Valuable Irish Books: Things To Look Out For to Make You Money


Irish books: In terms of collectible treasures, many people across the world are looking to Ireland. There are many Irish items that are growing in value as collectibles. They include rare Irish whiskey, Irish Barbies, Irish silver items, Irish art, Irish coins, and now, Irish books.

Ireland has undoubtedly one of the highest numbers of globally recognised writers in Europe. For several centuries, Irish literature has acquired a massive place in every literary lover’s heart. From James Joyce to Oscar Wilde, from Maeve Binchy to William Butler Yeats, Irish writers have added several beloved pieces of literature to this world.

If you are a bibliophile, you know how treasured Irish literature is. Irish collectable books are incredibly famous across the globe. Many bibliophiles collect first-edition books of their beloved writers. If you plan to collect Irish books in their rarest form or are addicted to the hobby of the first-edition book collection, then read on.

Irish Books: Collecting First Editions

For book collectors, collecting specific editions of a book is an obsession. Most book collectors try to collect first-edition books. That is the main reason why the first edition of any famous book is so pricey. Book collectors believe the first edition of any book allows them to understand the author’s intent. The primary edition allows you to hold the book in its rawest form. Most famous books did not get tremendously popular instantly after their release. That is why the first editions are always devoid of any ornate seals or recognitions.

The ability to be connected to your favourite writers in their initial days of struggle is an exhilarating experience for any book collector.

Irish Books: What To Look For While Buying First-Edition Books

Several Irish books have garnered worldwide fame and respect. That is why it is not a surprise many of the first editions of Irish books are sold for a tremendous amount of money. If you plan to collect valuable first-edition books by Irish authors, you need to keep the following things in mind.

Not Buying the Actual First Edition

Many book collectors make the cardinal sin of buying the ‘First Thus’ edition instead of its first edition. The ‘First Thus’ edition is a copy that is the first print of a special edition. If you are willing to spend a considerable amount of money on a particular piece of literature, make sure it is its first edition.

While visiting an antique bookstore or shopping online, remember to notice if your forthcoming book has the number line

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. The fact that the ‘1’ is bolded lets you know that book is a first-edition book.

Getting a Book Club Edition

Many antique book dealers sell the book club edition of rare books and pass them off as the first edition of the books to prospective customers.

It is pretty easy to check out if a particular edition of a book is a book club edition or not. If you notice a book does not have a price stamp, is a bit lighter, or has a blind stamp on its back cover, you can be assured that it is a book club edition of that particular book.

Buying from an Inexperienced Seller

Being a book collector is not an affordable hobby. It takes a large amount of money and effort to collect the appropriate version of rare or famous books. That is why it is always better for you to pick out an experienced seller for buying the first edition of different books.

If you go to an inexperienced seller, they might not even fathom the importance of buying the first edition of any book. In many instances, book collectors have ended up with a damaged version of a rare collectable book due to the negligence of the shopkeeper.

What to Look For

If you are fishing around in the depths of an old bookshop, or you have found a box of books in an attic somewhere, here are some titles to look out for.

Top Five Most Expensive Irish Books

The following books are the five most expensive Irish books of all time. As a book collector, you will love knowing all about them.

Eleven Poems by Seamus Heaney

Eleven Poems by Seamus Heaney is undoubtedly one of the most notable works of literature by any Irish poet. This collection of poems became instantly successful and widely appreciated when it was first published in 1965.

Throughout his career, Seamus Heaney has garnered tremendous respect across the globe for his brilliant work. In 1995, he got the coveted Nobel prize for literature. He spent a huge part of his life in Dublin.

The first edition of this book is wildly expensive. First published by the famous Belfast Festival Publications, the first edition will set you back around €9500.

most valuable irish books

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels is one of the most adored and well-known pieces of literature in the world. This beloved book is still considered one of the most entertaining and popular books, but did you know it was first published in 1726?

Printer Benj published this book written by the famous Dublin-based author Jonathan Swift in 1726 in two separate volumes. If one wants to buy the first edition, they would have to meet the market price of around €84,000.

The price of the first edition of Gulliver’s Travels might sound absurdly high, but remember, it has diagrams and six folding maps inside it. No other edition of Gulliver’s Travels has original diagrams and maps in it.

Even though you might find the first edition of this book, finding the first print of the first edition will be nearly impossible. But never stop looking! Jonathan Swift’s contribution to world literature is unparalleled, and this book is one of the most prominent reminders of his literary achievement.

most valuable Irish books

Ulysses by James Joyce

Ulysses by James Joyce is undoubtedly one of the most expensive books in the world. This 1922 novel might be considered a literary masterpiece, but it was highly censored in both Ireland and the UK at the time of its publication. James Joyce was a pioneer of experimental usage of the English language, which made the book so unusual.

In 1922, the book was first published in Paris. Only 100 copies were initially printed. Around 20 of the 100 first edition Ulysses are accounted for and are owned by different people across the globe.

To own one of those rare copies of this phenomenal book, current market value is around €250,000. All of those copies were printed on Dutch handmade paper. The book was so ahead of its time that James Joyce did not garner much popularity in the 1920s.

most valuable Irish books

Address to the Irish People by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Even though renowned poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was English, his sympathetic portrayal of the Irish in his pamphlet, Address to the Irish People, made him a legend in Ireland. The Address to the Irish People is one of those rarest pieces of literature that had an immense impact on the world despite having few words.

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s visit to Ireland in 1812 exposed him to the horrid living conditions of the poor. This pamphlet featured the famous phrase, ‘Think, Read, and Talk.’ Shelley decided to distribute those pamphlets amid the British in Bristol while travelling in a hot air balloon. Not many copies of that pamphlet survived. That is why the remaining copies are sold at a gigantic price of €100,000.

most valuable irish books

The Wandering of Oisin and Other Poems by William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats is one of the most famous poets of Ireland and one of the most notable poets in the world. His romantic poems are immensely praised in the literary circle of the world. But among all of his books, the first edition of Wandering of Oisin and Other Poems is particularly expensive.

The most coveted version of this book has a great backstory. It is believed that the renowned poet presented a copy of the book to Joseph Skipsey, the son of a miner from Northumberland, while travelling to England.

Joseph Skipsey had an interest in pursuing writing against his father’s tremendous pressure. His father wanted him to be a miner, but he arrived in England to pursue poetry despite all the odds. After hearing Skipkey’s tragic story, WB Yeats presented him with this copy of The Wandering of Oisin and Other Poems with an inscribed message.

The message said, “To the poet of the North Country of Joseph Skipsey with the author’s kind regards.” This message was the main reason behind the immensely high price of this book. This particular copy of this collection of poems by WB Yeats is estimated to be worth around €15,000.

Irish Books: What To Look For In Your Grandparents’ Attic

Many of our grandparents are highly fond of books. They bought books in their prior editions. Excitingly, most of them keep the precious books in their attic. If you want to know if your grandparent is accidentally hiding a treasure, pay attention to the points mentioned below.

  • If your grandparent has a book with the words’ First Edition’ or ‘First Printing’ printed on its copyright page, the chances are, this particular copy is the first edition of a book. You can check the authenticity of the edition by examining the number line of the book’s copyright page.
  • Every book has its publication date mentioned on its title page. If a book from your grandparents’ attic has a date on its title page matching the date on its copyright page, that book might be a first edition collection.
  • If you notice a book in your grandparents’ place which is pretty old and has no edition number at all, you might be in luck. A century ago, publishers did not mention the publication edition number in their books. The lack of an edition number usually indicates that the copy is the first edition of a book.

Happy collecting and may the attic odds be forever in your favour!

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