Friday, 31 January 2014

The art of secondhand art book buying and selling

This post is intended both for those selling and buying art books and I have illustrated it with pictures of the art books on the shelves in my bookshop.

The books are split (because of the size of art picture books) into two alphabets of artist’s surnames, general books on art and books on how to paint draw.

For the most part people wishing to buy secondhand art books are looking for a book about an individual artist “what have you got about Picasso, Renoir?” or whatever.

For the most part people wishing to sell art books seem to have books about groups of artists, “I got this amazing book about the impressionists got Christmas would you like to buy it?”

I guess the other side of this is the way the internet impacts both on finding out about art and artists and on buying and selling books about art and artists.

I think the most noticeable difference there is that most art was intended to be displayed on a coloured surface and not on a screen emitting coloured light, so that in some instances once you have found the picture that you want to look at on the internet you may need to print it out. The printing out process is neither cheap nor is it easy and if you haven’t seen the picture before colour matching can be tricky.

The other aspect of the internet is that anyone can contribute to it then anyone does, so it is difficult to tell if the information about the picture is accurate.

In yesterdays post I said various things about Turner’s watercolours which were entirely conjecture on my part, by this I mean I looked at some of his paintings and what I said about his watercolours of rainbows I made up entirely.

Well now it’s published on the internet but this doesn’t make it a fact.

Ok at this point compare a painting and the information about it

I will take “Yellow Christ” by Paul Gauguin in 1889 the medium is Oil on canvas Dimensions 91.1 cm × 73.4 cm (35.9 in × 28.9 in) and it’s hanging in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery which is in Buffalo in America.

You can Google the picture and click on the image search where you will find it displayed in various shades of colouration, depending on the settings of the camera that took the picture of the picture and the settings of the monitor you are viewing it with. 

You can pop down to my bookshop and look in the books about Gauguin

This is the worst rendition in the books I have on the shelf at the moment

and this is the best. The reason that it is likely to have reasonably accurate colouration is that the book is published by a reputable art publisher and they would go out of business if they got lots of things radically wrong.the money is to understand the size.

The same can be said of the text about the picture really, and of course it also says who wrote the text so you can check if they are an authority on the artist, something you often can’t do with the internet.

On to buying and selling books, I have chosen a couple of art books of the shelves on my shop at random to illustrate what I mean, neither are particularly desirable art books, so they are unlikely to sell and no I don’t want to buy more copies of them, although I always want to buy quality books about individual artists and about learning to paint and draw.  

 The books are:

“Larousse Encyclopaedia of Byzantine and Mediaeval Art” available on Amazon or ebay for around £5 including postage


“Michelangelo : his life, work and times” by Linda Murray available on Amazon or ebay for around £3 including postage.

We have them both on the shelf for less than £3 inline with our policy of being cheaper than the internet.

Selling them online would be difficult as the postage price is around £7 buying them online difficult too as they are the sort of books that you want to have a good look at before buying them. Frankly how anyone looking online for a book about medieval art or Michelangelo could tell the good ones from the bad ones or browse the books about these subjects in any meaningful way is totally beyond me. 

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