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lectors with large means, has notably enhanced the prices of all desirable and rare books. Nor do the many reprints which have appeared much affect the market value of the originals, or first editions.
This rise in prices, while far from uniform, and furnishing many examples of isolated extravagance, has been marked. Witness some examples. The "Bay Psalm Book," Cambridge, Mass., A. D. 1640, is the Caxton of New England, so rare that no perfect copy has been found for many years. In 1855, Henry Stevens had the singular good fortune to find this typographical gem sandwiched in an odd bundle of old hymn books, unknown to the auctioneers or catalogue, at a London book sale. Keeping his own counsel, he bid off the lot at nine shillings, completed ar imperfection in the book, from another imperfect copy, had it bound in Bedford's best, and sold it to Mr. Lenox's library at £80. In 1868, Stevens sold another copy to George Brinley for 150 guineas, which was bought for $1,200 in 1878, by C. Vanderbilt, at the Brinley sale.
John Smith's folio "Historie of Virginia," 1st ed., 1624, large paper, was sold to Brinley in 1874 at $1,275, and resold in 1878 for $1,800 to Mr. Lenox. In 1884 a copy on large paper brought £605 at the Hamilton Library sale in London. In 1899, a perfect copy of the large paper edition was presented to the Library of Congress by Gen. W. B. Franklin. Perfect copies of Smith's Virginia of 1624 on small paper have sold for $1,000, and those wanting some maps at $70 to $150.
The earlier English tracts relating to Virginia and New England, printed between 1608 and 1700, command large prices: e. g., Lescarbot's New France, [Canada,] 1609, $50 to $150; Wood's New England's Prospect, 1635, $50 to $320; Hubbard's Present State of New England, Boston, 1677, $180 to $316.
It is curious to note, in contrast, the following record of prices at the sale of Dr. Bernard's Library in Londov, in 1686:
T. Morton's New England, 1615, eight pence; Lescarbot's New France, 1609, ten pence; Wood's New England's Prospect, 1635, and three others, 5 s. 8 d.; nine Eliot Tracts, &c., 5 s. 2 d.; Hubbard's Present State of New England, 1677, 1 s.; Smith's Historie of Virginia, 1624, 4 s. 2 d.
The numerous and now rare works of Increase and Cotton Mather, printed from 1667 to 1728, though mostly sermons, are collected by a sufficient number of libraries to maintain prices at from $4 to $25 each, according to condition. They number over 470 volumes.
Several collections have been attempted of Frankliniana, or works printed at Benjamin Franklin's press, and of the many editions of his writings, with all books concerning the illustrious printer-statesman of America. His "Poor Richard's Almanacs,” printed by him from 1733 to 1758, and by successors to 1798, are so rare that Mr. P. L. Ford found a visit to three cities requisite to see all of them. The Library of Congress possesses thirty-five years of these issues.
A word may be added as to early newspapers, of some special numbers of which prices that are literally “fabulous" are recorded. There are many reprints afloat of the first American newspaper, and most librarians have frequent offers of the Ulster County, (N. Y.) Gazette of Jan. 10, 1800, in mourning for the death of Washington, a genuine copy of which is worth money, but the many spurious reprints (which include all those offered) are worth noth
Of many rare early books reprints or facsimiles are rife in the market, especially of those having but few leaves; these, however, are easily detected by an expert eye, and need deceive no one.
Of some scarce boohs, it may be said that they are as rare as the individuals who want them: and of a very few, that they are as rare as the extinct dodo. In fact, volumes have been written concerning extinct books, not without interest to the bibliomaniac who is fired with the passion for possessing something which no one else has got. Some books are quite at worthless as they are rare.
But books deemed worthless by the common or even by the enlightened mind are cherished as treasures by many collectors. The cook-book, entitled Le Pastissier françois, an Elzevir of 1655, is so rare as to have brought several times its weight in gold. Nearly all the copies of some books have been worn to rags by anglers, devout women, cooks, or children.
When a book is sold at a great price as "very rare," it often happens that several copies come into the market soon after, and, there being no demand, the commercial value is correspondingly depressed. The books most sure of maintaining full prices are first editions of master-pieces in literature. Fitzgerald's version of Omar Khayyam was bought by nobody when Quaritch first published it in 1859. After eight years, he put the remainder of the edition,—a paper-covered volumedown to a penny each. When the book had grown into fame, and the many variations in later issues were discovered, this first edition, no longer procurable, rose to £21, the price actually paid by Mr. Quaritch himself at a book auction in 1898!
Auction sales of libraries having many rare books have been frequent in London and Paris. The largest price yet obtained for any library was reached in 1882-3, when that of Mr. Wm. Beckford brought £73,551, being an average of nearly $10 a volume. But W. C. Hazlitt says of this sale, "the Beckford books realized perfectly insane prices, and were afterwards re-sold for a sixth or even tenth of the amount, to the serious loss of somebody, when the barometer had fallen."
The second-hand bookseller, having the whole range of printed literature for his field, has a great advantage in dealing with book collectors over the average dealer, who has to offer only new books, or such as are “in print."
It may be owned that the love of rare books is chiefly sentimental. He who delights to spend his days or his nights in the contemplation of black-letter volumes, quaint title-pages, fine old bindings, and curious early illustrations, may not add to the knowledge or the happiness of mankind, but he makes sure of his own.
The passion for rare books, merely because of their rarity, is a low order of the taste for books. But the desire to possess and read wise old books which have been touched by the hoar frost of time is of a higher mood. The first impression of Paradise Lost (1667) with its quarto page and antique orthography, is it not more redolent of the author's age than the elegant Pickering edition, or the one illustrated by John Martin or Gustave Doré? When you hold in your hand Shakespeare's "Midsommer Night's Dream” (A. D. 1600) and read with fresh admiration and delight the exquisite speeches of Oberon and Titania, may not the thought that perhaps that very copy may once have been held in the immortal bard's own hand send a thrill through your own?
When you turn over the classic pages of Homer illustrated by Flaxman, that "dear sculptor of eternity," as William Blake called him, or drink in the beauty of those delicious landscapes of Turner, that astonishing man, who shall wonder at your desire to possess them?
The genuine book lover is he who reads books; who values them for what they contain, not for their rarity, nor for the preposterous prices which have been paid for them. To him, book-hunting is an ever-enduring delight. Of all the pleasures tasted here below, that of the book lover in finding a precious and long sought volume is one of the purest and most innocent. In books, he becomes master of all the kingdoms of the world.
To the book collector and the Librarian, books of bibliography are the tools of the profession. Without them he would be lost in a maze of literature without a clue. With them, his path is plain, and, in exact proportion to his acquaintance with them, will his knowledge and usefulness extend. Bibliography may be defined as the science which treats of books, of their authors, subjects, history, classification, cataloguing, typography, materials (including paper, printing and binding) dates, editions, etc. This compound word, derived from two Greek roots, Biblion, book, and graphein, to write, has many analogous words, some of which, ignorantly used to express a bibliographer, may be set down for distinction: as, for example—Bibliopole—a seller of books, often erroneously applied to a librarian, who buys but never sells: Bibliophile, a lover of books, a title which he should always exemplify: Bibliopegist, a book-binder: Biblio