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He still marvels at the talents of these forgers, while Reese, a widely respected seller of Americana and atlases for the last 30 years, feels the coloring of 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century maps is now very well done and thoroughly confounding.
"It's relatively easy to spot fake paper, repaired bindings and hinges, and anything looking too perfect should be immediately questioned," Reese explains. "But the single biggest area of abuse is adding color when it wasn't originally produced, because map collectors put a tremendous premium on color. An 18th-century or 300-year-old book could have been colored 100 years ago, so now it has some patina. It's not fresh color, so that really makes it difficult to determine whether it's genuine or an outright and costly fake."
A passionate bibliophile, Reese lamentably understands that the profit motive has turned many great literary works into mere investment trophies. Yet he still reasons, "Collecting books is all about serendipity. It leads to fortuitous discoveries—pursuing one link of knowledge always leads to another link. Books are just extraordinary, magic. They're always opening doors."