Brief history and description
The invention of bookshelves (or bookcases) can be traced as far back as the 16th century. They range in a variety of different styles and purposes (such as open bookshelves, breakfront bookcases, revolving bookshelves, bureau bookshelves, tall and narrow Victorian bookcases, library bookcases, "secretaire" bookcase and stepback bookcases).
Antique bookshelves can also be made from a variety of different materials such as oak, pine, rosewood, mahogany or walnut, and may include separate compartments, locks, doors and shelves as well.
During the Victorian era, bookshelves tended to feature glass fronts as well as short legs. During the 20th century, on the other hand, bookshelves that were made out of laminate and metal as well as corner bookcases and backless bookshelves became increasingly popular as well.
Guide for collectors
Victorian and Arts and Crafts-style bookshelves are considered to be the most rare and popular among collectors. Antique revolving bookcases are also considered to be rare.
Restoration of an antique bookshelf is recommended, but only if there is noticeable damage, however, restoring an antique bookshelf may decrease its value.
For more information regarding antique bookshelves, visit Antique Atlas or Alibaba.
Sotheby's in New York sold two George IV brass-mounted, inlaid ebonized and marble-topped standing bookshelves (circa 1830; 46" in height) for $15,600 in October of 2004.
A pair of Regency-style mahogany bookshelves (33.5" in height) can be worth between $1,500 and $2,800.
Slotin Folk Art in Gainesville, Georgia sold a set of two Arts & Crafts bookshelves with outside and open-side shelves, (46" in height) for $1,300 in September of 2006.
Affiliated Auctions in Tallahassee, Florida sold an antique barrister oak bookshelf (44" in height) which was manufactured by Globe-Wernicke for $525 in April of 2006.
O'Gallerie in Portland, Oregon sold an antique folding oak bookshelf (circa late 19th century) for $200 in September of 2008.
(All values based on auction results from Liveauctioneers.com)