Book Reviews | November 2022 | Alex Johnson

The Trade in Rare Books and Manuscripts between Britain and America

Cambridge University Press

The Cambridge Elements: Publishing and Book Culture series published by Cambridge University Press is building up to be an impressive catalogue of mini classics. Offering academic quality research written in a happily comprehensible style, they cover a wide range of topics of interest to Fine Books readers such as Fantasies of the Bookstore by Eben J. Muse, Old Books and Digital Publishing by Stephen H. Gregg, and Christmas Books for Children by Eugene Giddens.

The latest title is the fascinating The Trade in Rare Books and Manuscripts between Britain and America c. 1890–1929 by Danielle Magnusson and Laura Cleaver, both from the University of London. It very much does what it says on the tin, looking at the subject from the American and British perspectives, as well as those of book brokers/dealers.

It packs a lot into its charmingly slim 90 pages (plus excellent bibliography to extend your reading) looking at everything at the ‘Golden Age’ of collecting from auction prices and profiles of leading book collectors to books and libraries, the growing American demand for rare books, and simply why people liked to collect. Appealingly, it uses a wide range of original source material including letters, trade publications, newspaper articles, and sales records, plus a few black and white magazine images from magazines of the day.