Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2024 Issue

A Collection of 120,000 Books Offered For Sale

An old postcard of the property when it was a youth hostel.

If you would like to obtain a lot of books quickly, collector/dealer Richard Axe has a deal for you. Axe has 120,000 books at his residence in Aysgarth, Yorkshire, U.K. He would like to sell them altogether to someone who appreciates what he has done. Besides which, it is unimaginable to could sell them all one at a time.

 

Axe has been selling books for over 40 years. He started in London, but 35 years ago moved his shop to Harrogate, in Yorkshire. He had a bookshop along with a couple of offsite storage facilities, but around 20 years ago, he decided he wanted to bring them all together. He bought a place in a less crowded area where he could share space with his books. Naturally, a small place would not do for such a large collection, so he bought a former youth hostel that originally had been a school. It has 30 rooms on five stories. Still, despite original plans to live in the building, he lives in a cottage on the grounds. Apparently, there wasn't enough room left for him in the main building.

 

We are not sure whether Axe can best be described as a bookseller or collector. He has been selling books most of his life, but isn't well-known outside of his locale. He doesn't get many browsers coming into his “shop.” Axe explains that 35,000 books on the first floor are for sale, but that makes him a collector of the remaining 85,000. He told The Yorkshire Post, “Of course it is a business, but as an established bookseller I have been fortunate enough to be able to choose which books to sell and have generally kept back the most interesting.” That's the 85,000 most interesting. It makes you think the ones he has been selling are quite dull, though he didn't describe them that way.

 

Axe appears to be somewhere between a dealer/lover of books, and a bibliomaniac. Those 85,000 keepers may be interesting, but even if you could read a book a day, you'd have to live to be over 230 to read them all. He does seem a bit obsessive. Nevertheless, Axe is now ready to part with them. He explains it's because of declining health he has made this decision. He is 73 years old, an age when you start thinking more about health and mortality. He can't afford to wait too long as this may not be an easy sell. Collections of this size, unless they are valuable books, are not easy to sell, and a collection this size is unlikely to have more than a small percentage of valuable ones. This many ordinary books can be difficult to dispose of in any manner, let alone hope to make any money from their sale. Exceedingly large collections can become a burden rather than a benefit.

 

Axe's price is £1,500,000 (approximately $1,855,000 in U.S. dollars). That includes the property, a large main building, cottage, other structures, gardens, and land. The property would likely be quite desirable, but unless Axe has a way to dispose of the books, they may drive off most potential buyers. I can't imagine a buyer wanting to deal with this.

 

Still, Richard Axe is hopeful. He is looking for someone who will “embrace” his unusual property. He told the Post, “My life’s work is here. It has given me a good income and great pleasure and I would not be giving it up were it not for my declining health. The estate offers a unique opportunity for someone with a passion for books and business to unlock the considerable value of the largely unseen treasures of this enormous library.” If you have a passion for books and business, like the English countryside, and are not burdened with sanity, your opportunity is waiting.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.
  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900

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