Henry Altemus Company


Dating/Identifying Your Book



At first it may seem to be an overwhelming task. You have a book in your hand and have no idea how to determine what you have. The only information may be the name of the publisher listed on the title page.

This short summary hopefully will help you. If you need more information, be aware that any Altemus book can be identified exactly with information that is found in the bibliography.

1. First determine whether your book was published by Altemus & Co., Henry Altemus or Henry Altemus Company. This can be seen by looking at the bottom of the title page. Henry Altemus incorporated in 1900. That means that from 1900 on the title page says Henry Altemus Company. Before 1900 the title page says Henry Altemus. Altemus & Company books (photo albums, bibles and scrapbooks) were all published prior to the 1890s.

Unfortunately there are a few exceptions when Altemus used earlier title pages for later books. The cover format always takes precedence. Examples of these books are not commonly seen.

2. Next look for any inscriptions. The book by and large was published prior to the inscription date. Remember that frequently a book was released at Christmas of the year before the official copyright date. That is, the copyright may be 1905 but your inscription may say December, 1904.

3. Look at the ads. See if you can determine the earliest date the book can be by some of the ads. Juvenile series books were first published in 1909.

4. Note the dust jacket. All Altemus books came originally in jackets or boxes with the exception of a few paperbacks. If the dust jacket is of the brown uncoated type, the book was published in 1914 or earlier. Later jackets are of the white coated type.

5. See if an address is present in the back of the book. Altemus moved from Cherry Street to Vine Street in 1913.

6. Altemus frequently put the original copyright date on the title page of their later reprints. Young People's Library books and Peter Rabbit books are the most commonly seen.

7. The most difficult books to date are the books of the publisher's reprint series. Series such as the Vademecum, Petit Trianon, Beauxarts etc. were published from the early 1890s until the 1920s. These multi-volume, multi-author series of reprints changed their highly decorated covers yearly. It can be impossible to determine the year of publication by analyzing the book itself. See http://henryaltemus.com/publishers/index.htm for pictures of most of the possible covers and the dates of publication.

8. The ubiquitous Young People's Library books were published from 1895 to 1932. During the course of their publication run they were printed in 4 different formats. The ads usually can be used to date these books. The spine patterns divide the four formats quite easily. See the bibliography.

9. If it says "Printed in the United States of America" on the bottom of the copyright page, the book was published in 1922 or later.

Here are some more specific aids:

1. Wee Books for Wee Folks books did not have the paste on cover (the appliqué) until 1918.

2. No suede books were published before 1902.

3. With the exception of the Dore masterpieces, Altemus did not publish any books for reading until after 1890. Do not think your Altemus book was published in the 1860s. It is wishful thinking.

4. With very few exceptions, your literary Altemus book is not a first edition. Those Emerson's, Arthur Conan Doyle's, Kipling's, Lewis Carroll's, Dickens' etc. are all just reprints.

5. Don't be fooled by a preface date. When Altemus reprinted books from the 1890s to 1930s, it frequently reprinted everything including the original preface. A book with a preface dated in the 1850s, 1860s etc. was published at that time by its original publisher. The Altemus book is just a late reprinting. This dating error is a frequent mistake made by book selling novices. They see the old preface date and instantly think that their book is an original edition.



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Last Revision June 22, 2014