27 February 2007

Express to Hollywood. Victor McLaglen. 1934.

Sorry have been off the air for 3 days while I completed the complicated process of turning this blog into a website. Please note it's now called www.bookride.com. The name has no real meaning, it was just available at the time, but it seems curiously suitable with its suggestions of horseracing, being taken for a ride, bookies, punters, touts and a merry adventure. Buying books is a bit of a punt and I am here to point out the favourites and the starting prices, the winners, the losers and the outsiders. Can't stretch the metaphor much further...today's hot tip is howling rare - Jarrolds was an interesting publisher.

Victor McLaglen. EXPRESS TO HOLLYWOOD. Jarrolds, London, 1934.

Current Selling Prices
$600-$800? /£300-£400? Want level 25-50 Highish

Autobiography by Hollywood hard man and ex boxer recalling his wildly adventurous career prior to entering the movies. McLaglen was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. His father, a bishop, moved the family to South Africa when McLaglen was a child. He left home at fourteen to join the army with the intention of fighting in the Second Boer War. However much to his chagrin, he was stationed at Windsor Castle and was later forced to leave the army when his true age was discovered. From 1904 - 1920 he was a boxer and in 1918 McLaglen won the Heavyweight Championship of the British Army. The Wikiman says of this unfindable book "His tale of the road, his odyssey from his native England through Canada and the western United States, details his long-held desire to be a professional prizefighter, climaxing in a no-decision fight with world heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. McLaglen supplements his story with vignettes of life as a farmer, gold and silver prospector, wrestler, policeman, soldier, vaudeville performer, miner, pearl fisher, big-game hunter, and sign-painter. In all likelihood the only Academy Award-winning actor ever, past or future, also to be Assistant Provost Marshal of the city of Baghdad, McLaglen writes a story that reads as though Jack London had written it. He writes with candor and humility, and with style. It is am immensely enjoyable book, and the fact that McLaglen was at the time of its writing only beginning to achieve the fame and popularity that would maintain his career nearly another three decades is both astonishing and a bit disappointing: it would have been wonderful to read his accounts of the next quarter century...." Of course he went on to make "The Informer," "The Quiet Man," and "What Price Glory?". Book is wanted by movie buffs and boxing collectors. I have trod on his name on Hollywood Boulevard where, as Ray Davies has it, his name "is written in concrete."

VALUE? 18 years ago someone paid $120 for a signed photo at Darvick , there is a BIN for an insubstantial clipped note at ebay $250. He wasn't John Wain, who can go very high indeed, but for some reason hard guy's signatures are often pricy.
No record of the book anywhere. Unknown to science. Jarrolds books tended to have funky colourful jackets so it would look good and could be worth a few hundred of your British pounds. Sans jacket still very good, people want to read it.

26 February 2007

Book of Mormon. 1830.


The sacred text of the Church of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons.) A 590 page 8vo book which according to COPAC is 8 inches tall. Always seems to appear in a leather (calf or sheep) binding (possibly issued unbound). Much wanted. More accessible is the British first edition published in Liverpool in 1841 which is worth about 20% of the US first. Its genesis is probably explained best in this succinct piece from Wikipedia (to which much praise and thanks) "Joseph Smith, Jr. said the book was a translation of Golden Plates he found in a hill near his home, guarded by an angel. Smith had no knowledge of ancient languages, but he said he received the translation from God through the act of looking into seer stones, or a set of crystal spectacles he said were with the plates, which were called the Urim and Thummim. During the translation, Smith obtained the affidavits of Three Witnesses and Eight Witnesses who testified they saw the plates. These affidavits are published as part of the Book of Mormon. When Smith's translation was complete, he said the guardian angel took them back." 5000 copies were printed at a cost of $3000 and they were sold from the printer's building in Palmyra. The Grandin building was bought by the Church in 1978 and is now a museum (see picture.)

Current Selling Prices
$35000-$75000 / £20000-£40000

VALUE? With 5000 printed and being a book that was always valued and preserved, it is not notably uncommon. 31 copies have appeared at auction in the last 30 years making between $1000 and $70000. It is often lacking the 2 page index, something that appears to hardly affect the price. The 2 page preface is sometimes also missing and that can dent the price. Quite a lot of library copies have surfaced, possibly being sold to raise money -- they tend to make significantly less. Copies in poorish condition can still do pretty well, a phenomenon peculiar to religious books. Copies were making under $5000 way into the 1990s but in this century it has almost always made over $40K. It's price seems to have taken of in 1997/1998 -possibly with the rise of the internet or greater general affluence and interest in possessing landmark works. [Want level 50 - 75 High]

STOP PRESS. March 22 2007. A first edition Book of Mormon, in its original binding, that was signed by early LDS apostle Orson Pratt, and with an inscription by its owner, Denison Root, indicating "the book was a gift from Hyrum Smith," brother of church founder Joseph Smith sold for $180,000. A new record for the book and showing the power of provenace and association. Root was married to Phoebe Hale, sister to Emma Hale, who was the wife of Joseph Smith.

24 February 2007

Extreme Rock: Great British Rock Climbs

Ken Wilson and Bernard Newman. EXTREME ROCK: GREAT BRITISH ROCK CLIMBS. Diadem Press, UK, 1987 ISBN 0906371368

Current Selling Prices
$450-$800 /£220-£420 Want level 25-50 Highish

A now uncommon and quite pricy climbing book. Climbing and mountaineering are good subjects with a large customer base willing to spend money. It is a hard section to keep stocked in a shop. The author's stated aim was to provide a snapshot of the best of what Britain had to offer and to encourage climbers to try different areas. A note on the web by a keen climber who had done every climb in this book states: 'Note that there is currently no access to Chapter 39 - Grea Wall, Craig y Forwyn due to the landowner objecting to the behaviour of some climbers at the crag...' What was going on there? Bernard Newman, the co author appears on one fantasy fiction site with this book and works going back to the 1920s attributed to him. I am certain that this is the other Bernard Newman (1897 -1987) the prolific espionage novelist author of 'German Spy' (1937). The climbing Newman is probably a great deal younger and alive enough to co-write a book. These confusions happen alot.

VALUE? Copy at UK Bookworld for £250 described thus: 'True first printing, not a later print run [which has a ISBN mark on the rear dustjacket]. 11" by 9". Pp xi, 296. Many photographic illustrations. A superb near fine copy in a near fine dustjacket ( price clipped). No inscriptions. Heavy book, photo essays..." One appreciates a dealer who describes what he or she has, some merely give author title and price. Name, rank and serial number-- sometimes with a catchall condition description 'may show some wear.' Copies at ABE at £395 and £495, the latter with a specialist. A reprint could lower the price.

Gadsby. A Story of Over 50.000 Words Without Using the Letter E. 1939

After surfboards and Booker novels something truly odd and rather rare. When I first came into the trade (around the time when Sweet were singing 'Ballroom Blitz' and footballers had long sideburns) a lot of people wanted strange and odd books, the more outlandish the better - now they all want 'The Man with the Golden Gun' and they want look under the wrapper to see if the embossed gilt gun is there. * Sic transit gloria mundi. However all is not lost, a veritable barmy army want Gadsby...

Ernest Vincent Wright. GADSBY. A STORY OF OVER 50,000 WORDS WITHOUT USING THE LETTER E. Wetzel, Los Angeles, 1939.

Current Selling Prices
$4000 / £2200 Want level 50 - 75 High

A literary curiosity and a legendary rarity. Much sought after. The author E.V. Wright (1872-1939) wrote Gadsby in five and a half months, on a typewriter with the e tied down, "so that none of that vowel might slip in, accidentally". He finished his work about the middle of February 1937, and the typescript was illustrated in The Los Angeles times on 24 March. After seeking a publisher for 2 years Wright finally settled on a vanity press in LA. It is said that the publication of Gadsby coincided exactly with the author's death on 7 October 1939; however a copy is known with an inscription dated two months earlier and the copyright-deposit copy was received five months later. From the introduction:
"People as a rule will not stop to realize what a task such an attempt actually is. As I wrote along, in long-hand at first, a whole army of little E's gathered around my desk, all eagerly expecting to be called upon. But gradually as they saw me writing on and on, without even noticing them, they grew uneasy; and, with excited whisperings amongst themselves, began hopping up and riding on my pen, looking down constantly for a chance to drop off into some word; for all the world like seabirds perched, watching for a passing fish! But when they saw that I had covered 138 pages of typewriter size paper, they slid onto the floor, walking sadly away, arm in arm; but shouting back: "You certainly must have a hodge-podge of a yarn there without *us*! Why, man! We are in every story ever written *hundreds of thousands of times! This is the first time we ever were shut out!.."
A book much admired by the Pataphysicians and Oulipans esp Perec and Queneau who both searched for copies. The rarity is due to one of those warehouse fires that so frequently occur in the history of unfindable books (Nabokov's Despair, Beckett's Murphy, Moby Dick and Forster's Alexandria to name a few -- enemy action is also a great rarity creator...) Wetzel's novelty warehouse went up in a mighty blaze (a fireman died) along with most copies of the ill fated novel, it was never reviewed and only kept alive by the efforts of a few avant garde French intellos and assorted connoisseurs of the odd, weird and zany. It has been reprinted this century. Perec, of course,also wrote an e-less book 'La Disparition' (Paris 1969). Possibly in honour of Gadsby it was also 50,000 words. These books with grammatical restrictions are now known aa 'Lipograms'. Perec's work was translated into English sans e's as "A Void' by the brave Gilbert Adair.

VALUE? 'Gadsby' first editions occasionally surface, seldom in sparkling condition and for jacketless copies dealers tend to try for about $4000 to $5000, less for ropy ones. A reasonable jacketless first sold in early 2006 for $3000. An unpleasant sounding defective copy is listed at £850, signed by the author's sister. A nice copy wearing jacket might go ballistic but interest in such curiosities tends to be among persons unburdened with large amounts of cash, so who knows?

*In re the golden gun under the d/w: Mostly it is not present because the printers ran into production problems but it is said 400 got through with the embossed golden gun on the cover and it can add a £2000 or more to the price, good hunting!

23 February 2007

Holiday. Stanley Middleton. 1974.

Stanley Middleton. HOLIDAY. Hutchinson, London, 1974.

Current Selling Prices
$3000-$4000 /£1500-£2000 Want level 50 - 75 High

Much desired and elusive novel with many collectors after it, some having to put up with second editions. It was the joint winner of the prestigious Booker Prize and will always be a 'stopper' in any collection of them. It shared the prize money (£5000) with 'The Conservationist' by Nadine Gordimer. It is the rarest and most valuable of Booker books, although 'Midnight's Children' runs very close. I am not a big fan of Booker as I find it has a rather dull Waterstone's view of the world, middlebrow, middle class and Middle England. I once bought all the entries for one year off one of the judges, Joanna Lumley, who having not voted for that year's winner was slightly reluctant to autograph it for me to push up its value. It was the dire Keri Hulme book 'The Bone People.' Even with the lovely JL's ownership signature it was hard to shift.

In Middleton's novel a married man returns alone to the seaside town where he used to holiday as a child. Described in a review as '...a multi-layered story of marriage, death, seduction and separation... Holiday is a novel about lives in crisis.' Apparently he is known as 'God's Spy' for his stunning observational powers, also 'the forgotten man of post-war British literary culture.' Book was rejected by 20 publishers.

VALUE? There are currently 2 copies on ABE at circa £1250, both second impressions described as 'First edition, second impression' which you have to do to sell it. I think they have been there a while. A BIN copy sits on ebay at £1050 which the small print reveals as a second impression, another 2nd impression is Buy it Now (BIN) at $2350-- in fact the second impression is not scarce and probably not worth even a grand.A signed decentish 2nd imp was seen at ILAN at $1300 and a true first, signed but in not very nice, ex library condition sits on UK Amazon at a gouging and unrealistic £1500. Best not to buy ex library books unless you need them for study. The real first in very good nick is bloody hard and you could take a holiday with the money. Say £1600 - £2000, but one can easily imagine somebody trying for twice that. Confused by dollars and pounds? Think 2 dollars to one pound.

22 February 2007

Hawaiian Surfboard. Tom Blake. 1935.

Tom Blake. HAWAIIAN SURFBOARD. Paradise of the Pacific Press, Hawaii, 1935.

Current Selling Prices
$2000+ /£1100+ Want level 25-50 Highish

Early book by a legendary surfer (1902 - 1994) something of a disciple of the great Hawaiian surfer and Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku, he was the first person to surf the waves at Malibu and the originator of the surfing lifestyle and outlook. A spiritual man, influenced by Duke Kahanamoku's ancient beliefs he formulated a belief system that was based on the pantheistic idea of “Nature=God" he practiced this faith out-of-doors in what he called “The Blessed Church Of The Open Sky.” A recent authorised biography of Blake by his friend Gary Lynch has appeared 'The Uncommon Journey of a Pioneer Waterman' that seems pretty definitive. One review reads: 'If the sport's most influential waterman so much as whittled a breadfruit branch, it's in here. Co-author Gault-Williams painstakingly documented Lynch's words with over 700 footnotes, and the photographic inventory is of Smithsonian-style depth. This is an important book, and in many ways, a landmark. Ignore it at the peril of your heritage.' Chapters in the original book include "Riding the Breakers on this Hollow Hawaiian Surfboard."

VALUE? No copies on the web although 'Hawaiian Surfriders 1935' a renamed reissue is around at circa $100. A copy in its original illustrated tapa cloth, a bit foxed, made $900 at Pacific Book Auctions in 1997, another copy made $2280 at Sotheby's last year with the cloth described as 'Kapa.' Copies, possibly an earlier issue, are known in plain cloth and d/w, the tapa cloth being slightly later but more attractive. A copy in a surf memorabilia auction in Hawaii recently was estimated beteen $3500 and $4500 so it appears to be a book on the move. I am not sure of the strength of surf books as a market, alot depends on the enthusiasm and affluence of the collectors, which is why golf books became valuable. Here in Santa Cruz (where I am currently typing this) surf is anyone's game, young, old, rich and broke - but you see some pretty fancy cars in the car park at Pleasure Point.

Lethem / Plagiarism / The Litigator in the Rye

Having now finished the article by Jonathan Lethem in January Harper's ''The Ecstasy of Influence. A Plagiarism' l finally get the drift of his banter. Much of the article is a collage of pieces from other writers. It is, as signalled in the title, a plagiarism in itself - this is explained in copious footnotes of attribution at the end. It is a sustained attack on our litigious, over proprietorial culture. A classic example give by Lethem is this:
A few years ago, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced a retrospective of the works of Dariush Mehrjui, then a fresh enthusiasm of mine. Mehrjui is one of Iran's finest filmmakers, and...opportunities to view his films were—and remain—rare indeed. I headed uptown for one, an adaptation of J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, titled Pari, only to discover at the door of the Walter Reade Theater that the screening had been canceled: its announcement had brought threat of a lawsuit down on the Film Society. True, these were Salinger's rights under the law. Yet why would he care that some obscure Iranian filmmaker had paid him homage with a meditation on his heroine? Would it have damaged his book or robbed him of some crucial remuneration had the screening been permitted? The fertile spirit of stray connection—one stretching across what is presently seen as the direst of international breaches—had in this case been snuffed out. The cold, undead hand of one of my childhood literary heroes had reached out from its New Hampshire redoubt to arrest my present-day curiosity.

I guess the one thing a litigious geezer like Salinger cannot sue for is for someone calling him litigious. Think about it. That line of Lethem's about the 'cold, undead hand' reaching out, although unattributed by him certainly rings a bell. Lethem's article is almost a manifesto, and having worked in a bookshop for 10 years the dude has paid his dues (see post of 15 February). As Eliot said "Immature poets borrow, mature poets steal." Rave on.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter.

Privately printed for the author by Strangeways, London, (1901 and 1902)

Current Selling Prices
$15000-$80000 /£8000-£45000 Want level 25-50 Highish

In 1893, a young Beatrix Potter, on holiday with her parents in Scotland, composed a letter to cheer up the child of her former governess, ill with rheumatic fever. "My dear Noel," she began, "I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits, whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter." The Tale of Peter Rabbit was born. When the manuscript was rejected by several publishers (inc Warne), Potter published the first two private editions of Peter Rabbit at her own expense. It helped that she had money and she was soon to make a great deal more. Both editions totalled only 450 copies and sold out immediately. The first was 250 and the second 200, neither are dated. They are distinguished by the first having a flat spine and the second state a round spine + some minor textual changes. Publisher Frederick Warne agreed to print the first trade edition of Peter Rabbit and presented for the first time the now-familiar format of the book; the earlier black-and-white line drawings were replaced with full-colour illustrations, and the famous prancing image of Peter was mounted on the front cover. First state of the published text has "wept big tears" on page 51, the white dot in the "o's" on the cover and leaf patterned end papers, also the first trade edition contains four colour plates that do not appear after the fourth impression. By the way "wept big tears" was changed to "shed big tears" in the 4th printing, such minutiae can mean goodly sums of money. The real firsts are 5.25 inches x 4 inches in size. Margaret Lane noted: "The size of the book being in accordance with Potter’s own ideas of what a child’s books should be like - small enough for little hands to hold, and printed on stout paper." There is a colour frontispiece, (showing Peter in bed and Mrs Rabbit feeding him Camomile tea) and 41 b/w line drawings, each opposite a page of text. Potter first editions are notoriously difficult to recognise, often relying on recondite 'points', pictorial endpapers, publisher's addresses etc., The date on the title page is often a good start and condition is important as they can turn up pathetically worn.

VALUE? True first state firsts have made as much as $90K in auction this century (the Schiller copy in 2004) a signed one made $80K in 2000, second states about half that. A 'slightly shaken' second state copy made $22K 10 years ago with the ownership signature of Noel Moore, the little boy for whom the story was written. The most remarkable result said at the time to be the highest ever price for a 20th century first edition was in May 1994 - £63,250, achieved at Sotheby's, the copy was given by the author to Zipporah Robinson, a member of the domestic staff at her grandfather's Hertfordshire home. It carried the inscription, "For Zipporah from Beatrix Potter, Christmas 1901". Warne's trade firsts of Peter Rabbit can make over £8K and it makes good money right up to the 4th state. The movie 'Miss Potter' starring Renee Zellweger has been well received and the book seems to be holding its own financially. Some of it was filmed around Cecil Court, the bookseller's row of London. There is talk of an Oscar...

21 February 2007

Lamont the Lonely Monster. Dean Walley.

I was sounding off yesterday about an egregious web price and later in quiet reflection tried to work out how a person who is probably otherwise a pleasant individual, not giving to chewing carpets or shouting at bus queues, could come up with £800 for a recently out of print insubstantial and slightly obscure academic book (Lady with a Mead Cup.) It dawned on me that this is how it came about.
Firstly copies start appearing at about £300 and actually sell. While they are still around a RELISTER (the villain of the piece) relists the genuine copies at £900. Slightly dim guy flown with greed and ambition gets a genuine copy and sees the £900 price and not realising that it's a relister's price and puts £800 on his. All cheaper copies sell, pragmatic relister takes his off with no copies except the slightly risky £800 one to re-sell. £800 left now on its own looking rather silly. This process happens alot and explains many a daft price on the web. One might call it a 'ghost price.' The clue is that relisters almost always go for a treble up. They list 100s of thousands of books on many sites and wait for some poor bastard to come along and order at their inflated price and then they (the relister) buy the book from a dealer who has it at a fraction of theirs. I doubt it's the kind of business that gets you a new Porsche but it might support an unglamorous SUV. As they say in France Je m'en fous.

Dean Walley. LAMONT THE LONELY MONSTER. Hallmark Editions, Kansas 1970.

Current Selling Prices
$90-$180 £50-£100 Want level 15-30 Quite High

USA kid's book for the very young, prob desired by people who grew up with it who now want to read it to their nippers. Lamont was very lonely and had knocked on 77 doors 'without finding even one friend' but his social life got alot better when a little boy took him to Monster Mansion. Ebay special (true of most US children's books.) "A Hallmark Play-Time Book With Lift-and-Look Surprises" says the blurb and the lift flaps are often in less than great shape, so a super copy with all flaps fine would probably get well into 3 figures.

VALUE? Copies around from $100 to $200 depending on condition. A half decent copy sold at ebay auction for $210 mid 2006.

20 February 2007

Lady with a Mead Cup. Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Téne to the Viking Age


Current Selling Prices
$350-$750 /£200-£400 ISBN 1851821880

Celtic influence on Teutonic culture; scholarly work without 'New Age' or 'Goddess' trappings - odd that it is so much wanted -- possibly it's on college reading lists. 'This title is currently out of stock' is the notice at the Four Courts website. Their puff for the book goes:-
Lady with a Mead Cup is a broad-ranging, innovative and strikingly original study of the early medieval barbarian cup-offering ritual and its social, institutional and religious significance. Drawing on archaeology, anthropology and philology and medieval history, Professor Enright has produced the first work in English on the warband and on the significance of barbarian drinking rituals. Taking Beowulf as his point of departure, he studies the place of these rituals in the Germanic warband, their importance in terms of status creation, and the role of women in their administration.
They also quote a pertinent review-'Enright goes further than most authors in terms of both scope and detail, tracing the role of the lord's female companion back to the beginning of La Téne culture ... What eventually emerges is a surprisingly consistent picture of the leader and his lady in whom we find much of the ritual and prophecy of the book's title' J.A. Tasioulas, Medium Aoeum. Last year we bought a few boxes of books published by this expensive and estimable Irish scholarly press and they went, as they say in Canada, 'like snow off a dike.' I trust the lady with the cup was not among them!

VALUE? There were several used copies at Amazon between $300 and $500 about 9 months ago. They have all sold and only one remains at a slightly barking $1600. They have managed to find that grail of buffoon booksellers - the price at which no one will buy the book. Possibly if Robbie Williams or Donald 'Badhair' Trump suddenly get interested in La Tene it will sell. Before the net when booksellers had to price by instinct a bookseller might put £30 on this max, half of its putative in print price. I suspect that copies come and go against the madhatter price possibly for as much as $800. It will probably get reprinted at some point, the author himself is quoted as saying it is not worth more than $200. [Want level 25-50 Highish ]

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis, 1950.

C.S. Lewis. THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. Bles, London, 1950.

Current Selling Prices
$8500-$16000 / £4200-£8200 Want level 25-50 Highish

The first, the most desirable, the most expensive and the rarest of the 7 Narnias. The Silver Chair is sometimes held to be the most difficult but only by those holding it, as it were. Fellow inkling J R R Tolkien was a little dismissive of the work at the time, disliking its overt religious message and its overly avuncular style. I have heard it said that he advised his old mate 'Jack' (as Lewis was known) not to publish it! It is also said that Lewis got the idea from a little girl (part of a bunch of evacuees who had stayed at his house during the war) who became fascinated by an old wardrobe and wanted to explore inside it. The wardrobe theme turns up in other Children's stories notably Edith Nesbit's 'The Aunt and Abel' and Lynne Reid Banks 'The Indian in the Cupboard.' As George Sayer says in his Lewis bio "From the very beginning, despite all the reviewers’ apprehensions, children loved the Narnia stories. More than any stories that I can think of, they appeal to all sorts of children. It is easy to find children who are left cold by Alice in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows; it is rare to find those who enjoy reading yet are not delighted by the Narnia stories." Right on. Many thanks to the sage of Henley and the hermit of Marlow for some of the above.

VALUE? In the white heat of the dot com days a copy made £13000 in a sale in New York, one imagines it was a spiffing copy but the price has not been repeated. Can turn up in restored jackets at about half what a very nice unclipped jacketed one might make which is probably about £8K. The cloth under the jacket tends to fade so a fine one would have to have lead a very sheltered life. A limpid, fresh and fault free one would be v valuable but still might not repeat the 2001 result, esp with the dollar at 2 to a pound.

19 February 2007

American Psycho. Brett Easton Ellis. 1991.

There is an amusing video clip 'How to Use a Book' from a Scandinavian comedy show at the myfinebooks blog on the lines of the old joke that was going round in early web days about 'the new Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge device, otherwise known as the BOOK.' Not unamusing. Also an excellent blog. Today's book is not massively wanted because fairly easily tracked down but a great writer who should rise in value or at least stay slightly ahead of inflation.

Brett Easton Ellis. AMERICAN PSYCHO. Picador, London 1998.

Current Selling Prices
$100-$180 /£60-£100 Want level 15 - 25 Quite High

Designer ultra-violence, skillful and relentless, a Clockwork Orange for the blank generation. Few writers have concerned themselves with such callow and callous characters; his 1999 novel Glamorama, about the deeply shallow world of male and female models, also betrays an in depth knowledge of those exquisite corpses and their habitats. One of the truly great.

VALUE? First was a paperback and can be found for less than $30, unless signed. The 1998 Picador UK edition was the first world hardback and is quite desirable at a shade over $100. It was at one time remaindered and a Cecil Court dealer chap bought a few boxes but has now sold the lot. Signed would be rather good and possibly worth as much as $400. Apparently the reason it never appeared as a hardback in New York was that Simon & Schuster were alarmed by the controversial buzz surrounding the book prior to release and forfeited a $500,000 advance to Ellis in order to cancel the book. Shades of EMI. McLaren and the Sex Pistols. Vintage quickly signed him and became the new publisher of 'American Psycho", but since Simon & Schuster owned the rights to the hardback edition, the book had to be released as a paperback only. As always you want a 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 sequence on the back of the title page. The author recently went on a signing tour but didn't get further than Beverly Hills due to a foot injury.

18 February 2007

The Bayonet Book. John & Peter White Watts, 1975.

John & Peter White Watts. THE BAYONET BOOK. Privately Printed by the Authors, UK 1975. ISBN 0950457302

Current Selling Prices
$350-$750 / £200-£400

What it says on the tin. Guide to all bayonets of all countries of all times. Art book size. 504 pages with an index. 1052 plates in black and white.

VALUE? 4 copies were on ABE in mid 2006 at $500-600, now there are 2 at similar prices. meanwhile at Amazon 2 copies have also sold with an arrant relister sitting on Biblio at an unhinged $1200 and a BIN on Ebay as we speak at $475. Looks like a $400 minimum book and thanks to ebay lister for this fine pic. The ebay one should go although I have never met or chatted with a bayonet collector. Perhaps it's a hereditary thing, like 'this family has always collected bayonets.' Collecting is a mysterious and wonderful thing.
Want level 25-50 Highish

16 February 2007

The Baader - Meinhof Group. The Inside Story...

Stefan Aust. THE BAADER - MEINHOF GROUP. THE INSIDE STORY OF A PHENOMENON. Bodley Head, London 1987. ISBN 0370310314

Current Selling Prices
$200 - $350 /£110-£180

Fat octavo with 20 photos. The German original 'Der Baader Meinhof Komplex' is, like many modern German books, dead common; the English translation by Anthea Bell is decidedly uncommon. The Baader gang ( Red Army Faction) have been in the news recently with parole being considered for a couple of them Brigitte Mohnhaupt & Christian Klar. Corresponding roughly to the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army in America and the Angry Brigade in UK, the Red Army Faction intensified its guerrilla campaigns in northern German cities during 1970-72, setting department stores afire, raiding banks, kidnapping industrial magnates, stealing Mercedes-Benzes, shooting police and bombing the printing plants of the press plutocrat Axel Springer and the headquarters installations of the United States Army in Frankfurt and Heidelberg.

VALUE? One ambitious chap had it on Amazon at $1000 which to add insult to injury is flagged by Amazon with a yellow flash 'LOW PRICE.' It can usually be picked up at the esteemed ABE at around $250 and possibly less in a bookshop. Bookshops are sometimes found in the centre of populous towns. [Want level 15 - 25 Quite High]

The Art of Seeing and Painting. Hensche, 1987.

Henry Hensche. THE ART OF SEEING AND PAINTING. Portier Gorman, Louisiana, 1987. ISBN 0962138207

Current Selling Prices
$550-$750 / £300-£400

Subtitled 'for the color visualist painter.' Although short, the book was apparently 50 years in the making. Portier Gorman is basically a vanity press which might accont for the book's rarity. Hensche (1899-1992) was a student of Charles Hawthorne who was a student and follower of Monet. Hensche's teachings and influence are evident in the work of the current Cape (Cod) School style painters including Hilda Neilly, Mary Giammarino, Lois Griffel, Heather Bruce and many others.

VALUE? One copy on web at $450 vg in vg d/w appears to have sold, another copy from a breathtakingly expensive re-lister remains there at $1500, and has been joined by another at same price. There is also a copy on Amazon at the frankly unhinged get lost price of $2400. The book is 95 pages and at such prices it becomes worth xeroxing at 6 cents a page rather than rather than paying 300 times the price. Do the math. The $450 copy took a while to sell btw. Also, for about $4 you can get 'Hensche on Painting' (Dover) which has very similar stuff from the great teacher. STOP PRESS. A BIN copy sits at ebay at $2500 - the Mississippi seller misspells Hensche's name but has this unique selling point "Local artist Bobby Burst uses Henseche's ideas and methods of painting which he sells to the public." Seller's other items are Billy Joel and Bee Gee's albums. Burst, the artist, appears to be unknown to Google which these days basically means - he is unknown.' It's a mad world my masters' as Tom Middleton said. Want level 25-50 Highish

The Jurassic System in Great Britain. W.J. Arkell.

W. J. Arkell. THE JURASSIC SYSTEM IN GREAT BRITAIN. Oxford University Press, 1933 & 1970. ISBN 0198543719

Current Selling Prices
$450-$850? / £230-£450?

Much wanted and unfindable book. First appeared in 1933. 671 pages. Palaeontology is not normally a subject that inspires great passion but they sure want this book. Fossicking about on related blogs it seems that the late 'Bill' Arkell (1904 - 1958) is something of a cult hero among the fossil crowd. Simon Winchester the handsome chap who wrote about the making of the Oxford Dictionary cites the book with others that he used in his 'The Map that Changed the World' and says of it - " The greatest of all the works noted here -- aside, of course, from Darwin -- is the majestic tome (no other word can possibly do justice) written in 1933 by W. J. Arkell: 'The Jurassic System in Great Britain.' This utterly beautiful book, elegant in design and writing, represents the life's work of a man who was passionately fascinated by the most celebrated and, one might say, looking at the rocks and villages along its outcrop, the most English -- of all the geological periods. It has long been out of print, and a clean copy will cost a good deal of money. But to anyone whose interest in geology at its best may have been piqued by this short account, I urge them -- find yourself an Arkell, buy it, and treasure for yourself and for your descendants. There are all too few books of its like." Rock on. [Want level 25-50 Highish]

VALUE? Sorry I have no idea of price. Simon W's valuation 'a great deal of money' is my only clue. An imprecise and subjective phrase, possibly referring to a sum over a £1000. No copies on web in 2006. I have never knowingly handled it and imagine it is a big Oxford possibly blue but mebbe brown or even green or possibly slate grey. It is likely that a decent copy would need a price of around 400 quid to stop it selling there and then. However none of Arkell's other geological works command very much -- works on the Geology around Weymouth and Oxford Stone. Lastly there is a v good article on him in the DNB and a photo (copyrighted) showing a donnish dude, formidable but pleasant. The oil that I found (above) is not dissimilar.

15 February 2007

The Lord Peter Wimsey Companion

Reading an article by Jonathan Lethem (author of Motherless Brooklyn etc.,) in Harper's on 'The Pleasures of Plagiarism' called within the mag 'The Ecstasy of Influence.' Basically he sees plagiarism as necessary, acceptable and common in current art, literature etc., 'Collage, says Lethem, was the art form of the 20th Century.' Great article and worth the slightly stroppy $7.55 the mag costs. The net, of course, is all about plagiarism and collage, everybody cutting and pasting from one another. Alot of it is not art, in fact artless. The other day a guy listed a book on Lincoln on ebay with a vast bio lifted without attribution and with all the links from Wikipedia - it looked v crass. The general rule is to keep borrowings short and acknowedge them - a bite, not a 3 course meal. Also not to just recycle info but to introduce new and original information from reading, media, research, observation, experience, personal knowledge, inspiration, original thought, anecdotal evidence, listening to wise treachers, bores and madmen, guesswork, dreams, hallucinations or possibly by channelling it from the great spirits of the past*.

The whole question of internet plagiarism has impacted education - with software now available to detect student lifters and borrowers. Easier to call it collage, post - modernism, conceptual or 'open source' etc., My point (and I do have one) is that Lethem is a brother of the book - he spent 10 years in Berkeley, working first at Pegasus Books on Solano and then at Moe's on Telegraph. Both large used bookshops with good stuff coming in by wagon load. He would have seen the incredible variety of interests and obsessions out there; in Berkeley he was at the epicentre. I must have seen him, even cajoled him into giving me 20% discount (especially hard at Pegasus.) Lethem spends a while discussing the legal problems of 'culture as property' and the litigiousness of those who consider themselves robbed; in the used book web world there is at least one dealer, possibly possessed of a hair trigger temper, who threatens to prosecute anyone who uses his book descriptions with the full force of the law. Rave on, it's a crazy feeling.

Today's book is about a true original - Dorothy Sayers (where did she get Wimsey from, was it Wodehouse or Oppenheim?)

Stephan P. (Stephen) Clarke. THE LORD PETER WIMSEY COMPANION.Mysterious Press,New York 1985. ISBN 0892968508

Current Selling Prices
$350-$750 / £200-£400 Want level 25-50 Highish

500+ pages quarto size concordance and companion to all the Dorothy L Sayers novels and short stories featuring the toff detective Lord Peter Wimsey. Hardback limited to 500 copies. Like Anthony Powell, C.S. Forester, Christie, Rosamund Pilcher and Pratchett, DLS has inspired a full blown guide for the completist. Much wanted, 4 buyers waiting at Amazon, fought over on ebay etc., Sayers marvellously literate style and attractive hero make her still highly collected. BTW they make great audio tapes for a long journey - try the unabridged ones with Carmichael reading. Last point Wimsey collected incunabula (books before 1500, dontcha know) and joins a very select bunch-- tecs who collected books.

VALUE? A less than stellar copy sits on ebay right now at a BIN of $629. Hard to find for less than $500 except by a fluke. A tiresome and tireless relister from a surfing town wants $1495. A reprint would cool the price a bit and there is nothing to stop the still extant Mysterious Press. Sayers also wrote a couple of pamphlets about Wimsey's antecedents 'An Account of Lord Mortimer Wimsey. The Hermit of the Wash.'. The first was privately printed in 1937; in 1936 also privately printed and written with Helen Simpson she produced 'Papers Relating to the Family of Wimsey' (500 copies.) These whimsical pamphlets can make over 500 quid each on a good day. Her own largish library was dispersed early in this century. Signed Sayers material although desirable is still fairly thick on the ground.

* You could form quite a collection of books written by their authors posthumously ( i.e. channelled or received by spiritualistic messages etc.,) One from the 1920s received from Oscar Wilde asks what he thought of 'Ulysses', his opinion was that it was 'heated vomit.'

13 February 2007

Northern Lights. Philip Pullman.

Philip Pullman. NORTHERN LIGHTS. Scholastic Press, London 1995.

Current Selling Prices
$2500-$4000 /£1300-£2200 Want level 25-50 Highish

Much loved and much prized children's fantasy featuring Lyra a young girl brought up in the cloistered world of an Oxford college and her 'Daemon' Pantalaimon. With the novel's anti dogmatic, anti fundamentalist leitmotiv, PP has been unfairly accused of being irreligious. However he has attacked C S Lewis (blasphemy in itself!) The first of a trilogy and commonly sold with the other two. You want the word 'Point' on the book's spine and the address 7-9 Pratt Street on the copyright page. Often signed on a special Pullman bookplate.

VALUE? Trumpeted as an investment often by those wanting well over the odds. Pristine and mint are words sometimes used by the trumpeteers. One seller with a perfect copy at a celestial £7K states that he 'had the chance to get this copy signed by the author but preferred to leave it in it's completely pristine state.' A new one. Always a bit worrying, the 'I' word and something of a red flag especially with the book demonstrably 'softening' price-wise. However the book still seems to command at least £2000 or more in 'as new' nick. It has fetched over £4,500 back in 2003 at Bloomsbury and £3500 for all 3 inscribed in 2004. The trilogy available in 2/2007 at ABE at a shade under £3K all fine and signed. On ebay there were 28 bids for a signed copy that made $2,795.43 late in 2005 and described as 'unread.' Although there was a photo of PP signing the book some bidders were worried that he had signed in in blue instead of his customary black. This week a signed near fine BIN copy at £1100 sits on ebay touted as: 'One of the best investments for 2007." There are not a worrying amount of for sale currently - with some books that are losing their lustre copies tend to foregather on th web, sometimes in embarrassing numbers and the price slides precipitously - vide 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin.' The good Captain is worth less than half the price he was fetching 4 years ago. A lot of hope that the coming movie (slated for 2007) will jump start Pullman prices back to former levels. It can happen if the movie is truly wonderful, in the case of Corelli the lousiness of the movie caused the books decline. It all makes sense.

12 February 2007

Decorative Designs of Donald Deskey


Current Selling Prices
$300-$500 / £140-£260

Lavishly illustrated monograph on the preeminent modernist designer in 1930s USA. Art Deco etc., DD did the interior at Radio City Music Hall and Crest toothpaste still use the package he designed. An art book that came and went in a flash as some applied art monographs will do. There are guys walking around in Comme des Garcons shirts and Prada shoes who know the names and value of every one of those vanished books.

VALUE? Not common. Copies seen at a little less than $300, the ones at $300 and a bit over have been sitting there for a few moons. This leads me to advance a sound but obtuse economic theory that the right price is the wrong price -- i.e. if you put the right price on a book it will not sell, at least not with alacrity - the trick is to put it at a bit less than the right price. This is especially true of the net where most people are looking for deals, if not screaming bargains. Some books have been sitting on the net since the dot.com bubble. One seller with an 'exquisite' copy wants $550. 'Exquisite' is not a word used much in book dealing, except with bindings where it was once used so often they became known as 'squizz bindings.' Pic above show one of Deskey's most excellent table lamps.

Want level 25-50 Highish

Peter West. D.E. Stevenson. 1923

Back in the USA for the bookfair in San Francisco. This book is an enigma, although one sees D.E. Stevenson's books around (that's her left.) Can't do highspots all the time, although I will tackle the case of Philip Pullman and his flattening prices this week, also maybe the case of Clive Staples Lewis and his valuable Narnia books. Odd bedfellows.

D.E. Stevenson. PETER WEST. Chambers, London 1923.

Current Selling Prices
$350-$700? /£180-£350? Want level 25-50 Highish

270 page novel apparently with fantasy elements. Bleiler and Locke only note her 1936 novel 'The Empty World: A Romance of the Future: ' (in USA 'A World in Spell') . It is in Bleiler under the code 'uU8' which translates as Catastrophes / Future Primitivism. It was set in 1973, the year of her death. 'Peter West' is the first of over 40 novels by the popular writer. Her sister married into the Chambers publishing family, and Ms Stevenson got this novel serialized in 'The Chambers Journal', and published by them in book form in 1923, but it wasn’t a success. Dorothy Emily Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1892, she was related to Robert Louis Stevenson, who was her father's first cousin.She was 24 when she married Captain James Reid Peploe of the 6th Gurkha Rifles in 1916. Created the immortal characters Mrs Tim and Miss Buncle published by Herbert Jenkins. Can find nothing on 'Peter West' except that it is much wanted and highly elusive. However there has to be a ceiling on the value, this isn't Beatrix, or even Harry, Potter. No copies on web, no catalogue entries, nada.

VALUE? Generally not a big money author, but steady. Someone is asking over £800 for an inscribed copy of her first book - a work of poetry entitled 'Meadow Flowers'. This price seems un peu steep for a popular romance writer as they do not tend to inspire the sort of waving of credit cards or check books you might get with a thriller or horror writer. However it is not unthinkable that at least one punter might step forward for this novel at 400 dollars even pounds and more than one if it were wearing a bright jacket. Pure speculation. Her one SF novel The Empty World (see above) gets listed by Currey without jacket at $250.

10 February 2007

Little Black Sambo. Helen Bannerman. 1899

Helen Bannerman. LITTLE BLACK SAMBO. Grant Richards, London, 1899.

Current Selling Prices
$8500-$13000 £4000-£6500 Want level 75 - 100 Very High

The fourth Dumpy book. Dumpy books were still going until recently but this is by far the most valuable. Only 500 were printed. Written during the author’s journey to India. Her intention was to present the tale and its charming pictures to her children, who had remained at a Hill Station while she travelled with her husband- an army doctor. It was an immediate hit with them and a friend took it the next year to Grant Richards who bought the copyright for £5, something of a bargain. Its success is partly due to the attractive and innovative format, and also its vivid no nonsense 27 colour illustrations. Although often accused of racism ( the title doesn't help) it was something of a break from former stories featuring black children in that it portrayed the character as clever and resourceful rather than an impassive simpleton as so often before. Endless editions have appeared with different illustrators, moveables, pop ups, cut outs, miniatures, parodies and paint by number jobs.

VALUE? Fairly vulnerable little book with Victorian gutta percha binding so that the spine often needs replacing or strengthening. Also it tends to have been read, handled and chucked about by young children, who along along with 'fire, water, librarians and servants' must be numbered among the enemies of books. Fine copies are highly prized, 2 decent copies on ABE in late 06 at over $10K with the highest at a slightly stroppy but not absurd $15,500. In Feb 2007 another one has appeared with 2 others in so-so condition. Bit of an ebay favourite where even late reprints are fought for in mortal combat. In terrestrial auctions a decent copy hit $12000 in 1996 and several have breasted $6500. The US 1901 ed from Stokes is not be sneezed at, occasionally commanding over $1000. In terms of scarcity the net has revealed it as being difficult but not impossible; the toppermost dealer in this subject Justin Schiller wrote: "Should a census eventually be attempted, there would probably be fewer copies located than of the notoriously rare and suppressed 1865 Alice."

09 February 2007

Where Troy Once Stood. Iman Wilkens.

Yesterday I mentioned Wikipedia and their piece on Arthur Bernard Cook which was rather thin. Wikipedia is, of course commendable and vast and we have occasionally contributed to it. As a bookseller you occasionally get obscure info or can make a hitherto unnoticed connection and Wikipedia is great as a residuary for such facts that otherwise would drift into the air like Woodbine smoke in a betting shop. The DNB is good on dead Brits especially the new 60 volume work. In almost every case of 20th Century individuals it states how much money they left. E.g. George Harrison left £98,916,464, Arthur Bernard Cook left £14,249 9s. 8d in 1954 and Bram Stoker left £5269 12s. 7d. in 1912. Agatha Christie in 1976 left £147,810, which doesn't seem enough but was probably a useful sum at the time. They also tend to get an expert or even friend to write the piece and occasionally they wax anecdotal, eg with Bernard Cook there are stories of a couple of amusing remarks he made on his death bed. He would probably have uttered a loud 'Harrumph' at today's work...


Current Selling Prices
$200-$400 /£120-£200

A curious and much wanted work with an entirely new theory about Homer's works. Arguing that the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" do not fit the topography, geology, climate and oceanic tidal patterns of the eastern Mediterranean, Wilkens relocates the Homeric scene in western Europe and the northern Atlantic. He claims that the Trojan War was fought on a far larger scale than previously thought, by Celts from regions as far apart as Scandinavia and Spain. Troy was, in fact, in East Anglia! Slightly difficult to swallow but apparently fairly convincing. Also not entirely new, theories like this have been around for 200 years now. [Want level 50 - 75 High]

VALUE? Hard to find a decent copy for less than $150 (paperback) and jacketed hardbacks twice that, but never much more. A revised reprint appeared in Holland in 2005 but is expensive and oddly uncommon. 1990 a US ed appeared in 1991 and goes for similar money. Not especially scarce. At one point a relisting GOPWO from Texas was asking $5000 for the book. The devout young man appears to have vanished (or been sent to Bedlam.)

*GOPWO = Grossly over priced web operator, from a phrase my Dad used from the RAF in WW2 for 'Grossly over promoted warrant officer' -a type that annoyed him greatly. Another acronym that actually has some currency is UNCLE --for books which cannot, as yet, be found listed on the web. The letters stand for Unique No Copy Located Elsewhere.

07 February 2007

Zeus. A Study in Ancient Religion. Arthur Bernard Cook.

Arthur Bernard Cook. ZEUS. A STUDY IN ANCIENT RELIGION. 3 VOLS IN 5. Cambridge University Press, 1914 - 1940.

Current Selling Prices
$1200-$1500 / £750-£900 Want level 25-50 Highish

Fabulous, substantial work in mythological and religious scholarship published over a quarter of a century by Cambridge Professor of Classical Archaeology (1868 - 1952.) The first vol is subtitled 'God of the Bright Sky', the other 2 vols (both in 2 parts) are entitled 'God of the Dark Sky' and deal with Zeus and Thunder, Lightning,Earthquakes, Wind, Dew, Rain and Meteorites. In England, as elsewhere at that time, the history of religion excited interest as perhaps never before or since. Cook, a friend of JG Frazer, was part of the scholarly set known as 'The Cambridge Ritualists' whose members included F.M. Cornford, Gilbert Murray and Jane Harrison - they felt that the origins of myth lay in ritual. They are not forgotten and this is a much sought after and valuable book.

VALUE? Although the work was reprinted by Biblio and Tannen in NY 1965 dealers till ask around £1K, sometimes in mixed sets. Ask but don't necessarily get - most high price copies have been sitting there since George Bush was still popular. There are several odd volumes at about $200 a pop. It tends to end up with important bookshops (the kind of guys who get called in to make offers on the libraries of great academics) who also tend to price with a heavyish hand so it is unlikely to show up at cheap as chips prices, sorry. Myth and folklore, is to my mind a fascinating area of collecting and large collections of the stuff occasionally turn up in odd places but, sadly, pretty infrequently.

The Wikipedia bit on Cook is woefully thin, the DNB (only £200 a year online) has a charming picture and a long, clever and affectionate bio from which I quote "This study shows a fabulous command of every kind of material which could be brought to bear on the subject—ancient literature, monumental evidence, the Near Eastern background, and folklore and folk-ways from all parts, all presented with supreme accuracy and so indexed as to be instantly available. Zeus would be indispensable to students in many fields, even if every single conclusion of its author were rejected. Perhaps no one has equalled Cook in his ability to present the views of others with generous fairness and to state objections to his own; no one has surpassed him in awareness of the fact that the ancients took their gods seriously."

06 February 2007

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 1885.

Have been away from my desk attending the sale of the books of a 1930s society person who seems to have known everybody including Lord Berners, Robert Byron and Paddy Leigh Fermor - I got some good things, which will appear in a pretentious catalogue come April. The auction was in Essex and they didn't take cheques. My remark that there must be a lot of villains in the area didn't go down too well. Credit cards or cash only. Today's book is by the great Twain. I recall that when he was hanging out with the cannibals he said something like 'I suppose you would like to eat me too' and was politely informed that the flesh of a heavy smoker and drinker was unpalatable to them.

Mark Twain. ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Charles Webster, New York, 1885.

Current Selling Prices
$13000 - $18000 / £6500 - £9000 Want level 50 - 75 High

Enduring US classic, up there with Moby Dick, Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Scarlet Woman. Hemingway, not necessarily reliable as a guide, opined: "All modern literature comes from one book by Mark Twain...It's the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." Quite a high print run so not especially scarce and there are points to determine early states of the first edition, the most obvious of which are that the title page and page 283/4 are cancels (i.e. page has been replaced on a stub) and that at page 155, the final 5 is slightly dropped, or slightly bigger or entirely absent. Much argument about that five depending on which copy the dealer is attempting to sell. There are other points and a good deal of literary detection has gone into them, precedence is now fairly clearly established. Talking of which the 1884 British edition precedes the American by 4 months but is worth less -- presumably under the rules of 'follow the flag' (i.e. prefer the edition from the author's country.)

VALUE? The UK first is worth about a third of the US, but serious collectors like to have both. There is the story of the dealer who bought a copy privately lacking the front endpaper, when he remarked on this to the seller the chap said 'Yeah that had to go, some guy called Clemens wrote his name on it.' (An old chestnut-- sometimes it's Alice and 'some guy called Dodgson.') There are facsimiles of the first that occasionally turn up online with persons trying to sell them as the real thing; the first clue that something is wrong is that they are in unnaturally fine condition with bright white fore edges, don't be fooled.

05 February 2007

Aldous Huxley. Brave New World. 1932

Aldous Huxley. BRAVE NEW WORLD. Chatto and Windus, London 1932.

Current Selling Prices
$5000 - $8000 / £2500 - £4000

Attractive blue jacket, also a jacketless yellow buckram signed limited edition that commands slightly less than a fineish trade first in d/w. Not one of Huxley's best books but certainly his most famous. Title is from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' -- "Oh brave new world, that has such people in it". The book hasn't entered popular culture in the way that 1984 has (Big Brother/ Room 101 etc.,) but every time cloning and gene splicing takes a leap forward the title is invoked. In the novel movies are known as 'feelies' and low caste workers as 'Epsilons' but these haven't really caught on. Barron in his authoritative Anatomy of Wonder (1995)says that the book "... stands alongside We and Nineteen Eighty-Four as one of the classic dystopian novels." Reading JG Ballard's chef d'oeuvre Super Cannes (2000) you can, to some extent , see Huxleys unoptimistic vision realised.

VALUE? A common 'rare' book that was barely breasting a £100 in the 1970s for a nice jacketed one but now commands £3000. Decent copies sans d/w are common, and even copies in unimpressive chipped and generally lived in jackets are still often seen, fine it has become difficult. It can show up in 'vibrant' condition with the blue as fresh as it was in the 1930s. It has benefited from a polarisation in the modern first edition market towards the collecting of obvious, landmark books (sometimes called 'dumbing down') and the price seems to have unerringly tracked the Dow Jones or Kensington house prices as these books tend to. Cf. The Hobbit, Narnia, Casino Royale, Dead Cert, Catch 22 and Catcher in the Rye etc., A beast of a book inscribed-- the Maurice Neville copy at Sotheby's 2004 signed to Paul Jordan Smith made an audacious $25000. Huxley was not a gregarious type and apart from limited editions his signature is scarce; his dauntingly intellectual look probably scared off autograph hounds. Want level 25 - 50 Highish

04 February 2007

Johnny Got His Gun. Dalton Trumbo. 1939.

Dalton Trumbo. JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN. Lippincott, 1939

Current Selling Prices
$2000+ / £1200+- Want level 15 - 30 Quite High

Classic anti-war novel. Indomitable La- La land writer who had his collar felt by communist hunter McCarthy - being one of the Hollywood 10. From the blurb on the paperback: "This was no ordinary war. This was a war to make the world safe for democracy. And if democracy was made safe, then nothing else mattered--not the millions of dead bodies, nor the thousands of ruined lives.This is no ordinary novel. This is a novel that never takes the easy way out: it is shocking, violent, terrifying, horrible, uncompromising, brutal, remorseless and gruesome.but so is war. Winner of the National Book Award." DT seems like Faulkner with 'As I Lay Dying' to have written out the book in a very short time - 'in a fury.' One thinks of L.A. as producing deeply shallow writers but then you get guys like Trumbo, Fante, Chandler,Nathanael West and even in our time the underrated Bruce Wagner.

VALUE? A still saleable book despite signs that Trumbo's star is not in the ascendant. A very nice copy that was around at $5k seems to have sold or been knocked out, and another copy (also bright) was on offer at $3500. A copy in an unpleasant supplied jacket 'flatsigned' resided in an ebay shop at $7500 and is no longer there but is unlikely to have sold, although such sellers occasionally have 50% off and 'let's talk' sales. In 2005 at Sotheby's a copy made $1035 signed in an unremarkable jacket: "For Bill Lipman - who has ridden on Felton's coat, and hence knows a terror quite beyond anything in this book. Dalton Trumbo."
Trumbo's first book 'Eclipse' first published in UK 1935 (Lovat Dickson) used to be a classic sleeper esp as no one has heard of DT in 'darkest England.' $4000 book, fine in fine. It wasn't published in USA until 2005.

03 February 2007

The Book of Common Prayer. 1549.

Thomas Cranmer & others. BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER. Edwarde Whitchurche, London 1549.

Current Selling Prices
$40000+ ? / £18000+? Want level 50 - 75 High

Folio. 12 editions came out in 1549, causing serious reaction not the least in Cornwall and the South West where they refused to accept the book. 4000 died in what are known a 'The Prayer Book Riots.' It had replaced the various Latin rites that had been in use for 100s of years with plain English. However in historical terms the book is a landmark of the Protestant Reformation and featured in Printing and the Mind of Man (75). People used to collect all the books in "PMM', one wonders whether this still works. The text is 'black letter' or gothic in style, much used for liturgical and legal texts in the 16th century and the title printed in red and black within woodcut border. A book of this age will frequently have handwritten notes and annotations and these do not detract from the value unless messy or recent (ie in the last 150 years or so.) If any sort of name can be given to the writer of the notes and he or she is in DNB or at least googleable so much the better, if it's a big and ancient name the value goes through the cathedral roof.

VALUE? Copies have made between £1000 and £50,000 over the last 30 years with the £50K being achieved in 1979 for the Houghton copy described as 'magnificent.' The same book appeared at the flashy Garden sale 10 years later and made £45K. Not a good sign. Only one has appeared in the last 10 years and made $8K but it was a little defective and discernibly washed. I have heard there have been copies of 1549 editions on ebay where Bibles and Prayer Books are avidly traded but I don't have figures. The Garden Sale, by the way, was the beginning of the end of taste and refinement in book collecting. A collection assembled by Michael Davis (the money) and one Haven O' More of important bog standard famous books, the preface by O'More to Sotheby's catalogue can still raise a titter - described on a sober library website as "fatuous and quasi-religious" and prices that were high for the time but reflected the fact that many of the books were bought too recently to do anything but 'wash their face.' I was reminded of this recently listening to the tape of David Baldacci's bibliomystery 'The Collectors' (2006) featuring some cool old geezers known as the Camel Club. The first murder in the book is of the Head of Rare Books at the Library of Congress one Jonathan de Haven, surely an echo of O'More. Or am I mad?

01 February 2007

Jock of the Bushveld. Sir Percy Fitzpatrick.

Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. JOCK OF THE BUSHVELD. Longman, Green and Co, London, 1907.

Current Selling Prices
$750-$1200 /£350-£650 Want level 25-50 Highish

Much loved dog story, based on the real experiences of Percy Fitzpatrick who saved this plucky bull terrier, the runt of the pack, from drowning. Set during the gold rush days in the South African veld at the end of the 19th century. FitzPatrick later recounted these adventures as bedtime stories to his four children. Rudyard Kipling, a good friend of FitzPatrick, occasionally took part in these story-telling evenings and encouraged him to collect these tales in book form. He was also instrumental in getting them published. The memorable illustrations for the book were done by Edmund Caldwell. The gilt spine of the book shows a Kudu cow - this is the animal that kicked Jock causing him to become deaf...I won't spoil the story but that Kudu was Jock's nemesis. A great story. Fitzpatrick (1862-1931) educated at Downside was imprisoned for a few months in 1896 for high treason after a failed raid from Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) to aid the conspirators for Cecil Rhodes in Johannesburg, shades of that other great imprisoned Irish storyteller Erskine Childers. Fitzpatrick was knighted in 1902.

VALUE? A book you see quite a bit but it's usually a reprint or at best a second edition. The true first in original publisher's green cloth lettered gilt on spine and on front cover is a $1000 book if very clean. 5000 copies were printed, apparently the original Longman's ledgers show no costing for a jacket and it has, to my knowledge, never been seen in one. After the first edition there were some changes made by the artist when inaccuracies in his drawings were bought to his attention e.g. on pages 65, 337 and 457 drawings of a dung beetle pushing his load show him pushing with his front legs rather than his back and on page 316 a horse is shown trying to climb an impossibly high bank. Book went into nearly a 100 editions and was quickly translated into Afrikaans, Dutch, French, Xhosa and Zulu. A decent but not limpid copy turned up recently at auctionexplorer.com and made $950. A great site, by the way, and good luck to any auction site that takes on the bland monolithic monopoly that is ebay. Nothing against ebay, we list there all the time, but being Brits we hate to see people doing too well.

Judas and Other Stories. John Metcalfe. 1931.

John Metcalfe. JUDAS AND OTHER STORIES. Constable. London, 1931.

Current Selling Prices
$750-$1200? /£400-£650? Want level 15-30 Quite High

10 short stories, supernatural, weird and contes cruels. British author who lived in France and America (he was married to the US writer Evelyn Scott) and wrote mainly fantasy. His books are much sought after and possessed of 'rare artistry, wit and intelligence...' (Sullivan - Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural) George Locke wrote in the first vol of his 'Spectrum of Fantasy' that `'...it's a toss up as to whether this or 'The Smoking Leg' is the more difficult." Both are collections of short stories with fantastical elements but the net has shown Judas to be far more difficult and hence more searched after. There are currently 5 'Legs' but no Judas at ABE.

VALUE? A decent copy lacking the fep and sans jacket listed by the great fantasy dealer Currey has sold (or vanished) at £275. Locke bought his for 3/6 in the 1960s. From this flimsy evidence it could be inferred that nice in jacket it would probably fetch £600+. Same goes for the 'Smoking Leg' in sharp condition with its jolly Jarrolds jacket, the Doubleday is a year later and not uncommon. Short stories always seem to have an added value factor in fantasy and even more so with mystery and detection. Can't quite explain it, probably to do with variety, also scarcity.