April 19, 2011

Your micro-review roundup: 19 April 2011

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

I'm teaching myself more these days about both bookmaking and book collecting, so I thought I'd start by reading the Chicago Public Library's collection of titles on these subjects. Here are all the ones I found at the main Harold Washington branch downtown, along with my short thoughts.

Book Collecting: A Modern Guide

Book Collecting: A Modern Guide
Edited by Jean Peters
R.R. Bowker Company

First published in 1977, this is the oldest of the guides I looked at, written in a curiously Victorian-sounding tone (lots of lofty talk about the nobility of antiquarian books and the like), and containing a plethora of outdated information on subjects like maintaining your own card catalog (modern answer: use Goodreads) and how to track down the mailing addresses of obscure dealers (modern answer: stop by ABEbooks.com).

Collecting Books (Instant Expert Series), by Matthew Budman

Collecting Books (Instant Expert Series)
By Matthew Budman
House of Collectibles / Random House

One of the better guides I read, this 2004 title contains all kinds of practical information for the beginning collector: from a history of mainstream books to a guide to industry terms, strategies for assembling a unified collection that will someday be worth money, and more. (This is one of the things that almost all the books do, in fact, is discourage people from collecting individual books for quick financial turnaround, like you might do with action figures or baseball cards: that because of ever-fluctuating prices and sometimes an eternity to find buyers, book-collecting is much more worthwhile as a long-term investment, slowly shaping over thirty or forty years a themed collection that's eventually worth more than the mere sum of its parts.)

Selling Old Books the New Dot Com Way, by Suzanne Pitner

Selling Old Books the New Dot Com Way: Your Guide to Starting and Running an Internet Bookselling Business
By Suzanne Pitner
Writers Club Press / iUniverse

One of those fluffed-out books that contains only a magazine article's worth of information, this hundred-page large-type book contains entire chapters just on subjects like "Is selling books right for you?" and offers advice like "attend library sales regularly" and "make sure the books you buy are clean and in good shape." Filled with completely outdated online information a mere decade after its publication, this is clearly a book for 21st-century audiences to avoid.

A Degree of Mastery, by Annie Tremmel Wilcox

A Degree of Mastery: A Journey through Book Arts Apprenticeship
By Annie Tremmel Wilcox
New Rivers Press

A fascinating personal memoir but about as dry as such stories even get, this is an ultra-detailed look at what goes into the daily life of a professional book conservator, with Wilcox using her years as a Medieval-style apprentice in Iowa as a nice framing device for doling out entire chapters of information just on tools, chemicals, binding styles, and all kinds of other wonky issues when it comes to saving old manuscripts.

Modern Book Collecting, by Robert A. Wilson

Modern Book Collecting
By Robert A. Wilson
Alfred A. Knopf

Yet another guide from the '70s full of ridiculously specific and hence instantly dated advice; for example, when discussing what kinds of little-known books one should collect, he names specific people, exhorting us time-traveling readers to pick up such Early Modernists as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf "before they get expensive." But still, this does have an excellent beginner's look at all the complications involved with determining first-edition status of books published before the 20th century, for those interested in this surprisingly fascinating topic.

Antiquarian Books, by Roy Harley Lewis

Antiquarian Books: An Insider's Account
By Roy Harley Lewis

Not so much a guide to collecting books as a history of the industry's early days, this is an interesting but non-practical look at obsessive bibliophiles from the days when the collecting of rare books truly did seem like a crazy idea.

Among the Gently Mad, by Nicholas A. Basbanes

Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book Hunter in the Twenty-First Century
By Nicholas A. Basbanes
Henry Holt and Company

A 2002 title from the same author of A Gentle Madness (easily the most popular book about bibliophilia ever published), this comes closest to what I was looking for in the first place, and thus is the one book from this list I most recommend, a smart and common-sense guidebook to those just starting to get involved with the pursuit, its true worth lying not in the advice it gives but the questions it inspires you to contemplate before actually spending any of your book-collecting money.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:49 AM, April 19, 2011. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |