separate antiquarian collection?

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separate antiquarian collection?

Gen 3, 2013, 12:32pm

This month, I am preparing to make yet another move, and as usual, I am using the opportunity to reconsider my collections and shelving arrangements. I have always kept my vintage and antiquarian books separate from my other books in one large, antique wood bookshelf.
Now I am leaning toward the idea of letting the vintage books pepper my shelves wherever their subjects or authors may place them, and letting old and new converge.

I have already been having quibbles with my antiquarian shelves due to questions such as, when does 'vintage' start? I would certainly include any book published in the 1800's and earlier. Most likely, books published between 1900 - 1930 would also make the cut. But what about 1940? 1950? I have books published around then that I don't consider vintage at all, while a signed 1976 1st edition by Michael Crichton is included on the shelf but looks out of place.
Also, I would like to include many of my antiquarian books in my more specific collections, especially history and vintage travel memoirs. Whenever I look at my shelf of book on World War II, I find it unsettling that Churchill and Shirer, of which I own 1st editions, are off somewhere else. Over half of my books on medicine aren't actually in my medical section but rather on my vintage shelves.

At the same time, I like having all of my most beautiful books in one place. Obviously, it is the shelf that visitors admire and compliment the most. (Though, visitors with any appreciation for literature and few and far between.)
Also, some of my books just seem too 'great' to be shelved along with everything else. A little 1786 book of Mozart sheet music would be lost in my art section, and my enormous 1597 codex on church history would just look silly alongside shiny modern books.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Modificato: Gen 3, 2013, 1:15pm

I think it comes down to visual style v. "intellectual style." I do not buy books for their bindings, so I generally intersperse the old with the new based on content. I would rather have a visitor remark on how interesting my books are than rather how beautiful. Having said that, I do shelve my Easton and Franklin books together because they have a certain uniformity of appearance. Likewise, my Library of America books. On the other hand I intersperse my Folio Society books. Go figure. As I write this I realize I am gloriously inconsistent.

Modificato: Gen 3, 2013, 1:03pm

. . . . gloriously inconsistent.

That's me, or at least "inconsistent," anyway. Don't know how "glorious" I am! My wife and I have a couple of tall narrow shelves of antiquarian books in our living room that are there mostly for aesthetic purposes. That's not to say we don't take those books down and read them from time to time, but only that their placement in the house is to help enhance the feeling in that particular room. However, not all our older books fit on those shelves. The rest are simply shelved with the other books of their subject matter.

Gen 3, 2013, 1:08pm

This is a complex issue, and let me offer some ideas without presuming that any of them will be useful to you. First, I often use the following as a standard for my collecting, regardless of the physical charm or subject-matter of the books, namely, what would happen to a given book if I died suddenly? Realistically, despite the high-quality of many of my books, the great majority probably couldn't be sold for more than a buck apiece. That being the case, why do I have them at-all -- and go through all this argle-bargle -- if I am unlikely ever to read them again? That certainly covers ninety percent of everything with an ISBN. That in turn, leads to another idea: perhaps the truly rare and valuable books deserve special, protected shelving, of the sort they would receive in an institutional library. Funny I should be posting this now, as I am about to go build some more shelves for two distinct purposes: to bring together scattered sets which have somehow not been able to set together in exisiting shelves, and to get up off the ground level some seriously valuable stuff which should all along have been out of the way of visiting children, dogs shaking off rain, etc etc. Let's continue to swap idea! -- Goddard

Gen 3, 2013, 1:16pm

I have thoughts! I stop vintage at 1969 in my own head. I lived in the 70s, and there's just not much of interest to me from that decade.

I would think about placing the treasured books you speak of in arrangements with other items, such as the Mozart on the piano, or paired up with a bust of Mozart in amongst other books and items. I pair books up with decorator items, such as my vintage Indian books with toy Indians which will soon adorn the top of my arrowhead collection cabinet once I get that all arranged. And my forest creatures books help to boost my collections of vintage forest creature decor items, such as my Smokey the Bear collection.

So, I would go to the antique store and buy some items that say, "I want to live alongside your WWII books."

Gen 4, 2013, 10:34am

Smokey the Bear collection? That should be picture worthy, especially along with the vintage forest items and books.

Gen 4, 2013, 2:24pm

Difficult questions! I keep my antiquarian books alongside my other books. I do this for the books - I think they enjoy each other's company. And I do it for myself, because I want all books on a particular subject/form a certain author together. But the reason I can do this is because I have all my books stored away in a separate room where visitors don't enter by accident (or dogs, or children) or without me being there also. This guardes all my books from any unintended damaging and I feel save to put all my books together.
This leads sometimes to strange combinations of valuable editions next to paperback editions that aren't worth anything (except that I treasure them because of their contents).

>4 HarryMacDonald: This leaves my family with some hughe problems if I suddenly die. They will be unable to filter out the valuable books from the others. But in my will (true story!) I have given the names of some trusted antiquarian bookshops that will be able to do this for them

>5 Collectorator: Yeah, tell us more about Smokey the Bear. It might be an idea though to place your antiquarian books near the other books on the same subject, but still separated. It will still be visible which are the antiquarian books, but it is also clear with which other books in your library they relate.

Gen 4, 2013, 4:13pm

I can't provide a picture of my Smokey collection because almost everything I own is in boxes, waiting for an eternal remodel to magically complete itself.

Gen 4, 2013, 7:19pm

I have scattered mini-collections of antiquarian books, based on format or topic. As these books tend to be visually distinctive, they seem to precipitate out of the contemporary mass on their own somehow. It's true I don't seem to have many of them individually mixed up with trade paperbacks and such. By the way, for my own purposes, antiquarian is delimited (inconsistently) as present minus a century or so (up to WWII).

Gen 4, 2013, 11:06pm

You are all giving me much to ponder, thank you for all of your input. Still open for further discussion, of course!

Collectorator: I too, would love to see a photo of your collections! They sound very visually stimulating, almost like a museum.

9: I normally cut off "vintage" in my mind at World War II, as well. Same for history, most of the time. Anything after that I would classify as modern history, I suppose. However, I would be more likely to include, say, a 1950's book on how women should remain at home, or a 1960's book published and signed by a KKK member, in "vintage" simply because the ideas are obviously outdated (not to mention much else). That last one I nearly won on ebay, but it was actually taken down by the site for being too offensive. Those are what I call "misguided history," which I intend to eventually collect enough of to garner a collection of its own.

Gen 6, 2013, 1:57am

It is nice to have books grouped together by subject, especially if it is a working or reference collection/library. Hovever, it is sometimes better to segregate them by type, size, binding, etc.. Depends on the nature of your books.

Vintage books tend to be more delicate than modern ones. Less handling and moving about the better. If they are something of value, where and how they are shelved is important (out of direct sunlight, etc.). Another consideration, if you oil leather bindings, the oil can stain adjacent cloth and paper bindings (even after they seem dry). Cheaply bound books (like some paperbacks) and some modern (and not-so modern) books (even when they are printed on neutral paper or expensive productions) sadly, often have bindings constructed from acidic materials (think cardboard cores) and can affect adjacent books also.

Just a few additional things to consider.

Gen 6, 2013, 10:24am

#11 Agree! Vintage, to me, is more than 100 years old--like antiques. My antiquarian books are all seperate from my other books. Most are not on LT because they are 19th or eighteenth century books
that are difficult to catagorize like New England primers..

Modificato: Gen 6, 2013, 9:42pm

I shelve my antiquarian books (books over one-hundred years old) within each different collection, but on separate shelves from the other books in the collection.

Gen 13, 2013, 2:24pm

an interesting question... I mix antiquarian books in some more modern collections but also have 2 separate bookcases for the antique books .. Much depends on condition, size, attractiveness and value and Collectability so one might wish to use a number of criteria in deciding where to locate different books. I have also decided to get ruthless on even older books.. If in poor condition should either be rebound professionally or tossed.

Gen 13, 2013, 2:58pm

In re #7. You raise a very interesting matter: using a Will to plan the productive distribution of your books. I have used this tactic myself, but would be interested in hearing from others who have developed similar plans. Peace, -- G

Gen 13, 2013, 3:03pm

In re #10. jori, I may have scooped you. I have one three tags, thus: Natural History (obviously biology, geology, etc), History (rational, credible accounts of human affairs), and UN-Natural History (hopelessly biased, deranged, or grotesque -- your two examples are what I'm talking-about). -- Goddard

Gen 17, 2013, 3:15pm

Thank you to everyone who has put in their thoughts. After taking everything into consideration, I have decided to try and keep my antiquarian collection at books published in 1899 or before. I'll have to allow certain volumes that I would consider too delicate or valuable to let loose in the mix to stay, too. The rest of them will be re-locating to their appropriate sections.
The topic is still open, though, to any more suggestions and thoughts.

Gen 18, 2013, 6:26am

I've got the exact contrary problem. I recently bought some "mass market" series of Western Canon poets, offered weekly by the local newspaper - some 30 each for the 19th and the 20th centuries and I' don't know if to mix them with older editions of better quality. I'm ordering new shelves and I hope to be able to make a decision by the time the shelves will be installed. Probably not, and I will spend some - rather happy - time in trying different solutions. For the time being, I will NOT range my only Aldo Manutius (a 1508 Pliny), along other authors with names starting with the letter "P".

Nov 12, 2016, 9:29pm

I'm posting this not because I have answers, but because it is too good a topic to remain dormant!
To myself, there is some logic to my arrangement, but perhaps not to outsiders.
First, there is one bookcase for my best leather bindings, sets generally, that look impressive on the shelf (Prescott's Histories, Irving's Works, e.g.). There are two bookcases for books before 1900, roughly, most of which are leatherbound so they sort of look like they belong together. There's a number of shelves upstairs on Mesoamerica, but a few things that should go there -- Prescott on Mexico and Peru or John Lloyd Stephens' Travels in Mexico, e.g., are in the leatherbound section. Go figure.
What I really can't figure out is what to do with the fiction. In general, I don't collect fiction, but I DO collect fine press books, and that always includes a lot of fiction. For now, I lump together Limited Editions Club, Heritage Press, and Folio Society, so I can put differing editions of the same work together. But then I don't know what to do in a few instances where I have a really old leatherbound edition as well. I have a 1790 edition of Horace's Odes, e.g., and an 1880 Pride and Prejudice and an 1860 or whatever of the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, but then I also have the same book in fine press editions. I THINK I should keep them all together because it is good to compare the fine press version with something much older.
And then there is the other issue of having everything nicely organized on the shelves and suddenly finding something new and having no room for it on the shelf without moving everything around. I do a lot of shopping at estate sales, and sometimes will find 20 new books for $1 each... and where the heck do I get 15 inches of shelf space for them in the appropriate location?

Set 23, 2019, 4:19pm

I have no idea what a "vintage" book is. The term is properly applied only to wine and any other usage is, to me, rather odd.

For what it is worth, our library consists of two major sections: "Rare books and special collections," and "everything else."

The former includes antiquarian volumes, author 1st edition collections (including signed copies), private press books & similar (includes Ltd Edn Club, etc.), SF/Fantasy firsts, fine bindings, etc. Here you will find such things as a copy of some of Cicero from 1656 printed by the Elzevirs in Amersterdam, a two volume Canterbury Tales printed at Oxford in 1778, and a signed first edition of Ellis Peter's medieval mystery The Holy Thief (London: 1992).

The latter is the catch-all for the rest: science, natural history, archaeology, Egyptology, history, modern fiction, reference works (bibliographies, dictionaries, etc., etc.) which are further sorted by subject then by author.

Some subject categories are split between the two sections, such as books on butterflies. Some of them are part of a special reference collection containing modern technical works which I use frequently and others are antiquarian in nature and have been purchased either for their historical value or for the full color plates within, or both.

In some cases, a particular work can be found in both places, one as an antiquarian/rare book and the other as a trade paperback for reading purposes.

Dic 14, 2019, 4:12pm

Since this thread was resurrected, I'll add a comment to it.

We have about 8,600+ books in a small 1,100 square foot 3-bedroom home. Many books are shelved (often double) and some are in boxes. In our front living room we have some cases with books that are appealing to the eye. This includes specific sets of illustrated classics and books by authors we like with a somewhat uniform appearance. If a visitor is interested in books, we can take them into other rooms that can be more overwhelming in terms of books per square foot. One bedroom is what we call the "library" and it has cases on all of the walls.

I think the character was "Smokey Bear" but one of the Little Golden Books that introduced the character used "the" in the name and it stuck. They even had a mention of this discrepancy in the name in an ad campaign years ago on the radio.


Giu 20, 2020, 6:06pm

So, on a Saturday afternoon I am relaxing while reading ideas of bibliophiles on Library Thing. The thread relates to organizing your library. There are as many ideas as there are books. Most writers seem to want advise or validation for their collection. I don’t think anyone needs permission on organizing their personal library. It’s personal! There are aesthetic considerations and there are literary as well as technical considerations. I say; go for it. Do what makes sense to you. We are fortunate to have a personal library which gives us solace during this quarantine. Use your ideas to organize. When visitors ask about your reasoning, tell them its a new system waiting to be approved by the committee. (don’t tell them which committee)