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Signatures, decorations, autographs and your old books.

Hello again.

Let’s set the scene. You get a message stating that you have inherited a collection from a distant relative and it is sent to you in a box.  Or you buy an old house and find a box in the attic.  When you open the box a slightly musty, earthy smell hits your senses.  Inside are a  stack of heavy books that seem like relics from another age. No dust covers, but the spines and boards are covered in  bumps and faded sepia colors.  When you pick one up you can see the page edges are dulled with golden flecks

It looks something like this: 

and if you peer closely you notice what looks like  drawings in the dusty gold. Something like this: 84 Best Edge Decoration images | Painting edges, Book binding ... or perhaps a drawing.

Wait wait.  you are thinking.  Everyone knows about decorative boards on old books and even decorative end pages.RESERVED Listing - Buyer Waiting Antique Book 1880s Poetical Works ...Endpaper - Wikipedia But drawings on the page ends? 

Well yes. This has been a trend in books since it started back in the 10th century. You can get it done today, if you want. It is called fore-edge paining. Hidden Edge Painted Books | Painted books, Antique books This is a very intricate skill, and most of the time until the pages are splayed, or opened, as you are reading,  the image will just look like little dots of color on the edges.  Let’s face it. When owning a book or ten meant you were rich and having a library meant you were Robber Baron rich, a good book would cost more than a year’s salary for your servant. You would want to be able to show your wealth without being crass about it. Thus the exotic leather coverings, the gilted decorative covers, the creamiest of vellum pages,  the marbled end pages, the copper pressed illuminated illustrations and the fore-edge paintings.  The more you had on it, the richer you were. But of course it all had to be tastefully done.

Decorative Book Cover Journal Pages printable. Vintage book ...Gilt | Glossary | Daniel Crouch Rare Books(Sometimes less is more. )

So where were we?   Oh yes. The open box.

When taking the books out, you carefully open one to see what the book is called.

You notice the patterned end pages that remind you of  a 1960’s pattern-if it was done in gray, red, or dark blue greens. You notice a nice illustration on the page before the title page (complete with a tissue guard) and the face that the words seem up raised under your fingers. You check the date and it is older than any of your living relatives. Then you notice the handwritten name  scripted in ink across the title page.

Don’t despair!

This might be a signed book!

So now what?

First you must see if you can read it.

Does it match the author name or the subject of the book (if it is a biography)?  Or is it a familiar name?  Is there a date?

All of these are important.

So if signature looks like the author name and is dated, then this is a good thing.  This is a signed book.

If the name is familiar, but not the author’s name, then this is a owner signature or  a dedication signature.  This could also be a good thing. Why?  You ask? Well some people like to collect the collections of other people or places.

People collect themes. Books from Rockerfeller’s personal library, books from Ash Tree Publishers,  books signed by the author,books by a particular author and books signed by a particular author.

Wait what? That last part didn’t sound correct. 

Ah but it is.  Some authors signed books that they had nothing to do with. In fact Asimov would sign anything. I’ve seen science textbooks (and yes, he did write some of them) and history text books that he signed for his young fans who, at the time, didn’t have anything else to have him sign.

Some authors signed books for other authors. Like for example if you find a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars signed and dedicated to his interesting friend H.P.  and H.P. has his signature on a bookplate as well as the date. That Would BE EPIC! 

Why? well first off I’m into sure these two men would have known each other and then having TWO authors signing the same book that is NOT a collaboration of some sort is very rare. Very very rare.

I mean it would be almost like having an signed version of Stonewall Jackson’s Autobiography.

Or a pink, singing unicorn.

For if you do have a copy of Stonewall Jackson’s signed autobiography it is either not a real signature per se, or you have the unbound manuscript with the carved copper signature stamp.  And if you have that you will become very popular.

If you don’t know Jackson was sick when he was writing it and signed his name to be made into a copper plate stamp to be pressed into the copies of his book. He died before the first copy was printed.

The world of publishing is very intricate and complex. If you want to delve deeper into collecting there are myriad of rabbit holes to go down.  There are so many ways to forge a book, and most of the general readers  would have no clue as to when they are being taken for a ride.  The Vinland Map is a great example of this.  Check out  the link below for more details.

Another great example would be what kept happening in China.

What happened there? 

Honestly, it would take another blog post to cover the topic, but let’s just say that when the Dynasties changed hands, most of the time all of the books were burned and the names of places were changed.  But more on that another time.

So how do you know if you have a real, authentic signed book?  Well you have to get it appraised.

First off, go to a computer and look up when the book was published. If the book came out after the author died, it might be a fake.  If the signature is inserted on a small slip into the book (attached to the binding)  it might be a publisher’s addition.

If the dates line up, then it might be real. Next who wrote it? How many copies are out there? Is it still in print?

These are important t know.  For example I once found a “college romance” book that was a signed copy  by a member of the Peerage, who became Prime Minister before WWI.  Oddly enough it is still in print.

After doing your research, take pictures of the item. Be sure to have one of the Closed book (and book art), the title page, the publishers page , where the signature is,  what the color of the ink used is  and any other unusual thing you think might be important.

This video gives some good examples of what people are looking for:

Then put the books in a safe place where they cannot be easily damaged by – well- everything and anything.  Depending on what you feel you have found, you might want to rent a safe deposit box at a bank.

Keep your research handy, then look up a specialist. These are called Antiquities Appraisers, but this is a broad field of specialists, so you need to request one that deals with signatures and rare book appraisals.  Next do what they tell you to do.

Sometimes they will charge a fee, other times they will do it for free.  The value of a signed book will change slightly by the appraiser depending on their market.

Just remember that an appraiser and a rare book dealer might have a similar skill set, but they have different jobs. The appraiser can tell you if it is a valid signature and what the going rate for it is. The rare book dealer will tell you if it is valid and then what they will pay you for it.  Remember that buyers need to be paid as well, so the price you get might be a third of what it is sold for.  Sometimes you can negotiate , but they are not trying to cheat you.

And that’s it really.

If you want to  keep the book, you can either get an archival box, or just keep it on a shelf.  But if you do keep it ad it is apprised with the correct signature, then keep the appraisal information in a file on the shelf. This way, you, or your descendants, don’t have to go and have it done again.

Happy reading book friends.














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Old Books and What to do With Them

People love to read and when the books have been read so much they start to fall apart, people replace them. This is not something that I, as a secondhand dealer, object to. In fact this is very good for the environment as books have been mass produced for over 50 years now, so some out of print copies are almost “Like New.” In fact this is how some places, like Ikea, can fill their new shelf displays with identical copies of a few titles across all of the stores in a country to showcase how their shelving works. The same thing is done with fully furnished model homes. Why? Well everyone knows what a book looks like and it helps the minds-eye to see how your stuff could fit as a comparison. But I digress.

Buying used books can help the environment by not becoming waste and help the economy by making it easier, or more affordable,- for the most part -to buy items. If you want something to read, and only have $20 you can get either one new book, or, depending on your stores, up to 18 books that you might not have even heard about. Sounds good right? New to you books and a chance to replace a falling apart best read.

But what do you do with that broken, falling apart copy of a book?

If you are like most people, you toss it into the bin. Hopefully the recycle bin. Most of a book is recyclable. The hardcovers, due to that plastic sheen seen on kids books, is not. Some of the Dust Jackets (DJs, also known as Dust Covers or DCs) are not. Some are plastic based, some have waxed coatings and others are just sealed with archival tape. Good luck with that, archival tape, by nature, can survive a heck of a lot.

Other people burn books, which if they are too damaged, BUT NOT MOLDY, is a good way to compost them. The ash from the pages can be very helpful to maintain the temperature in compost piles. Do NOT burn moldy books. Just don’t. Do I really have to explain why? Let’s just say those pretty colors that come off of them are not good for your health. Moldy books are also not able to be recycled. So, those you can just toss.

Another group of people, we will call them Crafty Folk, like to upcycle them. Upcycling, for those who don’t know, is the art of taking something and re-purposing it for another use. Crafty Folk have used well read, trashed books to make sculptures, planters, decoupage items, safes, art displays and homemade stationary.

But no matter what you do and have done with older, cannot be repaired books, you must do this one thing in the future.

Find out who did the cover art.

Find out who did the cover art.


You might have noticed that every time a book gets reprinted the art work changes. Or that when it is printed for a different audience or in another language nothing matches? There may be some similarities,but most of the time it isn’t subtle. The photo below shows a good example of this:

In the 1970s, 80s & 90s a lot of fantasy & science fiction books had artwork by Boris Vallejo. His distinct style is instantly recognizable. For many years his fantasy art could only be found on the glossy covers of the mass market books.

What most people don’t realize is that some artists can start out drawing Dust Jackets and become famous later on. Other artists were already famous and offered their services to publishers or writers of their favorite books. Ingahild Grathmer, for example, did the illustrations for an 1977 edition of Lord of the Rings. Her style is quite distinct, but you might be more familiar with her other job, namely being the current Queen of Denmark Virgil Finlay, Paul Lehr, Frank Kelly Freas, Bob Pepper and H. R. Giger (yes that one) are just a few of the ones out there.

But here is a little secret.

Some of them have signed the books along with the author.

Thus there might be some value to that broken down book after all.

So before you toss that book, or do what ever else you were thinking about doing with it, check the book for the illustrator’s name and do some research. You might have a rare copy. Or you might just see some nice art work.

A win-win either way.

And since that DJ and cover cannot be recycled, why not save them, along with what ever interior artwork there is? You can offer it online to some Crafty Folk or some art teachers to see if they can use them for something.

But wait! What if I find the signature in the book?

First step is to put the whole book in a box or other safe place. You will need to do some research, and it will take some time.

And that process will be explained in the next posting.

Happy Reading!

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What can you do if you love to read?

What can you do if you love to read?

There are many people whose only passion is that they love to read, but while there are many jobs for proof readers and book reviewers, they don’t pay well. So what can you do?

Well you can become a bookseller, a literary scout or even a bibliotherapist.

A what now?

A bibliotherapist is a therapist  who specializes in bibliotherapy.  Bibliotherapy is a creative arts therapies modality that involves storytelling or the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing. It uses an individual’s relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy. Bibliotherapy is often combined with writing therapy. So while you still need to become a therapist, you can now assign your clients books to read to help with their issues. The link below has a better explanation of how this works and  the second one tells you how you can become one.

Getting Trained