RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

10 October 2007

To Kill a Mockingbird. by Harper Lee.


Harper Lee. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Lippincott, Philadelphia, USA. 1960.

Current Selling Prices
$12000-$15000 £7500-£9000


MODERN FIRST EDITION.
Up there with the great modern American novels in esteem and price. Won the Pulitzer, the movie won 3 Oscars. She is at the opposite spectrum to your reclusive Pynchons and Salingers - signed copies abound, especially of reprints and anniversary editions. The jacket has points on it, ideally you want the price intact but definitely a Jonathan Daniels blurb/ quote on the flap and a credit (on the rear) to Truman Capote for his photo of young Harper Lee. Capote was a childhood friend, he dedicated 'In Cold Blood to Her.' The character Dill in Mockingbird is based on him. Capote's copy inscribed to him would be way cool, to say the least.

VALUE? A book traded almost to death on ebay but possibly still quite well 'underpinned' - i.e. having a large amount of collectors and speculators. Properly collectable copies are quite difficult, the unlaminated jacket doesn't last well (quite a few are restored) it tends to get rubbed and and frayed, many of the estimated 5000 printed went to libraries and, damn it, people read the book. Condition has to be taken down a notch, as fine copies are not really feasible; even the big money copies were not fine. In terrestrial auctions nice copies have made as much as $15K, and at the 2001 Falktoft sale a sporting $32000 (unsigned.) 2001 was, however, an annus mirabilis for high spot mod firsts. Dot com days. It remains to be seen how long it will be until such prices are achieved again. Inscribed to no one special it has made $40K.

An interesting copy turned up at Swann in 2005 signed by Harper Lee and with a signed letter from her dated October 2004 advising the owner to sell it at Swann! It made $19K. Prices on the internet are generally significantly lower than these records, possibly too many copies have been flushed out by these heady prices and the book has become something of a cliché on ebay. That being said no one is presently possessed of a fab copy.

STOP PRESS. The above entry was written in January 2007. Not much has changed since then --it keeps turning up - there is a signed copy described as fine/fine on ABE at $40K -'...it has a bit of top edge foxing and a slight spine lean; near fine in a near fine, unrestored dust jacket with a little edge rubbing.' The seller rightly makes a virtue of its being unrestored; there is a very nice restored one (new endpapers too) from one of the globe's most expensive modfirst dealers at $12000. The much liked dealer known as 'Flatsigned' has 6 copies over $1000- all, except the Taiwanese first, signed by the great writer. These include a reasonable signed copy in a second state jacket at $15000 described thus "This remarkeable item is truly a treasure for a lifetime...' Something of a curiosity is the fact that the signature is '... on new restored end-papers...' Sophisticated stuff.

Most intriguing is a French dealer called Whopper Books with what looks like a pretty nice copy descibed thus -- '... tres bon etat exceptionnel exemplaire du premier tirage du livre le plus célèbre des états unis ! limité à 5,000 pour l'édition de novembre 1960, depuis plus de 50,000,000 ont été imprimé, pour collectionneur avertit représente également un excellent placement. moyen format.' The picture shows a copy in near fine jacket. Unless he is telling whoppers, or it's a later state, at $9,329.56 it's a good buy for a collector. [ W/Q **** ]
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