The Essentials of Book Collecting

An Essay in Parts

by Robert F. Lucas

Robert F. Lucas 1942-2001

Robert F. Lucas' series of articles, "The Essentials of Book Collecting," was available on his website for a number of years, and was linked from this and many other sites. With Bob's death in February, 2001, the Lucas Books website went off the web. I received several requests for the series, but unfortunately I did not have a copy.
A search of the web turned up a copy of the Table of Contents on an International Book Collectors Association page, but the links were no longer active. A further search supplied most of the articles, or at least versions of them with the same or similar titles, at the I-Collect-It site, submitted by Robert F. Lucas. Whether these articles are exactly the same as those which appeared on the his website, I don't know. Two articles appear on the I-Collect-It pages which do not match the Table of Contents, "Introduction" and "Investing in Antiquarian Books". Three articles in the Table of Contents do not appear on the I-Collect-It pages, "Part 3 - Jargon - Continuation of glossary", "Part 5 - Book collecting on the Internet", and "Part 12- Starting your collection".
I have combined the existing articles and renumbered them to present once more as cohesive a whole as possible: I believe this would be acceptable to Bob Lucas, and useful to those interested in Book Collecting.

ST - 10/10/01
revised 7/20/02

Part   1 - Introduction
Part   2 - Importance of priority relative to book collecting
Part   3 - Jargon - Reading a catalog description
Part   4 - Jargon - Condition and its importance
Part   5 - Bibliographies and other useful references
Part   6 - Rarity & scarcity and supply & demand
Part   7 - Ephemera - what is it and is it part of book collecting
Part   8 - Understanding book values & pricing
Part   9 - Some physical aspects of the book - bindings & paper
Part 10 - Book illustrations - variety of & illustrators
Part 11 - Investing in Antiquarian Books

Introduction

This essay on book collecting is intended for potential book collectors and neophytes to this field of collecting and it will likely prove boring to those who are established book collectors and probably to some who are not. Our intention is to acquaint you with this interesting hobby, to explain the terminology or jargon, and to dispel a few myths or misconceptions.

For some reason, there seems to be a certain mystique which has grown up around and has entwined this hobby — an aura of sophistication and perhaps a bit of snobbery — which sometimes causes would-be book collectors to avoid this interesting hobby, excuse me — avocation! This hobby is for everyone who appreciates books! The bottom line is that collecting books is both challenging and fun!

You can collect in any of a mind-boggling number of areas — this hobby has more variety within it than any other collecting field we can imagine. You can collect your favorite author; an author you always wanted-to-read, but- never-had-the-time; a subject about which you wish to learn more — i.e. the American Indian, or the American Indian of the 19th century, or the Blackfoot Tribe or the agriculture of the Algonquins — you can collect recent in-print books, books from the 19th century, books from the first century of printing, paperback books, pulp magazines, fine leather bindings, historic newspapers, pamphlets from the period of the American Revolution or the French Revolution or Viet Nam, books printed on mission presses in the Pacific, or even books about book collecting!

If you like the rock & roll music from the 50's and 60's you can collect books in that area — if you like astrophysics, genetics, parapsychology, calculus, French, Russian, Japanese, tennis, golf, fishing, swimming, biking, horticulture, flower arranging — it is possible to build a book collection around virtually any subject. In our estimation, that is the truly great aspect of book collecting — the individuality — your collection will reflect your personal interests and efforts and abilities as a collector.

Book collecting is expensive! Not true! You can spend as little or as much as you are able and willing to spend on your collection. Some collectors purchase only new in-print books, others buy only at yard sales and library book sales, others visit their neighborhood used book shop, others order only from mail order antiquarian book catalogs, and many are now buying books on the world wide web. If you are very limited in discretionary funding or very frugal, you could even hold yourself to a maximum of $1.00 (US or the equivalent) per volume by buying at flea markets and yard sales and slowly build an interesting and potentially valuable collection.

Many collectors purchase their books from a wide variety of sources and limit their purchases to expenditures they can afford; often making purchases in the $10 to $100 range, occasionally more for a scarce or very desirable item. There are also many items available for those who can afford to spend hundreds or thousands on a single volume.


Part   1 - Introduction
Part   2 - Importance of priority relative to book collecting
Part   3 - Jargon - Reading a catalog description
Part   4 - Jargon - Condition and its importance
Part   5 - Bibliographies and other useful references
Part   6 - Rarity & scarcity and supply & demand
Part   7 - Ephemera - what is it and is it part of book collecting
Part   8 - Understanding book values & pricing
Part   9 - Some physical aspects of the book - bindings & paper
Part 10 - Book illustrations - variety of & illustrators
Part 11 - Investing in Antiquarian Books

Books and Book Collecting