How to spot a hidden treasure at York Book Fair

19 Sep 2014 @ 9.39 am
| News
Turn up the volumes… Browsers at the fair on Knavesmire

With more than 100,000 volumes on sale, the York Rare & Antiquarian Book Fair will set every reader’s spine tingling this weekend (September 19 and 20).

Europe’s largest antique book fair, held at York Racecourse, is the perfect place to find a treasure.

brideshead-revisited-first-edition-cutoutBut how do you spot something valuable? And what’s the best way to start your own book collection?

James Hallgate, who runs Lucius Books on Fossgate, has been collecting books since he was a child.

He believes collectors should start with what they love.

“Many people think that collecting books is something only the very well heeled can afford to do and can be intimidated by their lack of knowledge of what makes a good, collectible book,” he said.

“But anyone can become a collector. Just start with what you love, that book from your childhood you remember, and build from there,” explains Hallgate.

Lucius Books will be exhibiting at the fair, with one of its more valuable items being a signed first edition copy of Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (pictured right) – the book adapted as both a film and TV series at Castle Howard.

James’ top tips

1. Buy the best copy you can afford

Condition is critical. If possible, avoid fading, tears, inscriptions, price-clipping, loose pages and dents.

You have to live with your purchase, just as you would a painting or a new dining room table, so if its shabby condition is going to annoy you, don’t get it.

But if you’ve been looking for a book for ten years and have never seen another copy, don’t walk away because it has a couple of chips missing from the dustwrapper. You can always aim to upgrade later.

2. Look for a dustwrapper

If the book was issued with a dustwrapper, try to buy a copy which still has one. You want a book in as close to original condition as possible. That’s what makes it special.

York Book Fair

  The Knavesmire Suite at York Racecourse

  Friday, September 19 from noon till 7pm and Saturday, September 20 from 10am – 5pm


  York Book Fair website

3. Talk to your book seller

Ask why the book you have your eye on is £45 and not £4.50 or £450. Your favourite author’s first book may have been printed in very small numbers, so a first edition might cost you hundreds or even thousands.

But once that author had a bit of success, his or her publisher will probably have ordered more copies for the next book, so there will be more of them about, making them more affordable.

You might even be able to pick up a signed copy.

4. Find out the edition

Some modern first editions will have “first edition” printed inside. Others won’t.

Some will have a number line, including all digits from 1 to 10 in any order. A second edition will have 2 to 10, and so on. Some will only have a single number, signifying the edition.

You want a ‘1’. Talk to your book seller. They will be able to explain the issue points specific to the book you are considering.