September 2013 Newsletter

For those not on our mailing list, here is a look at our latest newsletter. We’ve also embedded our latest new acquisitions list at the end of the post:


Another month has come and gone, and as always we have been busy booksellers. This past weekend we exhibited at the 41st Annual Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair. We had more dealers than usual this year, and enjoyed a record turnout of browsers and bibliophiles. Everyone seemed very pleased with the Main Street Armory, the new venue for this year’s event. Here is a photo taken by one of our colleagues of myself and my fiancee Kristine:

Booths were bustling with activity throughout the day as customers inquired about books on display, or asked questions about their own collections. We purchased a number of items ourselves, including a first American edition of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, a set of Shakespeare’s works in an attractive silk-lined publisher’s case, and a small collection of travel literature featuring decorative cover designs by A. & C. Black publishers.

Watch for these, and a number of interesting and scarce items acquired at the end of August, in next month’s newsletter. But first, have a look at what we have been working on for the last month:

New Acquisitions – Highlights

New Acquisitions – Complete

See a few things you like? Enter coupon code S10TWO013 during checkout, and when you buy three books you get another FREE! (Please make sure you have at least four books in your shopping cart, or the discount won’t work.)

Below is one of our favorites from this month’s acquisitions, a limited edition of Shakespeare’s complete works inspired by the famous Shakespeare Head Press edition printed in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon (commonly known as the Stratford Town Shakespeare).

The Works of William Shakespeare, in Ten Volumes – Shakespeare Head Press Limited Edition, #585 of 1000


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August Newsletter

I thought followers of this blog might enjoy seeing our monthly newsletter, so I have copied our August issue below in its entirety, and embedded a PDF of our most recent highlights catalog. Those interested in receiving our newsletter monthly, please visit our website at and complete the web form on the homepage.


Before I get to the usual fix for our loyal bibliophiles, I have some news to announce:

I have officially been accepted as one of the newest members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA). This is a respected trade organization which promotes professional and ethical bookselling, and sponsors several of the largest, most respected book fairs in the world. This is a big step in my career, and a bright spot in the history of Yesterday’s Muse Books. Big thanks go out to those who encouraged me to pursue membership, and to the other booksellers who were kind enough to give their time to be my sponsors during the application process.
And now to the rest of this month’s news:

The sidewalk sale we launched last month is going strong – thank you to everyone who has stopped out for great deals. For those who have not heard about the sidewalk sale – every Friday and Saturday through the middle of August, we will be offering bargain books outside our shop. All books are $1 each, or you can fill one of our bags for $8.

A big project we just began work on last month is the Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair, which I am co-organizing this year along with Franlee Frank from Greenwood Books. This year it will be held on Saturday, September 7th at the Main Street Armory. Check out the fair’s Facebook page for more details:

Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair

While you’re at it, drop by the store’s Facebook page to view our This Just In album – check it out regularly to find the latest deals.

Speaking of deals, in addition to the usual in-store coupon we include with our newsletters, here is a coupon for use this month on our website:

Enter coupon code A8TWO013 during checkout, and when you buy three books you get another FREE! (Please make sure you have at least four books in your shopping cart, or the discount won’t work.)

Here are links to our usual new acquisitions lists:

New Acquisitions – Highlights

New Acquisitions – Complete

This month we were lucky enough to acquire a signed first edition of Ayn Rand’s masterpiece Atlas Shrugged, as well as a sumptuously bound copy of Thomas A Kempis’s Of the Imitation of Christ. We also cataloged a few examples of early stock market material, a set of Theodore Roosevelt’s works, numerous books dealing with book arts and decorative arts, and a science fiction serial featuring the first appearance of Orson Scott Card’s Hugo Award winning Ender’s Game.


Below is the full highlights list:

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July 2013 Newsletter

At Yesterday’s Muse Books, we are in the habit of releasing a monthly newsletter detailing goings-on at the shop, and highlighting our most recent acquisitions. Below is our most recent newsletter:


This month’s newsletter comes a bit later – we wanted to make sure everyone had the time to relax and enjoy the July 4th holiday weekend.

This has been a great month for us. We revived our Musings blog, acquired some exceptional and important first editions, and launched our local weekend sidewalk sale.

For those who have not heard about the sidewalk sale – every Friday and Saturday through the middle of August, we will be offering bargain books outside our shop. All books are $1 each, or you can fill one of our bags for $8.

Our commitment to better book images has paid off by allowing us to better promote our stock on social media, our blog, and through catalogs. If you have yet to see our This Just In album on Facebook, check it out to find the latest deals.

For those interested in collecting, and purchasing books online in general, we have posted a number of helpful resources on our blog:

Condition Definitions

Identification of First Editions


Here are our usual new acquisitions lists, followed by a few samples to whet your whistles:

New Acquisitions – Highlights

New Acquisitions – Complete

This month we were lucky enough to acquire first editions of the two books shown below – the first the very first book published by the inimitable Dr. Seuss; the second is is a Pulitzer Prize winning play that inspired an award winning Broadway production. We also cataloged a nice collection of Rockwell Kent titles, and close to a dozen Philo Vance mysteries by S.S. Van Dine (mostly first editions). Have a closer look at the lists, as there is far too much to enumerate here…

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street First Edition

Death of a Salesman First Edition


Identification of First Editions

One of the basic skills the novice collector (not to mention the novice bookseller) needs to learn is how to properly identify first editions. Depending on the book, and the publisher, this can be a very simple task, or quite complicated. Within this article I will do my best to provide a series of steps you can use to verify the edition of the book(s) in question. I’ll also recommend a number of handy references that you’ll want to acquire if you are serious about collecting or bookselling.

First, look at the book. It seems obvious, but you would be surprised how often books are bought based on a belief that they are something they, in fact, are not, simply because the buyer did not look closely enough at the book. I can say this without any fear of appearing judgmental, because I have been a good example of this phenomenon numerous times myself. In the words of one of my colleagues with a knack for brevity, “We all allow our hearts to get the best of our heads every now and then.”

And so, I say again, look at the book. Are there any indications that this is a reprint, or a book club edition? (More on this later.) Statements such as ‘the bestselling novel, now with a new introduction’ or ‘over 1 million copies sold’ on the dust jacket are dead giveaways (though it is rarely this easy). Who is the publisher, and what date is listed on the copyright page? Based on the general appearance of the book, does this date make sense? Many reprint publishers simply reuse the printing plates from other editions, without adding information about when the reprint occurred. Other reprint publishers list no date at all. Still others produce facsimiles of original editions, sometimes providing separate information about the reissue on a different page; sometimes not. With some practice handling books on a regular basis, you will learn which publishing companies were reprint outfits (Grosset & Dunlap; Henry Altemus; M.A. Donohue; John Lovell), and which tended to release originals (Macmillan; Putnam; Scribner; Little, Brown). As with most rules of thumb, there are exceptions to these tendencies, but it is far more efficient to learn the exceptions than to discard the rule.

I mentioned book club editions earlier. These are hardcover editions reprinted either by the original publisher, or by special arrangement between this publisher and another. These are often a slightly stockier format than trade edition hardcovers, and are not considered collectible editions except in very limited circumstances. ‘Book clubs’ or ‘BCEs’ often bear certain distinguishing characteristics: 1) lack of a list price on the jacket, sometimes accompanied by a statement of Book Club Edition on the front jacket flap; 2) inexpensive boards [generally paper over boards instead of cloth]; 3) a small blind stamp on the corner of the rear board [often a square or a circle, which is sometimes colored in]. Some book clubs masquerade very convincingly as trade editions, though, so make sure to follow the other steps in this article even if your book does not match these criteria.

If the book passes muster so far, step two is to check it against references. I find Bill McBride’s A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions (pictured below) an invaluable resource. In a compact 142-page paperback, he supplies identifying characteristics of first editions for hundreds of publishers. And, despite a peculiar tendency of ‘pocket’ guides to be anything but, this one will fit quite easily in one’s back pocket, so there’s no excuse not to have it on-hand when shopping at bookstores, antique malls, or book fairs. It will pay for itself quickly by saving you money on mistakes. We offer copies for sale at our shop, and it can also be ordered directly from the author quite easily. Common identification points listed here range from obvious designations (e.g., ‘states first edition on copyright page’; ‘states First published in <year>’) to rather complex uses of jargon (e.g., one publisher uses a two-digit code to represent month and year). You will find yourself memorizing the simple ones if you use the guide frequently.

A check of what is now in the trade simply called McBride’s should let you know that either 1) it’s not a first edition; 2) you don’t have enough information to determine this definitively. Again, there are exceptions to rules. In addition, there are sometimes states within an edition that make identifying true first editions a bit more difficult. So, just because the conventions stated in McBride match does not necessarily mean it is a first edition in every case. I could get into a larger discussion about states, but this is a subject unto itself, so sufficed to say that sometimes identification points for first editions can get complicated. Two useful references to consult  in these instances are, and another guide by McBride entitled Points of Issue (pictured below). These often provide minutiae related to particular titles that can be used to authenticate a first edition. For Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, there are several typographical errors in the text that indicate a first edition. Sometimes the price listed on the jacket is a point of issue (i.e., a detail that helps differentiate a first edition from other imprints).

If these references do not provide enough information to make a definitive assessment, it may be necessary to locate a bibliography that treats the work specifically. A number of subject-based bibliographies, and bibliographies of specific authors, are available, and these often differ quite a bit in format. Some are basically checklists, and provide little information regarding bibliographic details or differentiation of editions. Others, collectively known as descriptive bibliographies, are exhaustive publication histories of known versions of works on certain subjects, or by certain authors. These are often the best available reference, and as a result bibliographies for particularly sought-after authors and subjects can be quite expensive. Again, though, they make up for this cost by helping us avoid acquiring books that are not, in fact, first editions, though represented as such (and in today’s world of online bookselling, this is a valid concern, as many transactions are happening sight-unseen, between individuals that have not met one another).

The first edition of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street we featured in our blog recently was authenticated using a bibliography of Dr. Seuss’s works written by Younger & Hirsch. This is a work that is readily available in various reprints, but sought after by collectors because it is Seuss’s first book.

If you determine that the book you have is a first edition, then your assessment of value should involve comparing it against other first editions. Other factors (e.g., author signature; condition; lack/presence of dust jacket; etc.) may play a role in this as well. But generally, determining whether you have ‘the real thing’ is one of the largest steps towards figuring the value. If you do your research online, you will of course need to apply again some of the steps detailed above to make sure that other people offering first editions for sale have actually done their homework. Do not simply trust websites to return only first editions because you clicked the ‘First Edition’ box when searching. Watch out for phrases like ‘First book club edition’ (which is on the edge of being deliberately misleading). ‘First thus’ is another one that can trip you up here, but this generally refers to the first printing of a work that was published previously, but has been updated to include new information or features (e.g., illustrations), or sometimes to the first appearance of a work in book form (as distinct from appearance in serial form – think Charles Dickens).

So, to summarize:

1) Look at the book – is it a reprint or a book club edition?

2) Check your references – does it follow the conventions that publisher used to designate first editions?

3) Invest in a bibliography.

Once you have followed these three steps, you should have a good idea whether you have a first edition. If it is a book you own, congratulations! If it is a book you intend to buy, do some research to see whether the price is reasonable; if so, and you can afford it, and it matches any other guidelines you generally follow when collecting… buy it! If it is a book you would like to sell, visit your local secondhand book shop to see if they would be interested in purchasing it, or try to sell it yourself. Make sure not to misrepresent what you have, though, and be sure to mention your research.

If the above still leaves you wondering what you have, contact a local bookseller, or consider inquiring with one of the trade organizations associated with collectible books. These are the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America) and IOBA (Independent Online Booksellers Association). For those located outside the United States, try ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) – this is the worldwide organization of which the ABAA is the American chapter. Booksellers are, in large part, very congenial and helpful in this regard. And if you find that the one you choose to contact is not, worry not… There are plenty of us, so just try the next one on the list; it is important that those you deal with in the book trade are people with whom you feel comfortable, and who display that they are trustworthy.

Jonathan Smalter, Bookseller
President, Yesterday’s Muse Books
Vice President, IOBA
Sellers of fine books in all categories, with specialties in:
Castles & Military Fortifications; Dystopian Literature
32 W Main St Ste 1
Webster, NY 14580
Phone: (585) 265-9295

Worth every penny.

Worth every penny.


First Edition Dr. Seuss

Our first edition copy.

Our first edition copy.

One of the perks of owning a used and collectible bookstore is having the opportunity to interact with great books. Historically important books, books that inspire nostalgic wonder, visually stunning books… books that have a meaning beyond what lies between their covers. Today I’ll feature just one of these, recently acquired: a first edition of Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

As we all know by now, Seuss went on to become one of the most popular and influential children’s authors of all time. His illustrations and his trademark style of verse are instantly recognizable, as are many of the creatures and contraptions from his stories. The Cat in the Hat, The Grinch, Horton – these are all household names. And to think that it all started with one 32-page long book…

What many don’t know is that this book was not an instant hit. It was rejected for publication by dozens of publishers (the exact count is different depending who you ask). Seuss almost incinerated the manuscript.

The significance of this book (and other Seuss titles) has not gone unnoticed in the collecting world. First edition copies in the (scarce) original dust jacket often have asking prices in the mid-four-figure range. There is a bibliography entirely dedicated to identification of Seuss first editions — Younger & Hirsch’s ‘First Editions of Dr. Seuss Books: A Guide to Identification’ (which, by the way, is extremely detailed and helpful – I signed copy of it has a permanent spot in my reference library).

This story in particular is a great example of the power of the imagination. The story follows a young boy named Marco, and his fantastical depiction of a series of events taking place on Mulberry Street (named for a real street located near Seuss’s boyhood home in Springfield, Massachusetts). Seuss’s colorful illustrations draw us into a world that exists only in the mind of an imaginative, imaginary child. But the book allows that unreal world to live forever, because we can each remember it in our own way, and take it with us through our own lives, returning to it when we return to memories of our own childhoods. It is truly an amazing achievement, and a reminder of how powerful books can be.

View our online listing for this title here:

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street

or better yet, stop by the shop to see it!

Jonathan Smalter, Bookseller
President, Yesterday’s Muse Books
Vice President, IOBA
Sellers of fine books in all categories, with specialties in:
Castles & Military Fortifications; Dystopian Literature
32 W Main St Ste 1
Webster, NY 14580
Phone: (585) 265-9295

Published in: on June 26, 2013 at 12:51 PM  Leave a Comment  
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