Book Collecting

Book collecting can be an exciting, if not expensive, hobby. Over the years, fans of John Bellairs have discussed the fine art of book finding and buying, specifically those first-edition hardcovers with illustrations by the late Edward Gorey. As most of Bellairs’ written work is still in print, finding a copy of a particular novel should not be too difficult. What is difficult is finding a particular edition: original Dial hardcovers, Bantam paperbacks, Puffin re-releases and so on.

Many libraries periodically purge their holdings in an effort to allow newer materials shelf space while items seldom barrowed are removed and discarded. Is your local library having such a sale? If so, you may find older copies of books available usually for a small donation to the library. Bear in mind these will probably not be pristine copies and may include library markings such as stamps or labels.


If you’re looking for non-library editions, start your collection by visiting local bookstores. Check your phone book or city directory for any rare, used or out-of-print bookstores in your area. Many popular booksellers may only have what is currently “in print” and older titles may be available only as recent paperback reissues. Wherever you go, you can always try to order a specific edition based on the International Standard Book Numbering, or ISBN (ISBN converted from ten to thirteen digits in 2007).

If your area is void of Bellairs' work then you may want to try the Internet as a source. There are many independent booksellers online, you just have to know where to look and then buy wisely - comparing prices and descriptions before you make a decision. For those leery of purchasing online, investigate buying policies. While credit cards may seem to be the popular purchasing method, some might accept checks or money orders. If you cannot find anything written on the site, email the support staff and ask.

first edition

How do I know if I have a first edition book?

All books are either clearly marked 'first edition' or 'first printing,'" says book collector and Bellairs fan Laura Dean. "A 'first edition' is the first time a book has been offered in that format by the publisher. A 'first printing' is the first printing of the that edition. There may be many 'printings' of a first edition, but the 'first printing' is the most desireable." Dean contines that she believes all the Bellairs hardcover books are first editions, "though The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn may be the exception. Many books had more than one printing run. All the books either say 'first printing,' 'Fifth printing,' etc, or have number lines on the copyright page. If all numbers are present in the number line, you have a first printing, like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

"If you had a number line that looked like this:

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

you would have a 3rd printing of a first edition."

price clipped

Why is my book missing a corner of the dust-jacket?

Welcome to something commonly called price clipping. "Dust jackets may be clipped by the consumer to remove the price because the book is being given as a gift," explains Dean. "Or by the publisher if they have raised prices but still have many copies to sell with the old prices (they used to put stickers over them, but that didn't work very well). Even still retailers may clip corners because the book is being remaindered (closed out), or in the case of a notification from their corporate office, to change the price up or down. Books generally do not decrease in value for a price clipped jacket. A book with a clipped jacket would be much more desirable than an ex-library copy."

Book collector Edward Bradford adds that many publishers frequently issue juvenile titles in two editions: trade edition for sale in book stores and library-binding or reinforced binding for sale to schools and libraries. "When two editions were issued, the trade price would be printed at the top of the flap (in US publications) and the library-binding price at the bottom of the flap. If the jacket was going on a trade edition, the bottom flap would be clipped and vice versa. In all such cases the jacket should be considered whole and complete. When publishers started printing the ISBN in the form of a bar code on the dust jacket, it became necessary to print two different jackets. In the UK the placement of the trade and library prices are often reversed."



Online book sellers

Book Protection