A London bookshop has noticed that very few female authors made the top 500 rare books sold at auction in the 21st century…
From Jane Austen to Sylvia Plath and Muriel Spark, you won’t be hard pressed to find a great, award-winning book written by a woman, which is why you’d be forgiven for assuming that such brilliant books hold a lot of value.
But, as The Second Shelf, a London-based online platform for rare books, first editions and manuscripts written by and about female authors, has recently discovered such texts aren’t as valuable as a man’s writing (even in the 21st century).
While analysing the recently published sales list of the top 500 rare books sold at auction last year, the bookshop noticed a distinct lack of female names.
“We’re just taking a little look at the top five hundred sales in rare books at auction in 2018 and a title by a woman doesn’t crack the top twenty,” the bookshop posted on Twitter.
The first entry, He Disappeared Into Complete Silence by Louise Bourgeois, made number 35.
“The first entry on the list is Louise Bourgeois at number 35 with her He Disappeared Into Complete Silence, Gemor Press, New York, 1947 a rare complete illustrated book of nine signed engravings. We salute her. It sold for half-a-million and some change,” they wrote.
Another female author doesn’t appear until 119: Marie Curie’s Radioactivité: dactylographie corrigée. And things didn’t get much better as the bookshop worked down the list, discovering that one female author averaged every 100.
As they continued down the entire list, the total number of women out of 500 reached eight.
“The number of women on the list is eight. Seven books/manuscripts and a painting. We are not brilliant at math but we thinks that women make up 1.6% of top 500 rare books sold at auction in 2018,” they wrote.
And, of course, people on Twitter have joined the conversation.
“I don’t tend to value my books based on the sex of the author, who does? A good book is a good book. Does it matter who wrote it?” one user posted.
While another user admitted that it wasn’t surprising:
Others referenced JK Rowling’s decision to use a gender neutral name, and the owner of the bookshop pointed out that a lack of books written by women should actually place them at a higher value – not less.
Last year a major study found that titles by female authors are sold, on average, at less than half the price of those written by men, and a trainee teacher called out the lack of female written texts being taught in schools across the UK in 2018.
If, like us, you’re keen to read more books written by women then take a look at this list of London’s feminist bookshops here.