Treasure Hunting for Rare Books
Posted on Thursday, December 1st, 2011
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My grandmother was an antique dealer who often enlisted my help as a child to run estate sales. As an eleven-year-old adventure seeking literary snob, I was convinced there was a tremendous fortune to be had discovering rare, signed first editions in Oklahoma City basements. The biggest find, which I still have, was a mint condition 1901 reprint of Alfred Lord Tennyson poems, for which I paid $1, which might now buy me lunch.
Though my discovery won’t be needing to travel via courier service to ‘go under the hammer’ at Christie’s in the future, one Oxford family will be sending a book from their bathroom shelf to do just that. A couple of years ago a man visiting a Darwin exhibition recognized the spine of a first edition of The Origin of Species. He recognized it because an exact copy of the same edition book resided on the shelf of his in-law’s bathroom shelf in Oxford. This particular treasure is in mint condition and expected to fetch nearly $100,000 at auction!
Can you imagine randomly finding not just a fragment, but a complete book predating Shakespeare in your home? In Sandy, Utah a 1493 copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, which includes 1,800 woodcut illustrations, was discovered in someone’s attic!
In the event you are blessed with an incredible find such as these, find an expert appraiser immediately. The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America and International League of Antiquarian Booksellers are good resources to track down a qualified professional to inspect, value and locate a venue for sale or display if you so choose. Good luck and happy hunting, the world is full of great books still waiting to be unearthed, and the best part is—they gain value with every passing year!