Home » Antiquarian Book Collecting: A Thing of the Past

When you hear the term “Antiquarian Book Collector,” do you immediately picture an old man in a dusty bookshop, placing yet another book high on a shelf? Is it the book collector, rather than the books, that you consider “antique?”

“Antiquarian” is an unusual word, and one not often bandied about in casual conversation. So it is only natural that misconceptions of its meaning persist.

Antiquarian book collectors are those interested in collecting books which were printed before the year 1900. Often these collectors specialize according to their interest; seeking out and purchasing books from a particular century, from the 19th century to the 15th century.

Although antiquarian book collectors often do seek out first-edition books, they do not exclusively do so. They may instead seek out those antiquarian books they find particularly beautiful or compelling: hand-written books from Europe before 1455, for example, or books which are in extraordinarily good shape, with beautiful illustrations, or undamaged covers or paper.

Like with all collectors, there is something about antiquarian books which grips these collectors—whether it be their scarcity, the challenge in locating the books, the connection these books have to moments in history, or their past ownership by famous people such as authors, historians, political figures or royalty. When these last books are also signed by the famous person, the book becomes even more valuable.

For something to be considered antique, it must be at least 100 years old. In the future, what will antiquarian book collecting look like? With the advent of e-books and audio-books, will antiquarian collectors in, say, 2200, include such “works” in their libraries? Will audio books which include the voice talent of famous past actors fetch higher prices and be deemed more valuable?

Only time will tell. But the interest in collecting past books—of whatever past that may be—will likely continue into the future.

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