During the last quarter, current political events had an impact on book sales of certain genre relative to a particular topic. A number of rare book journals and organizations reported that sales for George Orwell’s classic 1984, for instance, have skyrocketed in the wake of the National Security Agency scandal. 1984 makes a good summer read, but the collectible copies did not quite surge in pricing and have not seen any new interest worth mentioning. Most collectible sales of interest that the RBSM tracked were recorded prior to the events pertaining to the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s accusation of sharing classified documents. Collectors react to opportunities to secure a collectible at a reasonable price before a predicted surge in demand deems the book scarce due to its limited supply.
It is such the upsurge of interest that the works of the political figure, Nelson Mandela , the RBSM detected. At the time of this posting, the ex-President of South Africa has been on life support, and has been kept alive by a breathing machine, though he is certainly facing impending death. This is the life of a man who created history and controversy through right-wing critics that denounced him as a terrorist and communist sympathizer. The 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner did, however, write a few books including some which were signed by him, such as his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, which was published in 1996 and limited to 425 signed copies. The collectors rushed to purchase the signed copies, knowing that the supply reached its ultimate level while the importance of Mandela’s existence is about to enter a new stage.
The realization that Mandela’s life is close to an end, has had a strong presence in the sales of the RBSM genre of Military, World History and Government, which held on its strong prior quarter’s gains, trailing behind only the favorites of Modern Firsts and Arts/Photography/Architecture.
The big surprise for the quarter was registered by Science, which began a steady climb since its worst performance from the middle of last year, managing to reach its highest level this past quarter. One particular sub-category in Science – Mathematics and Computational Logic, accounted for the majority of the gains. This category included research work by early 20th century scientists such as Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel, which challenged the foundation of Mathematics by applying a “mechanical process” or machine-driven approach. The Turing machine had sent him into fields beyond the boundaries of Cambridge mathematics, while Gödel’s achievement shaped the course in modern computational logic.
In the RBSM author breakdown, a number of our closely monitored authors have boosted gains. Among them: Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, J. R. R. Tolkien, James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The latter, of course, has received much attention due to the latest Great Gatsby big screen production. Even the average copies with dust jackets in mediocre condition are receiving collector interest due to the phenomenal scarcity of the most sought after piece of paper ever printed. All eyes remain affixed on the August 19th Heritage Books & Manuscripts auction featuring an unrestored copy of the 1925 first printing with some relatively large amounts of chipping to the corners.