The Hippo


Jun 26, 2019








Brattle Book Shop owner and Antiques Roadshow appraiser Kenneth Gloss. Photo by Jeffrey Dunn.

 Rare and antique books 

with Ken Gloss 
When: Thursday, June 28, 6:30 p.m. 
Where: Hooksett Public Library, Mount Saint Mary’s Way, Hooksett
Gloss will also be at Nesmith Library in Windham Thursday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m.

True value
Rare book expert visits New Hampshire


By Angie Sykeny
Kenneth Gloss has seen all kinds of books come through his used bookstore from books signed by notable authors like Robert Frost to books that date back to as early as the 1400s. Located in Boston’s Downtown Crossing section, Brattle Book Shop was opened nearly 200 years ago and is one of the oldest and largest used bookshops in the country. 
A second-generation owner of the shop, Gloss has become a well-known connoisseur of antiquarian and rare books, frequently appearing as a guest appraiser on PBS’ television series Antiques Roadshow. 
On Thursday, June 28, he will visit the Hooksett Public Library to discuss antiquarian and rare book collecting. In his presentation, he will share anecdotes about some of his favorite finds, explain what makes a book increase or decrease in value and offer some tips and guidelines for starting a book collection. Following the presentation and a Q&A, Gloss will appraise people’s books. 
The first thing a person must understand about antique books, Gloss said, is that a book is not considered an antique because of its age alone, but because of its age in relation to its subject matter. An early edition of On the Origin of Species from the 1860s, for example, while not very old comparitavely, would be considered antique because it is one of the first books published on the science of evolution. 
“We get probably five to 10 calls a week from people who have a very old family Bible,” he said. “Well, you have to put things in perspective, because it’s not just about absolute age. The Bible has been printed for hundreds of years and is the most printed book of all time, so they may have a very old copy, but it’s not terribly old for what it is.” 
The value of a book depends on many factors, a major one being its edition. The first edition of a book, especially a book from early in an author’s career, is typically the most rare and valuable because publishers, not knowing how well the new book will be received, begin with a small run. 
“A great example is Harry Potter,” Gloss said. “The first book came out 20 years ago, and it wasn’t expected to sell, so they didn’t make very many. Now, a first edition of the first Harry Potter book is incredibly rare and can be sold for $8,000, while the more recently printed books are never going to be valuable because there are so many around.” 
Consider, also, the market for the book. Just because a book is hard to come by does not necessarily mean it’s valuable. As Gloss puts it, “There are some books that are rare, but the people who want it are rarer.”  
A book’s physical condition, of course, also plays a part in its value. It may play a larger part in books that are especially difficult to find in good condition, such as cookbooks and children’s books, due to the nature of how they are used. 
While it’s often assumed that a book signed by the author will have greater value than one that isn’t, that isn’t always the case. 
“For some authors, it’s hard to find a book that they didn’t sign. They were signing books everywhere they went, and while it’s nice to have that for sentimental value, it doesn’t give it any greater monetary value,” Gloss said. “Then, you have someone like J.D. Salinger who was very reclusive and would only sign for people he knew very well. A book with his signature would be incredibly valuable.” 
Gloss’ advice to new collectors is to focus on one subject, author or even book. 
“You can’t collect every book on every subject. It’s impossible,” he said. “Even if you just focus on one book, you can collect thousands of copies if you get into all the different languages, different editions, different bindings, different illustrators.” 
Lastly, Gloss said, don’t discredit a book with personal or sentimental value. You can still enjoy the fun of collecting without limiting yourself only to books with rarity or monetary value. 
“One time, I had a customer running in with a pamphlet he found on our dollar table — ‘Coconuts and Constipation.’ He was thrilled and said he had been looking for it for years and years, and here it was for a dollar,” he said. “The hunt is the real goal. You never know where you’ll find that book you’ve been trying to find for 50 years.” 

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