• Germany's news in English

Rare books keep their price despite threat of depression

AFP/The Local · 19 Oct 2008, 11:02

Published: 19 Oct 2008 11:02 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

“You’re better off buying old books than shares in a bank,” Dutch antiques dealer Laurens Hesselink said with a smile at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

“Of course, for some time now the market has been calmer, but our sector always pulls through,” he said.

Hesselink was one of the vendors of rare books to be found in the special antiques section on the sidelines of the book fair, the world’s largest.

“Collectors are insatiable, crisis or no crisis,” Hesselink told AFP.

The Dutch dealer's favourite of the moment was a volume of “Nippon”, a richly illustrated 19th century work on Japan by German naturalist Philipp Franz von Siebold in 1832, valued at around €300,000 ($400,000).

Picking up a work by the Dutch thinker Erasmus, Kesselink added, “This book is more than 500 years old. At that age, I think we can talk about a solid investment.”

A few metres away, Elvira Tasbach enthusiastically displayed her manuscript collection.

While highly-priced books are likely to remain a safe haven for collectors who can afford it, she said, more modest collectors might take a hit.

“The most expensive works, those that are worth more than €5,000 or €10,000, always sell and their price always rises,” the book dealer from Berlin said.

Tasbach said these include first editions by novelists like Franz Kafka or Thomas Mann, not to mention those by Goethe or Schiller.

“At that level, we are in the domain of luxury, sheltered from economic fluctuations. The more expensive, the better!” she said.

Tasbach’s latest passion is manuals of mathematical calculation - sometimes dating back to the 17th century - which can fetch up to €4,000.

But, according to Tasbach, the lower end of antique book sales will be affected by the crisis: “In the low to medium prices, up to €2,000 per book, sales are decreasing.”

“The traditional clientele for these books is dying. Not too long ago, every university professor had to have a beautiful library full of old books. This is not longer the case,” she said.

Turin-based antiques dealer Guiseppina Biggio specialises in more modestly-priced rare books and is trying to rejuvenate her business in a changing market.

“The period is not easy," said Biggio, whose wares range from an 1829 treatise on artesian wells for €220 to an Italian manual on fortifications dated 1567, which is priced at €1,800.

Story continues below…

“I am especially trying to develop Internet sales,” she said.

But for Tasbach, the Internet itself is to blame for bringing down the price of some rare books, causing a “real crisis.”

For the worldwide web, “has made old books easier to find, and therefore less expensive,” said Tasbach.

“Before, when an enthusiast found a book that interested them, they bought it from me immediately. Now they take the references and bid farewell politely. They go home and look for a better offer on the Internet,” she said.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Parents who don't get nursery spot for kid entitled to pay
Photo: DPA

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that parents whose children don't receive placements in nursery care are entitled to compensation.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd