Monday, September 10, 2007

The Value of Old Books

The Times today has an interesting (and sad) story of the sale of a collection of old books (pre 1800) by the Diocese of Truro (here). The basic story seems to be that the Diocesan Library discovered that no one had used any of the pre 1800 books for more than ten years, so they sold the lot in order to free up space. The problem being that they sold that lot for £36,000; but the lot was worth more than £500,000! The source for this is an article in the Bookdealer (here), which has some nice photos and prices.

Two examples:
Erasmus 1516 first edition: sold at auction for £19,200
Complutensian Polyglot (all six volumes): sold at auction for £69,600

Four Lessons:
1) Every now and then just visit old libraries and ask to see their old Bibles (otherwise they'll think no one is interested and sell them).
2) It is possible (occasionally) to make money from a knowledge of old Bibles.
3) Collecting old Bibles takes fairly big league finances.


  1. By the way, if you need a grant to study some old books:

  2. These little collections are often a joy to use. They usually don't make barriers to you taking copies, and are pleased to see you. There are directories of them. Go and see what there is in your local area.

  3. What was the fourth lesson? Perhaps that we should be more careful than the church was when selling old books?

    For more on this story see Ruth Gledhill's blog.

  4. Sorry, I did have a fourth lesson but then I thought it wasn't a very good lesson. And now I have forgotten it completely.

  5. How much would you estimate that Erasmus third edition from 1522 was worth? Any suggestions?