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The Modern Rare Book Trade 

 Tutors: Leo Cadogan and Angus O’Neill 

Standard: £680 / Student £550 

The purpose of this course is to introduce the international rare and antiquarian book trade as a public resource, a source for information and advice and a means of acquiring books, manuscripts, prints, paper ephemera, and other related items. The course should be useful for students including librarians, collectors, scholars, and private and institutional vendors. The overall aim is to demythologise the trade and encourage an understanding of it in the context of the wider bibliophile and scholarly worlds.  


We intend to show how the trade has traditionally worked, the challenges it faces, and future trends. Subjects of the broad examination will include organisation, markets, research and materials. There will be sessions introducing the trade, its buying and selling methods and history; exploring traditional factors that drive prices (e.g. rarity, scarcity, the "first edition", bindings); an introduction to reading commercial descriptions of rare books and what they can tell us (and not tell us); and a study of modern interests in collecting. These last include ephemeral printing; collecting items in complete context (e.g. with their storage materials); collecting complete libraries and archives; buying and selling unbroken sammelbände; and collecting on marginalised groups in book history. There will be an extended session on the study of provenance. This is an increasing factor of value as we seek to understand our materials in new contexts. The research also protects against the purchase of stolen goods. Another subject that combines historical and collecting interest and protection of the integrity of our trade is the study of repair, ‘sophistication’ and forgery. We will give this proper attention on our course as well. 


As well as teaching from the convenors, students will have sessions with key experts in the history of the book trade and in the modern market in archives, and a session on new approaches to book research and bibliography with practitioners. 


Students will be given tailored reading lists, both introductory and for each session. There will be practical demonstrations and show-and-tells of rare materials, and we will have behind-the-scenes visits to one of London's leading antiquarian book firms, and to London's leading street of small antiquarian book shops.                


Preliminary Reading List 

  • Ahearn, Allen and Patricia. Collected Books. The Guide to Identification and Values, fourth edition (Comus, MD. Quill & Brush, 2011). 
  • Bernard, Philippa and others (eds.). Antiquarian Books. A Companion… (Aldershot. Scolar Press, 1994). 
  • Carter, John. ABC for Book Collectors, ninth edition, rev. Nicolas Barker and Simran Thadani (New Castle. Oak Knoll, 2016). 
  • Connolly, Joseph. Collecting Modern First Editions (London. Studio Vista, 1977; revised editions under slightly different title in 1985, 1987, 1993). 
  • Hunt, Arnold, Giles Mandelbrote & Alison Shell (eds). The Book Trade & its Customers, 1450-1900. Historical Essays for Robin Myers (Winchester. St Paul's Bibliographies, 1997). 
  • Mandelbrote, Giles (ed.). Out of Print and Into Profit… (London. British Library, 2006) (See especially chapters by Arnold Hunt, Angus O’Neill, David Pearson, Marc Vaulbert de Chantilly and H.R. Woudhuysen) 
  • Markham, Sheila. A Book of Booksellers. Conversations with the Antiquarian Book Trade 1991-2003 (London. Sheila Markham, 2004).  
  • Markham, Sheila. A Second Book of Booksellers. Conversations with the Antiquarian Book Trade (London. Sheila Markham, 2014).  
  • McKitterick, David. The Invention of Rare Books. Private Interest and Public Memory, 1600–1840 (Cambridge. Cambridge University Press, 2018).