start building a library

Boutiette’s Antiquarian Books specializes in helping clients build investment quality antiquarian libraries. Our libraries are formulated from books spanning the past 500 years, and will be books from 1450 to 1925. The books we purchase for you are generally books whose bindings have been hand made from craftsmen who were working for the finest book binders spanning those centuries. The bindings of these books are always made from materials such as leather, wood, silver, vellum, tortoise shell, abalone, ivory, velvet, brass, mother of pearl, bronze, papiere mache, gutta percha, silk, and the like. These are the finest materials that bindings were made from and since the percentage of books that were made from these materials was limited, the investment quality of such books has skyrocketed. In doing this for over thirty years we continue to be  amused and then saddened  by those who get duped into the falsehoods of those who recommend building such libraries from Franklin Library books or Easton Press books, made in the 1970’s and 1980”s or Limited Edition club books. These books will most likely never be worth as much as you paid for them, let alone go up in value; they are everywhere and seldom increase at all in value.

Since our early days of buying books for our clients we have seen the field of collecting leather bindings from the 15th to the 19th century explode. And because of this interest, the available books that are hand made out of these materials has greatly diminished and with that the inevitable reality of “supply and demand” has made collecting these beautiful works of art incredibly attractive for book lovers, and investors. There are not very many investments that one can make these days that you can actually enjoy by just sitting back and looking at their beauty every day as they perch on your library shelves! As a result, in the last decade or so, a field of all of its own has emerged. The field of antique leather bindings. The past two decades has seen antique leather books change from simply things of beauty to one of the hottest collectibles out there. Collecting them has indeed become a bonanza for those who have and are currently collecting them. In the next decade it will become more and more likely that books will be printed less and less as we become a paperless world. This will just add to the allure of collecting these rare books.

No one doubts or questions the beauty of antique leather books. One merely has to walk into a room where the bookshelves are aglow with the beauty of fine calf or morocco leather bindings and the warmth of that room will simply envelope you. To pick up and hold or read one of these finely bound books and to feel the supple leather and to examine the fine artistry that went into hand binding it is a wonderful experience in and of itself. To pick up a Civil War book written at the time of that war and by someone who was in it, or to read a classic piece of literature by Kipling the year he wrote it and have it signed by him is a treasure to behold. And soon will just be something that people read about that someone somewhere owns. But that someone can be you! The time is now and it is still very much a reality for new collectors.

Now because of the increased interest in collecting these fine crafted books and the scarcity in finding them in great condition they are becoming more difficult to obtain with each passing year.  And consider that with leather bound sets of these books the likelihood that one or two of the volumes will be missing or in terrible condition is great, which only complicates finding the desirable books one should own. Combine that with the fact that many if not most of these hand crafted rarities over the past 100 or 200 years have not been cared for and therefore not something that you would want to own. There are those who would tell you that doesn’t matter…it surely does. And as you will see, as you get educated on building your library or building your little corner or haven for these books that it makes all the difference in the world. It will surely matter on what your new library will end up looking like but more importantly what tremendous affect it will have on their investment value.

The good news is there is still time to build your library at affordable prices but the window is definitely closing. We believe that the next decade will be the last frontier for buying these beautiful artifacts. It is true that you may still be able to find them at maybe 9 or 10 of the finest rare book shops in the world but you will also have to pay unheard of prices….The cost of sets will be in the stratosphere. It will not be uncommon to find sets commanding prices of ten thousand dollars and far more that …….for sets that you can now purchase for half that price.

Antiquarian leather bindings that have been cared for and well preserved, especially sets, have become very collectable and are difficult to obtain at affordable prices and in great condition.  We find that there are generally three reasons why people want to collect them:

1/ The content…they want to read them

2/  Their beauty

3/ Their investment value

There is however a criteria you will need to follow to insure that your investment is sound….this is critically important. The criteria are as follows…….

1/ The books can’t have condition issues, meaning that the leather cannot be torn up, covers detached, torn pages, heavy foxing, stains throughout them, or obtained from a public library, or with the headbands all torn up and the list goes on and on…If someone says to you “heck the book is 150 years old what do you expect” or “it’s in great shape for its age” then run for the hills!!!

2/ They must be COMPLETE. If you have the Life of Lincoln and it was published in 1866 and was published in one volume and you have that volume then you are in good shape. But if the book was published in two or three vols, then you better know how to find that out or deal with a very reputable book dealer, and especially with sets. If you purchase the complete works of Charles Dickens in 28 vols but it was originally published in 30  vols, you better know that! If you don’t you just have what we call “pretty”….. No investment value…… and you will have squandered your money!

3/ Most fine bindings were made pre 1930, so you should be looking at books from the 15th through the 19th century

4/ Make sure the book is made of materials that we mentioned above. Don’t buy faux leather, books made with cloth or buckram. You will soon realize that the majority of the books you will be running into are made of cloth bindings …and remember don’t buy Franklin and Easton Press books….

5/ Buy interesting things…..The Great Poets, Histories, Great Bios, The classic literature from each of those centuries, religion, etc….

6/ Unless you really know what you are doing stick with books that are written in English. Those who tell you to buy Swedish or French or any other foreign language books are not well informed (Unless of course they are books from the 16th or 15th centuries which are very rare if they are in great condition). If you ever decide to sell your library see how many people are going to be interested in buying your pretty foreign language books that they CANNOT read!

WE could go on and on about what you should know as you begin your amazing adventure to build an investment quality library. But what we would highly recommend is that you spend a little time, less than a few hours, reading about the ‘do’s and don’ts” of acquiring these fine books…You can easily do that……we wrote a books a few years ago  entitled “Leather Bound Books” if you just read the first 75 pages you will know most of what you should know on what your approach should be, how to hook up with ethical book dealers and most importantly what types of books you should you be looking for, and how NOT to be “taken to the cleaners” when you purchase them…….

We are confident that when you do this and look around out there at who can help you build your library you will find your way back to us…we will help you buy a few of these beauties or a room full of them, if you need advice on how to construct your library we can do that as well. We have lists of what we think you should be hunting for in every conceivable field….if you are like me you will want to be diverse and collect in all subject areas or you just may want all the great poets like…Shelly, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning, Bryant, Burns, Scott and hundreds of others…or literature like Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Poe, James Fennimore Cooper, Thackeray, Dickens, Stevenson, Kipling and the list goes on and on depending on your interest. Maybe you want to specialize in History or Wars…the American Revolution, The War of 1812, The Indian Wars, the Civil War or maybe you want great leaders or bios like Marco Polo, Desoto, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Wellington , Louis XIV and on and on and on…….. BUT you must be patient!! These books are not being reproduced in someone’s cellar, it takes time to find them in great condition, complete and at a reasonable price…and that’s why we know you will end up asking us to join you in your exciting endeavour.We have been doing this for thirty years and have contacts all over the World and those contacts will end up being of great benefit to you. We will be able to tell you how many books are generally in a linear foot and about how much a average linear foot will cost you…..keep in mind these are investment quality books and therefore are not inexpensive but at least they are at present obtainable and reasonable and that will not be the case in the future. Those who built libraries with hand bound bindings made of these materials that we mentioned above will be glad they have because of their rarity and current and future value!

So whether you want to buy a single volume, a shelf or several shelves, a wall of books or a full library, we can help you achieve those dreams. And we are confident that you will be glad that you contacted us.

So send us an email and we can get started by sending you a signed or unsigned copy of our book, this will give you the knowledge to begin your quest …..