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Article: Rare Book Collection: Highlights from Our Staff

Rare Book Collection: Highlights from Our Staff

Rare Books and the Value of Bindings

This month, we at The Great Republic are highlighting our extensive collection of rare and unique books. Whether elegantly rebound or sporting the original bindings, our books include first editions, signed copies, and exceptionally rare printings. Books have long been regarded as a revered genre of work. The written word has proven its worth over the ages and remains an admirable way to pass down knowledge and stories.

While the contents of a book provide a wealth of knowledge and entertainment, the bindings can have a certain value as well. A book’s bindings can protect the internal components of the work in addition to acting as a beautiful presentation piece. Designs vary widely and often reflect the tone of the written word; a binding can be anything from simple to fabulously elegant. Some of our rare books at The Great Republic retain their original bindings while others have been professionally rebound and stabilized. Both original and rebound works have their benefits and value when it comes to collecting and enjoying these fine books.


Original and period bindings are highly sought-after when it comes to collecting books. Presenting the work how the first publisher intended, these bindings reflect the materials, technology, and popular styles of the time. To see a book with its original bindings is to experience the product in the same manner it was meant to be encountered, lending it an extra bit of authenticity. Original bindings tend to show a discernible amount of wear and tear, as to be expected with age. Having survived throughout the years, signs of its use are frequently present. Many collectors prefer to see books with this general wear, as it serves as a testament to their age. Overall, original bindings are much more delicate. To ensure proper care, an archival slipcase or clamshell can help protect the period bindings from further damage while still preserving the original state.


New bindings can extend a book's lifespan for many years to come. We work in collaboration with Felton Bookbinding, one of North America’s foremost bookbinderies, to preserve works and provide books with bindings that reflect the value of the internal pages. Older books with original bindings are likely to have condition issues and frequent handling by the owner may not be advisable. On the contrary, rebound books provide stability and durability for the future as well as preservation for the valuable text. This allows the owner to handle and read these rare books without much fear of destroying them. Additionally, our rebound books are elegantly designed with elements such as gilt tooling, embossing, and raised bands. A beautifully crafted binding reflects the value and importance of the work it protects. 

Each of our staff has taken the time to choose a rare book in our collection at The Great Republic. These selected works offer unique historical insights, exhilarating tales, and firsthand accounts as well as elegant bindings both new and original. See what our staff has to say about the books below!



1795 First American Edition of Washington's Letters to Congress

Eddie Papczun, Founder and Managing Partner of The Great Republic, highlights one of our earliest published books: 1795 Washington's Letters to Congress. “General George Washington fought a superior force in the regular British Army while simultaneously fighting for the most basic of military supplies from the Continental Congress. This 1795, two volume set of beautifully bound first edition books, contains Washington’s direct correspondence with the Continental Congress on a whole host of issues to include keeping his troops clothed and fed. This fascinating first person account is a must read for any Revolutionary War enthusiast — an exceptional set of Washington books for the discerning collector.” The set is rebound in full leather with a simple geometric design that both reflects the Federal period in which it was written and protects this impactful work.


 Cosway-Style Bound First Edition of Winston Churchill's My Early Life

Caroline Bonardi, President of The Great Republic, explains why she loves this Cosway-style first edition of Winston Churchill’s My Early Life: “Binderies in England turned out particularly extravagant covers in the early 1900s, with hand-tooled gilding and paintings of the authors or scenes from the book’s plot on the cover. This lavish cover style is named in honor of Regency miniaturist Richard Cosway and made popular by miniaturist Miss C.B. Currie, who painted directly onto book covers. Cosway-style books were bound to order, making each one a unique work.”



Moby Dick by Herman Melville, First Edition Thus Illustrated by Rockwell Kent, 1930

Katie Ibraliu, our Marketing Manager and Assistant Manager in DC, emphasizes the one-of-a-kind binding presented on one of the most classic seafaring tales: “This first trade edition of Moby Dick is beautifully preserved in custom binding and an archival slipcase. The full calf leather binding is decorated with detailed silver embossing, replicating the original illustrations by Rockwell Kent that are scattered throughout the book. The spine features hand-tooled silver stars and anchors. Melville's true first edition of Moby Dick was published 1851, though it was practically neglected until this trade edition was published. Kent elected to illustrate the trade edition, re-imagining it for the 20th century and bringing it tremendous success.”


1802 Second Edition of The Federalist by Publius

Kelly Makee, our Sales and Research Specialist, spotlights the 1802 second edition of our nation’s great collection of persuasive essays: “Since the essays were first published, The Federalist has received marvelous praise and earned its place in history. This second edition set is the first to include the text of the Constitution as well as the true names of the authors rather than only the anonymous ‘Publius.’ The two-volume set is not only well-preserved but also has handsome original bindings. Called tree calf binding, the boards are covered in full leather that has been stained and polished to resemble wood. This produces a remarkably beautiful and characteristic presentation for the equally impressive and impactful work.”


1892 Pronouncing Parallel Holy Bible

Precious Hobson, our Sales Lead in Colorado, highlights an ornately decorated Holy Bible with original and elaborate bindings: “This Self-Pronouncing Holy Bible from 1892 is one of the most Interesting Bibles I've ever seen with such beautiful monochrome illustrations. This family Bible was made to be passed on for generations. It was common for families to keep records in the Bible. It would hold information such as family portraits, family trees and even marriage certificates. These Bibles were first popular during the Victorian era in the United Kingdom. Afterwards you see them throughout Europe and the United States, eventually making their way down to Australia and New Zealand and into most households.”

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