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View Full Version : Book Lover's and Collectors--The Harvard Classics



Keyboard Hound
10-16-2008, 07:39 PM
My husband went by Goodwill last night and found three boxes full ( printer paper boxes) of The Harvard Classics. He bought them. I've glanced through some of the volumes and they have publication dates beginning in 1909. A couple I picked up said 1910. Book titles date back to really, really old writers (Matchivelli) along with Dickens and his contemporaries, early American historical documents and others.

Does anyone have any idea if they are of any value except for just being beautiful books? They're in really good shape with covers more like a Bible cover would be, not hardbound, but not soft cover either. The lettering is gold and there are 72 of them.

Any ideas, anyone?

Puma
10-16-2008, 07:56 PM
In my opinion, your husband bought a treasure. We had a set when I was growing up (unfortunately my nephew got them when we closed up my parents place - I would have loved them.) They are the best books that were known at the time they were put together. There should be non-fiction and a "shelf of fiction" - your 72 is probably the whole set. Back in the 30's/40's it was the mark of someone very literate to have the collection (which should be housed in a nice wooden sectional bookcase). Frankly, I'm envious but very tickled at your good fortune. Puma

CaroGirl
10-16-2008, 08:03 PM
If you believe they're valuable, you should go to an expert and get them appraised, and then have them insured accordingly. Even if it isn't worth a whole lot, it sounds like a really lovely set of books.

willietheshakes
10-16-2008, 08:10 PM
You know, I was, just last week, looking at ABEbooks to try to put together a complete set of the Harvard Classics.

Frankly, I hate you and your husband right now -- just a little bit. Lucky!

MaryMumsy
10-16-2008, 08:41 PM
Even if they have no exceptional monetary value, I think you are extraordinarily lucky. Both in having the books and your choice of husband. Mine wouldn't have looked at the books in the first place, much less brought them home. Although he haunts the library and reads a lot, the 'owning' of the books is not important to him.

MM

katiemac
10-16-2008, 09:24 PM
I was recently looking up some book values on ABE, and although they weren't from the Harvard Classics, the ones with dates around 1920 and earlier fetched $6-$20 apiece. None were first editions, nor very popular titles.

Seems like they'd be worth at least a little per book, which adds up when you've got the collection.

C A Winters
10-16-2008, 09:30 PM
I have a full set, in excellent condition. The wealth of knowledge and information in those volumes is unbelievable. To many academics, and, or writers, they are truly a treasure, and priceless regardless of market value.

Phaeal
10-16-2008, 09:44 PM
And Matchivellis are really rare. His distant cousin Machiavelli stole all his thunder. ;)

I imagine the books made it to Goodwill when someone died and his heirs decided to clean out the house as fast as possible. I often find nice books at perifuneral yard sales, or even tossed out on the curb. Not that I check the obituaries, although I've known people who do.

What's extra nice is when you buy "fancy set" books that someone bought just to decorate his shelves. These are usually dusty, but otherwise in pristine condition, as they've never been opened.

jessicaorr
10-17-2008, 05:01 PM
I'm working my way to a complete collection of the Harvard Classics and New American Library. Congratulations on your find! I've seen them on eBay for 1-15$ each. I saw a complete set a while back for a couple hundred dollars. I think it depends on the edition and condition. There's a set of 50 on eBay (http://cgi.ebay.com/LOT-50-HARVARD-CLASSICS-LITERATURE-BOOK-COLLECTION_W0QQitemZ140275475822QQcmdZViewItem?has h=item140275475822&_trkparms=72%3A570|39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3A12|240%3A131 8&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14) now. You could watch them and see how much they go for.

Regardless of the monetary value, you've got a true treasure and wealth of information for your library. And even though it isn't as important... they look really great on a bookshelf :p

Medievalist
10-17-2008, 06:24 PM
A complete set in good condition is worth a couple - three hundred. The exception would be the "better" versions in leather, etc.

But really, they're worth a lot more than that. At the time they were printed, the translations and were editions used were "the best." It's a lovely collection of a variety of books.

ler1979
02-25-2010, 05:17 AM
We are trying to sell a set of Harvard Classics on Craig's list, we had someone inquire about them asking for a publishing date. Does anyone know where it is located, or does some volumes not have the publishing date in them? The only date we see is the copy right date.

mscelina
02-25-2010, 05:23 AM
Before 1939, the publication date or edition wasn't always printed in the front of the book. You have to rely upon the bindings or typographical errors to determine what edition and what year the books were printed.

The major problem with a set like the Harvard Classics (speaking purely from a collector's POV) is that even if it is a first edition first printing, the books have little value outside of their age. There are some sets--notably Victorian sets from private printings--that have a great deal of value. But early twentieth century collections? Not so much--outside of the personal value that having such a collection brings to anyone who loves books.

Jamesaritchie
02-25-2010, 07:19 PM
A complete set in good condition is usually valued at two to four hundred dollars, depending on where you buy them.

Claudia Gray
02-25-2010, 09:59 PM
A friend of mine, a few years ago, was having car trouble and had to unexpectedly stay in this little town overnight. Turned out there was a bed and breakfast, so he stayed there, even though it was a little run-down -- in fact, one of the desk legs was broken, and they'd put a book under it for stability. Then he looked at the book again.

It was a first-edition GONE WITH THE WIND.

He went downstairs and told the hosts what it was, but they seemed uninterested. So he asked if he could buy it, and they said, sure, how about $5?

Deal of the century, there.

blacbird
02-26-2010, 01:11 AM
They're excellent possessions for any great book-lover, although they were produced in great volume, and often kept in nice condition by discerning bibliophiles, so I doubt they are a monetary treasure. But they are a possessional treasure, as far as I'm concerned.

The set I'd really love to have, though is a full of Everyman's Library, in hardback.

caw

Jamesaritchie
02-26-2010, 03:38 AM
A friend of mine, a few years ago, was having car trouble and had to unexpectedly stay in this little town overnight. Turned out there was a bed and breakfast, so he stayed there, even though it was a little run-down -- in fact, one of the desk legs was broken, and they'd put a book under it for stability. Then he looked at the book again.

It was a first-edition GONE WITH THE WIND.

He went downstairs and told the hosts what it was, but they seemed uninterested. So he asked if he could buy it, and they said, sure, how about $5?

Deal of the century, there.

It's amazing how many good deals there are, when people don't know what they have. I've picked up hundreds of first editions from Goodwill and the Salvation Army. I paid fifty cents not too long ago for a first edition of The Old Man and the Sea.

Lacking book space and a very large bank account, I generally sell such books as soon as I find them.