Holiday Shopping Ideas for the Collector
If you only read one this is the one.
By Bruce McKinney
The opportunities to find interesting material for the book collector have never been greater. Neither have the
options for bidding and buying been better. How you approach the holidays though depends on perspective. A
collector will consider all the options but when you buy for a collector it's more complicated. Here goes an
effort to simplify it.
If you are buying for a collector it is always a good idea to talk to them about it. "I'd like to buy you
something for the collection" expresses both interest and support and often they can point you in the right
direction. Collecting is after all an uncertain process even to the collector and support for the endeavor often
more important than any specific object. A collector's dealers will often have ideas, will appreciate your
interest and try to provide something appropriate. If you can contact them they will be helpful.
Relatively inexpensive gifts that are much appreciated are dealer, collector and auction house histories and
biographies. Reading about the chase is often as interesting as engaging in it and always less expensive.
The best biography of a book dealer ever written is Rosenbach, a Biography by Edwin Wolf 2nd with John F. Fleming.
Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach [1876 - 1952] was an exceptional dealer in the exceptional era of book collecting in
America. Wolf and Fleming recreate his life and remember his significance. It is in itself, in the first
edition, a collectible book and an exceptional read. There is no better book to give. There are nine copies of
various editions available in the Books for Sale database right here on AE. See Books For Sale.
If you are looking for coffee table books think about Adventures in Americana 1492-1897. This is a selection of
books from the library of Hershel V. Jones. Two volumes describing 300 items, each illustrated, was issued in
1928. A checklist was offered as a third volume in 1938. At many levels this is an important set for collectors.
The material is both interesting and well illustrated and there are just enough errors to make the set an
intellectual challenge. The material, while American, is eclectic so there is a chance several items the collector
owns will be mentioned, at least in the third volume. This set is available as a reprint but I prefer the
original. The two volumes printed in 1928 are understood to be part of a limited run of 200. See Books For Sale.
One of the most useful resources extant is "A History of American Magazines" by Frank Luther Mott. Everyone who
collects encounters ephemera. When it's early magazines you find they can be difficult to understand and value. I
prefer the five volume version and am wearing out my set which was printed in 1957. Volume I covering magazines
printed in continental America between 1741 and 1850 is most useful but I also use volumes II and III. The later
volumes cover more recent material. In Books for Sale there is one very good set with dust jackets. See Books For Sale.
Holiday Shopping Ideas for the Collector
A beautiful presentation
Two other reference books that are useful are Dictionary of American Book Collectors and Dictionary of American
Antiquarian Bookdealers [his spelling] by Donald C. Dickinson. When a good copy of a book that's appealing also
has an interesting provenance you are standing on the threshold of collecting at the most sophisticated level.
Dickinson helps you see into this world. Copies can be found randomly on various listing sites.
For those who love early American maps Book One is The Mapping of America by Seymour I. Schwartz and Ralph E.
Ehrenberg. This is a coffee table book. It is also an excellent reference and the first bite of chocolate before
you devour the entire box. This book has launched hundreds if not thousands of serious map collections. Read it
with caution because you'll come away wanting a piece of the history it portrays through maps. See Books for
For those with an interest going further back there is Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance by Boies Penrose.
It was first printed in 1952 and is a classic today. It both reconstructs the sequence of events by period and
area and includes references to the first printed materials detailing the events. It is a roadmap to building a
world class collection for the period 1420 to 1620. Magellan shows up in chapter 10 and Drake in chapter 12. This
is both thorough and serious. See Choosebooks.
Then there is Colin Steele's English Interpreters of the Iberian New World from Purchas to Stevens. This is a
bibliographical study of the period 1603-1726 and the preface explains it this way, "This book is motivated by a
belief that a study of the English translations of Spanish and Portuguese books in the period 1603-1726 can shed
significant light on contemporary English attitudes towards the Iberian New World." The Iberian peninsula in
Europe is Spain and Portugal and the Iberian New World the territories controlled by them in North and South
America. If you are interested in this category of material this book is an essential reference. See Abebooks.
And then there is John Parker's Books to Build an Empire. It covers material from 1481 to 1620 and includes a very
complete list of material that will break most budgets and destroy many marriages. This material comes up from
time to time and is obtainable at a price. Almost every item acquired will have a provenance and yours will become
part of it as these items return to the auction rooms and are sold by the leading dealers of the next era. This is
collecting history to become part of collecting history. See ILAB.
The ultimate gift for the book collector is of course the keys to the kingdom rather than the stories about it.
That is a subscription to the AED. Here you build your own bibliography by running searches in the more than 1.4
million full text records, search the various listing sites, follow the auctions and receive AE Monthly on the
first of each month. Click here to sign up!
There you have it, these lightning bugs in a bottle. Let them illuminate the darkness and point the way to
understand the past and collecting in the future. Collectors will feel well pleased if they receive one or more
of these gems.