Food & Drink

Rare Books in the Age of the Internet

Seattle rare book collector and trader Ed Nudelman shares his expertise.

By Jane Robinson July 26, 2017


This post is sponsored.

sponsored by Nudelman Rare Books

Ed Nudelman knows books—specifically, rare books. 

What started out as a hobby collecting books 30 years ago has now turned into a thriving business—appropriately named Nudelman Rare Books—dedicated to “the value and importance of integrity in both the buying and selling of rare books.”

Nudelman’s stock of rare books, located in North Seattle, varies widely at any given time, but includes everything from English and American Literature, to beautifully illustrated books from the 19th and 20th centuries, fine and uncommon early Children’s books, as well as art and poetry of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

We sat down with Ed recently to learn more about rare books, how the internet has changed the trading landscape, and which rare books he’s most excited about.

What makes a book rare or valuable? What are the chances I have gold in my attic?

A great question, and a difficult one to answer, which is why we urge sending us a brief list of author, title and publisher, and photos if you can. We will then happily follow up, at no cost, with a general idea of value and, if applicable, an offer to purchase. 

In terms of valuation, two beginning points are always edition and condition. In most cases, first or early editions are more sought after and hence more valuable, especially on author’s first books and noted classics, such as “Alice in Wonderland,” or “Wuthering Heights.” However, it can sometimes be very difficult to determine edition, as publishers often did not designate later printings specifically, and one often has to rely on printed bibliographic studies to verify earliest editions.

With respect to condition, rare books in fine condition are universally sought by collectors and dealers. Important books are found with many distinguishing characteristics—such as in their original dust jackets (when issued), signed by author or illustrator or an associated colleague—and these retain value through generations.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice second edition (left), and Christina Rossetti’s rare first book, with autographed letter from the author

In fact, like valuable paintings, rare books retain their value and appreciate more dependably than nearly any other readily attainable commodity. 

How has the internet changed the game in rare books? 

There are literally millions of out-of-print and rare books on the internet, all searchable and stratified according to price, and most with detailed descriptions. 

This has leveled the playing field in terms of scarcity, with hitherto unknown copies readily turning up and added to the marketplace. This, in turn, has decreased demand for certain books, but increased demand in other areas, such as intrinsic beauty, superb condition, a fine inlaid binding or similar artistic rendering such as hand-coloring or an illumination added. 

What initially attracted you to the rare book trade? 

Like many in this business, I began as a collector. In the late 1970’s, I became interested in an American artist, Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935), one of our most acclaimed children’s book illustrators. 

Illustration by Jessie Wilcox Smith from Mother Goose, 1914

After building a substantial collection, I was able to use the books as a reference library, and was fortunate enough to have published the definitive bibliography of her work (Pelican Publishers, 1989).  

This opened up new vistas for networking with dealers and clients. Since then, our interests have expanded in many different areas, and sub-specialties, but our values and commitment toward offering the finest books available have always been paramount.

What rare books have you personally owned and treasured, and which of the books Nudelman’s is currently selling are you most excited about? 

Two examples of favorites in my personal collection would be a fine copy of Evelyn Waugh’s first book, Waugh’s own copy, inscribed with a lengthy author’s inscription; and a fine copy of a sumptuously bound book by noted bookbinder and artisan Edward Walker in 1870, with rich gilt and inlaid leather designs, bound for Queen Victoria, with the Queen’s gilt monogram on the outside leaves. 

Binding by Edward Walker in 1870

We are currently offering some amazing treasures including first editions by Keats, Shelley, Dickens, Lewis Carroll, William Morris and E. B. White and much more.  

What makes Nudelman Rare Books special?

I would say our strong points are in service and excellence of stock. We do our utmost to engage our clientele at every level, addressing their wants and desires, but also answering questions regarding authenticity, availability, and other important aspects of collecting and investing in rare books. 

We’re nationally and internationally recognized for our strong stock of finely illustrated books, as well as first editions and finely crafted books ranging from the 17th Century to the mid-20th Century, with a special emphasis in middle to late 19th Century Literature.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. London, 1901, The Vale Press

We proudly feature fine hand-crafted designer bindings with elaborate gilt tooling and inlaid leather designs, first editions of high points in English and American Literature, Signed Copies, and gorgeously illustrated books from all periods.

Make a point to visit us in North Seattle or on our website, give us a call, or send us an email. We promise we’ll answer on the same day! Let us know how we can help you find a treasure for your collection, personal interest, or gift.


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