After five months in the antiquarian book world, I can now see how it all works. I don't always know which books are worth a fortune, but I can spot the crap a mile away.
If you're hanging on to any of the following books, don't even bother giving them to your local charity shop:
- Any copy of Little Women published after 1880
- English dictionaries
- Book club editions
- The Friendship Book (I'm assuming that readers of this blog won't have a copy)
- Reach for the Sky, by Paul Brickell
- All gardening books
- The Bible
- All books about the Royal family
- Complete works of Shakespeare
- Anything by J B Priestley
- The plays of George Bernard Shaw
- The Ascent of Everest, by John Hunt and Sir Edmund Hillary
- Field guides to birds of Britain
- All cookery books published after 1945
- Victorian poetry, particularly Longfellow
- All encyclopaedias
- Novels by 'angry young men' like John Braine
- Everything published by the AA and Reader's Digest
- All Atlases published after 1918
- Pelican paperbacks
- The Pilgrim's Progress
- Most books about classical music
- Humour titles from the 1950s
- Enid Blyton paperbacks
- Art books with black and white reproductions of paintings
Last week's local paper's classified ads section had several books for sale. One was a 1936 road atlas, on sale for £25. I presume that the instigators of this advertisement were operating on the premise that if it's old, it's worth something. But this isn't the case. You can buy a beautiful 1850s collection of Wordsworth poems for under a tenner. It's all about supply and demand.
I know that some people have reservations about destroying any book, but by throwing out the chaff, I'm able to save the wheat. It's literary eugenics (but not in a sinister, neo-Nazi way).
Since April, my project has saved 10,000 books from landfill sites, but it has also condemned at least 20,000 to the big recycling machine. If that bothers you, imagine a future where people are destroying thousands of Dan Brown novels each day, but rescuing first editions of Richard Yates and John Fante.
That can't be bad.