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Ruby Lane Past Times Newsletter for February
Past Times I suppose I have always collected books. Browsing bookstores is
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
Fine Art, and Artisans
Welcome to Past Times!
IN THIS ISSUE:
o Collecting Books With Fine Bindings by Barbara Robbins of
COLLECTING BOOKS WITH FINE BINDINGS BY BARBARA
ROBBINS OF ROBBINS ROOST
a natural for an old English teacher like me. When I started
going to London to buy antique jewelry, I never dreamed of
buying books to sell. Then, I happened to spy those beautiful
bindings of classic works that it seems only the English could
create. I bought them, kept a few, and put a few in my mall
booth. I had never seen that type of book binding. These
volumes, the hard leather, mid-Victorian bindings, are truly
works of art. I decided that I, would only buy those volumes
written by authors with whom I was familiar, as the books
weren't cheap, even eight years ago, and excess baggage is
I was very lucky though, because I found a dealer who has
contacts all over England, and he started collecting these
lovely bindings for me. He buys libraries from all these stately
homes, and he even offered me a few Dickens' first editions that
were, as he carefully explained, "bound from parts," as Dickens
wrote in serial form. The most important thing to remember is
that, while I knew my literature, I didn't know about things
being "bound from parts," and I certainly didn't recognize first
editions. He did however, and therein is my best advice to any
beginning collector. Buy from someone who is knowledgeable and
whom you trust, even if it costs a bit more. An old book is not
necessarily valuable. Condition, rarity, fame of the author,
etc., all play a role in the value of a given volume. I also
learned about my favorite "prize" bindings, or those wonderful
volumes given to students in school for high performance. The
amazing thing is that these full calf leather bindings have the
coat of arms of the school on the front, tooled in gold. I
believe these are my favorites, and I learned that there are
collectors for just prize bindings.
I will never forget the first time a designer asked me if my
books were in English. I said, "Yes," thinking the dealer must
be nuts. This lady explained to me that books in English were
more expensive, but she preferred them. Without meaning to step
on any designer's toes, for me personally the books on my
shelves must be ones that I am able to read and enjoy. I have
found that many english and non-english-speaking collectors and
scholars feel the same.†
The books that I buy and sell aren't inexpensive, but I do
believe they are a bargain for what they are. When one realizes
the work that went into even one steel engraving, one is
incredulous that it is even possible to buy antique volumes
which are illustrated.†
Again, I must stress condition. I don't mind some foxing (brown
marks on the pages), and I know you can get special glue with
which to put bindings back together, but I prefer the binding
and pages intact, and won't buy a volume in pieces.
In conclusion, I think one should buy volumes pleasing to the
eye that are in good condition by authors or on topics with
which one is familiar, and by all means, if one is investing
any amount of money in bindings, buy from a reputable dealer.
We invite you to visit Barbara's shop: Robbins Roost.
I suppose I have always collected books. Browsing bookstores is
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