuals to help design, plant and grow.

Poetry from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, to William Wordsworth’s famous poem about a daffodil easing his loneliness and bringing pleasure, celebrates the   ongoing cycle of life present in nature. Many gardening books include stunning colored plates of flora, which encourage us to appreciate the complex natural systems on our changing planet. For example, the illustration below, The Carnation (Puxley’s Defiance) by Jas Andrews Delt & Zinco, in Plate 103 in the Florist, Fruitist, and Garden Miscellany (1855);  London: Chapman and Hall.

Originally published as The Florist in 1848, the name of this periodical continued as The Florist and Garden Miscellany from 1849-1850, and then, The Florist, Fruitist and Garden Miscellany from 1851-1861, and finally The Florist and Pomologist from 1862-18841. With numerous hand-colored lithographic or chromolithographic plates, (some folding), these pictorial monthly magazines are now quite scarce. Chapman and Hall uniformly bound each year’s complete set with all the original hand-colored lithographs, in fine bindings with three-quarter leather, marbled boards, marbled endpapers and edges.

The Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, published by the founder of American landscape architecture, Andrew Jackson Downing, was a monthly magazine on “horticulture, landscape gardening, rural architecture, embellishments, pomology, floriculture, and all subjects of rural life, literature, art, and taste”. The magazine covered information about plants with etched and lithographed illustrations, and rural architecture ideas for building small, picturesque cottages for workmen and their families. This was not a farmer’s magazine, but rather a publication for horticultural enthusiasts, typically “gentleman farmers.” Downing edited the magazine until his death in 1852. After Downing died, there were several editors, including Patrick Barry (1816–1890), John Jay Smith (1798–1881), and Henry T. Williams. In 1875, the Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste merged with The Gardener’s Monthly and Horticultural Advertiser, which was published from 1876 to 1888, under the title The Gardener’s Monthly and Horticulturist.

Andrew Downing, along with his brother Charles, wrote Fruits and Fruit Trees of America in 1845, which is considered to be the most important and influential book on pomology published in the United States. The color-illustrated edition published in 1847, had 70 finely colored chromolithographs, and was executed in Paris from drawings drawn in the countryside from original fruits. After Andrew’s death in 1852, Charles Downing edited and added new material, and reissued The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America. Each new edition greatly enlarged the book, and thus it was considered to be one of the best publications of its kind in the United States. Charles was regarded as one of the foremost pomologists of his day because of his cultivation of grapes, pears and cherries in New York State 2.  His work inspired the formation of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, which published a number of monographs on the fruits of New York.

Horticulture’s rare books included a wide array of authors on the topics of gardening, farming, management and use of landscapes, fruit, horticulture plants and more. Intelligent stewardship of the writings of the natural world began around the middle of the last century, when a number of institutions collected and preserved works of merit in botany, horticulture and landscape design. Institutions such as the New York Botanical Garden and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in England, are now holding significant collections.  Private collections, such as the one acquired by philanthropist and passionate gardener Rachel (“Bunny”) Lambert Mellon, were gifted to universities. In the 1950’s, and 60’s, vast numbers of books of horticulture were absorbed into institutions, causing a serious shortage of collectibles within the genre. Collectors today have to spend a great deal of resource to add some of the most sought-after natural treasures of modern horticulture to their collections.

 

1 Great Flower Books, p.84; Nissen BBI 2258, 2259.

2 Times, Correspondence of the New-York (1864-10-09). “Exhibition of the Newburgh Bay Horticultural Society.; Exhibition of the Newburgh Bay Horticultural Society”. The New York Times.

Rare Book Sale Monitor update – New York edition

May 7, 2022
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Think back to 2021. This was supposed to be the year of new openings! A return to pre-pandemic normalcy! Instead, it became the year that failed to live up to its preseason hype. Many of the in-person events were either cancelled or forced to remain virtual. In the Rare Book world, most of the trades […]

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The Value of a “Priceless” Rare Book

April 25, 2022
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The Cambridge University Library has announced that the two notebooks written by Charles Darwin, worth many millions of pounds and which have been missing for more than two decades have been safely returned. Apart from the content of the notebooks, one of which contains his iconic 1837 ‘Tree of Life’ sketch, there is no more […]

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Historical Fiction Reads at a Time of War

March 26, 2022
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In my spare time, I have been rereading C.S. Forester’s brilliant, 12-book epic Horatio Hornblower series, which I originally read when I was a teenager. Transfixed by the destruction taking place in Ukraine, it is hard to read, or watch, or think about anything else besides the war. Such devastation has overshadowed everything else. All […]

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G.E.: “We Bring Good Books to Life”

February 3, 2022
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In a 1973 interview, author Kurt Vonnegut, discussed his inspiration to write his first novel, the dystopian, Player Piano (1952).  He cheerfully acknowledged that he ripped off the plot of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924). Kurt Vonnegut’s story about the “National Manufacturing […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 4th Quarter, 2021

December 22, 2021
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2021 will go down, among other things, as the year with a lot of people having a lot more money than they know what to do with. Aggressively escalating rare book prices set the tone for future market conditions: scarcity wrapped in higher prices. Is $471,000 too much to pay for a J. K. Rowling, […]

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Rare Book Optimal Pricing

November 9, 2021
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How can rare book sellers determine the optimal price for their items brought to market? If the price is set too high, the buyers may not bid to buy, if the price is set too low, the stock may be sold below optimal pricing. The information that is needed to set the right price for […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 3rd Quarter, 2021

September 22, 2021
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Sadly, the pandemic is still with us, but so are the Virtual Book Fairs (VBF)! The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), had planned to hold an impromptu, in-person event of its highly successful New York fair this month, but  switched to a VBF instead, complements of the Delta variant. At this time we are […]

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The Good, the Bad and the Rare

August 22, 2021
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Alabama native Asa Carter was a home-grown American fascist and anti-Semite, founder of the Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy, right-wing radio announcer, publisher of the segregationist newsletter “Southerner”, and secret author of the famous 1963 speech by Gov. George Wallace of Alabama: ‘Segregation now…segregation tomorrow…segregation forever.’ Forrest Carter’s first book The Rebel Outlaw: Josey […]

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