11 June 2007

The Book of Bread. 1903

Owen Simmons. THE BOOK OF BREAD.McLaren, London, 1903

Current Selling Prices$750 - $1500 / £375 - £750

An illustrated guide to bread, quite technical. Worth quite alot of dough! Not especially uncommon but featured in Martin Parr's seminal collector's book ('The Photobook. A History. 1.') and so copies seem to have gone to ground. 12 chromolithographic large colour plates and 27 b/w photos of loaves, with titles such a 'Holes in Bread.' Rather beautiful photos (photographer unknown.) A sort of surreal objet trouvé or, as Parr says, reminiscent of 1980s conceptual art in its obsessive style and rigorous and precise cataloguing. Parr has a 'whim of iron' as Powell said of Betjeman.

VALUE? I sold a copy 3 years ago for a £100 probably to a food person. No copies on web for quite a while. A copy sold at Bloomsbury Book Auctions in 2001 at £50 and in 2005 a less nice one made £480 + a bit of commission ('the juice') making it a $1000 book, but I suspect that might be a freak result. At that sort of price the whimsy starts to fade. Watch this space. (written late 2006 but see below--whimsy on the rise!) [ W/Q ** ]

STOP PRESS. A copy in a special limited edition binding and signed by the author made £500 last year. This year (quite recently) the book was spotted in a lot at a UK provincial auction. There were 11 other books on bread and baking with it, some possibly nice but all post 1800. The lot made £3000 and I feel sure that a lot of that would have been because someone one went crazy for the Simmons book, possibly hoping to get most of the money back for the other books. Purely speculation - but it is likely that Simmons book is climbing into four figures. It is worth noting that books can often do absurdly well when lotted with a few other half decent books. They force the buyers to rate (and over rate) all the books in the lot at best prices and competition can be intense. Paradoxically the books would make less if singly lotted. Still no copies on any book mall...
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