Of the pandemic’s rise in popularity, Harrington says, “Books have many qualities that appeal to collectors in a fleeting world. They are tangible, and their ability to be owned, possessed, and admired has increased allure in the extraordinary times we have just been through.
Richard Ovenden, librarian of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, perhaps the most famous in our country, and author of Burn the books, agrees. “Rare books are very collectable at the moment, and several records have been set in recent years. Condition and rarity are the most desirable attributes. It’s great to see topics like climate change, gender and race become of interest to new collectors and dealers as well.
And there is a lot to come. A major manuscript by Albert Einstein and Michele Besso is offered at Christie’s on November 23 with an estimate of 2-3 million euros. Ford is also particularly excited about a coronation album of Alexander III of Russia, “a large and impressive volume printed for members of the Russian Imperial family and foreign dignitaries (estimate £ 10-15,000).” It will be offered at Christie’s London on December 14.
Along with the boom in book collecting, personal libraries have seen a similar wave of attention. “Librarians have fought for millennia to preserve knowledge for the benefit of the present and the future,” says Ovenden. “Libraries are tools for education, but also points of reference for fact and truth, and pillars of an open society where ideas can be shared and encountered.”
Peter Harrington accepts orders to renovate books and build custom bookcases for private properties. A 1,000-piece collection tracing Hawaiian history was completed earlier this year to become the centerpiece of a grand Hawaiian mansion – a seven-figure guess.
Likewise, in the luxurious but not so rare universe of the publisher Assouline, tailor-made libraries occupy a growing place in its activity. Alex Assouline, heir to the publishing empire, recently explained to Luxury how bespoke bookcases are the new status symbol on Billionaire’s Row in New York City. Its service of adjusting, source and refill each requires a minimum investment of £ 18,000.