A quick guide to rare books

The first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird

This is a post that really seems to straddle the boundary behind low brow and high brow, since it's about rare books, but via Pawn Stars.

If you've seen Pawn Stars, you'll know that it's an extremely popular reality television show that is based out of the Silver and Gold Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. The premise is pretty simple - people bring stuff in to sell or pawn, they haggle, and maybe they can reach a deal. For the benefit of good television, experts are often brought in to authenticate and estimate the value of items.

These experts run the gamut from history to guns (it is the US, after all) to toys to books. Their book expert, Rebecca Romney, is from the Vegas outlet of Baumann's Rare Books (if you've ever looked at the back page of the New York Times' Sunday Book Review section, no doubt you've seen the NYC Bauman's ads touting remarkable - and remarkably expensive! - rare books). Being a librarian who has been fortunate to have encountered quite a few rare books (including one bound in human skin at the Harvard Law Library - and the equally creepy [but not a book] Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. death mask), I checked out the Pawn Stars site and eventually stumbled upon Romney's blog, Aldine.

Rather than being the sort of self-promotional dreck that you might expect for somebody who is plying their trade on reality television, it is actually a rather interesting and entertaining site, with plenty of useful information and food for thought, including the first two parts of an ongoing "Rare Books 101" series (you can find part one here and part two here).

As a further shameless plug for the library, it's worth a gander to take a look at our own display of rare books cherry-picked from our special collections. Carefully curated by our own Chief Librarian and avid rare book enthusiast, Louis Mirando, it can be viewed on the lower level of the library.