RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

19 May 2010

Finding the unfindable book

What about books that simply cannot be found on the net? If you are searching for the book, where can it be found? If you have the book, how do you price it?

1. Check whether you have the correct spelling--and use the author and a short title only. It is worth checking WorldCat or other library databases (found through ViaLibri) to see if the book exists. Even if they don't show a copy it doesn't mean it was never published -just that it is howling rare. It may be a ghost, a book that was announced but that never appeared or a book mentioned in a movie or another book that is merely fictitious. See our posting on Lost in the Wilds by D.Croyle. A priceless book--until someone actually writes it.

2. If you are trying to find the book, post it as a 'want' at ABE and any other web book mall that allows this facility - Ebay is especially good because generally you then have a chance to bid on the book. With ABE I find that by the time I get notified of a want hit and respond it has gone to a faster finger, unless woefully overpriced. Recently I was notified of the breakthrough art catalogue This is Tomorrow, a very clean copy at £30. It went within minutes. I was notified again a week later --it was the same copy with a French seller asking a not unthinkable £1200. This time it was available but I passed.

3. Get in touch with a specialist. This is becoming less of an option as the specialist is likely to have his or her books online these days. Most booksellers don't have the time to put all their books up so there is still a chance. In the USA find a specialist through the ABAA, in UK through ABA or PBFA. .

4. Look for the book in bookshops and book sales.. Nowadays a desperate option but you may find some interesting stuff on the way. You can also get in touch with bookfinding services but they mainly use the net anyway. You can see if the book is vailable at Google Books, apply for it through your library or apply to the British Museum for a copy. Our posting on the unfindable Beach of Atonement details this method (it's expensive.) The Upfield estate has not relented--this is a book that if you find it you can buy a new car - and not a slow one.

To be continued with some tentative suggestions about pricing the unfindable book. While doing some checking on all this I came across the rather naff 'ghost' of 2007 Love Letters from Great Men featured in the Sex and the City movie. A ton of silly billies wanted this non existent book and Kessinger reprinted the nearest thing to it Love Letters from Great Men and Women: From The Eighteenth Century To The Present Day.In the news article I found Kessinger were referred to as 'a publishing house dedicated to breathing life into great books that should never have gone out-of-print.' That's a very positive way of putting it. Most booksellers curse their very name--especially if you have a want for the rare first edition of a book and keep getting offered these artless yellow paperback digitalised re-issues.

[Illustration above by Andrew Davidson from 'The Pleasure of Reading' edited by Antonia Fraser Bloomsbury, 1992 ISBN 0747508135. Many thanks.]
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