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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
28 Jul 2007 163

Sanspareil Series

Ebay description:  The Sketchbook by Washington Irving
1848 edition, used by a schoolboy in 1901!

This 1848 edition was used as a textbook, from about 1901. It was published by Henry Altemus, but no publication date is given. It contains several well-known favorites: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle, The Spectre Bridegroom and many others. On the flyleaf, the owner pencilled in his name and address and the date, March 26, 1901. Six illustrations, including the Headless Horseman!

The Reality:  This book is part of the Sanspareil Series and was published in 1899. It is unclear where the seller found the 1848 date. Henry Altemus actually did not take over the company until the 1850s. He was born in 1833.

12 Jul 2007 141

Petit Trianon Series

Ebay description:  The House of the Seven Gables by Hawthorne 1st Edt.1851

This auction features a 1st edition hardcover book titled "The House of the Seven Gables" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1851 by Henry Altemus in Philadelphia. The book contains 374 pages and is in great condition for 156 years old.

The Reality:  Again a seller confuses a reprint which includes a dated preface from an original publication for the date of their book. The first edition was published by Ticknor, Reed and Fields. This reprint was published in 1897 as part of the Petit Trianon Series.

16 Jun 2007 47

Beauxarts Series

Ebay description:  Weird Tales by Edgar Allen Poe
Special Attributes:
1st Edition

Printing Year:

Edgar Allen Poe's Weird Tales. In a beautifully gold embossed hard cover. Copywritten 1895 first edition by Henry Altemus. This book is in good condition with slightly yellowed pages and a small fracture in the binding. Absolutely a must for the true collector.

The Reality:  This book was published in 1897 and therefore is not even the Altemus first. This title is one of the most hyped Altemus titles on the web. Altemus published Weird Tales in numerous series which accounts for its prevalence.

This book consists of a collection of 14 short stories by Poe. None of them appear in print for the first time in the Altemus published book. The first time Altemus published this collection was in 1895. It was published simultaneously in The Altemus Library (#37), Fairmount Series (#83), Laurel Series (#119), and the Vademecum Series (#179).

Previously Poe's works had been published by Widdington in 1876 and by Stone and Kimball in 1894. These are multi volume sets which include everything in the Altemus books and much more.

Thus Weird Tales is a compilation of short stories that have been published numerous times before. Frequently, this Altemus title brings real dollars but usually the bidding is done by unsophisticated buyers who are unaware of the common nature of the book and are also unaware of its reprint status.

11 Jun 2007 186

Wee Books for Wee Folks Series



This is indeed the ORIGINAL FIRST EDITION, undated but Published Ca. 1910 as the First American Pirated Edition that Attributed the Story to Helen Bannerman and used all of her Original Illustrations !!

Rare First Printing, with Plain endpapers (Later Printings had illustrated ennd papers).

It was this Edition that prompted Frederick A. Stokes --the Original American Publisher-- to place the phrase "Only Authorized American Edition" in their Third Edition in 1910 (Red Cloth with Full Front Paste-on)!

The Reality:  This book was published between 1918 and 1921. Thus, unless Stokes had a time machine, its 1910 edition had nothing to do with this book.
It was not until 1918 that Altemus changed the format of the Wee Folks Series such that the books had the applique (paste-on) covers. Between 1918-1921 the end papers were blank and the lettering on the front cover was yellow.

05 Jun 2007 181

Valenciennes Series

Ebay description:  1896, FANCHON, 1st Edition, Illustrated

Sand, George, FANCHON, Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1896. 1st Edition

The Reality:  This book is an 1896 Valenciennes Series book. The first American edition of Fanchon by George Sand was published in 1863 by Follett, Foster and Co. Sand died in 1876 so it is somewhat unlikely this first edition was published 20 years later.

04 Jun 2007 143

Petit Trianon Series

Ebay description:  1892 - VIC - Autobiography of a Fox Terrier - Marsh
Henry Altemus Company

The Reality:  This is a 1903-1904 published book which is part of the Petit Trianon Series. The fact that it was published by Henry Altemus Company should instantly inform the seller that it was published in 1900 or later. (http://henryaltemus.com/identify.htm). The 1892 Vic published by Altemus was not part of any series. It is here pictured on the right.

02 Jun 2007 202

Young People's Library

Ebay description:  ANDERSEN’S FAIRY TALES 1898 ALTEMUS Young People’ Lib.

Special Attributes:
1st Edition

Printing Year: 1898

I think this is the first edition (and possibly only edition) of Altemus Young People’s Library Edition of Andersen’s Fairy Tales, 1898, by Henry Altemus Company (Philadelphia). There is no information on reprinting. The illustrations are fantastic! (See pictures with this listing for a few of them.) .... This copy does not have a dustjacket and I’m not sure that it ever did. Hard covers are soiled and rubbed with a small chunk missing out of the top of the spine and along one edge.

The Reality:  This is a later reprint of this book by Altemus. It is part of the Young People's Library -Format 3. The jacket is shown here. Prior to the printing of this copy (In 1902 or later), The format 1 book as well as the two format 2 books were published. In addition this is a later version of the format 3 book. The earlier format 3 book is shown here. (It is identical to the later format 2 book). See below. For more details about the first two formats of the Young People's Library see the section in the Series listings here on the website.

28 May 2007 180

Vademecum Series


The Reality:  The first American edition was published in the 1870s by Harpers. This is a Vademecum Series book published in 1899.

22 May 2007 75

Devotional Series

Ebay description:  Ploughman's Talk C.H. Spurgeon CHRISTIAN GILDED BOOK

Book: John Ploughman's Talk
Author: C.H. Spurgeon
Edition: First?
Publication Year: 1890s?
Publisher: Henry Altemus Company
Condition: Good

This is a book of sermons and fables by famed preacher C.H. Spurgeon. This is one of the books from about the middle of his writings. There is no date on the book, but it was probably published as a first edition in the 1890's at the latest.

The Reality:  This book is part of the Devotional Series (Series #75) and was published between 1905-1908. The first edition was published in 1869 and reprinted numerous times before the 20th century publication by Altemus. Another example of shoddy research.

20 May 2007 47

Beauxarts Series

Ebay description:  Antique 1865 Book: THOUGHTS OF THE EMPEROR, Delux Print
Antique book 1865

By Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Translated by George Long
Publised by Henry Altemus Philadelphia
No publication date found on the book. But we did many researches about this book:

1.This book’s Publisher HENRY ALTEMUS PHILADELPHIA changed the name to HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY since 1900.
2. We asked the expert, this book was print in between 1842 -1880

3. This book was a gift, there is the name written on the first page, and a “65”. So we strongly believe this book was published before 1865

The Reality:  This is an 1897 book which was published as part of the Beauxarts Series. Hard to know what expert and what "researches" they asked and did but clearly neither was very accurate. Altemus published no reading books before 1890.

How the presence of the number 65 written on the first page means it was published earlier than 1865 is a total mystery. It could just as easily signified the likely value of the book- about $6.50. This seller listed this book at an opening bid of $25. Good luck!

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Last Revision: September 15, 2015