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Rare, Signed and Forged

by Admin on September 26, 2014

Tolkien signature variations

As there has been an unfortunate increase in the number of forged signatures over the last few years, I have cut back my purchasing of rare books that are signed by their authors and are not guaranteed to be genuine. The following guidelines that I have collected from a variety of sources have proven to be extremely helpful and equally as effective, if not better than hiring an authentication service:

1. Dead or alive. I am more likely to buy a signed book by an author that is still with us today, since the ultimate genuine signature is to witness the author sign the book in front of my very own eyes at a book signing event.  Track records show that signed copy frauds are more prevalent with deceased authors. It is also a good idea while attending one of these events to ask the signee for the inclusion of the date as signatures tend to vary throughout an author’s lifetime.

2. Limited editions. Numbered limited editions are also a pretty safe purchase since such books usually carry additional unique and distinct features, such as  copy numbers, authenticity stamps and so forth.

3. Inscribed not signed. Frauds are less likely to fake a lengthy inscription and would rather forge a signature or trace a short inscription in order to make an autograph look a bit more legitimate, (their favorite is ‘Best wishes’). It also takes more skill and effort, to produce a greater number of words that can pass as original. Furthermore, market valuations favor signed books over inscriptions to someone unimportant, so there is less of an incentive to put the extra energy into the criminal act.

4. Author discrimination. I keep away from names that are very popular with books that are quite scarce and yet easier to find signed in the marketplace. From the most frequent victims – Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, William Faulkner;  to the up and coming – Truman Capote, James Michener, Norman Mailer, Tom Clancy, Maya Angelou, Jack Kerouac, J.R. Tolkien, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Stephen King, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon and Ray Bradbury. Tolkien for example, did not autograph many books and he most definitely did not sign any US editions. Kerouac was not a very prolific signer of his books and Pynchon almost never signs anything.  On the opposite side, Harper Lee autographed copies of To Kill a Mockingbird for years after it was first published in 1960. If you are planning on purchasing a signed book by J.K. Rowling which was published prior to 2007, you will not have the guarantee offered by the hologram of authenticity that she has adopted on all her signed books since then.

5. Raw material examination. Any autograph before 1960 will be in pencil or ink pen since the felt tip pens, sharpies, paint pens and so forth are products of the 60’s and onward. Forgers prefer using a paint pen because it hides the writer’s fatigue associated with copying or tracing an autograph.

6. Condition, condition, condition. Desirability & collectability are greatly affected by the condition a particular copy is showing. Now I have one more reason to avoid books that are in bad shape – forgeries are in less than perfect condition most of the time, because in order to maximize profits, the less desirable, cheaper copies are being used.

7. “Flat-signed” plus provenance. I never buy a signature-only or “flat-signed” book without adequate provenance provided by the seller.  The most definite type of signature to avoid is the one that appears on an adhesive-backed label bearing the autograph especially in the high end book market. The forger has more than one chance to get it right practicing on a label that can be affixed to the front free paper.

There you have it,  common sense plus a bit of insight, the golden rules for avoiding becoming a victim of a rare book forgery. I cannot stress enough the fact that these are only guidelines for assisting in making the right purchase when it comes to signed books.  Many organizations and dealers are exploiting these unfortunate market deficiencies to suggest that you should strictly make your purchases through dealers that are fully registered with them since they only sponsor dealers that sell authentic material. This is false advertising and the best way to avoid falling a victim to such market pressures is by doing your research for each and every autographed copy that you purchase no matter who the seller is.




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Endpapers – Work of Art

by The bookworm on September 12, 2014

endpapers- nancy drew

Book collector interests may be driven by a particular author or genre (science, art, modern firsts, exploration etc.), a particular illustrator or artist, a certain series of award winning books, fine bindings in book design, cover or dust jacket art; a printer of fine press books, incunabula or books printed during certain periods, movable parts or miniature books, inscribed, signed or advance review copies and the list goes on and on.

A book component that has recently picked up a great deal of followers thanks to fine press books and museum exhibits are the endpapers used in the binding process. Endpapers (end-papers or endleaves), are the double-sized, thick, strong paper which is folded, with one half pasted against an inside cover (the pastedown) and the other positioned to lead or trail the other sheets. The first free pages to the front of the book were originally designed to take up the strain of opening the covers of the book.  As a cost-saving measure for cheaper editions, a binder may have also used waste material for the endpapers, instead of a clean sheet of paper or parchment. Today they are primarily constructed by pasting folded colored and white sheets together, to protect the text from the boards and counteract the pull of the cover on the boards.

From vellum, silken and marbled endpapers to pictorial, Dutch gilt and “Images Populaires” designs, endpaper collectors have maintained a progressively astute desire to hunt some of the offerings. Colored paper production techniques such as marbling paper had been practiced in the Islamic world and the Far East for some time becoming one of the chief means available for producing decorated endpapers, and later used in Europe beginning with the sixteenth century. The changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century caused the diminution in hand bookbinding which also brought the extinction of the marbler’s art.

endpapers - marbled

endpapers - swirl









Beyond marbling, during the last century, a number of decorative endpaper works generated a great deal of interest resulting in the extinction of such copies from the market. A scarce Halcyon House edition from 1920, published and distributed by Blue Ribbon Books, was of Rockwell Kent‘s “Wilderness. A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska.” This exhibits the best Kent drawing of this work on the endpapers. First printings through the fourth printing (1936) vanished from the market.

Endpapers Rockwell Kent


One of the most important children’s illustrated books of the twentieth century, the second book in the series of books by A.A. Milne for his son Christopher Robin Milne, is Winnie-the-Pooh. The endpapers, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard (E.H. Shepard) show the map to the “100 Aker Wood.”  The first state of the book which was first published by Methuen in 1926, complete, in good condition, trades for more than $3,000.



endpapers - artAmong today’s fine press productions the most interesting items are collections of books with unique endpapers and works of art. The limited edition of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love (Portland, 1989), features hand-painted endpapers. Several characters from the novel were sketched to create the hand-colored illustration on the front endpaper, most of which were duplicated at least 3 or 4 times in the limited production.  The sheets of the Knopf/Seluzicki Fine Books first edition are bound in black cloth with unique gouache paintings on the endpapers signed by Dunn and by the artist, Mare Blocker in a total edition of 32, now selling above $1000.

Next time you happen to open a book, take the time to notice the first thing you see, the nice drawing, the art, the map, the colorful pattern of the marbling on the front endpaper.  It may have more to offer than a mere element of structural support. It could cause you to skip over the contents to the end of the book straight to the back end paper to double your enjoyment.




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