Mariposa Art Books

Collectible, hard-to-find art books | fine art collage note cards

Taking Care of Your Art Book

Rare art books or others of monetary or personal value require special care and attention.  Environmental elements such as the sun, dust and humidity can destroy your treasured book over time.  Also poor handling will wear down your prized possession.

Environment.  While we all seek the benefits of being outdoors, the elements destroy works on paper.  The worst is the sun which bleaches book spines and yellows or ages paper.  What at one time may have been a fresh-looking crisp page can very quickly become aged and brittle, especially if the paper quality is not very good to begin with.  The other culprit is humidity which causes foxing on the pages (little brown spots). 

The best way to store your rare art books and other precious items is in a bookcase which stands along an inside wall, out of direct sun and in its own room.  In fact, best of all, keep the room dark which will also keep the room temperature more even as well.

Storage.  The ideal location for your rare art books is upright in a book case, not in a reading pile on  your night stand or worst yet, in a box (or stack of boxes) on the floor.  When you think of storage, think of how books are typically stored in a library, on shelving with air flow between shelves.  So you don’t want to force books too tightly on a shelf or have the shelves not far enough apart.

When packing books for shipment or long-term storage, do not over pack the box.  First of all an over packed box of books is impossible to pick-up.  To avoid low back strain keep book boxes manageable in weight.  Be careful to keep packing materials appropriate.  Try to avoid newspaper as the packing material – this attracts silver fish and an assortment of other critters.  Lastly, for rare books try to buy acid-free boxes.

Book coverings and dust jackets.  Books that still have their dust jackets will always age better (better protected) and will retain their value when you consider selling them in the future.  Years ago I thought that my ratty and torn dust jackets were a nuisance and looked ugly on the shelf, so I tossed them.  Little did I know that by doing this I devalued the books immediately and exposed the books to the environmental dangers cited earlier.  Needless to say, I don’t do this anymore. 

With regard to protecting treasured books in general, you can buy plastic sleeves at any art or library supply store.  Cloth-bound books will benefit from this whereas leather-bound books will need to breath and plastic should be used with caution.

Book plates, inscriptions. Book plates, avoid these like the plague.  No one wants to open a beautiful book only to see who owned the book before you.  Also, many books have inscriptions which on rare occasion can add value.  If the author is writing a dedication or signing the book at a book event and the author is famous, then yes, this adds value.  But if your mother or sister give you a book for your birthday, all loving inscriptions should be written on a card and inserted.  No direct notes on the book itself, puleeeze!

General handling.  When grabbing a treasured book to read, never, ever! grab it by the top of the spine.  Everyone does it, I know, but this is one of the weaker parts of the book and it will break down over time.  Instead grab the book in the middle of the spine.  Remember, I told you to not pack your books tightly on the shelf.  This is another reason why.  It allows you to grab the book off the shelf more easily.

If you are interested in chatting with Mrs. C about collecting art books or purchasing one for your own collection, contact us or click HERE for the store.

Five Reasons for Buying a Dealer or Auction Catalog

For many people a catalog is simply a list of goods for sale at a certain point in time.  Catalogs are not typically collectible items.  But there are good reasons for buying an art auction, dealer or museum catalog, especially a rare or out-of-print one.

Access to price lists.  Rare art auction catalogs and their price lists of sold and unsold items are only on the internet for a fairly short period of time.   If you ever want to reference an item of interest, you can always check the dealer or auction website, but after about a year or so, most inventory and price lists are pulled.  You have to call the dealer or auction house directly and get the information.  There are also aggregator websites that show the history of an artist work that was sold (or not) but typically these sites only pull in the results from auction houses.  Purchase activity from dealer catalogs are not often listed on aggregator sites.  Furthermore aggregator sites charge monthly fees and are not always as complete as they should be.  If you are a researcher affiliated with a university, you have access to more complete information, but again the affiliation may be hard to come by.  So buying a catalog that has become a rare art auction catalog due to lack availability could be money well spent.

Provenance.  Out-of-print dealer catalogs are important documentation with respect to learning who owned a particular piece of art in the past.  If there is a question as to ownership, out-of-print dealer catalogs or rare art auction catalogs can provide important information for tracing ownership in the past.  When you are ready to sell your book, the auction dealer or auction house catalog acts as important document proving your ownership (and assuming you saved your receipts!).

Documentation Purposes.  If you ever buy art from an dealer or auction house, it is very important that you save the catalog in which the art piece is described.  Typically auction house and art dealers do quite a bit of research and the results of this research will appear in the description section of your item.  Furthermore, after several years you may not remember all the details of your purchase, so the catalog acts as a great reference source. So be sure to hold on to your out-of-print dealer catalog or rare art auction catalog; don’t lose it or misplace it.

Support Learning.  Art catalogs of a subject in which you are deeply interested are good learning resources.  Dealer or auction houses specialize in various types of art and their catalog provides a representative overview of what is currently ready to be sold in the genre.  For example, if you are interested in American or German contemporary art from the 1960s, look for catalogs specializing in contemporary or Zeitgenössische Kunst.  You will learn about Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Bernard Schultze and many others.

Art appreciation.  Most dealer and auction house catalogs from the 1990s to today are printed using high-quality materials and 4-color printing.  The art jumps off the page and delights your eye.  In fact, even with the great imagery available on the internet, a printed illustration has a quality more like the original art.  This is hugely important if you are interested in buying an item sight unseen.  Dealer or auction house catalogs are also good vehicles for teaching young people the wonderful world of fine art.  Art catalogs unlike the real piece of art can be used for various classroom projects as well.

If you are interested
in chatting with Mrs. C about any art catalogs or purchasing one for your own collection,
contact us or click HERE for the store.

How to Sell an Art Book Collection

If you have inherited a book collection or simply want to help sell a parent's or friend's collection, here are some of the things we've learned.

Approach an antiquarian or specialist in the domain of the collection.  You will need to have a list of all the books in the collection before you talk with a dealer, assuming you want to sell the collection in its entirety.  A good way to find such a dealer is to attend a book fair in your area or to search on the web for local antiquarians.  In the San Francisco Bay area there is the San Francisco Antiquarian Book & Print Faire in February that we attend.

Consider selling on-line directly.  There are many on-line sellers from which to choose:,, etc.  All charge a fee and have terms so you'll have to compare.  Also, if you have foreign language books, check out the on-line sellers foreign sites.  For example, has European equivalents:,,  Navigating the fees and shipping options can be a bit tricky but definitely worth a try for your foreign language books.  Lastly, try eBay where books are sold as well.


Create a marketing website.  Even if you are web-design impaired or technology-phobic, several hosting sites are available, such as from or  Through the use of templates, you can create your own book sellers website.  This will help augment your on-line presence


In terms of tools, be sure you have a computer that can handle the graphics.  A fast processor, lots of memory and large disk storage should do the trick.  You will need a scanner to scan the front cover so buyers can confirm that they are buying the "right" book.

Approach a used bookstore. Try to find a good used book store in your area.  The best ones seem to be closest to universities.  Many are outlets for university book donations, library de-accessing and local libraries.  You may find such a book seller in your area who has a similar arrangement.

If you are interested in chatting with Mrs. C about relevant topics for our blog or making a purchase for your own collection, contact us or click HERE for the store.