Concordance to Rare Books | Newberry

Concordance to Rare Books

People are always inquiring for an easy way to find out whether a book they own is a valuable collectible. Granted, this has gotten harder in recent years, as bookselling websites are more thoroughly infested by bookdealers who charge $3.17 for every book and bookdealers who charge $317,000 for every book. They come to me with tears in their eyes. “Uncle Blogsy,” they say, “We’re so confused! Isn’t there an EASY way to tell if a book is a collectible worth millions of dollars?”

When I tell them that there is a simple rule for this, the tears stop. And when I tell them their book is a collectible if people collect it, and worth millions of dollars if they can find someone to pay them a million dollars for it, their eyes brighten and they look around for something heavy to throw at me.

Try to help people out and they turn on you. THERE’S a simple rule.

There are a few less logical tips I can pass along, however, if you insist. Certain words will make me look a book up. There are no guarantees here, you understand. But these words often signify added value. You should probably do some research if your title includes the words:

Color Atlas: We’ve discussed this before, but for those who just came in, the words “color atlas” are very seldom used on what you or I would call an atlas: a book of maps. No, “color atlas” usually appears on a large medical book full of color photographs of some specific type, like that luckily rare volume “A Color Atlas of Shotgun Wounds”. (I did NOT open that book at any time I had it under my control.) In the days before digital communication, these were valuable reference books for those in the medical profession, who, it was assumed, could afford a good price.

Variorum: I’ve never heard this used as a noun, but I just checked the dictionary, and a variorum is a book with articles on a particular subject by a number of different writers, or a book containing studies of a certain text by different authorities. We are not concerned with those. We are looking for titles which use the word as an adjective, as in The Variorum Edition of King Kong Vs. Spider-Man. What THAT means is that someone has gone to the trouble of considering and comparing every known manuscript of a particular great work (often a poem) to trace the author’s intent, decide what the really, truly text should be, and so on. This was much more difficult, again, in pre-computer days, not that it’s all that easy now. Hence the price.

Concordance: This is a little trickier. A small concordance or pocket concordance is usually, as we term it around the joint, “just a book”. If you have a great big book called a concordance, however, you’d best look it up. A concordance, though originally a big word for “agreement”, has come to mean a book listing every word used in a particular text. This, again, makes for a massive reference book, one that is not necessarily replaced by the Internet. Concordances to the Bible are the most commonly seen (You may think a person would have to do this only once, but there have been a lot of differently worded translations AND a lot of arguments about the words used in the original.) But there are also concordances to Chaucer, the U.S. Constitution, Shakespeare, Joseph Brodsky, Martin Heidegger, Emily Dickinson, ancient Egyptian texts, etc. (Concordance can also be used for a general reference book if Dictionary seems too tame: do not, however, neglect the Star Trek Concordance because it is not simply a concordance.) There COULD be a concordance to Uncle Blogsy, for all I know, in which case I have just added entries for variorum and concordance.

I cannot guarantee that the Uncle Blogsy Concordance will be worth millions of dollars more than, say, the Uncle Blogsy Index or the Uncle Blogsy Simple Dot-to-Dot book. I’m just saying you should look that one up first. (Dibs on the dot-to-dot book if you haven’t done them all already.)

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