Shelves of books at a Sydney University library

Ornate shelving for books in a library at Sydney University, Sydney  ca. 1930, nla.obj-163105270


Books become rare only when the demand for them is greater than the supply. The demand for a book is generated by a number of elements which affect a book's desirability and therefore its price.

Some of these elements include:

  • author's reputation
  • illustrator's reputation
  • publisher's reputation
  • quality of the binding
  • scarcity of the edition
  • whether the books literary genre is fashionable.

Rare books are, by their nature, less common than second-hand books. While there is no clear boundary between rare books and second-hand books for the most part, a second-hand book is a used book that is not distinguished by its edition, provenance, binding, or overall condition; its retail price generally is quite modest.

For more information, including general answers to some frequently asked questions about rare books, see the website Your old books.

The September 2010 edition of the National Library Magazine includes an article on rare books within our collection.

Book trade