Antiquarian Law Books:
Occasionally I think it would be cool to purchase some antiquarian law books. Classic treatises, first editions of famous books, that kind of thing. I usually don't, however, as I know nothing about the market in antiquarian law books and worry I'll get fleeced. (I have bought a few things via, including a really cool signed copy of Henry Friendly's Benchmarks, but they were all small-ticket items.) It occurs to me that there are probably some VC readers that are experts in this market, however, and many others who might be interested in it if they knew where to start. I am hoping that some of the experts would be willing to post a comment in the comment thread with advice for the newbies among us. What is the smart way to go about buying antiquarian law books? Are there good online sites, or do you really need to go to auctions or rare book dealers? What do you need to know to avoid egregiously overpaying? Thanks in advance.
Jeremy (mail) (www):
Hi all

Not an expert but LOVE antiquarian books, and as a law student am also very interested in old law books. isn't a bad place to start with general books, because it can at least allow one to frame some sort of market. Law books specifically I am not so sure about. Again, in general, eBay is an reasonable place to start and often, when prices are compared with ilab's, one can obtain a fairly good deal! I picked up my 1794 copy of Elegant Epistles for A$20. Hope this helps a bit!
6.16.2005 4:00am
Roger the Blogger (mail) (www):
Ebay is a good place to start, and I have gotten a few good ones there. While it is cool to wander around antiquarian bookstores, a lot of them are either overpriced, or extremely disorganized, as the shopkeepers don't really understand what a treatise is. It might be fun to find a rare gem or two, but it isn't by any means efficient. A lot of old books are in sad shape, but they can be rebound for about $200 or so.
6.16.2005 8:12am
CharleyCarp (mail):
A friend and former colleague of mine quit the practice of law to take up being a free-lance broker of antiquarian law books.
6.16.2005 9:01am
Ted (mail):
Check antique stores. Lots of them carry books, and when they do, they always seem to have old law books around. It's obviously hit or miss, and you can't go looking for something in particular... but I've found lots of early 20th-cen treatises, hornbooks, and the like, and they usually only cost a few bucks.
6.16.2005 9:16am
Lawbook Exchange is a decent shop. They have both antiquarian and reprints. I've received books as gifts from here.
6.16.2005 10:45am
David Hecht (mail):
I've always had good luck with -- they are a consolidator, but they have so many participants that you can get a fair idea of market value just by perusing their listings. And their "vig" is a lot lower than Alibris' (who is also a consolidator, albeit a well-disguised one).
6.16.2005 10:47am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
There's no easy ay to get into the book trade, you just hav to start looking around.

I've found the two best aggrigation sites to be:


They have quite a bit of overlap but they don't cover exactly the same sellers.

The Net has tended to raise the prices of rarer books and drop the prices of newer OP books (by increasing the stock available for sale).
6.16.2005 11:27am
Minor Myers:
I have always heard very positive things about and made a pleasant purchase from The latter has a simple but interesting catalog it sends out periodically. None comes close, though, to matching the fun-factor of visiting a real bookshop, but the websites are great places to research values for potential purchases.

For an introduction to book collecting, check out the books by Nicholas Basbanes, particularly A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, which is sort of like the antiquarian book version of Scott Turow's One-L.
6.16.2005 11:52am
Marc DeGirolami (mail):
I used to work at a used and rare bookstore in Harvard Square (now, I believe, in Somerville, MA) called "MacIntyre &Moore Booksellers." Don't know if they have a web site. They had many law books, some rare and some just old. If you're nervous about overspending at some of the higher end spots, and don't mind browsing a bit, the used and rare bookstore can be a great source of valuable finds for fairly reasonable prices.
6.16.2005 2:21pm
Christopher Simoni (mail):
You might consider Meyer Boswell Books in SFO. It deals in old and rare (not the same thing) legal materials and sells widely to academic law libraries and others. In addition to the usual fare of early and first edition Blackstone Commentaries it frequently has other less well known materials that I have purchased for two academic law libraries where I have worked. MB can be contacted at; be sure to request a copy of the current catalog.
6.16.2005 2:56pm
Feddie (mail) (www):
I have a fairly impressive antiquarian law book collection, and I second most if not all of the sentiments expressed thus far. The bottom line is that you have decide which books you want, and then be willing to monitor several web sites (especially Ebay) on a regular basis to get them. And if there is something in particular that you're looking for, please let me know. I'll be happy to help you find it.
6.16.2005 11:17pm
S.cotus (mail) (www):
One thing to keep in mind is that not everyone who collects rare books has the same goals in mind. I don't collect rare books as an investment, or something to keep on the shelf to impress people. I have a definite scholarly interest in what was said at the time. Most people who collect books don't care about say, what people in Ireland in 1830 (as opposed to 1890 or 1790) considered to be their "zone of privacy."

A few notes: MacIntyre &Moore is at still at Davis Square in Sommerville. I got a few books there, but their selection of law books is not that great. Their selection of philosophy books is better. They don't have a website, but you can call them.

My favorite non-ebay site is , because I get miles additional miles off for purchases there, and there are several active coupons that give you between $1 and $5 every purchase. They also have a fairly liberal return policy.

For searching for specific rare books I use and . I also have a few keyword searches programmed into Mozilla.

Amazon is actually pretty good for some things, because it tracks both books with an ISBN and w/o an ISBN. However, unlike it only lists used books for 60 days or so.
6.17.2005 9:55am