Collectible Books on Books

by Admin on October 23, 2012 · Books on Books

Books on Books or Books about Book Collecting

It’s beginning to look as if the great e-book debate is shaping up along demographics – the younger generation is driving towards a world equipped with Kindles, while physical books and private libraries are for people with more to spend. Does this imply that at some point in the future sales of e-books will surpass those of printed books? And once that happens will the fewer printed books be collected as if they are limited edition prints? Only time will tell, but my hope is that people will still prefer to do their reading holding a codex rather than a device so that the primary use of books will not turn into that of objects locked up behind glass windows to be exhibited untouched.

Any upward trend in appreciation of the printed book as an artifact that is aesthetically pleasing is bound to favor the genre of Books on Books, or books written about book collecting and the book in general. While not currently tracked by our Rare Book Sales Monitor (RBSM) category breakdown, the coverage of strictly bibliophilic matters is set to benefit from additional interest for the actual object – the physical book. At any rate, this seems to be an auspicious time, especially for younger bibliophiles, to be on the lookout for good, collectible books covering stories on books and the practice of book collecting. Our crystal ball led us to the following collectible Books on Books:

1. The Amenities of Book Collecting.  A.Edward Newton.  Boston : Atlantic Monthly Press, 1918

This was the first book in a series of books written by Newton on book collecting, and remains a classic book the field. Newton was a distinguished book collector. He famously owned the only copy of the First Edition of Dickens’ “Mystery of Edwin Drood” with a dust jacket, believed to be the first book issued in a dust jacket.

2. Rosenbach. Edwin Wolf 2nd with John FlemingRosenbach.  Edwin Wolf 2nd with John Fleming.  New York: World Publishing, 1960.


It is considered to be the best book of the 20th century on book selling, concerning the most famous book dealer who helped build some of the greatest book collections, many of which are now in well known libraries.

3. Book Row. Mondlin, Marvin & Meador, RoyBook Row.  Mondlin,  Marvin & Meador, Roy;  New York : Carrol & Graf, 2004.

This is the classic book about Fourth Row by Marvin Mondlin of the legendary Strand bookstore in New York City. It is an illustrated memoir that features historical photographs, richly anecdotal names and places that all lovers, readers, buyers, sellers, and collectors of books from the 1890s to the 1960s will never forget.


4. 84, Charing Cross Road. Helene Hanff84,Charing Cross Road. Hanff, Helene.  New York: Grossman Publishers, 1970.


When Miss Hanff wrote to Marks & Company on October 5, 1949, she began a correspondence that endured twenty years of amusement, charm and a feisty love affair with the bookshop. 84 Charing Cross Road is its record.

5. A Gentle Madness. Basbanes, Nicholas.A Gentle Madness.  Basbanes, Nicholas. New York:  Henry Holt, 1995.


The highly praised volume on book collecting and book collectors by Basbanes, the preeminent writer on matters of book collecting in the U.S., and one of the country’s premier collectors of modern firsts.

While speculations on the future of the book will continue to attract the attention of bibliophiles, publishers and authors, as well as those looking to reshape it, the story of the book lives on.  Books on Books have captured those stories that will still remain even when the day arrives that electronic accessibility dominates the distribution of the written world to the point that the genre name is changed from Books on Books, to e-Books on Books. It is also possible that the easy access to the book’s content provided by the codex format without the need of an electronic device, may be just the right invention to withstand replacement since the day that it replaced the scroll.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Admin October 25, 2012 at 1:34 am

Believed then to be the first book in a jacket is correct.
Thank you, for the insightful information.


James Keeline October 24, 2012 at 12:52 am

With regard to Edwin Drood being the first issued with a jacket, do you mean to say that it was thought then to be the earliest extant jacket? Earlier ones by far have been seen. The earliest I have heard about is one from the 1830s.

There are some books on books that I would appreciate having in ebook form. The Basbanes volumes, Other People’s Books, William Targ’s anthologies, the Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, etc. I still plan to keep the physical copies of these I have. However, it is fun to dip into them at odd times. I could do this more if any one of them was a file on my iPhone.

I do have, and appreciate, Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors from the site as a free PDF download.

From a practical sense, having the data in Zemple on First Editions and the McBride pocket guides would be helpful while buying on the road.

I am beta testing an iPhone app to let me see the text parts of listings from my LibraryThing catalog (7,500+ items). The goal for me is to minimize purchasing duplicates unless I want to (upgrade, different format, etc.).

A measure of a bookstore is the size of their books on books reference library and section for sale. After looking at the (collectible) children’s books, I am most likely to look at that section if they have one.


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