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Where To Find Rare Books
For people who love books, there's nothing quite like getting your hands on an old copy of your favorite book. Or finding a book signed by your favorite author. When a book was first published long before you were born, finding a first edition copy is having a connection to that time when your favorite book first appeared. It's like going back in time to when the author was some unknown, penning their hopes and dreams and praying that all their effort and time will pay off. If you want to own a piece of history, here are some of the best websites to buy rare books.
When you search through viaLibri you are actually searching multiple book-selling websites. You can filter the searches by the print date. (This is helpful if you’re looking for a specific edition or volume). It allows you to search specifically for first editions and signed copies. When a match is found you go to the website from which it came. If the specific book you searched for is not found you can post a Want. ViaLibri is Beta testing the Libribot, which is search software that routinely searches multiple book-selling sites for listings that match people’s Wants. If you are not a paying subscriber then it will only search for one Want for you a day. You have to check back with viaLibri to see if a match has been found (they don’t send e-mail notifications).
Bibliophile Bookbase sells antique maps and atlases as well as rare books. You can search specifically for first editions or signed copies, and you can narrow your search by date. You deal directly with the sellers when purchasing a book. If you don’t find what you’re looking for you can post a Want and you will be e-mailed when someone lists the book you are looking for.
The tagline for AbeBooks is “Passion for Books,” and you can really tell that they are passionate about books. They make finding the perfect book for you (or a loved one, if you want to buy a gift for someone) easy. They have categories that you can look through if you know you want a neat book but don’t have anything specific in mind. There is a category for rare medical books, old children’s books, collectible cookbooks, and many other subjects. They also have a “Weird Book Room,” which is a page on the site that has a bunch of books on strange subjects. If you have something specific in mind, AbeBooks allows you to limit your search to first edition or signed copies. Their advanced search allows you to narrow the search by date. AbeBooks also sells used textbooks for really cheap. When you buy a book from AbeBooks you deal directly with the seller. AbeBooks does allow refunds to the buyer if the condition of the book is not as described. If you don’t find what you are looking for you can create a Want and you will be notified when an item is listed that matches the book you want.
Bauman Rare Books
Bauman Rare Books lists their inventory online for people from all over to buy. You can limit your search specifically to signed copies or first editions with their advanced search. When you purchase something you are buying directly from Bauman Rare Books. They do allow returns if you are unsatisfied.
Alibris sells different types of media, not just books. They also allow you to rent textbooks with free return shipping. With their advanced search you can specify signed or first edition copies and you can narrow the search by publication year. When you buy from Alibris you are buying from the independent sellers directly. However, Alibris guarantees the purchases and allows returns if there is something wrong with the item.
Biblio allows independent bookstores to post their inventory online. They also sell used textbooks for cheap prices. You can search specifically for first editions or signed copies. However, one issue I have noticed when searching for first editions is that the results will list first editions from every publisher. So every time a book changes publishers, that is listed as a first edition. This problem can be remedied by narrowing the results by publication date, which is allowed when using the advanced search. Biblio allows returns if there is something wrong with the order.
There is not a standard way that all books identify which edition and which printing it is. Each publisher has their own system. What’s more, publishers didn’t have these systems before the sixties. The publishers usually just put first edition on the copyright page, but not all of them did. And sometimes the phrase “first edition” just means no changes have been made since the book was first published, so seeing the phrase “first edition” on a copyright page is not a completely reliable way of identifying an actual first edition first printing. Before trying to track down a first edition, do some research on the specific book you’re looking for.
For information about identifying editions of books in general, both Empty Mirror Books and BookLibris Books have some wonderful information.
Books for Book Collectors
These books will help you in your search for first edition books and other rare editions.
Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions
This is a quick and easy guide to first editions. It has information
about numerous publishers and how to identify first editions with
those particular publishers. It also gives a lesson in the different
"first editions" to help novices realize what a true first edition is.
Points of Issue: A Compendium of Points of Issue of Books
This book details "points of issue" - or small changes made in a
later edition of a book that will help distinguish a true first edition
first printing from a "first edition" that's a later printing - for several
famous books by 19th and 20th century authors.
Book Finds: How to Find, Buy, and Sell Used and Rare Books
This is a guide for book collecting. It gives information about
all of the areas a book collector should know about (grading
books, determing true fisrt editions, etc.).
First Editions: A Guide to Identification
This is the definitive book for identifying first editions.
However, it is a little expensive so I would only buy this
book if you were a serious collector, not just a hobbyist.
(Bill McBride's Pocket Guide has plenty of information,
though, and is more than enough if you are just looking
for a few books).
Peter and Wendy, First Edition
This is my first edition copy of Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. In future editions, this would become Peter Pan.
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