The Price of Books

Thomas Jones

The online secondhand bookselling broker AbeBooks has published a list of its ten most expensive sales of the year. Among the haul were a first edition of Joseph Story’s Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, which was sold for £8910, a complete first edition of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which went for £17,425, and a rare ‘super deluxe’ 1979 edition of Moby-Dick, which fetched £18,310. Top of the list though is a 12th-century Arabic manuscript of Al Wajaza Fi Sihhat Il Qawl Bi l Ijaz, which was bought for £28,500 – still a long way from the £7.3 million paid for a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America earlier this month, but then AbeBooks isn’t Sotheby’s, and isn’t trying to be.

Meanwhile, Michael Gove’s Department for Education has told Booktrust that its Bookstart, Booktime and Booked Up programmes will no longer receive government funding.

Bookstart currently gives free packs of books to children up until the age of three-years-old through health visitors, children’s centres and library services. Booktime gives a free book pack to reception-aged children, shortly after they start primary school. Booked Up gives a free book to children when they start secondary school from a choice of 13 titles.

It’s hard to see how scrapping these programmes will help Gove meet his alleged goals of improving literacy and ‘closing the widening gap between the richest and the poorest’. As with the bulk of the cuts, the most well off – children whose parents can afford (and want) to buy them books – will be the least affected. Happy Christmas.


  • 24 December 2010 at 3:25pm
    keith100 says:
    Abebooks could have looked at their owners website and reported on some of the prices on offer at Amazon.

    Any takers on the following?

    1. His School Book by Thomas Hughes (Unknown Binding - 1833) 1 used from £220,454.50

    2. Dying Scientifically ... Fourth edition by Æsculapius Scalpel (Unknown Binding - 1888) 1 used from £135,475.00

    3. a textbook of statistical mechanics by Chandra (Hardcover - 20 Jul 2008) 1 new from £129,870.00 1 used from £129,740.1

    4. Textbook of Practical Physiology for Dental Students by G.K. Pal and P. Pal (Paperback - 2 Nov 2006) 1 new from £129,870.00 1 used from £129,740.13

    5. MRCOG: Pt. 2: A Structured Approach by P. Reddy and Uma Ram (Paperback - 7 Nov 2007) 1 new from £129,870.00 1 used from £129,740.13

    6. Oed CD-Rom Licence 11-50 Users (Hardcover - 1 Jan 2000) Buy new: £117,498.82

    7. On the Practice of Safety by Fred A. Manuele (Hardcover - 1 Aug 1997) 1 new from £109,890.00 1 used from £109,780.11

    8. Fünf Handys und ein Handicap by Anna Davis (Paperback - 30 Jun 2005) 1 used from £100,000.74

    9. Monsterwochen by Ron Koertge (Paperback - 31 Oct 2005) 1 used from £100,000.59

    10. Single in the City: Auf der Suche nach Mr. Right by Andrea Saggau and Susanne Wernstedt (Perfect Paperback - Feb 2005) 1 used from £100,000.59

    11. Als die Welt noch himmlisch war (Perfect Paperback) 1 used from £100,000.59

    12. Frontwechsel der Manager: Von Coriolan bis Iacocca by Heinrich Oswald (Paperback - 1988) 1 used from £100,000.59

    I suspect the german items are some sort of a joke as there's many more with daft prices

  • 26 December 2010 at 3:34pm
    loxhore says:
    i thought we all knew that when the government gets out of the way, literacy flourishes.

    • 4 January 2011 at 1:39pm
      semitone says: @ loxhore
      Loxhore. Why not read the article again, slowly, and sound out any of the long words if they give you trouble.

      The point is that the government is getting out of the way, by cutting a scheme that encouraged kids to read books. The article suggests that this will be detrimental to literacy levels and will widen the gap between rich and poor.

      When you've finished reading today's Daily Mail, can you please make time to post a list of all those low-taxing countries with low government expenditure which nevertheless have such high literacy rates?

  • 26 December 2010 at 4:33pm
    pinhut says:
    I picked up a volume of a Pelican collection on literature from a book exchange in Guatemala. One interesting essay noted that mass literacy programs were developed with input from academics and critics and seen as having rich potential for social engineering, a principal aim being to instil values that affirmed the state. Now we have the policy of Mr Gove. Perhaps the state simply no longer believes that mass literacy is essential to instilling its values.

    • 29 December 2010 at 12:46am
      outofdate says: @ pinhut
      Quite. Your man Franzen is book of the year on almost every one of these seasonal newspaper lists, so the Evil Machine has nothing to fear from a literate public, far from it. There's an honourable tradition of literature as a hearty affirmation of the status quo; we mustn't pretend it was ever very subversive or ought to be. Admittedly the differences are glaring between Tom Jones on the one hand and The Minor Corrections to a System That's Fundamentally Sound and Freedom Properly Understood With Due Reference to Family Values, Which Are Also Hugely Important, but that's just because we're midgets who stand on the shoulders of giants.

      They're wrong from a purely practical point of view, mind you, because reading for pleasure apparently fosters skills that'll make you a more effective office slave, but whatever hastens this ghastly slow death of Anglo-American civilisation is fine by me.

    • 29 December 2010 at 7:16am
      pinhut says: @ outofdate
      "One learns very little here,” observes young Jakob von Gunten after his first day at the Benjamenta Institute, where he has enrolled himself as a student. The teachers lie around like dead men. There is only one textbook, What is the Aim of Benjamenta’s Boys’ School?, and only one lesson, “How Should a Boy Behave?”"

      Walser - Institute Benjamenta

      Agreed regarding this Anglo-American civilisation. A sham. A shining city on a hill! Sure, sustained by enslaving a section of the planet's people, the theft of resources and the continual supply of arms and training to the most odious regimes on the planet.

  • 27 December 2010 at 3:55pm
    atroskity says:
    Government talk concerning literacy is often just that: talk. Politicians know that the illiterate masses are easier to manipulate than the educated and well-informed.

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