Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2023 Issue

What are old books telling us about the future?

The future??

Not so much.  Transactions+ is the history of printed paper at auction and it’s tough for new terms to break in.  Covid is still very new and there are only 336 appearances of the estimated 2 billion words in this database so far.  In time Covid collections will enter into the auction rooms and fresh references will pile up.  For me, that will be left to future hands while I continue to mask-up and keep my fingers crossed.

 

Other terms are literally dying out.  Five hundred years ago plague and pestilence were probably front page stories too and we can tell the number of appearances is declining, as pestilence weighs in at 594 and plague at 8,052.

 

Other trends are holding.  References to major publishing locations are still increasing:

 

London:  1,901,468

 

New York:  1,356,234

 

Paris:  1,011,739

 

Philadelphia:  280,769

 

Washington:  272,701

 

Chicago:  133,115

 

Rome:  100,043

 

In time there will be places on this list we’ve never thought about.

 

As to subjects that appear in Transactions+ they appear to be the raw material of a serious study.

 

Often old books focus on life’s downsides.  A search for war in Transactions+ finds 504,027 records while peace finds 47,825.  On the other hand love finds 110,628 while hate has 3,354.  Interestingly future and past are about equal:  43,411 versus 47,329.  Certainty tops uncertainty although neither term has been widely used, shows up with 2,061 versus 1,445.

 

Another way to challenge Transactions+ is to run these two searches:  religion and science.  Religion wins big with 1,253,081 while science has a respectable showing with 304,075.  I assume science will be gaining ground week by week into the future.

 

As well, life wins over death with 539,175 versus 169,957 while birth registers at 20,930.  Searches for cure and disease have a slight positive bias; 9,573 versus 8,411.

 

As to other terms:

 

Manuscript:  395,683

 

Manuscripts:  773,725

 

Newspaper:  47,418

 

Ephemera:  120,005

 

Map:  487,144

 

Maps:  720,330

 

And finally two silly ones:

 

Hells-bells 6

 

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious 20

 

To personalize your experience run your own searches.  Transactions+ is a mirror.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

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