An Introduction to the Modern Rare Book Trade

Course Organiser: Laurence Worms
3-7 July
Course Tutors: Laurence Worms, Angus O'Neill, Dr Arnold Hunt, Joan Winterkorn

The aim of the course is to explore in a broad way the huge contemporary market in rare and collectable books – in particular (although not exclusively) the market in literary first editions and manuscripts of relatively ‘modern’ vintage – the English-language literature of the last 200 years.  There will be discussion of the basic tenets and intellectual purposes of collecting, the interplay between academic research interests and market forces, the gauging of rarity and the calculation of value, the ‘rules’ of the game, and an overview of the current workings, structure, weaknesses and strengths of the rare book trade in the twenty-first century. Taught entirely by experienced practitioners, the course is intended to provide a thorough grounding and background for librarians, academics, collectors, booksellers and others, who (either professionally or privately) need to engage with this market, and require a more detailed insight into the nuances and subtleties of the field.

Course Outline


1 Introduction and Overview
2 Rarity, Scarcity & Collectability: The Facts and Factors


3 The Describing of Books
4 Book Trade Research – Case Studies
5 The Pictorial and the Book Trade – Illustrations and Dust-Jackets


6 The Structure of the Modern Book Trade
7 A Visiting Bookseller (details TBC)
8 An Excursion to a world leading bookshop (details TBC)


9 Fakes & Frauds: The Friends and Enemies of the Book
10 The Book Trade and the Academic World
11 An Excursion: A Visit to Cecil Court


12 Marks of Ownership: Inscriptions, Annotations and Associations
13 Conclusion & Panel Discussion

Outcomes for Students 

To follow soon

Recommended Introductory Reading

To follow soon


Laurence Worms - Antiquarian bookseller (Ash Rare Books, London). He is a former elected President of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association and former rare book trade representative on the National Book Committee. Founder member and Fellow of the Rare Book Society. He issued his first modern literature catalogue (1,000 items) in 1975, the first in a series which has included such highlights as Catalogue 50
(Seamus Heaney) 1998, Catalogue 57 (T. S. Eliot) 2000, and Catalogue 75 (Barbara Jones) 2004. He is currently working on a collection of post-war British pulp fiction and is the author of Cataloguing for Booksellers (2015). Working in parallel as a historian of the map trade, he was a contributor to The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain (vol 4, 2002), the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), the ongoing History of Cartography being published by Chicago University Press, etc. He is the co-author, with Ashley Baynton-Williams, of British Map Engravers: A Dictionary of Engravers, Lithographers and Their Principal Employers to 1850 (Rare Book Society, 2011).