Frequently Asked Questions,
generally about the dollar value of editions of LUCILE
and similar books of the period 1860-1938.
1. I have an edition of Lucile (or a copy of another book) issued by one of the publishers for whom you have a page at this site. Can you tell me more about this publisher?
In general, I'm sorry to say, I cannot. Nearly all of the information I have been able to gather about this group of publishers is reflected in the head notes on each publisher's page. Be sure to look at my sources for those notes: some, like the Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 49, contain considerably more information than I have abstracted. When no sources are listed, I have myself as yet found no information to record.
In general (and with some notable exceptions, such as Houghton Mifflin), these publishers were "mass-market reprinters" -- that is, they reprinted "standard," non-copyright, works by British and American authors in large editions, priced their books inexpensively, and marketed to a very broad audience of potential buyers. This was a high-volume, low-profit corner of the publishing industry, and many of the publishers were short-lived. They tend not to have attracted much contemporary attention from mainstream publishing -- indeed, they were despised and shunned as "pirates" by their more "respectable" colleagues. Few of their business records survive.
A concise but effective summary of publishing in the 1880-1915 period is Frederick Stokes' essay, "A Publisher's Random Notes, 1880-1935."
2. As is the case with many of the books you record, my book is not dated on the title page. Can you tell me when it was published?
First read carefully my head note about the publisher. I have often been able to establish the dates the firm entered and left business, and I have sometimes established dates during which they were located at a specific address or the date on which they moved from one address to another. If these addresses appear on the title page of your book, that may help you narrow the possible date of publication for your book. Reprint editions were generally not dated: dating them simply shortened the period during which they could be sold as "new."
If the binding of your book matches one I have described (with different author and title stamps, of course) and I have transcribed dated information from PTLA (Publishers' Trade List Annual), then you can be pretty confident your book was another title in the series (or “Library” or “Edition”) described in PTLA and was published around the same time(s). Since these books were printed from electroplates that could be used again and again, individual copies in the same series that look identical may in fact have been printed a few years apart. But publishers tended to change binding designs frequently in order to give their series editions new market appeal. It was unusual for any particular binding design to be used for more than a few years (though this did, sometimes, happen).
Since I have extracted PTLA information only for Lucile, you might find further information about your title in its annual volumes. This is not easy work. See my essay on PTLA.
3. My book is not dated on the title page but does have a dated copyright notice on the verso (back) of the title page. Is this the date it was probably published?
Not necessarily. Because it was first published in England, Lucile could not at any time be copyrighted in the United States -- but new content that a publisher provided could be. Consequently, some reprint editions which include newly created content (illustrations, a preface, etc.) carry a copyright notice on the verso of their title page; the notice does not say so, but it relates only to the new content (not to the whole text).
However, this added content was itself often reprinted again and again and again. So a notice (e.g., "Copyright 1885") means that some or all of the illustrations (etc.) in the book were first published in 1885; but the copy of the book you have in hand may well have been published three or five or fifteen years later. Working systematically through PTLA is generally the only way to sort through this.
4. I have a copy of one of the editions of Lucile you illustrate (or another similar book by one of the publishers you list). Can you tell me its dollar value?
In general, I'm again sorry to say, I cannot. Relatively few editions of Lucile (or similar books of this era) have more than modest market value, however. There are, for example, usually six to 15 copies of Lucile being offered at any given time on eBay auctions (http://www.ebay.com; search "owen meredith" or "lucile meredith," and dozens accumulate in eBay "stores" (some have been on offer for several years now, rotating endlessly on the eBay treadmill hoping to attract a buyer; most of the "Buy It Now" copies have this status). Successful eBay auctions typically start between $2 and $10 and final bids rarely exceed $12-$15. Many attract only a single bidder (alas, far too often me!). Editions offered with starting prices above $20 rarely attract any bidders and are offered again at lower starting prices or go into rotation limbo. I find it difficult to know who would buy the many competing "print on demand" (POD) versions which are generally priced much higher than the vintage copies!
You can also form some idea of the range of market values for many books of this period by searching on-line databases like Bookfinder (http://www.bookfinder.com), Addall (http://www.addall.com/), abebooks (http://abebooks.com/), or, sometimes, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of American (http://abaa.org/). The PBA Galleries "Instant Appraiser" may be useful (but can be pretty quirky for this kind of book).
Remember that market value depends first on the condition of the item (only an authentic item in very fine condition is likely to be valuable) and second on the number of collectors who are or might be interested in it (the more collectors, the more active a market is likely to be). A good source of advice on the value of books is Your Old Books, published by the Rare Books & Manuscript Section of the American Library Association (http://www.rbms.info/yob.shtml).
If you can use a tax deduction, Rare Book School at the University of Virginia happily accepts copies of Lucile in good condition. The School cannot appraise the value of your gift, but you can assign a value for tax purposes based on your research into the sale of similar copies.5. Can you offer any suggestions on how I can sell or otherwise dispose of my book?
Most people are uncomfortable in discarding an older book, and many assume it must have market value simply because it is old. Regrettably, unless the book is 450 to 550 years old, this is not the case. Many books 100-200 years old in fact have little value -- but some do -- and most booksellers understandably reject books they know they will never sell. Usually antiques and collectibles malls include the booths of one or a few dealers in books, and the managers of these malls are typically keenly aware of what will sell in their communities. It may be worthwhile to talk with them since books in good condition, with an "antique" feel, may be better appreciated in a mall for that feel than in a bookstore for the text. Second, books of this kind are regularly sold on auction sites like eBay. To do this, however, you have to factor in the cost of researching the book to establish an asking price, creating and posting an accurate description, collecting the purchase price from a buyer through a required service-provider like PayPal, and packing and shipping the book. If the sale price is small, the amount left after expenses are deducted may not be enough to justify the effort and risks. In many areas, established eBay sellers may undertake to sell your book for you on commission. Finally, most public libraries appreciate gifts, as do other charitable organizations that resell items (e.g., Goodwill Industries) or sponsor occasional booksales. Your gifts to these organizations can typically be claimed at "fair market value" for tax purposes, and you can often estimate market value by consulting some of the resources noted in the response to question 4.
Last revised: 2 August 2012