Most helpful positive review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Still relevant and useful
on February 22, 2014
Pretty much a must have for booksellers. Though marketed primarily as a guide to values for over 20,000 first and important collected editions, what this book is most useful for is first edition identification. Suggested values for books can be somewhat useful if they are up to date and based on real-life market results. But value guides quickly obsolesce, and if they are useful down the road it's for showing us relative value - the value of a given book relative to other books, that is - and bringing the plums of book collecting into bold relief.
There's much information in this book that is pointedly useful. For one thing, details on issue points, print numbers, and so on appear with at least some regularity. Look at this entry for Crane's The Black Riders and Other Lines:
"CRANE, Stephen. The Black Riders and Other Lines. Boston, 1895. Gray paper boards with first line of title on front cover indented one space to right has been presumed to be the first, but Pastore believes cream laid paper over yellow boards is the first. $1,500. There are variants in pail-yellow paper over boards, pale-yellow cloth (no known copies), gray laid paper (assume the "other first"), light-gray paper over boards (one known copy), and publisher leather (Williams & Starrett call for black morocco). We would assume all the variants would be about the same value as the first except the leather, which would be somewhat more. Plain boards, paper label. One of 50 copies in white paper over boards and printed in green ink on Japan vellum. $5,000. One of 3 copies bound in white vellum. $7,500. One of 3 copies bound in full green levant. $7,500. (For further detail see Stephen R. Pastore's bibliographical study of this title in Stephen Crane Studies vol. 6, no. 2 [Fall 1997].) London, 1896. 500 copies in black morocco. $1,250."
Now this is detail, and it's exactly the kind of detail we need for accurate identification of edition states, and the fact that there is disagreement about the priorities of variants can be turned into a positive if you carry over this information into your own description. This is trust building because it shows that you’ve done some homework and not simply cribbed another bookseller’s work. Before you start salivating, however, not all entries are this detailed - in fact most are much shorter (though Twain's Huckleberry Finn and a few others are longer), and some don’t provide the detail we need. But in many cases brevity is sufficient because issue points aren't always, well, an issue. States can often be determined without them because there are no bibliographic complexities. No matter what, this book is an impressive piece of scholarship, and the Ahearn’s are recognized authorities.
There are two more reasons to get this guide. Appendix A contains a selected bibliography of works consulted – over 50 pages of listings. As you build your reference library, you’ll want to know specifically what’s available (and useful), and here you have ready access to an extensive list of what’s out there. Moreover, Appendix B is a compilation of publishers’ practices of designating first editions. Though not a complete list, its focus is on major publishing houses, those most commonly encountered.
By the way, this guide was closely modeled on a now long OOP guide – Van Allen Bradley’s The Book Collector’s Handbook of Values. Though packed with useful information, again, I wouldn’t buy Bradley’s book because most of it migrated to Collected Books. Also note that Allen Ahearn is on record stating that this will be the last edition of Collected Books, so you might as well snag this one and not an earlier (2002) one.
Update: Not sure why this book has skyrocketed in price (though the Kindle edition is still reasonable). Maybe the best course of action would be to buy the 2002 edition and wait for prices to come down - which they will as soon as more books are printed.