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George Davis loves to travel. But traveling is about much more than just experiencing a new destination; it’s about exploring the rich histories and cultures of the places he visits. A senior vice president of Technicolor Network Services for the Americas, Davis, 48, owns an illustrious collection of more than 1,000 historical books and literature he’s gathered during his travels around the world. More than 10 years ago, he began collecting books with dust jackets, leather bond or bounded books, and signed first editions.
“I traveled a lot, and I noticed a companion of mine collected Chinese art and artifacts,” he explains. “I figured that I needed a hobby because I was visiting all these great countries and needed something to remember these places later on.”
His first treasures were inspired by his adventures in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. And his favorite book; the two-volume first edition of Through the Dark Continent, which chronicles Henry Stanley’s travels through Africa in the 1870s. “It started me on my journey,” Davis recalls, noting the historical significance of such books, which he said influenced readers who formed negative perceptions about African and Asian cultures.
As a result, Davis was inspired to also collect the literature of prominent, politically minded African American leaders and entertainment figures. “Many of the books printed by African Americans during the 1920s through the 1960s were not mass produced. There would be only one or two copies, which would be personally engraved to friends.” Often their families would donate or sell their works to libraries and museums not realizing their worth.
Davis purchased a number of his books from antiquarians in London, used bookstores, and from the Internet. Costs have ranged from $50 to $2,500, depending on the condition and rarity of the book. “The trick from a collector’s point of view is to buy materials on historical figures before they become famous or before the general public knows of their accomplishments.”
- Find your interest. Focus on obscure but historically relevant figures. This way you can purchase these books for a reasonably low price.
- Preserve your investment. Store books in a bookcase in a cool, dry area. Humidity and direct sunlight can easily damage your collection. Documents, letters, and photos should be stored in museum-quality archival boxes.
- Catalog your collection. Categorize and label your books, letters, photos, and artifacts. And keep track of the original cost and receipts.