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Anyone can list a book on Ebay. Although most people attempt to describe their books accurately, not infrequently the descriptions are incorrect. Unsophisticated buyers may pay much more for the book than it is actually worth. This section will review some of the inaccurate descriptions and give the correction.


Click thumbnail images to enlarge.


Ebay Description Errors:
Date Series Num Information
07 Sep 2015 143

Petit Trianon Series

Ebay description:  Essays of Elia -Charles Lamb - copyright 1899 1st. Ed. Hardcover Lit & Fiction

The Reality:  The Essays of Elia were first published in 1823 and 1833. Hundreds of publishing houses did reprints of this title.

The book shown here is part of the Petit Trianon Series and was published in 1899-1900.

Atemus first published this title in 1893 in its Altemus Library.

Thus not a true first edition nor an Altemus first edition.

05 Sep 2015 180

Vademecum Series

Ebay description:  TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE by Charles & Mary Lamb, Henry Altemus Co, PA, 1st Edition

The Reality:  The first edition of this title was published in 1807 and reprinted hundreds of times. This book is from the Altemus' Vademecum Series and was published between 1909 and 1912.
But Altemus first published this title in 1892 in its Altemus Library.

Thus neither a true first edition or an Altemus first edition.

03 Sep 2015 4

Battleship Boys

Ebay description:  

The Battleship Boys in the Tropics 1912 1st Edition Frank Gee Patchin Honduras
The Battleship Boys in the Tropics or, Upholding the American Flag in a Honduras Revolution

By Frank Gee Patchin

Henry Altemus Company
1912 (1st Edition)

Approx Size: 5 x 7.75 inches (13 x 19.5 cms)
Hardback. 212, [4] (ads) printed pages

The Reality:  Series 4 Battleship Boys
At the base of the copyright page you can see Printed in the U. S. A. This appeared on Altemus books beginning in about 1922.

Next the book has 212 pages. All of the juvenile series books had about 250 pages until they were abridged in 1930. Then the number of pages were cut to about 210-212.

Finally the first edition cover has colors as can be seen here.

Thus this is a post-1930 book and clearly not a first edition.

For help with dating an Altemus juvenile series book see: http://henryaltemus.com/juveniles/

09 Nov 2012 202

Young People's Library

Ebay description:  It startles me how often sellers on Ebay advertise their copies of Alice in Wonderland as if the books are made of solid gold. They describe them as rare editions and extremely valuable. The unfortunate reality is that this is very seldom the case.

Pictures shown here are examples from my collection.

The most commonly listed Alice's on Ebay are from the Young People's Library and virtually always one can find dozens of these editions for sale on Ebay and the various book search services.

Today there are fifteen Alice's listed with pictures on Ebay. Six are from the Young People's Library. Only one of those is from Format 1. It is accurately advertised as being an 1895 book and is listed at $250. Unfortunately half the pages are detached from the spine. I cannot imagine this book selling for anything in this shape.

The Reality:  The other five Alice's listed from the Young People's Library all state a publication date of 1897. This is the Altemus copyright date-not the date of publication. The books shown on Ebay were published between 1899 and 1920. They are priced between $95 (opening requested bid) and $519. One is rebound, several have major defects and none has a dust jacket. Without a dust jacket in great shape even $95 is just too much for a very common book.

For information about all the Altemus Alice's see http://henryaltemus.com/alice/alice.htm.

10 Jul 2009 57

Boys and Girls' Classics (new)

Ebay description:  Vtg Through the Looking Glass Lewis Carroll Book 1897 is from the Altemus Young People's Library series. I do not know if it is a first edition.

The Reality:  During the publication run of late Format 2 (and early Format 3) of the ubiquitous Young People's Library (http://henryaltemus.com/ypl/index.htm) Altemus used a title page that noted the copyright date. This title page was used for several other series including the one to which this book belongs to. The only difference between books of the Boys and Girls Classics series and the Young People's Library is the cover and the box that the book came in.

In most instances when a publisher has a date on the title page it indicates the actual date of publication of that book and that is why most sellers get fooled by this Altemus title page date. Upon closer inspection Altemus is telling us when the book has the Altemus copyright. And of course the Altemus copyright is not necessarily the same as the date of publication.

The linen cloth cover seen here is part of a larger swatch of cloth that was used to cover some of the books of this series. http://henryaltemus.com/series/series57.htm Publication dates were from 1908-1926. This cover was seen between 1908 and the early teens. The books also came boxed.

26 Jun 2009 189

Wee Folks Peter Rabbit Series

Ebay description:  All three of the books this seller has listed come from the Wee Folks Peter Rabbit Series.
1. The first he lists is The Tale of Peter Rabbit. He notes the print year as 1904-first edition thus.
2. Here is his second Peter Rabbit book. He claims again a 1917 print date and first edition thus.
3. Peter Rabbit and the Little Boy

The Reality:  1. Now what about that term- “First edition thus". Here is the definition:
First thus. First revised edition by the original publisher or the first printing by a different publisher. Note that the revision indicating a first thus state might consist of altered content in the text itself or an accompanying change such as a new introduction. A first thus may also be the first printing in paperback form, whether published by the same publisher or not. (http://www.bookologist.com/cab/abu/y203/m07/bk0008/s03) Of course, for this book the new revised edition does not equate to more valuable than even the earlier editions which are not worth $125.
Altemus changed the format of this Peter Rabbit book in 1917. It was at that time that all of the Wee Books had paste-on (applique covers). But from 1917 to 1921 all of the covers had yellow lettering. So this book at its earliest is a 1922 reprint. On the title page the copyright date of 1904 is stated. Of course, the copyright date is different here from the publication date. In terms of price, look at this copy. Chewed up spine and shabby stained cover. Nominal value if any.
2.Unfortunately neither is true. The lettering is not yellow-relegating it to an after 1921 date and no new content or form from the 1917-1921 editions except for minor lettering changes. Look at this copy. Again shabby spine and cover. Value-only nominal. The 1917-1921 copy is pictured below. Note the yellow lettering.
3. His third Peter Rabbit book is also dated incorrectly. The title Peter Rabbit and the Little Boy was ?rst used in 1925. Between 1922 and 1925 the title of the book was Peter Rabbit, Jack-the-Jumper and the Little Boy. Not enough for a “first thus” and the condition merits only nominal value.

It is startling how some Ebayers hold themselves out as sellers of “rare antique first edition books” but then do not do the research necessary to give fair and accurate listings.

24 Jun 2009 158

Riviere Series

Ebay description:  1851 The Snow Image And Other Twice Told Tales
The Snow Image And Other Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne.Illustrated.Published by Henry Altemus Company.No copyright date but there is a preface to book dated November 1st,1851..

The Reality:  Now the reality is that this book is a post 1900 edition (Henry Altemus Company not Henry Altemus) from the Riviere Series (http://henryaltemus.com/series/series158.htm) published in 1901. But the major mistake the seller makes is dating the book based on the preface. Altemus as well as other reprint publishers reproduced the book in toto- everything was reprinted including the dated preface. You just cannot use the preface for dating an Altemus book. Mistakes on the Altemus Hawthorne books are relatively common.

14 Jun 2009 202

Young People's Library

Ebay description:  If there were an Ebay book police patrol, they would be incredibly busy just with the Altemus listings. As this Altemus blog continues, I will try to only post the most outrageous examples. As previously compiled approximately 40% of Altemus book listings have a significant error (most commonly date of publication or edition error).

This particular book listed by the seller is often described incorrectly and frequently overpriced.

The seller headlines his ad with this:


I won’t quibble that he probably means provenance (a record of the ownership of the book) rather than Providence (A city in Rhode Island or the protective care of God)

Special Attributes: 1st Edition
Printing Year: 1897
Buy It Now price: US $349.99

The Reality:  A quick glance at the book tells us a couple of things. First it is definitely a Young People’s Library (YPL) book- Format 3. You can tell by the spine design. There are 4 different formats in the YPL, each with a characteristic spine. They can be seen here: http://henryaltemus.com/series/series202.htm.

Format 3 books were published between 1902-1923. (http://henryaltemus.com/series/series202F3.htm) But remember, even if you do not know about this series, remember the first rule of dating Henry Altemus books. Henry Altemus incorporated in 1900 to become Henry Altemus Company. If the book has Henry Altemus Company on the title page-it has to date from 1900 or later.

Also appreciate that on this book's title page it lists 1897 as the copyright date. The copyright date is not necessarily the publication date. This is a very frequent error made by sellers looking for rarity based on early dating.

Altemus first published this title in 1895. The book advertised here used the plates from Altemus' 1897 edition- thus the 1897 copyright. Of course the title was first published in the mid-19th century. Prior to publication of this Format 3 Alice in Wonderland, Altemus published the Format 1 book from 1895-1898. Then it published two different Format 2 (1898-1902) books-the latter of which has the same cover as our seller's book here-but with the characteristic Format 2 spine. Generally without a dust jacket because this book is very common, a buyer should just not pay more than $15-20. The $349 price is beyond bizarre.

Thus what we have here is an incorrect description in terms of date and edition with a asking price 20 times the value. Not to be remiss the seller does provide papers that indicate that this book was part of an estate. Of course, the value added in this instance is zero.

16 Mar 2009 179

Vademecum Series (early numbering)

Ebay description:  1895 1st Edition EDGAR ALLAN POE Weird Tales *Illustrtd
Buy It Now price: US $125.00

First Edition
Weird Tales
by Edgar Allan Poe

Published by Henry Altemus, 1895. This is the First Edition.

Book features a classy looking cover typical of fine books of the Victorian era.
Includes many of Poe's classic tales, such as, The Black Cat, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Gold Bug, The Pit and the Pendulum, plus many more.

The Reality:  First off the book was not published in 1895. Actually it was published in this format in 1896 . See http://henryaltemus.com/series/series179.htm .
A small point but Weird Tales was published in the Vademecum Series in other formats in 1895. Also in 1895 it was published in the Altemus Library in 1895. See http://henryaltemus.com/series/series37.htm . This title was also published in the Fairmount Series in 1895. Thus, a small point but it is important if you are claiming a book is a first edition and it is not.

The other point is that all of the Altemus editions are reprints. Each of the stories in this book have been published before.

The price of $125 is beyond absurd and needs no further comment.

23 Nov 2008 64

Children's Gift Series (or Series #200 - Young Folk's Quarto Series)

US $395.00
Special Attributes: 1st Edition
Printing Year: 1897

RARE FIRST ALTEMUS EDITION / PRINTING, done just 7 years after the First Carroll Authorized Color Illustrated Version, .... Large 7" x 9" Format, allowing for those great pale green surrounds on every page, emphasizing it and the OTHER 3 ORIGINAL COLOR PLATES, containing All of Tenniel's Originals as well!!

The Reality:  There are sellers who are admittedly not book people and there are sellers who once in a while make a mistake. No big deal. The seller of this item however is not in either group. He claims expertise in rare books and he makes major errors in his description of most Altemus books he has listed over the last few years. Add to that his unbelievably overpriced items and he has hit this website's Bizarro World's great bookseller award.. Also appreciate when emailed about an error a while back, he was kind enough to point out that I knew nothing about these Altemus books.

The two series above without dust jackets cannot be distinguished in format 1 which is where this book lies. Series #200 was published in 1912/1913 and Series #64 was published from 1913 until 1920.

This book was published sometime between 1912 and 1920. The drawings around each page of the books of this series is an exclusive feature to this series. Although the Altemus copyright was 1897 (Altemus used the plates of its 1897 edition of Alice in Wonderland for this book), the book was not published in 1897 as the seller purports. Just the fact that the Henry Altemus Company imprint is in on the title page indicates a post-1900 date.

Next, this book is not a first edition. It is a very late reprint. Even Altemus' first publication of this title in 1895 is not a first edition. It is an Altemus first but in reality just another reprint.

The book is a nice edition nonetheless. But the $395 price tag is a joke.

This seller just must be clueless, In his blurb about books he makes the following statement. " I take several very detailed Photos, & nearly always include the copyright page so you know what impression/printing you are getting." Well, knowing the copyright of a book does not help at all when trying to assess what edition you have. All it tells you is when the publisher originally copyrighted that edition. I have a number of late reprinted editions of Charles Dicken's books. The copyright might say 1844 but that sure doesn't help me figure out when my book was published or what edition it is.

Buyer beware.

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