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Old 03-21-2007, 03:41 PM   #1
George
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Default Condition/Value Old Books

I recently purchased two very wonderful books, coming out of a non-public library. One is copyrighted 1950, and I paid $10 for it. The binding is good, but I’m not certain how tight it is. I found it was reprinted in 1984, copies of which are selling on the internet for $75 and $100. So, would my original copy be worth more or less??

I paid $7 for the other book, which is in good condition and is copyrighted 1895. I found it on the internet selling for $100 and $150. However, in some parts of the book someone marked an “x” beside a number of lines with a pencil. I wonder what kind of paper it is printed on. It’s heavy, but maybe, it has acid. Should I try to erase the “x” marks, or would that affect the paper??

Could problems arise with either book due to the age of the paper?? The 1950 book is British, but it was also printed in America, which no doubt, is the source of my copy. The 1895 book is American, although I found a copy in Ireland.

I have no intention of ever parting with either book, as already they are very special to me, but I’m just curious.

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Old 03-21-2007, 06:15 PM   #2
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Tricky business, book collecting.

There are textbooks on book collecting that could help you figure out the value of your books. Oak Knoll specializes in books about books, and they have at least this book about collecting. There are some useful bits of information on the rec.collecting.books FAQ and in other places.

In the meantime: It is a game of variables. If you found a copy of Gutenberg’s bible with pencil markings (I would faint if you did!), the markings would not detract much from the value. On the other hand, a more recent book might be marked down considerably.

First editions (not necessarily as stated in the book) are valuable. But remainder books are less valuable, even if they are first editions. Ex-library books are also less valuable (though not necessarily to you!). And books with good jackets are more valuable (even though the jacket is sort of irrelevant; anyway this applies only to modern books).

Maybe some of this helps you. I have thousands of books; to me the value lies always in the content. But I suspect some of them have great value — that will be for my heirs to discover! <g>

   
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Old 03-22-2007, 07:50 AM   #3
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That's an interesting response. I like the links. I never considered collecting old books, but I keep getting and finding more and more.

I have a few thousand books, and I work hard to keep the number that low, always going through them to find some to throw out. But it gets harder and harder, as the remaining lot increases in significance, always being passed over as too good for throw away. Still, the contents of the shelves are always changing, so although having a relatively small number, it's difficult to find a book I need at a given moment. I might spend 10 minutes or more looking at the shelves before I see it. So, do you have some kind of system of arrangement, that you can find a book when you need it?? Years ago I never had this problem, but my collection is becoming more and more specialized, which makes shelving them more complicated.

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Old 03-22-2007, 08:06 AM   #4
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There probably are other systems for cataloging them, but maybe the Dewey Decimal System will work for you?

We have at least one librarian among us here; maybe she'll see this and chime in.

   
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Old 03-22-2007, 02:51 PM   #5
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I wouldn't recommend Dewey for a small private collection; it's confusing enough for non-librarians in public libraries!

Private collections, by their very nature, reflect only a small cross-section of the subject areas covered by Dewey, and are often very specific within those areas. A more relevant method would probably be for the collector to formalise the subject matter and arrange by author within subject, or even just by author, with a basic database to keep track of contents and subject terms.

   
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Old 03-23-2007, 02:26 AM   #6
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I wouldn't recommend Dewey for a small private collection; it's confusing enough for non-librarians in public libraries!
It can be pretty confusing for librarians as well at times. When I first started work as a lecturer our college library had computing texts spread over a variety of Dewey codes (information science, electronics, business studies, engineering, etc etc). Sometimes they would buy multiple copies of a book and file some under one number and others elsewhere.

One of the best misclassification stories I heard first hand happened in Brighton library where a book called Rock Life was filed under geology. A very irate elderly gentleman complained when he borrowed it (presumably without looking inside) only to discover, when he got home, that the pictures of the Rolling Stones weren't exactly geological specimens.

   
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Old 03-23-2007, 02:46 PM   #7
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It can be pretty confusing for librarians as well at times. When I first started work as a lecturer our college library had computing texts spread over a variety of Dewey codes (information science, electronics, business studies, engineering, etc etc). Sometimes they would buy multiple copies of a book and file some under one number and others elsewhere.
I think you'll find that computing books are pretty well standardised under the 001s now. My philosophy when classifying library material has alwys been that it is better to be consistent than to be absolutely correct. The classification problems of Dewey are compounded for public libraries by the ridiculousness of Library of Congress subject headings. When I look at some of the books we get through from our outsourcers, and at the bib records downloaded from Libraries Australia, I wonder how anyone will ever find the books on the shelves. This topic comes up in conversation in our workroom with depressing frequency.

What you mention is a problem for libraries when similar topics are at widely-different numbers. Horticulture and landscaping, for example, are widely separated in strict Dewey. At my library service, we are in the process of developing a 'house and garden' collection that will keep the material at the original classification numbers but put whole Dewey sequences next to each other so that there are several bays with linked topics together. We're also looking at a family collection along the same lines, and a few others as well.

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One of the best misclassification stories I heard first hand happened in Brighton library where a book called Rock Life was filed under geology. A very irate elderly gentleman complained when he borrowed it (presumably without looking inside) only to discover, when he got home, that the pictures of the Rolling Stones weren't exactly geological specimens.
Very few libraries do original cataloguing any more – we all download the bib records from national libraries or OCLC. You will see on the verso of title pages that the original catalogue record is available from the British Library, or Library of Congress, or wherever. The problem we have in Australia, and probably elsewhere, is that in the National Bibliographic Database, there may be several bib records for the same item, and the cataloguer has to decide which is the best for the particular library's purpose. Sometimes the bib record is created before the book is actually published. But your tale sounds somewhat apocryphal to me, unless the Brighton library was doing original cataloguing and the classifier didn't even open the book. That sounds unlikely because there are a lot of options in the 550s when classifying. I classified many, many geological texts in my 30+ years as a technical librarian in the resource industries.

   
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Old 03-24-2007, 03:59 AM   #8
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But your tale sounds somewhat apocryphal to me, unless the Brighton library was doing original cataloguing and the classifier didn't even open the book.
I suspect that may have been the problem. This was nearly 30 years ago -- maybe they had a very small geology section. The amazing thing seemed to me that the borrower appeared to have taken the book home without looking inside.

While I was working in the library someone donated a collection of Persian books that got processed up-side down.

I guess part of the problem with Dewey is that the world has changed and any change in the classification system has probably got to be a slow development lagging behind the real world. After the University decided to move all it's computing texts to 001 there was still a problem with electronics/computing texts that were popular 20 years ago when everyone was buying bags of chips and soldering up their own computer. I imagine that's a subject that gets very little attention these days.

   
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Old 03-24-2007, 03:24 PM   #9
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After the University decided to move all it's computing texts to 001 there was still a problem with electronics/computing texts that were popular 20 years ago when everyone was buying bags of chips and soldering up their own computer. I imagine that's a subject that gets very little attention these days.
Yes, the computing literature moved quite quickly from electronics to software in the mid-eighties, after having been very much an engineering science for 20+ years.

   
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Old 03-23-2007, 04:31 PM   #10
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I wouldn't recommend Dewey for a small private collection; it's confusing enough for non-librarians in public libraries!
Ah, didn't realize it was complicated. I figured that it's an existing number/category system that anyone could plug their own books into. Guess it would make more sense to organize and number your own categories, then plug your stuff into that.

Me? I decided my own categories then clumped within them by author. Er...that's for the books I prize most, the rest being "filed" wherever they landed when I put them down to answer the phone or some kid emergency or whatever. <g>

   
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