Authentic Historical Autographs, Historical Collectibles - The History Buff
The History Buff, Inc. - Phone: (952) 937-0325
17509 Bearpath Trail, Eden Prairie, MN 55347 or Palm Beach, FL, 33480

Original Article


Psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy said, "Tomorrow's illiterate will not be the man who can't read, he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.

The old cliché that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes now needs to be amended----but death and taxes and (rapid) change. The world of books has not escaped ITS OWN rapid changes as evidenced by the fact that the worlds of books, book collecting and reading in particular are in the midst of a revolution.There is a thought abroad that, because of the digital revolution and rising costs, printed hard cover books will soon be a thing of the past because of some of the developments outlined in this article.

But before delving into the signed book area let me offer one significant caveat to autograph collectors. Book dealers with no expertise in autographs are becoming ersatz autograph dealers. Autographists need to be very careful dealing with these people because most do not know what they are doing. I'll give one specific example:there are multiple copies of Nixon's Six Crises being sold on the internet by book dealers as signed copies. The listings describe his signature as being n the second free end paper. Unfortunately that signature is a printed signature- not an autopen as indicated in some listings.. Every copy of Six Crises that I have ever seen that is authentically signed by Nixon is both signed and inscribed. I have never seen a copy just signed Richard Nixon. Here is one of many "signed copies" that has a printed signature as do all copies of the Six Crises we have ever seen: "Binding is tight, pages are clean and unmarked. . SIGNED BY RICHARD NIXON on the second end paper."

Used Book Stores

The days when you could don your Shetland sweater with the leather elbow patches, load up your pipe and head out for the wonderful musty environs of your local used book for good conversation and to cop an undiscovered treasure are disappearing fast. One of the most enjoyable aspects of 'booking' was the chance to jaw with the dealer who was a combination of docent and walking encyclopedia who would help steer you into new print adventures/ The proprietor always knew the "best of breed" in any genre. Also many dealers had dedicated followers who liked to gather usually somewhere in the back to discuss books and to solve the problems of the world.It was often like achieving an advanced degree in world affairs to join in such discussions.

Many if not most used book stores in the heart of our larger cities and towns are now not economic because the proprietors can not afford the space, licenses', energy costs and taxes. Used book dealers therefore are selling more and more on the net from smaller and smaller spaces with less and less overhead and from more remote locations .

Also because of the rise of the net and the cost of travel the world of books shows is fast disappearing. The cost of renting space, hauling inventory, lodging and meals make all collectible shows less and less economic for dealers. At the same time that shows are waning the web has made the inventories of dealers across the land available to collectors from their own desk and images on the net are now so clear you even have a very good idea what you are buying in terms of appearance and condition which obviates the need in most cased to handle a book prior to purchasing it. You may be foregoing the personal interactions but you have a wider choice at less expense and with less time invested. Added to these trends is the growth of government supported libraries and computer centers where information and reading material is available at a nominal cost. All of the foregoing we fear spells doom for the world of many small independent used book dealers with store fronts.


Our main expertise is in signed books but you have to know something about books in general to deal in them. These are the things to look for in either books in general or in signed books.

Condition is important, books are graded from As new to fair at the other end of the grading scale. The book should be free of internal markings including the banes of former owners and former owners book plates or embossed ex libris stamps. Any type of writing inside the book other than it being signed by the author is a no-no.

The Edition is important. The ultimate is a First Edition, First Printing. If it is an American Book it should be First American Edition and so on .many books state what edition and what printing it is but some of the older books have the edition indicated by a small letter.

Books to avoid. Most collectors avoid Book- of- the Month Club books most of which have a little square of circle at the base of the spine that indicates what they are. Also to be avoided are Easton Press or Franklin Mint Press Limited Edition books because it is alleged by sophisticated collectors and dealers that the materials in them are inferior.

Importance of Dust Jackets , Intact dust jackets add great value. The practice of removing the price by clipping it off the jacket diminishes the value of the book. Jackets are graded like books from As New or Pristine to fair or poor. Jackets are less rugged than books so a little less than perfect jacket is acceptable to most collectors.

Signed Bookplates inserted into a book is not a signed book. We advise collectors to avoided books with signed book plates inserted into them. You have to watch sellers who claim they are selling a signed book while in reality it is a book that has had a bookplate that is signed inserted into it

Signed and Inscribed or just signed- ---which is best??? If the recipient of the book is a less well known person it may be advisable to seek a book that is both signed and inscribed for authentication purposes. Under most circumstance, however, informed collectors prefer a book to be just signed only if it comes from a well known person. Collectors do like it if the signature is also dated. But all this is a matter of preference and the way the book is signed and inscribed or not inscribed does not effect value if the signature is bold and clean, especially if it is dated.Our preference is to acquire books both signed and inscribed because the inscription makes the signed book easier to authenticate.Our preference is also for signed first editions.

Obtaining Signed Books. If you are going to ask an author to sign your book by mail, prepare two padded book mailers and make sure one has proper postage and your address for a return mailing, Send the book and enclose the self-addresses, postage correct self-sealing mailer so all the author has to do is sign the book and place it in the return envelop for mailing. We suggest you remove the jacket prior to mailing. In the past a publisher would forward the book to the author but many will not do that now. It is best if you have the author's address and if it is a valuable book it is advisable to write the author and confirm that if you send a book for signing it will be returned to you.If someone receives an unsolicited book through the mail yjey are under no legal obligation to return it.

Bookdealers versus autograph dealers. Although we have an obvious conflict of interest we recommend that collectors deal primarily with established autograph dealers to obtain their signed books since the value of any signed book rests primarily on the authenticity of the autograph. Most book dealers sell the occasional signed book and they are not, by and large, expert in determining the authenticity of the autograph.They simply have not dealt with autograph material as a life's work.One specific caveat-there are many Reagan and Nixon 'signed' books on the market that are obvious forgeries.So be careful where you obtain signed books and read our article on authenticating autographs.

A wonderful book about book collecting which is a signed presentation copy by A.S.W. 'Rosy" Rosenbach the legenday Philadelphia book collector. The nickname 'Rosy' is alleged to have derived from the beet red color of his nose thought to be caused by his imbibing.A complete write up can be found here.


A Canadian science fiction writer Margaret Atwood has developed a device she had dubbed the "the Long Pen" that allows authors to sign books by remote control at a distant location without leaving home. The advantage for the author is that it obviates rigorous book tours. The device consists of a control console with a "pen" with which the author can carry out a pseudo signing AND THE LONG PEN DEVICE imparts electronic (digital) instructions to a remote pen that replicates the author's signature ( and inscription) on a book placed on a platform in a store where the book was purchased or at a book show. The signature produced by the Long Pen is therefore slightly different than an autopen signature because the actual signing requires participation by the author and video interaction between the fan and the author is possible since the device also has video streaming that allows the author to converse with the book owner as their book is being "signed". So this format almost replicates a conventional book signing: except, of course, the book buyer never meets the author in person. What is produced by the Long Pen is not a real autograph (Auto-self, graph-write) nor is an autopen signature. Rather, I would call the resulting signature and inscription a ROBOGRAPH since the author is using a 'robotic device' to create the signature. Thus, welcome to the 'new age' of the virtual robographs.

Harry Truman once said, "The only thing that is new is the history you do not know." The concept of the Long Pen was put forth by Gernsback over a hundred years ago:

"She hesitated, and then, impulsively, "I wonder if it would be too much to ask you for your autograph?"
Ralph then attached the Telautograph to his Telephot while the girl did the same. When both instruments were connected he signed his name and he saw his signature appear simultaneously on the machine in Switzerland."
From Ralph 124c 41 +, by Hugo Gernsback.

The Long Pen is not unlike the robotic 'daVinci' Device, produced by the Intuitive Surgical Company that is used by modern surgeons to perform surgery sitting at a console either in the same room as the patient or at a remote location. The devices, 'daVinci' and Long Pen, are in principle almost one in the same.

The implication of the Long Pen for the field of autographs in general and collectors of signed books in particular is obvious. Clearly, signed book collectors in the near future will have to be able to distinguish between authentically signed books , outright forgeries and the new kid on the block-virtual robographs.
The next step in the evolution of this technology might be to create a robotic signer with a memory cache of signatures of infinite variation that were originally created by a major political figure or other celebrity. Such proxy signatures that might have a thousand or so different iterations may well turn out to be much more difficult to detect than autopen signatures. Time will tell.

More detailed information on The Long Pen is available on this web site:



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