Is there a treasure
in your bookcase?

Get your antique books appraised at the upcoming Atwater Library Books Roadshow

By Wilfrid de Freitas

“I have a lot of really old books from my grandfather, and I wonder if they’re worthanything,” is something we, as antiquarian booksellers with 30-plus years in the
business, are asked a lot. Without seeing them, it’s hard for us to give an opinion. Some old books are valuable, but age alone doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Many have little or no commercial value and, conversely, some recent books can be quite valuable.

Several things go into the determination of a book’s value: besides age there’s scarcity, collectability (e.g. is it interesting to those who collect books), and most importantly condition, condition … and condition. Experience has taught us that in order for us to asses these attributes, especially the last, we must see the books in person.

Several things go into the determination of a book’s value: besides age there’s scarcity, collectability, and most importantly condition, condition … and condition.

Wilfrid De Freitas - WestmountMag.caTo that end, the Atwater Library and Computer Centre is sponsoring their annual Books Roadshow on Wednesday, September 27 from 4 to 7 pm. Members of the public can bring any books they’re wondering about to the Library, and for a fee of $4 per volume ($3 for Library members), we’ll examine them and give our opinion as to their value or importance — or lack of. All proceeds go the Library.

In the past we have seen all kinds of books, ranging from those that have great sentimental value to the person who brought them, but no commercial value, to those which would fetch a good price on the rare book market. We’ve seen books with an ancestor’s name on the title page, and a reprint of a John Steinbeck novel in beautiful condition, both treasured by their owners but neither had any commercial value. On the other hand we’ve seen a first edition of Winnie the Pooh in a beautiful fine binding by one of England’s best binderies, a copy of a rare gemmology work, and a sixteenth century German text illustrated with splendid wood cuts.

Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre – WestmountMag.caWhat this year’s Roadshow will bring remains to be seen. The exciting part for us is that we know we will see books we’re aware of but have never seen, things we’re familiar with and handle regularly, and, we hope, things we didn’t even know existed. With the millions of titles published over the centuries, it’s entirely possible that someone will bring in a book that will completely stump us — these are the ones we really enjoy seeing, even if it means we need to go away and research them before we can tell their owners anything of substance about them.

Hope to see you there with your favourite books!

Atwater Library and Computer Centre Books Roadshow
Wednesday, September 27
from 4 to 7 pm
1200 Atwater, Westmount
514 935-7344

Feature image: Juan Antonio Segal via

Wilfrid De Freitas -

Wilfrid de Freitas has been selling books for forty years, twenty-seven of them as a full-time antiquarian bookseller in partnership with his wife Susan Ravdin, a former rare book librarian. They exhibit at fairs across Canada, the US and UK, and for 25 years have organized the Westmount Antiquarian Book Fair.

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