Information about btc, our history, policies — all your questions answered.
Where do you get your books? Are they from friends or people you know?
When our colleague and friend John Wronoski of Lame Duck Books ran a scholarly bookstore with approximately 80,000 volumes in Philadelphia, lo these many years ago, someone sauntered in one day and asked him this question verbatim, much to our amusement ("Why yes, a friend just stopped by and dropped off 80,000 scholarly books!").
In our case we buy books from private collectors who are either dispersing their libraries, or shifting the emphasis of their collections; from individuals who find us online and quote us books; from "book scouts" both real and virtual; and from housecalls both local and nationwide. We also buy from other dealers locally, internationally, and at book fairs. We occasionally buy from other dealers online, although we tend to want to "handpick" our books with an eye towards condition, and this method isn't always the most efficient. We have been known to buy at auctions, although not as much as do some other dealers. We also occasionally take some higher value books on consignment.
Do you read all these books?
Not on purpose. We've read a lot of these books over the years, but usually not these particular copies. If we had read all these books, we'd probably never have had the time to get around to selling them.
How do you tell that your books are first editions?
We have both a wealth of experience and an extensive reference library with both general information and specific author bibliographies. The standard references for first editions of literature include Bruccoli & Clarke, BAL, and Ahearn. We also have hundreds of bibliographies of individual authors and subjects. In addition we constantly consult other dealers and collectors in order to make these determinations when printed bibliographies are not available or we suspect they are in error. In turn we ourselves are often consulted by bibliographers and other dealers.
How do you know a signature is authentic?
Determining whether a signature is authentic or not is a major factor in whether or not we are willing to put our reputation behind a particular signed book, letter or document. Many variables can go into determining whether an autograph is authentic or not. When we authenticate signatures for books not signed in our presence or part of a limited edition, we have a number of useful resources upon which we can rely. We have a large reference library with many examples of signatures, and perhaps more importantly, samples of the work of significant historical forgers. We also have a huge archived database of signatures that we have previously handled; we have nearly thirty years of experience examining items at major auctions and in notable and institutional collections; we have a skeptical manner; and we frequently consult with other experts in the field. (We are also frequently called upon ourselves by other dealers to evaluate autographs for them.) Every item we sell is guaranteed as authentic and as described, for life. Additionally we are subject to the Code of Ethics of the ABAA, which has been in place for over 50 years. All that said we encourage skepticism where autographs are concerned.
Do you offer a certificate of authenticity?
Nope, and you shouldn't want one because they are usually bogus. A certificate of authenticity (or COA as it is occasionally called) that is issued by the same entity that sells you a particular item is worth slightly less than the paper it is printed on. Our receipt is our certificate of authenticity, as is the receipt of any reputable dealer including those in the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA). All of our books and autographs are guaranteed to be as described, a guarantee backed by the ABAA. If you really want a COA, we'll provide one, but frankly, it's a waste of perfectly good paper. In our experience COAs are often issued by dealers who doth protest too much: "You don't need to carefully examine this item or have it verified by a third party, it has a Certificate of Authenticity!" Don't you believe it. A COA issued by a crook is no kind of guarantee or protection, and those that actively push COAs in order to convince you that it is safe to buy their books or autographs should be approached with trepidation and skepticism, or ignored outright. If you have already purchased signed items which came with COAs, you might want to have them checked by an independent third party. If we haven't yet scared you about COAs, read this paragraph over repeatedly until it sinks in.
Why do I see more than one copy of the same book on your website with different prices?
By the standards of the rare book industry we have a very large inventory that was acquired over several decades. We sometimes have several copies of the same title in our stock at any given time. If the copies appear to be in comparable in condition but the prices vary, it may be that the two copies that you see became part of our stock years apart, and each was priced according to the different market conditions of their acquisition dates. We do periodically revisit portions of our inventory to update our prices (sometimes up, sometimes down), but given the size of our inventory and the rate at which it grows, many books slip through the cracks. While we occasionally take baby-steps towards consistency, often the price of a particular copy may be largely determined by how much we had to pay for it. This can cut both ways. Sometimes if we found a bargain, we will move the book along inexpensively, and sometimes if we were forced to pay a premium, but had to have the book anyway, the price will be commensurately high. There is no warehouse for rare or unusual books, prices sometimes vary wildly, and a snap decision often has to be made whether a particular copy is worth acquiring or not.
How come some books I see in your pictures have clear plastic over the dustjackets? Did they come this way?
A plastic dustjacket protector, sometimes called Mylar or Brodart, is not usually original to the book but added by us (or some other dealer) in order to protect the jacket. When possible we take pictures of our books without this protection, in order to minimize glare, but because of time considerations some of our images show the book with the jacket protector present. All books that we sell with dustjackets are equipped with jacket protectors unless you request otherwise.
We only use UNLINED dustjacket protectors (with rare exceptions, usually bigger books that seem to need the liner to remain stable) so that we, and you can see the inside of the jacket, where flaws that are not easily noticeable on the outside are often revealed. Invariably when we return from a bookfair, we strip the lined jacket protectors from the books we bought, and often find old tape repairs, color "touch-up", and other restoration not mentioned by the seller and not visible on the outside. If a significant flaw hasn't been revealed by the seller, any reputable dealer will grant you the right of return.
Another pet peeve of ours are some types of jacket protectors that have a small adhesive tab which can be used to adhere the protector to the inside of the jacket. Even if left unused, the adhesive very often finds a way to adhere to the jacket, often damaging it. DO NOT USE THESE. If you have to do so, cut the adhesive portion away.
What's the most expensive book you have?
It changes from day to day (we hope), but our active stock usually ranges from $10 to considerably upwards of $100,000. However, if these aren't expensive enough for you, we would be happy to raise the prices.
What's the oldest book you have?
Again, it varies depending on what day it is. We mostly specialize in 19th & 20th Century books, but occasionally deal in earlier books if they are relevant to our interests. We have occasionally handled and sold incunables (books that were printed before 1501), but they are not usually in our strike zone. Books tend not to be valuable for their age, but for a variety of other factors. If you have an interest in earlier books, we can recommend a number of reputable dealers who routinely handle this sort of material.
I've heard that famous people buy rare books. What celebrities do you sell books to?
There are some celebrities who buy rare books, and some of them buy books from us. Our famous clients usually share two qualities - they appreciate good books and they appreciate our discretion.