Price guide for old books?
December 27, 2003 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I have a book question. Members of my family have a small collection of old books. These are not first editions, but they all are 100+ year old books. We have a Knight's pictorial edition of the works of William Shakespeare edited by Charles Knight. It's subtitled doubtful plays and biography and dated 1882. Any ideas what this might be or what it may be worth? Any suggestions of websites that sell antique books that I could use as a price guide for old books?

Now that I look at it I'm really interested in the second question. I often come across really old books that are not firsts, but usually quite old (100+ yrs.), and ebay do have some older books, but I'd be interested in a website that tends to specialize in that market. Ideas?
posted by elwoodwiles to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
I get the impression that for books tht old, you might be better off going offline, if it is worth something.

Many old bookdealers are weary of doing business over the net. This book is a great introduction to book collecting, and is worth reading even if you aren't that interested in the subject.
posted by drezdn at 3:18 PM on December 27, 2003

I don't know how much they could be worth, but their copyright is probably expired ; I would like to let you know that such books are in high demand at Project Gutenberg and at their Distributed Proofreaders project. Basically what they do is scanning , OCRing and proofread copyright-expired books and release them on internet for free so that everybody can enjoy it (they did like 10000 books so far). They may be interested in scannings of your books and , maybe, they could be helpful at directing you to market price sites or to people with a clue on the subject.
posted by elpapacito at 3:23 PM on December 27, 2003

Found a few people selling similar editions over at (example). It's the best site for used books.
posted by bobo123 at 3:34 PM on December 27, 2003

Whoops, abebooks.
posted by bobo123 at 3:35 PM on December 27, 2003

According to this (scroll to shakespeare), it's part of a set. If you don't have the complete set, you prob wouldn't get too much for it. Supposedly this Knight guy brought Shakespeare to the masses or something.

I second the recommendation of Gutenberg, especially if the doubtful plays aren't part of their collection.
posted by amberglow at 3:46 PM on December 27, 2003

Most 19th-century books aren't worth that much unless they're first editions, signed, or otherwise have value added. Books were put out in huge editions (especially Shakespeare), and people's attics are crammed with them. Hell, even much older books aren't necessarily worth much; I once bought a 1507 edition of Quintus Curtius for (I think) $25—it was in crappy shape and had been badly cropped and bound at some point. In general, if you get interested in these things the first thing you should do is buy a good basic guide to book collecting and get an idea of what makes books valuable. (I can't be of much help there, because I decided a long time ago that if I went down that road I'd be even broker than I was anyway, so I just buy books for reading, the cheaper the copy the better.)
posted by languagehat at 9:36 AM on December 28, 2003

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