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4 Jun 2020
Can rare books be an investment?


A few years ago, a customer of mine asked me if rare books could be an investment. Here are some extracts of the answer I wrote him at the time:

The idea of rare books seen as a financial placement tends to divide the community of professional booksellers. The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) (to which we are affiliated in two ways through the Spanish and French associations) has been including these last few years the recomendation for its members not to promote the rare book as an investment or financial product. Such a prudence is understandable when you think about certain adventures like Aristophil's!
Even so, the patrimonial dimension, in all the senses of the term, of rare books seems obvious and rare books buyers, in their immense majority, still nurture the hope that their latest purchase will increase its value in the future (or, at least, that it will not see its value decrease).

Let's remind ourselves of a few preliminary ideas:

  • Generally speaking, in the past the value of rare books used to increase over time, which responds to a certain logic if you think that rarity generally also increases with time.

  • Twenty years ago the rare book market, with the internet revolution, started to go global which put within anyone's reach millions of rare books worldwide.
    Which effects have the development of internet had on the rare book market? They are obviously many, and the purpose of this quick overview is not to offer a complete survey but I'd like to underline two important effects: 1). Access to the virtual world has provided everyone with a specialised knowledge that was, until then, reserved to a sall number of scholars, professional librarians and experienced booksellers. 2). The redefinition of the concept of rarity taking into account the internet as a new essential tool for measuring the availability of a specific title in a specific moment, and its price. Before the internet, nothing could replace each individual's point of view and even the most experienced dealers could have an incomplete vision of the market.

  • As with all other markets (including financial products) the rare book market is subject to conjunctures and fashions that can be difficult to predict. It is consequently impossible to define it as a single entity moving in an orderly way.

  • Nowadays, to a certain extent, the rare book market is still in the assimilation process of the internet revolution. For example, rare books are sometimes available for sale in several copies around the world which generally influences their price downwards, but this tendency is probably temporary and after some time (maybe ten more years?) the price of these books will perhaps start to raise again because the few copies available today will not be on the market at the same time any more.

  • Despite the internet revolution, extremely rare and important books still fetch high prices at auctions and a quick glance at booksellers's catalogues and rare book fairs, shows that many high-end rare books still reach very high prices.



So, what must we think of the potential of rare books as an investment?

My answer is: yes, certain rare books can be a placement which can eventually produce a significant return after one or two decades (ten or twenty years). That being said, it is not a risk-free placement. In this perspective I would rate the risk to loose money from "moderate" to "relatively high", depending on various factors: who assists you, what subject you are willing to collect, etc.

A few words of advice:

  • Don't think only as an investor. Assign a value and be ready to pay a price for living your passion of collecting rare books. The idea should be to buy books which are worth the price you pay when you purchase them, and to maintain an ordered purchase policy aiming to lower the risk of seeing the value of your investment decrease significantly in the future. Obtaining a return on your investment should be the cherry on the cake, not the cake!

  • Be selective: try to define the perspective of your collection with a handful of words, then try to reduce these words to a combination that could make your collection unique and recognizable, but not out of reach.

  • Take the time to create and consolidate a personal relationship with a small number of experienced professional book dealers. ILAB professionals are usually extremely reliable and experienced, and if you are willing to invest your time and some money you will probably find a few good guides to assist you in your quest. https://www.ilab.org



And you? What do you think?
 
Love (of books) in times of COVID-19
posted by  Julien at  16:17 | permalink | comments [4]



6 May 2020
How did you become a bibliophile?


Among the great mysteries of Creation, one is often forgotten in the classical cosmogony: How does someone become a bibliophile?

Yet, I’m sure we all remember the first rare book we purchased! As far as I am concerned, it was an 18th century booklet in Italian, the description of an agricultural machine... a very handsome copy on blue large paper bound in contemporary gilt vellum. I was eighteen years old... and was born into a booksellers family where antiquarian books surrounded me everywhere.

Thirty years later, I’m still surrounded by antiquarian books and tens of thousands have also passed through my hands, modest and inexpensive or noble and costly, but my fascination remains the same - for the books as well as for the history of each copy and their previous owners.

Contribute and share your testimony, to show the incredible diversity of our bibliophile's world!


So... How did you become a bibliophile?


 
Love (of books) in times of COVID-19
posted by  Julien at  19:17 | permalink | comments [2]



26 Apr 2020
Do you like to show off your rare books?


In the middle of this confinement the question can seem a little bit perverse! [}:)] But if your books ever begin to need fresh air, why not have a (virtual) walk with them?

Send us a picture of your favorite book, a couple of lines telling us why it’s favoured, and we will put it online for you.(You can also do it yourself in the blog, if your picture is already online, by inserting in your comment the corresponding tag and url of your picture).

As you already know, we love to show off our books and having renewed our showcase this morning we invite you to stop by for a visit, a browse, and see what takes your fancy!

We are waiting for your pictures! Take care of yourself and stay tuned.
 
Love (of books) in times of COVID-19
posted by  Julien at  22:35 | permalink | comments [0]



12 Apr 2020
An Easter egg hunt for book lovers


In this situation of full confinement, the traditional easter egg hunt would prove to be unpractical. Fortunately though, there is a book shop open behind your screen! We invite you to play with us by finding the Easter eggs hidden in our book descriptions on the bookshop's website.

You just have to click on the "Visit the book shop" link, at the top of the column to the right of this blog, to enter into the site.

There are 99 Easter eggs like the one below. Our reader who will find the most before next Tuesday, April 14 at noon (Barcelona time) will win a "bibliophilic basket" containing a selection of printed catalogues, a book of bibliography to be chosen from among a list of available works, and a 25% discount voucher to be used on our web site within the next 30 days.



To participate you just have to log in or register on our web site and answer to this blog with the number of eggs you have found (you wil leventually be asked the reference number of the books where you found an Easter egg). Beware! If the button "Live Support" lights up green, you can obtain 5 reference numbers... You just have to click the button to start a live conversation with us!



Good luck to all!
 
Love (of books) in times of COVID-19
posted by  Julien at  15:16 | permalink | comments [1]



4 Apr 2020
Do you read your rare books?


A profane question that often comes back to us rare books dealers, is whether our customers "read the books of their collection... "

According to an idea still widespread (and - we have to say - fed since the 19th century by portraits regularly drawn in literature), bibliophiles would be like "fetishists of the book", obsessed by all sorts of silly details meaningless for the rest of the world, and for whom the possession of a book would represent, in the end, the main part of their interest for the book in general.

As a bookseller I think that I am in a pretty good position to have an opinion on the question, (and the reading of the various comments left by our followers throughout this blog gives us, for sure, some clues for a response!). But before testifying... I would love to read your own reactions!

I will therefore limit myself to giving you just the first line of my own answer: "Yes, my clients can all read...".

It’s up to you to continue!

If you are already logged-in, you can leave a comment by clicking here

To log-in or to create a user account, please click here
 
Love (of books) in times of COVID-19
posted by  Julien at  16:32 | permalink | comments [6]



23 Mar 2020
Your books and you


So... Here we are, almost all of us confined in our homes because of this bloody virus...

For us bibliophiles the (numerous) hours that we now have to spend with our partner, our family or our loneliness, is also the occasion to get closer to the friends that follow us silently from the shelves of our libraries: the books of our collection!

Aiming at a dialogue between bibliophiles we have opened this new section of our blog: "Love (of books) in times of COVID-19".

Today is the turn of your collection to speak, just by answering 6 very simple questions.

Your participation is essential and much appreciated. Without it, such a project is meaningless!

- What subject?

- How many titles?

- The oldest?

- The newest?

- When was this collection started ?

- When was the latest addition to this collection?


If you are already logged-in, you can leave a comment by clicking here

To log-in or to create a user account, please click here

We can't wait to read your posts! See you soon online!
 
Love (of books) in times of COVID-19
posted by  Julien at  20:05 | permalink | comments [16]



14 Sep 2018
“Dear reader, may God protect you from bad books...”
As a tribute to the master satirist and virtuoso of language Francisco de Quevedo Villegas, born on this day in 1580, we present to you a copy of an utmost rare Sevilla printing of his famous “Sueños y Discursos”, a collection of misanthropic fantasies of the afterworld first published in Barcelona in 1627. This slightly expurgated version was edited by a friend of the author, with his agreement, and published with an alternative title in order to escape censorship.

Estimado lector, que Dios lo proteja de los libros malos, la policía y las mujeres regañonas, con la cara lívida y el cabello rubio.


 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  16:16 | permalink | comments [0]



27 Jul 2018
On the Barricades of the July Revolution
After the storming of the Bastille, we could not resist the pleasure of presenting this suite of fine lithographs depicting the barricades of the Revolution of July 1830! This heroic vision is that of the painter Hyppolite Bellangé (1800-1866), a specialist in battle scenes famous for his paintings of the Napoleonic epic !


 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  16:14 | permalink | comments [0]



20 Jul 2018
Libri Medullitus Delectant
A little over seven centuries ago today, the great Petrarch was born !
As a tribute to the founder of Humanism, we present to you this rare and beautiful Venice edition (Il Petrarcha, Venegia, Bernardino Bindoni Milanese, 1543), illustrated with 6 engraved figures and a portrait of the master, and dressed in its contemporary vellum !

"[L]ibri medullitus delectant, colloquuntur, consulunt et viva quadam nobis atque arguta familiaritate iunguntur, neque solum se se lectoribus quisque suis insinuat, sed et aliorum nomen ingerit et alter alterius desiderium facit. » (Epistolae de Rebus Familiaribus, III, 18)



 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  12:48 | permalink | comments [0]



13 Jul 2018
The Beginning of the French Revolution according to Nicolas de Basseville
On the eve of Bastille Day, we invite you to discover a detailed chronicle of the events and debates that took place during the first months of the French Revolution, from the creation of the National Assembly until September 1789: “Mémoires historiques, critiques et politiques de la Révolution de France avec toutes les opérations de l'Assemblée Nationale” (Paris, chez l'Auteur, Bleuet, et Potier de Lille, 1790).
Its author, Nicolas de Basseville (1753-1793) was an editor at the Mercure National and then a diplomat in Italy; he died in Rome as a martyr of the young Republic, lynched by a mob raised by the papal clergy against the symbols of the French Revolution !

A beautiful copy in nice contemporary binding, illustrated with an engraving of the storming of the Bastille!


 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  16:30 | permalink | comments [0]



6 Jul 2018
Claude Garamond, King of Typographers
If the name Garamond is known by almost everyone today, it is certainly due in part to the outstanding quality of the Greek typefaces (“grecs du roi ”) that he designed for the royally-ordered printing of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea (Paris, Robert Estienne, 1544), the first history of the Church ever printed !

A kingly book for sure !


 
Great Printers
posted by  Benjamin at  13:06 | permalink | comments [0]



29 Jun 2018
Wurzelbau's Opera Geographico-Astronomica
Now that summertime’s here, don’t we all dream of a night spent watching the stars, far away from the city ? To celebrate the arrival of the favourite season for amateur astronomers, we present to you the works of an amateur so passionate and diligent in his observation that a crater of the Moon now bears his name: Johann Philipp von Wurzelbau (1651-1725) !

Has anybody seen my telescope ?


 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  17:08 | permalink | comments [0]



22 Jun 2018
Otto van Veen's Emblems Printed by Anna Margaretha Blanckaert
As a tribute to the many women printers whose identity was often reduced to that of "wife of" or "widow of the printer", and on the occasion of tomorrow's International Widows Day, we present to this very beautiful edition of the famous book of emblems by Flemish painter Otto van Veen, printed by Anna Margaretha Blanckaert (1670-1750), widow of the printer Henrik Verdussen. Missing from the title pages of the works she edited, the name of this great woman printer is not even mentioned in most bibliographies...

Because "to name is to show” and because “one is not born, but rather becomes, *the widow of”, here is her name again : Anna Margaretha Blanckaert !


 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  16:13 | permalink | comments [0]



15 Jun 2018
Fourcroy and the Annales de Chimie (1789-1815)
Born on June 15th, 1755, the chemist and revolutionary statesman Antoine-François de Fourcroy was one of the founders of the Annales de Chimie, a journal so fundamental to the emergence of the principles of modern chemistry.

In his honor, here is an utmost rare complete 50-volumes collection of the first series of publication (1789-1815), in charming contemporary binding.

A genuine monument, indeed !



 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  16:58 | permalink | comments [0]



8 Jun 2018
Marine Lithographs by Explorer-Artist Lebreton
Today, World Oceans Day, let us all set sail with La Marine au XIXe siècle (Paris, Langlumé [c.1855]), a very rare suite of marine lithographs by Louis Lebreton (1818-1866), an artist from the charming port town of Douarnenez, in Brittany (as you may have guessed, judging from his surname!)

Praised for the accuracy of his representation of sailing life and boats, Lebreton mastered his trade as an artist on board the Astrolabe, the vessel commanded by the great navigator and explorer Dumont d'Urvil, his uncle.

Godspeed to you all, fellow booklovers, illustration lovers and ocean lovers!

 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  17:11 | permalink | comments [0]



1 Jun 2018
Honouring Sadi Carnot
On this day in 1796, the great French engineer and physicist Sadi Carnot was born, a man whose only published work – Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu et sur les machines propres à développer cette puissance (Paris, 1824) – marked the very foundation of modern thermodynamics.
To celebrate this birth, his father the famous statesman Lazare Carnot had a song published, written by himself and his musician friend Prieur-Duvernois, a member of the revolutionary Comité de Salut Public like Lazare himself in 1793-1794.

Here’s an extremely rare piece of occasion, in honour of an exceptional being!

 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  16:24 | permalink | comments [0]



18 May 2018
At the Museum with Visconti
In honour of International Museum Day, here is a superb copy of the Roman Iconography by Ennio Quirino Visconti (1751-1818), commissioned by Napoleon himself to the archaeologist and curator at the Louvre !
A sequel to the Greek Iconography published in 1808, this copy of the in-Folio Original Edition was printed on vellum paper by Didot and bound in half shagreen by Lajoux !


 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  14:27 | permalink | comments [0]



4 May 2018
Freedom for Jean-Baptiste Robinet !
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, celebrated yesterday, we present to you a curious esoteric treatise: Vue Philosophique de la Gradation Naturelle des Formes de l'Etre, ou les Essais de la Nature qui apprend à faire l'Homme (A Amsterdam, chez E. van Harrevelt, 1768) by Breton naturalist Jean Baptiste Robinet (1735-1820), the Parisian edition of which had been put on the Index, subsequently republished in Amsterdam the same year in order to escape the censors !

Much like the writings of this precursor in the history of evolutionary thought, the illustrating engravings included in the book are on their own a testament to freedom !


 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  15:24 | permalink | comments [0]



27 Apr 2018
MENS SANA IN CORPORE SALTATUS
You and I know how important physical activity is to maintaining the vitality of the mind; because great results come with great effort, why not set the bar a little higher than the usual walk or yoga class ?

The work of the Italian acrobat Archangel Tuccaro [Trois Dialogues de l'Exercice de Sauter, et Voltiger en l'air. Avec les figures qui servent à la parfaicte demonstration et intelligence dudict Art. Dédié au Roy (A Paris, chez Claude de Monstr'œil, 1599)], a protégé of King Charles IX of France, we present to you the very first treatise on acrobatic gymnastics ! This exceptional work is illustrated with 87 woodcut figures representing gymnastic moves that you may even want to reproduce at home !

Come on ! (*)



(*) Librería Comellas denies responsibility for any injury suffered by book-lovers turned acrobatic gymnasts upon reading this blog entry.
 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  15:56 | permalink | comments [0]



20 Apr 2018
Homage to Philipe Pinel
Born on April 20th, 1745, this great pioneer modern psychiatry was one of the very first champions of the humane treatment of the alienated: he developed the idea of the "moral treatment" of the insane in the book Traité Médico-Philosophique sur l'aliénation mentale ou la manie (Paris, 1801) of which we present to you today an attractive 1rst edition copy, in contemporary half-binding!

 
News
posted by  Benjamin at  17:20 | permalink | comments [0]