Book Collecting

The preceding section, Bibliography and Textual Criticism, includes many works closely allied to book collecting.

Scholars needing to consult materials in private collections will benefit from the advice in Gordon N. Ray, “The Private Collector and the Literary Scholar,” The Private Collector and the Support of Scholarship: Papers Read at a Clark Library Seminar, April 5, 1969, by Louis B. Wright and Ray (Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Lib., 1969) 25–84, and conveniently reprinted in Ray, Books as a Way of Life, ed. G. Thomas Tanselle (New York: Grolier Club and Pierpont Morgan Lib., 1988) 233–77.

Research Methods


Pearson, David. Provenance Research in Book History. Rpt. with new introd. London: British Lib.; New Castle: Oak Knoll, 1998. 326 pp. British Lib. Studies in the Hist. of the Book. Z994.G7 P43 002.0941.

A guide to identifying ownership marks—including signatures, mottoes, bookplates, armorial binding stamps, and other marks in books—and to tracing the location, at some point in time, of a book owned by an individual or institution. Although the focus is on books from the fifteenth through the nineteenth century in British collections, works related to foreign provenance are also recorded. Following an overview of problems involved in establishing provenance, devotes chapters to identifying inscriptions, mottoes, and other manuscript marks (including booksellers’ codes); bookplates, labels, and bookstamps; armorial and other bindings; auction catalogs; booksellers’ catalogs; private library catalogs; provenance indexes (published and unpublished); and works on heraldry, paleography, biography, book collecting, and library history useful in provenance research. Most chapters include helpful illustrations and annotated bibliographies (the introduction to the 1998 reprint cites additional sources). A wonderfully practical handbook, Provenance Research is the essential starting point for anyone interested in identifying ownership marks in a book or a volume from the library of an individual or institution in Britain. A similar guide is needed for North America. Review: Nigel Ramsay, Library 6th ser. 19.1 (1997): 73–75.

Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Carter, John, and Nicolas Barker. ABC for Book Collectors. 8th ed., corrected. New Castle: Oak Knoll; London: British Lib., 2010. 234 pp. Z1006.C37 002′.075. <>.

A dictionary of terms used by book collectors and the antiquarian book trade in Great Britain and the United States. Carter excludes foreign language terms except for those in common use or without an English equivalent. The sometimes detailed entries, based on Carter’s years of experience as collector and member of the trade and on Barker’s experience as editor of Book Collector, offer clear definitions (frequently leavened with wit) and make effective use of the book itself for illustrating some terms. Instructive and entertaining, ABC for Book Collectors is the essential companion for collectors or occasional readers of auction and booksellers’ catalogs.

For foreign language terms, see Menno Hertzberger, ed., Dictionnaire à l’usage de la librairie ancienne pour les langues française, anglaise, allemande, suédoise, danoise, italienne, espagnole, hollandaise, japonaise / Dictionary for the Antiquarian Booktrade in French, English, German, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Japanese ([Paris?]: Intl. League of Antiquarian Booksellers, 1978; 202 pp.). A shorter list—Edgar Franco, Dictionnaire de termes en usage dans le commerce des livres anciens en français, anglais, allemand et italien / Dictionary of Terms and Expressions Commonly Used in the Antiquarian Booktrade in French, English, German, and Italian ([Hilversum]: LILI/ILAB, 1994; 76 pp.)—can be downloaded from the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers Web site (


Zempel, Edward N., and Linda A. Verkler, eds. First Editions: A Guide to Identification: Statements of Selected North American, British Commonwealth, and Irish Publishers on Their Methods of Designating First Editions. 4th ed. Peoria: Spoon River, 2001. 669 pp. Z1033.F53 F57 016.094′4.

A guide to the phrases, devices, symbols, and other marks used by about 4,200 American, British, and Irish publishers to designate a first printing or impression. Organized alphabetically by firm, entries consist of publishers’ statements outlining practices through 2000 or 2001. A section on book club editions concludes the work. Although incomplete and not always accurate, Zempel and Verkler is the best guide to identifying a first printing or impression.

Henry S. Boutell, First Editions of Today and How to Tell Them: American, British, and Irish, 4th ed., rev. and enl. by Wanda Underhill (Berkeley: Peacock, 1965; 227 pp.), remains an important complement for practices between 1947 and 1964. Statements from earlier editions no longer protected by copyright are reprinted in Zempel and Verkler.

See also

Sec. U: Literature-Related Topics and Sources/Bibliography and Textual Criticism/Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias.

General Introductions


Carter, John. Taste and Technique in Book Collecting. Rpt. with additions. London: Private Libs. Assn., 1970. 242 pp. Z987.C35 020′.75′08.

A study of the relationship between taste and technique in book collecting. Following a prefatory definition of book collector, chapters (replete with examples) are divided between two parts: the evolution of book collecting from 1812 to the early 1900s in Great Britain and the United States; a discussion of method, including the education of a collector, tools and terminology, bookstores and auction rooms, the concept of rarity, and the importance of condition. The 1970 reprint has corrections and notes on pp. 203–05 and an epilogue covering 1928–69 (pp. 209–42). Because Taste and Technique presumes a familiarity with the terminology of bibliography and book collecting, the beginning collector should have a copy of Carter and Barker, ABC for Book Collectors (U5340), in hand. Although not a manual, Taste and Technique remains the classic introduction to book collecting.

Among the numerous manuals, the best complements to Carter are the following:

  • Peters, Jean, ed. Book Collecting: A Modern Guide. New York: Bowker, 1977. 288 pp. A collection of essays on buying from dealers and auctions; the antiquarian book market; manuscript collecting; descriptive bibliography; fakes, forgeries, and facsimiles; the physical care of books and manuscripts; organizing a collection; appraisal; the book collector and the world of scholarship; and the literature of book collecting (for the last, see entry U5355).

  • ———, ed. Collectible Books: Some New Paths. New York: Bowker, 1979. 294 pp. A series of essays that describe unexplored and nontraditional areas for collecting.

  • Rees-Mogg, William. How to Buy Rare Books: A Practical Guide to the Antiquarian Book Market. Oxford: Phaidon, 1985. 159 pp. Christie’s Collectors Guides. A practical guide for the beginning collector; topics include catalogs, relations with dealers, tastes and trends in collecting (with emphasis on the traditional subjects and expensive books), the physical makeup of a book, and care and conservation.

  • Winterich, John T., and David A. Randall. A Primer of Book Collecting. 3rd rev. ed. New York: Crown, 1966. 228 pp. Emphasizes the fundamentals of collecting, with discussions of kinds of collectible books, rarity, condition, the mechanics of collecting, bibliographical points, and reference works.

Beginning collectors should be especially wary of the numerous publications that stress book collecting as an investment. None of these works is adequate as a guide to either collecting or investing.

The best introduction to the related field of manuscript collecting remains Charles Hamilton, Collecting Autographs and Manuscripts (Santa Monica: Modoc, 1993; 425 pp.). Among the extensively illustrated chapters are discussions of building a collection, making finds, detecting forgeries, and collecting various kinds of materials, including literary manuscripts. Although it is addressed to the beginning collector and emphasizes American manuscripts, Hamilton is an entertaining and instructive introduction by one of the foremost dealers. Also useful is Mary A. Benjamin, Autographs: A Key to Collecting, corrected and rev. ed. (New York: Benjamin, 1963; 313 pp.).

Guides to Scholarship


Tanselle, G. Thomas. ““The Literature of Book Collecting”.” Book Collecting: A Modern Guide [entry U5350a]. Ed. Jean Peters. New York: Bowker, 1977. 209–71. Z987.B68 020′.75.

An evaluative survey of general introductions and manuals; glossaries; histories of printing and allied trades; histories of collecting and bookselling; guides to and studies of collectors; periodicals; bibliographies; auction, booksellers’, exhibition, and library catalogs; guides to prices; directories of dealers and collectors; works on conservation, bookplates, and manuscripts; and guides to further reading. Unfortunately, many of the authors and works cited are excluded from the index to the volume. Judicious selection and authoritative evaluation make Tanselle’s survey the best guide to works about or essential in book collecting. An important complement is Tanselle’s essay review of six book-collecting manuals in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 72.2 (1978): 265–81.

See also

ABELL (G340): Bibliography division in volumes for 1920–33; Bibliography/Book Production, Selling, Collecting, Librarianship, the Newspaper (with variations in the title) in the volumes for 1934–72; Bibliography/Booksellers’, Exhibition, and Sale Catalogues in the volumes for 1973–84; and Bibliography/Collecting and the Library in the volumes for 1973–present.

ABHB: Annual Bibliography of the History of the Printed Book (U5275).

Bibliographie der Buch- und Bibliotheksgeschichte (U5280).

MLAIB (G335): In volumes before 1981, studies of collecting and collectors are sometimes listed with bibliographical scholarship (see p. 627 for an outline of that section). In volumes after 1980, researchers must consult the “Book Collecting,” “Book Collection,” “Book Collectors,” and “Collection Study” headings in the subject index and in the online thesaurus.

Directories of Book Dealers

Individuals searching for a specific book should log on to,, or, which search the major Internet bookseller sites, or to, which searches the inventory of members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

For early dealers in the United States, see Madeleine B. Stern, Antiquarian Bookselling in the United States: A History from the Origins to the 1940s (Westport: Greenwood, 1985; 246 pp.), which concludes with a brief survey of primary sources and scholarship. For a survey of American and British directories, see John Bidwell, “Biographical Dictionaries of the Book Trades,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 102.4 (2008): 421–44.


American Book Trade Directory. Medford: Information Today, 1915– . Biennial. Z475.A5 655.473.

A directory of the retail and wholesale book trade in the United States and its territories and in Canada. Of most interest to literary scholars is the division listing retail and antiquarian booksellers. Organized alphabetically by state (with United States territories and Canadian provinces following the list of states), city, then store or bookseller, entries note kind of store, address, telephone and fax numbers, e-mail address, Web site, name of owner, number of volumes in stock, subject specializations, and services (such as searching for specific titles). Other divisions list auctioneers, appraisers, and dealers in foreign language books. Two indexes: types of stores; dealers. Although American Book Trade Directory offers the fullest list of United States and Canadian antiquarian booksellers, inadequate indexing makes it nearly impossible to identify stores specializing in an author, period, or subject.

Members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers can be identified by specialization at the league’s Web site (


Sheppardsworld. Joseph, 2010. 20 Jan. 2013. <>.

Sheppard’s British Isles: A Directory of Antiquarian and Secondhand Book Dealers in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and the Republic of Ireland. Torrington: Joseph, 1952– . Irregular. Title varies. Z327.D57 070.5′025′41.

Sheppard’s Book Dealers in North America: A Directory of Antiquarian and Secondhand Book Dealers in the U.S.A. and Canada. Farnham: Joseph, 1954– . Irregular. Z475.B63.

Sheppard’s Book Dealers in Europe. Farnham: Joseph, 1967– . Irregular. (Title varies.) Z291.5.E96.

Sheppard’s Book Dealers in Australia and New Zealand: A Directory of Antiquarian and Secondhand Book Dealers in Australia, New Zealand, and Parts of the Pacific. Farnham: Joseph, 1991– . Irregular. Z533.4.S48 381′.45002′02594.

Geographic directories of bookstores and private dealers. A typical entry includes name of business, address, proprietor, Web site, e-mail address, telephone and fax numbers, hours, a very general indication of size and nature of stock, specializations, and number of catalogs issued each year. Among the indexes are ones for business names, proprietors, and subject specializations. More current information can be found in Sheppardsworld, which allows subscribers to search by subject and locale. Although the subject specialization headings are too broad, these are important guides to book dealers, especially the smaller shops and private dealers.

Biographical Dictionaries of Collectors


Dickinson, Donald C. Dictionary of American Book Collectors. New York: Greenwood, 1986. 383 pp. Z989.A1 D53 002′.075′0922.

A biographical dictionary of 359 American book collectors who died before 31 December 1984 and whose collections were “distinguished by the quality, unity, . . . superior physical condition,” and intrinsic importance of the books. An entry notes the disposition of the collection by auction or by sale or gift to an institution; provides basic biographical information; comments on the collector’s major interests, the development and influence of the collection, and noteworthy items; and concludes with a selective bibliography of catalogs and studies of the collection as well as works by or about the collector. Two appendixes: a list of collectors by areas of specialization; a chronological list of important American book auctions from 1860 through 1984. Indexed by persons, titles, and subjects; entrants are also indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). As the most complete biographical dictionary of important American collectors, Dickinson is a valuable source for tracing the disposition of a collection and thus locating individual copies. Review: Madeleine B. Stern, American Book Collector ns 7.9 (1986): 39–41.

Carl L. Cannon, American Book Collectors and Collecting from Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Wilson, 1941; 391 pp.), treats additional collectors, but the topical organization and essay format make it difficult to locate information on minor collectors. Some collectors are profiled in two collections edited by Joseph Rosenblum: American Book-Collectors and Bibliographers: First Series (Detroit: Gale, 1994; 408 pp.; Dictionary of Lit. Biography 140) and American Book Collectors and Bibliographers: Second Series (Detroit: Gale, 1997; 431 pp.; Dictionary of Lit. Biography 187).


Quaritch, Bernard, ed. Contributions towards a Dictionary of English Book-Collectors: As Also of Some Foreign Collectors Whose Libraries Were Incorporated in English Collections or Whose Books Are Chiefly Met with in England. 14 pts. London: Quaritch, 1892–1921. Z989.Q1 020′.75.

A collection of separately authored profiles of 78 collectors from the thirteenth through nineteenth centuries. The individual entries, which appear in no particular order, typically consist of two parts: (1) a biography of the collector and discussion of the nature, highlights, and dispersal of the collection; (2) a list of important manuscripts and printed works, a few of which record current owners. Many of the entries, which vary considerably in informativeness and length, were written by dealers involved in the formation of the collection or individuals acquainted with the collector. Part 12 is a preliminary list of several hundred collectors from 1316 to 1898. Quaritch remains the most comprehensive guide to English book collectors and is still valuable for tracing the provenance of important items. Additional collectors are treated in Seymour de Ricci, English Collectors of Books and Manuscripts (1530–1930) and Their Marks of Ownership (New York: Macmillan; Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1930; 203 pp.), and in three collections edited by William Baker and Kenneth Womack: Nineteenth-Century British Book Collectors and Bibliographers (Detroit: Gale, 1997; 531 pp.; Dictionary of Lit. Biography 184), Pre-Nineteenth-Century British Book Collectors and Bibliographers (1999; 487 pp.; Dictionary of Lit. Biography 213), and Twentieth-Century British Book Collectors and Bibliographers (1999; 393 pp.; Dictionary of Lit. Biography 201). The time is ripe, however, for a dictionary of British book collectors similar to Dickinson, Dictionary of American Book Collectors (U5370).

See also

Tanselle, “The Literature of Book Collecting” (U5355), lists additional directories (pp. 266–67).

Booksellers’ and Auction Catalogs

Booksellers’ and auction catalogs are among the most underutilized scholarly resources. Although they are frequently difficult to locate (even in libraries that hold major collections) and (in the case of booksellers’ catalogs) are rarely indexed, these catalogs are valuable for identifying hitherto unrecorded printed works, editions, or manuscripts; finding descriptions (and sometimes reproductions or transcriptions) of unique items no longer locatable; tracing the provenance of a copy (and thus possibly locating it); and reconstructing an individual’s library.

For a discussion of the importance of auction catalogs and the pitfalls involved in using them, see Michael Hunter, “Auction Catalogues and Eminent Libraries,” Book Collector 21.4 (1972): 471–88. On the use of catalogs and other resources for tracing provenance, see Robert Nikirk, “Looking into Provenance,” A Miscellany for Bibliophiles, ed. H. George Fletcher (New York: Grastorf, 1979) 15–45, and Pearson, Provenance Research (U5330), with advice on identifying and locating auction and booksellers’ catalogs. Of major value would be a series of indexes to manuscript material and association copies in catalogs issued by at least the major booksellers.

Histories and Surveys


Taylor, Archer. Book Catalogues: Their Varieties and Uses. 2nd ed. Rev. by Wm. P. Barlow, Jr. New York: Beil, 1987. 284 pp. Z1001.T34 011′.3.

An examination of the types, history, and uses of catalogs of booksellers, auction houses, private collections, institutions, and publishers. Taylor emphasizes catalogs published before 1900 of printed books, and for the most part excludes unpublished catalogs and those of manuscripts. The revised edition reprints the first edition (Chicago: Newberry Lib., 1957; 284 pp.), with a prefatory list of corrections and additions that unfortunately does not incorporate scholarship since the mid-1950s. The first chapter describes the kinds of catalogs—especially their varieties and historical development—and surveys bibliographies based on them; the second details the uses of catalogs in scholarly research; the third surveys bibliographies of catalogs, emphasizing their uses and historical development; the last chapter prints an annotated list of important private library catalogs published before 1824. Four indexes: dealers, institutions, owners, and publishers; kinds of books and subjects listed in catalogs; subjects treated in catalogs and compilations based on them; compilers, editors, collectors, and bibliographers of catalogs. Although now dated, Taylor remains important as a general history of early catalogs, an account of individual ones, and a guide to their uses in research.

Guides to Primary Works


McKay, George L., comp. American Book Auction Catalogues, 1713–1934: A Union List. Rpt. with supplements. Detroit: Gale, 1967. 560 pp. Z999.M15 018.3.

A chronological list of about 10,000 book auction catalogs (including some miscellaneous catalogs having more than five pages of books) issued in the United States from 1713 through 1934. Organized chronologically by opening date of sale, entries cite (when known) date, owner(s), auction firm, number of pages and lots, and locations of copies (noting priced or marked ones) or source of information for those unlocated. Many entries for eighteenth-century catalogs are based on newspaper advertisements or other sources, and a sizable number probably are for manuscript inventories. A separate grouping of auctions listed in newspaper advertisements that do not specify issuance of a catalog appears on pp. 461–91; additions and corrections to the main list are printed on pp. 493–95; the two supplements from Bulletin of the New York Public Library (50.3 [1946]: 177–84; 52.8 [1948]: 401–12) are reprinted after the index. An introduction, by Clarence S. Bingham, is entitled “History of Book Auctions in America” (pp. 1–37). Indexed by owners. Despite flaws—the work is incomplete, records a limited number of locations, and offers no indication of contents—it does provide the fullest list of United States auction catalogs from 1801 through 1934. Earlier catalogs are more thoroughly and accurately described by Winans, Descriptive Checklist of Book Catalogues Separately Printed in America (U5410).


Alston, R. C., comp. Inventory of Sale Catalogues of Named and Attributed Owners of Books Sold by Retail or Auction, 1676–1800: An Inventory of Sales in the British Isles, America, the United States, Canada, and India. 2 vols. Yeadon: Privately printed, 2010. Z1000.A47.

An inventory of 4,659 auction and booksellers’ catalogs—extant and ones known only from newspaper advertisements—of named or attributed owners held in nearly 600 libraries. Catalogs are listed chronologically by date of commencement of the sale. A full entry provides owner(s), date and location of the sale, sources of information, title of catalog and format, auctioneer or bookseller(s), type of sale (e.g., auction or retail), locations of copies (including some shelf numbers) in about 600 libraries, references to other bibliographies, and information about advertisements and reprints. Indexed by owners. The most thorough list of catalogs of the period, the Inventory is invaluable for identifying a catalog of the library of an individual and for locating copies (which are not only scarce but also difficult to identify in most library catalogs).

Alston supersedes A. N. L. Munby and Lenore Coral, comps. and eds., British Book Sale Catalogues, 1676–1800: A Union List (London: Mansell, 1977; 146 pp.). On the history and progress of 1801–1900 see Coral, “Towards the Bibliography of British Book Auction Catalogues, 1801–1900,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 89.4 (1995): 419–25. Until it appears, List of Catalogues of English Book Sales, 1676–1900, Now in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1915; 523 pp.) offers the most complete list of nineteenth-century auction catalogs. (According to Pearson, Provenance Research [U5330], Munby’s marked copy of the British Museum list is in Cambridge University Library, with photocopies held by the British Library and the Bodleian Library [p. 140].) Although these publications are easier to identify in the online Explore the British Library (E250) than in the British Library General Catalogue of Printed Books (see E250a), List of Catalogues remains an important source of shelf numbers for the extensive collection, which includes several auctioneers’ priced sets.


Winans, Robert B. A Descriptive Checklist of Book Catalogues Separately Printed in America, 1693–1800. Worcester: Amer. Antiquarian Soc., 1981. 207 pp. Z1029.W56 018.

A chronological list of 689 separately published booksellers’, publishers’, and auction catalogs and circulating, private, social, and college library catalogs. The catalogs are listed by year of publication, then alphabetically by author, auctioneer, bookseller, or title of anonymous work. The 278 located catalogs have full entries that include author; title; publication information; collation; pagination; list of contents; notes on the type of catalog, number and kind of entries, organization, and other matters, including the presence of prices and the basis for dating undated publications; references to other bibliographies and scholarship; reprints; and locations of copies (primarily in East Coast libraries). Entries for unlocated items are, of course, much briefer and cite references in other sources; entries for what are probably manuscript inventories listed in McKay, American Book Auction Catalogues (U5400), merely cite McKay. Thoroughly indexed by authors, owners, printers, cities, and subjects. Complemented by Winans, “The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography in America up to 1800: Further Explorations,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 72.1 (1978): 15–35. Admirably thorough and accurate in its bibliographical descriptions but insufficiently informative in notes on contents, Winans supersedes McKay, American Book Auction Catalogues, for auction catalogs before 1801 and is an invaluable source for identifying and locating catalogs essential in bibliographical research, book trade history, and cultural studies. Review: Stephen Botein, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 76.2 (1982): 223–26.

See also

Taylor, Book Catalogues (U5395).


American Book Prices Current. Bancroft-Parkman, 2007–13. 20 Jan. 2013. <>. CD-ROM; flash drive.

American Book Prices Current, [1894–2004] (ABPC). Washington: Bancroft-Parkman, 1895–2005. Annual. Z1000.A51 018′.3. <>.

A list of books and manuscripts sold in the principal European and North American auction houses. Until vol. 64 (1958), ABPC covers only auctions in the United States; after vol. 73 (1967), it gradually becomes more international but is still selective in reporting sales outside North America and the United Kingdom. Currently, most items that bring less than $100 or the equivalent in another currency, books in lots, and incomplete sets and runs of periodicals are excluded. Entries are organized in two parts: autographs and manuscripts (including original illustrations for books, documents, letters, corrected proofs, and signed photographs) and books (including single sheets, broadsides, and uncorrected proofs). Works are listed alphabetically by author; title of anonymous work; or (when it is the main interest) private press, publisher, or printer. Entries record title, place and date of publication, edition, size, binding, condition, important features (such as provenance, bibliographical points, inscriptions, or marginalia), auction house, date of sale and lot number, price, and (since vol. 66 [1960]) purchaser (when reported on a price list). The publisher claims that entries for books have been independently verified, but the nature of this verification is not made clear. The fastest access to entries is through the online version (for volumes since September 1975) or the cumulative indexes: 1916–22, comp. Philip Sanford Goulding and Helen Plummer Goulding (1925; 1,397 pp.); 1923–32, comp. Eugenia Wallace and Lucie E. Wallace (1936; 1,007 pp.); 1933–40, comp. and ed. Edward Lazare (1941; 765 pp.); 1941–45, comp. and ed. Colton Storm (1946; 1,126 pp.); 1945–50, comp. and ed. Lazare (1951; 1,404 pp.); 1950–55, ed. Lazare (1956; 1,709 pp.); 1955–60, ed. Lazare (1961; 1,533 pp.); 1960–65, ed. Lazare (1968; 2,085 pp.); 1965–70, ed. William James Smith, 2 pts. (1974; 2,545 pp.); 1970–75, ed. Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab, 2 pts. (1976; 2,061 pp.); 1975–79, ed. Leab and Leab, 2 pts. (1980; 2,325 pp.); 1979–83, ed. Leab and Leab, 2 pts. (1984; 2,246 pp.); 1983–87, ed. Leab and Leab, 2 pts. (1988; 2,286 pp.); 1987–91, ed. Leab and Leab, 2 pts. (1992; 2,320 pp); 1991–95, ed. Leab and Leab, 2 pts. (1996; 2,335 pp.).

The online ABPC includes records since 1975 divided among two files: books and other print material; autographs, manuscripts, documents, and other handwritten material. Search Books allows searches by keyword, author or main entry, and title to be sorted by author or main entry, price, title, year sold, or imprint year. Search Manuscripts allows searches of kewords, author or main entry, date, and category (e.g., letters and postcards, corrected proof) to be sorted by author or main entry, price, category, or year sold. Search results are limited to 1,000 records. Records can be selected for e-mailing, downloading, or printing.

Although ABPC is more scholarly, current, comprehensive, and trustworthy than Book Auction Records (U5420), the two are ultimately complementary works and invaluable as indexes to auction catalogs and as aids for identifying and tracing unique items (especially manuscripts and association copies). Those using ABPC or Book Auction Records to evaluate books must remember that prices now do not reflect buyers’ premiums or taxes (denominated for each auction house in the explanatory notes to individual volumes of ABPC) and depend on condition and other factors.

Some additional British and American sales (with coverage of the latter beginning in vol. 30 [1916]) are indexed in Book-Prices Current: A Record of the Prices at Which Books Have Been Sold at Auction, from [December, 1886 to August, 1956], 64 vols. (London: Witherby, 1888–1957, with cumulative indexes for vols. 1–10, 11–20, and 21–30). Beginning in vol. 35 (1921), Book-Prices Current includes some manuscripts. The early volumes are organized by auction house, then sale, with entries providing minimal information. Later volumes consist of a single alphabetical list, with entries citing author, title, publisher, condition, important features, auction house, date of sale, lot number, price, and sometimes buyer. If more than one copy was sold during the season, those copies with noteworthy features have full entries; for others, only auction house, date, and price are recorded. Because so many copies receive truncated entries, American Book Prices Current and Book Auction Records are superior indexes to sales covered in common.

Those searching for manuscripts should also consult the annual “Manuscripts at Auction: [January 1986– ]” (English Manuscript Studies, 1100–1700, 1–  [1989– ]), a selective list of manuscripts sold at the principal London and New York auction houses or (beginning with vol. 2 [1990]) listed in major booksellers’ catalogs.


Book Auction Records: A Priced and Annotated Annual Record of International Book Auctions, [1902–97] (BAR). Folkestone: Dawson, 1903–99. Annual. Z1000.B65 017.3.

An index to books, other printed materials, and some manuscripts sold at auction, originally in London, then in Great Britain, the United States (vols. 12–18 [1915–21], 37–95 [1940–97]), and, since vol. 64 (1968), other countries. Only items selling for more than £95, $200, or the equivalent of £150 in foreign currencies are included in the later volumes. Entries are listed alphabetically by author, title of anonymous work, press, or subject heading. Vols. 77–94 (1981–96) divide entries between two parts: printed books and atlases; printed maps, charts, and plans. Early volumes are organized by sale; those from vol. 43 (1945–46) through vol. 50 (1952–53) place important manuscripts in a separate section. A typical entry records author, title, date of publication, press, important features such as provenance or binding, auction house, date of sale, lot number, price, and (sometimes) buyer. Early volumes provide significantly less information. The most convenient access is through the cumulative indexes: vols. 1–9, William Jaggard (1924; 1,142 pp.); vols. 10–20, ed. Kathleen L. Stevens (1928; 1,467 pp.); vols. 21–30, ed. Kathleen L. Stevens (1935; 1,314 pp.); vols. 31–40, ed. Henry Stevens and Henry R. Peter Stevens (1948; 1,022 pp.); vols. 41–45, ed. Patricia B. Sargent (1951; 955 pp.); vols. 46–55, ed. Henry Stevens and J. G. Garratt (1962; 1,536 pp.); vols. 56–60, ed. Virginia Clarke and Garratt (1966; 1,146 pp.); vols. 61–65, ed. Dorothy C. Batho (1971; 1,739 pp.); vols. 66–69, ed. Batho (1977; 1,129 pp.); vols. 77–81, ed. Batho (1985; 1,008 pp.); no index is planned for vols. 70–76.

Although BAR is less accurate than American Book Prices Current (U5415), the two must be used together, since Book Auction Records covered more European and provincial English sales.


Bookman’s Price Index: A Guide to the Values of Rare and Other Out of Print Books (BPI). Detroit: Gale-Cengage, 1964– . 2–4/yr., with cumulative indexes for vols. 1–6, 7–12, 13–19, 20–26, 27–36, 37–46, 47–54, 55–61, 62–67, 68–73, 74–79, 80–85, 86–91, and 92–97. Z1000.B74 018′.4.

A list of selected rare and antiquarian books offered for sale in recent catalogs of a small group of established dealers in Great Britain and North America. Each volume selectively indexes the catalogs of 40 to 180 dealers, which change over the course of the volumes. Books are listed alphabetically by author or title of anonymous work, then alphabetically by title, with editions following in chronological order. Each entry provides author, title, place and date of publication, a brief description of the copy offered (noting, for example, provenance, binding, condition, and important bibliographical points), dealer’s name, catalog and item number, and selling price. Since vol. 32 (1986), there are separate lists of association copies, bindings, and fore-edge paintings. A directory of dealers prefaces each volume. BPI covers only a small number of the thousands of dealers (and omits many of the more important ones), lacks any statement of principles governing the selection of dealers or books listed, and is full of misprints; still, it is the only index of frequently valuable but ephemeral sources of information and is an essential source for tracking down inscribed or annotated copies, books owned by authors or important collectors, and other unique items. Researchers using BPI as a source for evaluating the worth of a book must remember that the retail prices quoted vary widely among dealers and are based on a variety of factors such as condition, provenance, and edition. Reviews: (vol. 1) Walter Goldwater, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 60.1 (1966): 110–14; (vols. 1–12) Paul S. Koda, Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography 2.1 (1978): 76–80.

Bookman’s Price Index: Subject Series lasted for only one volume: Modern First Editions (1987), a cumulation of entries from the 1984–86 volumes of BPI.

See also

Cripe and Campbell, American Manuscripts, 1763–1815: An Index to Documents Described in Auction Records and Dealers’ Catalogues (Q3235).

Tanselle, “The Literature of Book Collecting” (U5355), lists additional indexes and price guides (pp. 259–64).