old books

i have this very old books they appear to be old bibles written on leather pages with some paintings in them they appear to be written in Greek they look exactly like the oldest bible in the world on you tube.can anybody tell more about this books?

As a general hint, we are good at answering questions and deducing things here but we are not magical. You have to do your part and ask an answerable question based on as many details as you can provide. Asking about an old book that you have and we can’t see isn’t going to get you very far. You may also want to include your location, where you got the book(s), and any background you may know. Pictures are necessary in this case as well.

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It *might *be a first edition–is it autographed by God?

May be better if it was signed by Shakespeare?

Clearly none of them is the Chicago Manual of Style.

As Shagnasty said, we’d really need more information to give you some idea of what you have in your possession.

Can you take a picture of the book (or books? You use the plural, so are you saying you have more than one copy? Or do you just mean multiple pages?). It would help to see cover (if there is one) and a photo of a page of text. If you’ve somehow managed to get extra pages from the Codex Sinaiticus (the oldest extant Chiristian bible, written in Greek) then that’s quite a find indeed. In what general location are you? The Codex was split among various places but I believe segments were mostly found in Egypt, Mt. Sinai, Germany and Russia.

What’s the provenance of these books – where did you come across this collection? For example, is it an heirloom in your family, did you come across it in a garage/tag sale, did you steal it from the British Museum, was it stuck into the pages of another book, did Dan Roberts slip it into your mailbox, did you find it in a cave near the Dead Sea…? :slight_smile:

In general, bibles, as meaningful and beloved and beautifully made as they can be, are among the least valuable books to used book dealers, simply because there are so bleedin’ many of them. But of course, unusual editions can be valuable both historically and financially. What I’d recommend is for you to find a reputable appraiser of books in your area who can help you determine what you have. And don’t take his/her word for it, especially if s/he wants to purchase it from you – seek a second opinion.

(Cautionary tale: as a young woman I went to an antiquarian bookseller with a boxed edition of Ulysses illustrated by Henri Matisse and signed by both James Joyce and Matisse, limited to only 250 copies. (My late mom was a book collector/seller and I’d inherited it from her.) The guy appraised it at about $1,000 and offered to buy it from me for that amount. Like an idiot I agreed. Two years later I was watching the Antiques Roadshow and to my shock I saw another copy of that very book appraised at $10K, and it later sold at aucition for $17K I believe. Now it’s being sold for $30K, Serves me right for not doing due dilligence.)

Holy living fuck-a-doodle. I presume you were down on your luck at the time, selling such a thing?

If you don’t mind turning a thread entitled “old books” into a discussion of old books, I own some that I should do more research into. I own a first edition of Mailer’s The Naked and The Dead, for example, and maybe one of The Catcher in the Rye. At first glance, they appear to be firsts (no indication to the contrary–no “second edition” or anything contrary) and they’re both obviously someone’s reading copy (pretty beat up, though not falling apart or damaged in any material way.) No dust jackets. I imagine they’re worth a few bucks, but I have no idea how few. Several other older books fall into this category, as well: firsts of Portnoy’s Complaint, for example, and some Heller, O’Hara, Cain–basically authors I like and pick up copies of in used books stores over the years, some of which seem to be first editions. Collectively, I wonder if I own a library of any value, or if this just a pile of used hard-covers, which is pretty close to worthless.

Yes indeed. Down on my luck, painfully young, in a hurry to get rid of some of my mom’s books in some sort of respectful way as my father was selling our house and was considering just tossing the stuff out, and finally (worst of all) hopelessly naive, as the appraiser convinced me that despite the “120/250” that was on the iniside cover (indicating this was the 120th signed out of 250 copies), there were actually many more editions that this inscription implied, so it wasn’t as rare as it seemed. Of course this was totally bullshit but at the time (early 1990s) I didn’t have the wherewithal or smarts to do better research, and also I was just young and trusting enough to believe anything someone in authority told me.

Another painful tale of book loss: for their twenty-fifth anniversary, my father bought my mom a First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays when we visited England back in ‘72; I believe he paid $10K for it, possibly a little less. (It’s not as awesome as it sounds though --it wasn’t in very good shape, missing one page early on and riddled with notes – which actually may have helped the value depending on who wrote the notes; some Shakespeare scholars’ comments can be pretty valuable, oddly enough, even though technically they were defacing the book. However, even despite its imperfections and not very desirable quality, my mom revered it because, well, that’s how she was about literature.)

Anyway, to this day I don’t know what happened to that book after my mom died in 1986. I suspect my father hocked it in the late '90s when his business went bust.

To continue this digression, I was only able to save a few of the lesser books in my mom’s collection, all of which are basically this much off the mark for being valuable. It’s kinda like the island of Misfit Toys, except for classic books.

[ul][li] A 1st edition of John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage … except it’s the 1st London edition, not the US printing; []a 1st bound edition of The Mystery of Edwin Drood (a beautiful cover but not in good shape to be of any value except to a mystery fan like myself); []a 1st of The Great Gatsby (missing the dust cover, which makes it basically a semi-dud); []an early edition (don’t think it’s a first) of Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone; [] A first edition collection of The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbons, but missing one volume; [] one really odd book that I’ve never done research on. It appears to be a ledger / notebook owned by someone who was writing letters to John D. Rockerfeller. I have no idea why or how my mom had this, or whether it has any value whatsoever (I mean, if the notebook had belonged to Rockerfeller himself, then we might have something, but I don’t recall the name of the person who was actually writing these letters, which means whenever I last looked at it, the name wasn’t well-enough known to me for me to care); [] and finally, most amusingly, a first edition of Frank Harris’s My Life and Loves, which if you’ve never heard of it, is an “autobiography” (widely considered to be utter B.S.) of this egotistical little bantam of a man who fancied himself something between Zelig, Forrest Gump, and Rudolph Valentino. He describes himself as the confidante to any number of late 19th century celebs, especially Oscar Wilde, and he apparently was at every important event ever. If he’d written the book a few years later I have no doubt he’d’ve claimed to be the first person on the Titanic to notice an iceberg and brazenly announcing it to an uncaring crowd. He also depicts himself as the world’s greatest lover, seducing just about every woman he comes across, and describing the sex in great and excrutiatingly awkward detail. He spends one volume of the book doing pretty much nothing but screwing governesses, maids, European beauties, other men’s wives, and other assorted wenches, teaching them all about the art of carnal congress, all despite him looking like a troll. [/ul] [/li]
So all in all it really pisses me off that the one absolute, definite, genuinely valuable book in my mom’s touchingly not-very-valuable collection (at least, financially; I know she loved them, and thus they’re valuable to me), I turned over to an opportunistic schmuck rather than prizing it for the gem it was.

(The only first editions I ever bought myself were 1) a first paperback edition of Rex Stout’s The League of the Frightened Men, his second Nero Wolfe novel, and a first of Not Quite Dead Enough, another Stout novel, missing the dust cover so not really worth anything – except to me, because the thrill of owning a first edition of something by one of my favorite authors is something to be treasured all on its own.)

Whew. Sorry for the digression.

Better- Charlton Heston.

You can easily search online to check descriptions of these books. abebooks.com collects many book dealers who provide detailed descriptions. So do biblio.com and alibris.com. All three are searched in the metasite bookfinder.com.

Catcher in the Rye has a first edition that says so on the page. That will usually be referred to a stated first edition. Most publishers work this way. A few important ones don’t, which is what makes it complicated for everyone.

Rinehart, the publisher of The Naked and The Dead, apparently doesn’t, but the first edition has several states and printings that collectors will care about. Does your book have the Rinehart circular logo on the copyright page? That indicates a true first edition (but not necessarily a first state: states are variants that occur during publishing of an edition). You need to know these things to tell firsts apart.

There is a guide for collectors called A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions that gives the code for thousands of publishers. It’s out of print, but can be found. It’s probably not worth the price for a few books but if you really want only firsts and go to a lot of used book stores it’s invaluable. In any case, reading descriptions is the best place to start. Sit with the book in your hand and check out all the details that the dealers give. That’s the only way to know for sure.

Long-time collector here. **choie **- so frustrating, but at least you got $1,000 rather than a handful of beans. Basically, everything that **'Xap **said is true.

Books like the Great Gatsby, even with no dj, can be work a few thousand dollars in the right condition and with the right points to clarify it is truly a first. Other books like Catcher in the Rye really require a dj to be worth more than $100 or so - by WW2 it was expected that folks held onto dj’s, and also a first of Gatsby is worth so much these days that finding one without a dj is something collectors will consider; not so with most books after WW2.

Condition is everything, along with ensuring all the points are there to ensure you have a true first that is truly collectible. It is not simple - there are weird variations galore. But even a true first that is well-read and shows wear can be worth only a % of what the listings are from rare book dealers. And if you want to sell them, unless you are selling a particularly dear book, it is unlikely you’d get what you see top dealers selling them for…

It’s a jungle out there. :wink:

That’s for sure! Thanks, WordMan. Out of curiosity I double-checked on the fairly well-known points re Gatsby firsts, and this edition certainly has 'em all as mentioned on this page (“sick in tired,” “chatter,” “northern” “Union Street Station,” etc.). The biggest issue isn’t so much the lack of dust cover, it’s the condition, which I’d put at fair, tops, possibly leaning toward poor, unfortunately. The text is clear as a bell, and no pages are missing, but some idjit put a bookplate on the first blank page (not sure what to call it) and, more importantly, the cover is so dark a green (instead of bright green) it’s nearly black. Plus no gilt on the spine, some scuffing on the boards, and some tearing of the cloth on the spine.

Still, it is a first, and honestly, I just like having it. It has some special meaning to me, not just 'cause of my mom, but because I grew up in Great Neck on Long Island, which of course is the basis for “West Egg” in the novel (and is where Fitzgerald lived at one point).

Actually I’m really glad this thread came up (although it’s a shame the OP hasn’t been back!), because in looking for the Gatsby edition, I spotted an edition of The Phantom of the Opera, which I’d always ignored because I thought it was one of those dreadful book club editions. Since I know that 2011 was the centennary of the first novelized edition, I thought I’d take a look just on the off-chance this was older than I expected. Rather to my surprise… it’s a first (well, a first American edition, anyway). Here it is, almost identical though not surprisingly a bit dowdier, alas, since I haven’t kept it as carefully as I ought. The illustrations are beautiful, no d.j. but the lettering on the front cover is relatively sharp, despite some scuffing and alas what looks like pen marks (but I think those are actually easy to repair, though I wouldn’t dream of doing so myself). Also the owner signed it, argh.

So as a fan of the musical as well as the book, I’m especially delighted to find a gem like this that I’ve been underestimating for twenty-five years (since mom died). Like the Gatsby I don’t think it’s necessarily in good enough condition to insure or sell, and like the Gatsby my emotional ties to the book are such that I don’t think I’d sell anyway.

Then again, you never know. I do think I’ll be looking around for a trustworthy appraiser just to make sure I’m doing right by these things. Also, I need to invest in some proper protective coverings rather than just keeping them on dusty bookshelves.


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I’m fond of old books, too! Do you like yours with syrup and powdered sugar, or just a squeeze of lemon?