Have an Old Cooper Book?

Readers of this web site and of our sister site, The James Fenimore Cooper Society, occasionally ask us about the value of old Cooper volumes. Generally, in Cooper’s period (1821-1851), American first editions are in two volumes, British first editions in three. Such volumes appear in various bindings and physically are half or less the size of modern books. By the convention of the period, such first editions do not name Cooper on the title page, but refer to “the author of The Spy” or various other titles. Robert Spiller and Philip Blackburn’s Bibliography on Cooper should be examined first to determine the status of a given text.

Because Cooper’s novels were mass produced from c. 1850 to c. 1920 by the millions, the books most readers inquire about are from this period. They are in one volume, often without a publication date. Such volumes rarely have any value to collectors, and our advice invariably is “read the book and enjoy it”!

The Association of College and Research Libraries has a detailed pamphlet with FAQ’s concerning potential rare books. You may also want to look at a Web site that sells rare books, such as Abebooks.