Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 1st Quarter, 2017

by Admin on April 24, 2017 · Market Analysis

Rare Book Sale Monitor

Rare book sales in the first quarter of every year are usually kept in balance by a slow auction season start on one hand, with two major book fairs on the other. The California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which takes place in February, is the world’s largest, both in terms of attendance and dealer participation.  The Big Apple is the host in March, with the New York Antiquarian Book Fair and a smaller NYC Book and Ephemera Fair.

Our Rare Book Sale Monitor, which specializes in recording, analyzing and identifying trends in book sale pricing for the genre and authors exhibited below, has signaled something different this first quarter, a first, since its induction.  Among the usual high end sales of some collectible art and rare first editions, it recorded an unusual volume of activity in incunabula (early printed books printed before 1501), as well as those printed during the first half of the 16th century.

On-line marketplaces such as Abebooks, were predominantly active in the sale of works published during this time frame. Works such as Saxo Grammaticus’ “Gesta Danorum”, the history of Denmark, with the first printed account of the Hamlet legend, published in 1514; “Quadragesimale aureum” by Leonardo de Utino published in 1471; “Aritmetica”  (Arimethrica) by Calandri Filippo, one of the first arithmetic books published in 1518 Florence;  and“Speculum Historiale” by Vincent of Beauvais, published 1473, were among the top sales during the quarter. The uniqueness of these items makes it impossible to track lacking relevant comparables.

The surge in interest for these types of books coincided with London’s Heathrow airport theft of January 30. The incident involved the books, belonging to three different rare book dealers stored in a warehouse at the airport on their way to the 50th Annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair. It is estimated that the 160 incunabula and early 15th century books stolen, are worth £2 million, including a 1566 copy of Copernicus’s “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” worth an estimated £215,000. Obviously, these books may never re-enter the marketplace. Thus an already exhausted supply is reduced even further, boosting opportunist demand by detecting a market imbalance ahead of higher prices.

Today, April 23rd, we celebrate World Book Day and World Book Night, in many parts of the world. The existence of books in our lives paves the way to intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and imaginative growth. Books take us to places we have never been before and introduce us to ideas that we could have never encountered without reading. Our communities become better places when we empower our lives with knowledge acquired through reading.

On such an occasion, I would like to take the opportunity to emphasize that although book collecting is often viewed as a personal activity carried out strictly for the collector’s own pleasure; collecting also offers a significant source of public benefits. Private collections have provided the cornerstones of many of the world’s great libraries, including the University of Oxford’s famous library, which bears the name of its benefactor, Sir Thomas Bodley.

In an era of disembodied socialization created by social media, I would also like to add that my book collecting has led me to friendships all over the world and there are many books on my shelves that I treasure precisely because of a social connection.


RBSM 2017-Q1 Genre Breakdown

RBSM 2017-Q1 Genre Breakdown


RBSM 2017-Q1 Author Breakdown

RBSM 2017-Q1 Author Breakdown



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