During this last weekend of November 11 to 13, the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair took place at the Hynes Convention Center. As an antiquarian book collector, I always go to these fairs because I love books, particularly old books, and the dealers who exhibit at this fair usually bring the best they have to offer. And considering the prices being asked, you would think they were selling jewels. And in a sense they are.
If you want to purchase a Shakespeare First Folio, be prepared to shell out over a million dollars. But no First Folio was for sale at this fair. First Folios are usually sold at Sotheby auctions where millionaire collectors or great academic institutions buy the most valuable books being offered.
That books should acquire such incredible value is a demonstration of the free-market at work. So far, there is no government agency that regulates the sale of antiquarian books. The dealers regulate themselves with a rather strict code of ethics.
By the way, not all old books increase in value. Some are not worth anything, or very little at best. Value is created by how much people are willing to pay for an item. The books that increase in value are signed first editions by noted authors, books of historical importance, and beautiful editions of great studies. Several years ago I was able to get an original 1798 copy of Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy from a British bookseller for $100. It would undoubtedly cost much more today.
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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)