Antique books on fruit production

I have a reprint of several early books on fruit tree production and have viewed several others on line. They were fascinating so I thought I might be a able to purchase an original. No way! Most of the books are very rare and the price is much higher than I expected. If you see an old book on fruit production for sale during your travels for a reasonable price, it would probably be a good idea to pick it up.

The old books vary a lot in price, don’t just go by one. For example, Downing from the mid-1800’s is the classic American fruit book and a used one can be had for $20.


You are right, the prices do vary a lot. Mostly depending on condition and publication date. A lot of Downing books were sold so they are more common and less expensive than some other books. Looks like the $20 book in the link is basically falling apart, but a copy in good condition sells for around $75, which is reasonable for such a significant book I have the reprint version which cost about $20

Check out Coxe’s classic “Cultivation of Fruit Trees” - starts at around $500

The most useful old book I have seen is by Albert Wilkinson, from Cornell published in 1915. I bought a used re-print version a few years ago and have read it several times

I guess I’m of the “dumpster diver” sort, going for the most beat-up copy. They are usually in better condition than the description reads, its for serious book collectors which I am not one of. Some I could not get a cheap one on though, for example I don’t have Coxe. The Grapes of New York was a hard one to score, all the fancy wineries want it on their shelves in their visitor room so that one goes for much more than the others. I found a library re-bound one which would not look good on the winery shelf, it was cheap :smile:

These days I confess to hardly ever reading the actual books, I have 40-50 pdfs of fruit books on my computer so I usually just consult those versions.

What was the Wilkinson book? His apple book? I don’t think I have read that one. One great book for fruit culture information is Wright’s Fruit Growers’ Guide. It has fantastic information on espalier and other pruning techniques. This was a very active area many years ago and much of the knowledge has not been carried down.

Maybe i’m missing something here, but can’t you have some (many/?) of these old books just reprinted from various sources? I know i had looked into having a few done and the cost wasn’t much.


You are exactly right, most of the old books are are available for free viewing and you could just print them to a laser printer. Also, almost all are published as a a B/W re-print for around $25.

My interest in some of the old fruit books is similar to my interest in old furniture or perhaps old houses. In some ways its like growing your own fruit rather than going to the grocery store and buying it. In many cases its cheaper to buy tree fruit from the store, but its a lot more fun to grow it. I’m not sure about the investment value of this stuff, but it sure is interesting

Some old fruit books have extensive color plates that were expensive then and prohibitively costly now (at least supposedly…with PDF there is no real cost beyond the photographer or illustrator).

Seems appropriate to post here, here is a book called “New or noteworthy fruits” from the Geneva research station 100 years ago. Really lovely pictures.

Here’s a good quote: “Sweet apples are almost rarities. When fruit was in the hands of amateurs there were many good sweet apples, but the commercial growers who now control the fruit industry seldom find sweet sorts profitable.”

Great book! They even captured the color drawings in the PDF