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Inscribed copies and presentation copies

One of the notable features of Special Collections’ rare literature collections is the number of books signed by their authors.  Such books are highly collectible and can tell us about the social and familial connections that authors had during their lifetimes.  Signed copies of books can fall into one of two categories:

A presentation copy is a book which was given as a gift by the author.  Often, an author would be given several copies of a newly-published book exclusively for his or her use as presentation copies.  Presentation copies can be given at or near the time of the book’s publication, or considerably later than the publication date.  The closeness of association between the author and the person to whom the book was presented can affect the value of the book.  The book pictured, by Victorian author George MacDonald, is an example of a presentation to someone quite close to the book’s author (in this case, MacDonald’s wife Louisa).

Bibliographers distinguish presentation copies from inscribed copies, which are books signed in response to the owner’s request.  Modern-day book signings produce many inscribed copies.  Many book collectors find inscribed copies collectible, but not as desirable as presentation copies.

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