About Antiquarian Books

"BOOK-COLLECTING is at once the most various, the most sophisticated, and the least income-taxing of the major forms of connoisseurship." - John Carter, in Books and Book-Collectors

Introduction to Book Collecting

Book Collecting, by Allen and Patricia Ahearn.


"Book collectors start as readers. This may seem obvious but is important to keep in mind, for the majority of book collectors collect authors or subjects that they are currently reading or have read and enjoyed. In fact, perhaps “enjoyed” is really not descriptive enough. Collectors do not just enjoy these books; they feel an affinity with the author and admire the author as one of the best in the field. The author expresses the collector’s thoughts and inchoate insights and expresses them in ways the collector would if he or she had the talent, or takes him or her to a time and place the collector is interested in or to a setting that removes the collector from his or her current world and cares." 


How much is my book worth? and other Frequently Asked Questions

The value of a particular copy of any given book will be further affected by many other factors: its condition, its binding, its provenance, and the significance of any inscriptions it may contain.The evaluation of manuscript material, including letters and signatures of well-known people, involves still other considerations.

Read more frequently asked questions about the ABAA and by sellers and buyers of books.


Articles about Collecting and Useful Links

Dozens of links to bibliophilic and bibliographic organizations, societies and libraries as well as member articles related to collecting. The list includes links to educational resources and rare books schools.


Bibliographies & Reference Works

Reference works are the 'tools' of the Antiquarian Book Trade.  Ideally, they represent years of research & scholarship which delineate an authoritative view of a given subject, be it author, genre or specific topic, such as the Civil War.  Bibliographies, a sub-set of reference works, provide information on the books, and other publications, that comprise an author's oeuvre, or a subject's breadth, or the works contained in whatever spectrum the bibliographer has defined.  For more about them and a list of useful bibliographies and reference books, click here


Glossary of Common Trade Terms

This abbreviated glossary covers only the most commonly encountered terms. There may be exceptions to some of our definitions - our main concern is to provide you with general concepts relative to commonly used book jargon. Abbreviations appear alphabetized at the beginning of each respective letter; only the most common abbreviations are included.


Learn about the California Autograph Law

In 2016, the state of California passed AB 1570, a law pertaining to the sale of autograph material. The law went into effect on January 1, 2017. Our members and colleagues in the rare book trade sincerely appreciate the efforts of the California State Legislature to safeguard consumers. Unfortunately, the unintentionally broad scope of AB 1570 actually threatens to undermine rights, protections, and legitimate commerce of both consumers and businesses, both within and beyond California. Learn more about the law and our efforts.


Description & Display Recommendations from the ABAA Diversity Initiative 

The aim of this document is to suggest some “best practices” for ABAA members in cataloguing and selling culturally sensitive material. 

The recommendations have been composed in the spirit of continuing education, drawing together input from fellow members, scholars, and librarians. Its authors will continue to seek advice from the rare book community, particularly from those who are members of marginalized or oppressed groups. It is meant to be an evolving resource, adapting over time to the many ways we find ourselves facing the complex issues encountered when handling sensitive material. It makes no pretense at being the final authority on these issues, nor is it comprehensive in its scope. Insofar as it makes any claims, it is that engaging with culturally sensitive material in such a way that ensures the dignity of the community or communities involved is necessary, important work, and that we will all be better cataloguers for doing it. (More...)

Click here for additional bibliographic resources.