Saving books #5 – Unusual ways

What language?

There was no doubt it was a cookbook.  I could tell by the pictures.  The language, though, was in doubt.  We eliminated Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean and were pretty sure it wasn’t Arabic.  Our best guess was that it was a southeast Asian language, either Thai, Laotian, or Vietnamese.  I was making a trip near a Thai restaurant, so I took the book with me to show to someone there.  The server who greeted me summoned a cook.  She looked at the book and said, “Oh, this is Thai country cooking.” I had eaten at an upscale Thai restaurant once (thanks to my employer’s conference funding) and noted the French titles in the menu listings.  So, I assumed she meant that this cook book did not show the French influence.  She asked me “How much do you want for it?”.  (Of course, the reason I was there was that I did not know what it was worth.)  So, I asked, what will you offer?  She said, “Ten dollars.”  I said, “You can have it for that.”  Then explained why I was selling the book:  to support Mennonite Central Committee that provided disaster relief and development assistance to many countries.  This is done in Harrisonburg, VA through Gift & Thrift and Booksavers of Virginia.  Several years later another Thai cookbook was donated to Booksavers.  Yes, the same cook bought that one as well.  A second cookbook that almost got sent to recycling was saved for another use.

Saving non-Biblical information

Someone donated a well-used Bible to Booksavers.  The King James Bible was an older one, probably nineteenth century.  Ordinarily a volume in that condition would be sent to recycling, plus, it did not have a title page.  We should send it to recycling.  But, someone noticed that the clippings, notes and a filled-out Family Information page in the Bible had local information.  So, the manager took the Bible to our silent auction division.  I do not remember the final bid on the Bible, but we saved the volume from recycling because someone wanted the local news and genealogical information in the Bible.

Box better than the game?

How a item looks can be very important, though.  Sometimes looks are more important than the contents.  A number of computer games had been donated to Booksavers.  Neither I nor any of the pricers knew much about the games and Amazon was not much help.  A young man at my church was interested in computer games, so I asked him to review the games.  He found enough information on several of them to post the games on Amazon.  One, “Casper the friendly ghost”, he told me was a terrible game.  However, there were very few copies of the game of this older game still available and our box was in excellent shape, so it was of sufficient value to list on Amazon.  (This was long enough ago that I do not remember the details of sales.)

A beautiful Bible

A beautiful, oversized leather-bound Luther Bible, probably from the eighteenth century sat on the shelf.  It had been there for months maybe longer. The cover was in unusually good shape for the age of the book.  The problem was that the title page was missing.  There are enough Luther Bibles out there that some of them are not worth much.  Knowing the date and publisher and perhaps the edition name could make the difference between a fifteen-dollar volume and a fifty or one-hundred-and-fifty-dollar volume. One day a young man came to the store and wanted an unusual gift for his fiancé.  The manager thought for a while and looked at the top shelf where the Luther Bible sat.  He said he had an old Bible that could be worth ninety dollars.  Would he be interested?  The problem was the Bible did not have a title page.  He said that was not a problem.  How the book looked was the important thing for his fiancé.  Problem book sold!

Judging a book by its cover

Saving books by learning about book covers

Saving books (and other media) from the recycling bin (or too low a price), requires distinguishing between bonded leather, imitation leather, sheep skin or goat skin; whether what is printed on the cover is author/artist or title. In my volunteer position of searcher/pricer at Booksavers of Virginia ( ) I have seen some of these covers, others I have gleaned from descriptions or titles in ABE Books which has fairly detailed descriptions compared to some other sources.( ).  Bibles and other pre-20th century books are bound in an astounding array of leathers and treatments. *

A calf must be sacrificed for the best Bible: full green limp calf decorated in gilt;  (This is a contemporary green calf.  “Limp” costs more.)


Other variations:

  • rubbed and chipped tree calf; 
  • Full treed calf binding with red leather label on spine;
  •  publisher’s quarter red calf; 
  • Mottled calf binding with banded spine; 
  • quarter plum calf with plum textured cloth boards; 
  • Full acid etched calf;
  • Contemporaneous Brown Calf Half Leather binding with five raised bands gilt titles on red morocco title slip;                        
Red Morocco leather
  •  Coeval full calf; 
  • contemporary full, speckled calf; 
  • Contemporary reversed calf; 
  • English black full diced calf; 
  • Rebound in butterscotch leather and marbled end leaves,
  • Full Leather, contemporary straight grained dark blue morocco binding with gilt lettering to the spine, gilt rules to boards and spine, decorated in blind . . .

Then there is goatskin

  • contemporary green goatskin richly gilt with a herringbone design and incorporating hearts, pineapples, stars, and other floral and leafy ornaments, gilt-decorated spine in 6 compartments, red morocco label
  • Bound in contemporary purple straight-grained goatskin, the covers tooled in blind with a wide border of repeated palmette arabesque and anthemion tools, fillets and a chain roll
  • ” Bound in fine blue polished crushed levant goatskin with six compartments, each with single gilt frame and strawberries at each corner.
  • Bound c.1873 by or for T. Kerslake & Co of Bristol in brown hard-grained goatskin over bevelled boards, the spine with five raised bands tooled with blind fillets converging
Blue Goatskin

See  contemporary Bible in blue goatskin:

This is one of the most expensive leathers:

The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments . . .  [India paper; Water Buffalo Calf-skin leather lined, hand-grained] 

Perhaps one of the most elaborate cover descriptions –and only part of it description!

Contemporary full red goatskin, elaborate borders on covers incorporating a Greek key design enclosing lilies with birds and vases with flowers, and with a central monogram “M*B” on an oval green morocco onlay, surrounded by a black morocco onlay tooled with cherubs, the whole surrounded by a flame tool, smooth spines richly gilt and gilt-lettered direct, . . .  ($14, 500—at this price one needs a full description)

See the site below for examples of many of the special antique bindings

Contemporary Bible style names are inspiring

Holy Bible, King James Version – Clutch Style Snap Dusty Rose Bonded Leather; Holy Bible, NKJV: Royal Reference, Dusty Rose, Bonded Leather, Thumb Indexed.

Other striking/amusing/eye-catching binding terms

Bumpus binding; Gilt inlaid contemporary moss green crushed morocco binding features …French fillet borders … raised bands, spine gilt in comportments with central rose framed with …

Paperback bunko, turtleback, mook, tankobon softcover (some of these I have not been able to find a description of)

Thomas Nelson’s Premier NKJV Bible

The Premier Collection edition of Thomas Nelson’s NKJV Wide-margin Reference Bible showcases the highest levels of design and craftsmanship: a supple goatskin leather cover, raised spine hubs, durable edge-lined binding, premium European Bible paper, beautiful art gilded edges, three satin ribbon markers, and more.


While God’s word is at the “heart” of scripture, publishing of Bibles has a lot to do with the outward appearance.  “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” …. (1 Samuel 16:7).  Beauty may be only skin deep, but for book sales that skin may make the difference between a ten-dollar sale and a twenty-five dollar sale.  When I started doing searching and pricing of books, I would come across the words in descriptions “reading copy only”.  I would think, “what’s a book for, anyway”.  I soon realized that a book’s cover is often as valuable as the rest of the book and a good cover may save from the recycling bin.


*Booksavers of Virginia has been receiving donations of books for more than 15 years.  Most volumes sold by Booksavers are priced between $8 and $20.  We have occasionally sold leather volumes like those listed here, but most of the descriptions above are of books available elsewhere. 

Saving more books

New treasures at Booksavers of Virginia

“It was a dark and stormy night . . . “ lines often parodied which began Edward Bulwer-Lytton (English novelist) 1830 novel Paul Clifford.

Last week I researched a book with these lines:

“Who could think of love within the haunt of the temple of  ‘That Nympholepsy of some fond despair’ and not feel that love enhanced, deepened, modulated into at once a deepened desire.” (Godolphin, p. 183, 1833 published by Carey)

These stirring lines were from the first edition of the novel. This edition was published just after the English Reform Bill of 1832 was passed. This bill reduced the power of the noblility by extending the voting franchise. Lytton’s satire was highly critical of the actions and views of bill’s opponents. He later revised the novel (1840) to soften the portrayal of the nobility. It took me some searching to determine that the Carey edition was different than the later ones for which there are many publishers. No other vendors offered a copy for sale. I had to guess on a price for the quarter leather bound volume with marbled covers and darkened pages. Value? Somewhere between $50 and $300. (I put a conservative $69.)

A. J. Trask   Music [Selections of piano sheet music from 1840-1860]

When I saw the large, worn leather bound volume, I knew it would be a problem. The title, stamped on the front, was a name: A. J. Trask. This was a collection of piano music. Several pages were sticking out beyond the others and page edge trimming was irregular. On opening the volume, I found no contents page. Paging through the book, I found many tears from probably resulting from the quick turning of pages as the pianist played—they were about 1/3rd of the way up the page.

But then I recognized some of the titles, especially those by Stephen Foster. The volume contains around 40 pieces of sheet music including:  “Song of the robin” and “Romance”, George William Warren;  “The last rose of summer : with an intro./ brilliant variations for the piano forte”, Firth, 1856?;  “The last waltz of a lunatic”,  Beyer, Ferdinand,  New York : Firth, 1850s; “The rainbow schottisch”, H Kleber;  “George W Quidor”, Firth 1854; “Gentle Annie  ballad”, Stephen Collins Foster, 1856 [1st ed.]; also, “Camptown Races”; “Ethiopian Melody. As Sung by Christy Minstrels”, “Nelly was a lady”.  Firth, 1849(?); “He doeth all things well, or, My sister : a ballad”, I B Woodbury.

I had trouble putting a price on this. I knew it could be worth more than the $25 I put on it.

—I posted it to Amazon and found out that it sold the next day. Did I put too low a price on it?





The Methodist Episcopal Hymnal (1852) has solid leather covers with some wear and cracks at hinges.  Gilt lettering and design on spine is easily readable.  On front are the words  “Cool Spring M. E. Church FROM Mamie Dashiell”.

On the fly in pencil (faintly):  “This book belongs to Thomas R. Gentry  I bought it of a lady at Lincoln Station and give $5.00 dollars in Confedret (sic) money” [according too?] Phebe A Gentry This book was bought November 28, 1862.  Thomas Gentry died in 1881 at age of 43 according to a slip of paper inserted in the hymnal.

(Methodist Episcopal Hymnals for this period are not expensive ($15-$25). How much does the note on the fly add to the value?  I was unable to locate a “Cool Spring M. E. Church” with a limited search.)