One of the questions I receive on both my blog and Facebook page runs like this: “I have a copy of_____. Would you have any idea of its value or how I would find out?” I haven’t a clue regarding the first part of that question. I love reading and talking about books, but have never focused on collecting books, particularly old books apart from a treasured Balzac series that passed down from my grandfather. I always direct people to antiquarian booksellers and to this website representing the association of these booksellers in the U.S. (there are similar associations in other countries).
Spurred by reading about the founding of this organization in Book Row which I recently reviewed, I spent some time nosing around on their website. Here’s some of what I found.
The top menu bar can take you nearly anywhere on the site. “Browse and shop” takes you to a page where you can browse antiquarian books in a variety of categories, see recently listings or search for a particular author or title (you can do this from the home page as well). “About the ABAA” is exactly that including the mission statement, their Guarantee and Code of Ethics, how antiquarian booksellers can join (they must be vetted and sponsored by a current member–they cannot just sign up and they must subscribe to the Code of Ethics), their board members and more. “About Antiquarian Books” is a great place to start to learn about antiquarian books, collecting them, and even the vocabulary that is used. “ABAA Booksellers” describes what it takes to become an ABAA Bookseller and provides a search function for finding ABAA Booksellers by area, region or name. Finally, “Events” publicizes upcoming book events, especially book fairs. There is even an article on virtual book fairs in the age of COVID.
Below this is a scrolling banner with recent postings from “The New Antiquarian,” the blog of the association, and other announcements. The blog may also be accessed from a clickable teal colored box in the upper right corner of the page. The below the “creeping” listing of book categories, one can see recent arrivals of books for sale via member booksellers.
The bottom of the page is redundant in many respects, with regard to some of the non-bookselling content on the page. The “About” information is offered again with this statement that ought encourage those wishing to buy, sell, or evaluate their books”
“The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America was founded in 1949 to promote interest in rare and antiquarian books and book collecting, and to foster collegial relations. We strive to maintain the highest standards in the trade. All members agree to abide by the ABAA’s Code of Ethics. While our members sell, buy, and appraise books and printed matter, our staff can assist you with finding a bookseller and with other trade-related matters.“
Several things stand out. This is a 72 year-old organization–not an internet-come-lately. They work collegially, helping each other serve customers. They have a code of ethics. They are dedicated to serving customers in every aspect of the antiquarian book business.
Also, “below the fold” are a selection of the posts from their blog, other organizational links and a place to sign up for their newsletter. That’s really about it.
One other feature you should note in the scrolling banner is the “catalogues” feature. Catalogues are the lifeblood of antiquarian bookselling. Sellers assemble sales lists of a selection of their books. Glancing through can help you learn about which sellers cater to your interests and give you an idea of the worth of various books and considerations in value. This is a great way to get an education about antiquarian books and you might find something to your liking that could be a nucleus to your collection.
All in all, this is an easily navigable and great place to learn, find books and booksellers, and book events and more, dealing with booksellers who still consider their work an honorable trade worthy of high standards. If you are concerned about such things as you look to buy, sell, or appraise old books, look for booksellers who meet these requirements and display the ABAA logo.