Most people will never hold a book in their hands that is several hundred years old. For those who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to have direct contact with an historical text, this experience often leads to a lifelong interest in antiquarian books. But what is the basis of this fascination with old printed material, a fascination that captivates people around world? The different types of bibliophiles and art lovers show that there are various reasons for taking an interest in historical books.
The art collector
The art collector is tirelessly looking for new treasures. He often finds a multitude of outstanding plates in one single volume. For instance, if a collector purchased a 16th Century volume of Theuerdank, he would find within it a collection of unparalleled woodcuts displaying a rare dynamism and use of space.
The specialist's passion for book art is focussed on a particular niche. One specialist only collects Venetian prints by Aldus Manutius; another has worked for decades to fill his private library with early editions of Horace and Cicero; yet another spends years searching for a particular work once housed in the collection of a royal library.
For the historian, antique books are a unique source of information and knowledge. From historical texts one can discover interesting details about wars, political events or simply the everyday life of an epoch. Through this type of research, it is sometimes astonishing to see that ancient sources often reveal that people today still have similar problems to those that troubled people living 500 years ago. For example,in Münster’s Cosmographia of the 16th Century, the reader is given a picture about the everyday life of women in “Lyffland" today’s Latvia and Estonia:
"Sie wollen nicht Weyber / sonder Frawen genannt werden. Mit Spinnen auch anderer Weyber arbeit bekümmern sie sich nicht / meynen es sey ihrem Adelichen herkommen unehr: aber des Winters im Schlitten / und des Sommers auff dem Wasser spacieren zu fahren / geht inen baß von der Hand dann das spinnen...“
(Which, roughly translated, means: They don’t want to be called “women” but “ladies.” Spinning and other women’s work is not their taste as they consider it ignoble. On the other hand, they are very skilled in sledding in winter and in going for a walk at the waterside in summer…)
For the philologist, books are a fundamental object of research. Teofilo Folengo’s Opus Macaronicorum from the 16th Century is a rich source of information on historical linguistics and is especially important for experts on Latin and ancient Italian. In this work, Folengo created a strange hybrid language in which he mixed the Italian vernacular and the dialect of the Veneto with Latin inflection and prosody.
For the investor, the reason for acquiring antiquarian printed material is often not motivated by pure intellectual interest, but it is still a clever activity nonetheless since historical books can be an excellent investment. The value of a well-preserved incunabulumcan be as high as a five-digit figure. When a treasure like this is properly treated and stored, the value of it will continue to rise. A loss in value is rare. Early books were typically produced with a print run of only a few hundred copies. It is often difficult to find out how many exemplars of a certain edition are still extant because many of them have either been destroyed centuries ago by wars, fire or inappropriate handling, or they are hidden in a private collection.
And how much more exciting is it to own a volume of a beautiful and famous antiquarian book, the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493 A.D.), for example, than to only invest your money in stocks or mutual funds.
This list of the various types of antiquarian books and the people who collect them could of course go on and on.
No matter what motivates your interest in antiquarian books and prints, we can offer you a trustworthy source of information on these materials and their acquisition, as well as a forum for asking questions and discussing issues related to these objects. Our business uses the possibilities of new media and innovative working strategies to build on conventional practices in the field of antiquarian book selling and marketing.
When, in the 15 th Century, the first books were printed, there were many sceptics who rejected this new technology. Despite such critics, however, book printing soon spread throughout the world and came to be recognized as one of the most significant developments in media history. More than 500 years later, the next media revolution came in the form of computers and the internet.
There are again sceptics who are in doubt about these new technologies. They would argue that the internet is not a medium of unlimited possibilities. However, it provides new ways for you, the book and art lover or collector, to benefit. Let us convince you of that!