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?
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?

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.
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!
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
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!
posted by  Julien at  20:05 | permalink | comments [16]

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