28 November 2007

Bram Stoker. Dracula. 1897.

Bram Stoker. DRACULA. Constable, London, 1897.

Current Selling Prices
$20000 / £10000

A press notice in a later edition says it all - 'The very weirdest of weird tales.' Also the most desirable book of its genre. An ebay perennial making fat sums even in the most obliterated condition. There are points which are not entirely settled, but basically the earliest issue does not have ads at the rear and the best of those 2 is on slightly thicker and better paper which tends to discernibly 'bulk' the book. Yellow cloth, of course, and a yellow which seems to attract dirt so that bright copies are something of a wonder and a faultless, factory fresh copy is almost unthinkable. I did hear of a copy that because of its supposed salacious content had been kept in brown paper wraps and emerged as bright as a new A.A. book but this was before prices for the book had become serious--until the early 1980s no copy had made over £100.  The second issue has a single page advertisement at the rear for 'The Shoulder of Shasta.' That is still a bloody good book.

Inscribed copies are not uncommon, Bram was well known in the theatre world (being Henry Irving's secretary) and presumably quite approachable. An inscribed early state Dracula is currently being offered at $55K, another, the Marlowe - Rechler copy, inscribed to one Henry A. Blyth made $40K in 2002. Both very reasonable condition but not remarkable copies. The first American edition, considered better looking, came out in 1899 and goes for a little less than half UK firsts. It was published by Doubleday & McClure, not Grosset as some people persist in thinking. Grosset is, with a few notable exceptions, a reprint house; however they did produce a very attractive 'Photoplay' edition in 1931 to coincide with the Bela Lugosi movie. (See below) This can go for over $1000 to $3000 in bright d/w. There is one on the net at present at $13,500 with an eminently sane bookseller. As we used to say in the hippy days "I cannot get my head round that, man."

VALUE? Condition, condition, condition-- those are the 3 things you need to know about this book. A friend once tried to sell a worn and soiled copy, excusing the condition on the grounds it had character and that the soiling was patina! It doesn't work that way and $20000 copies have to be as the song has it 'all yellow.' And bright. It is a  common book in mediocre to lousy condition. Soiled copies that are internally OK get bound up in fancy leather bindings and command about £4k max. Some sellers ask 4 figure sums for 4th, 5th and early 20th century editions. They very rarely sell, even on ebay they no longer work. One chap (at a shop nowhere near Scott Fitzgerald's old college) has a whole collection of them at buffoon prices that sit on the web year after year. I recall in one shop in San Francisco they had a Dracula in a cabinet in  poor and rather delicate shape woefully overpriced--every dealer and chancer who came in the shop would examine it and shove it back in disgust. Eventually it fell to pieces and was taken away in a bag by the peevish proprietor. The shop has now closed. Talking of bloodsuckers see poster below.

STOP PRESS.   The entry above was mostly done in January--since then about a dozen yellow 1897 'Draculas' have been seen in auction, the highest price was $10,200 in NY for a copy described as 'an unusually bright copy' (although it had a number of minor faults.) A few soiled copies made between £2000 and £3000. There were several high profile buy-ins where the reserve had been too ambitious. High reserves are sometimes forced on the chinless wonders who man auction houses by over demanding, not to say greedy, consigners. This tends to happen if the consigner has something sexy to sell or is a favoured client (i.e. rich ).

One of the buy-ins this year that, in the language of the saleroom hack, 'failed to impress' was a Dracula in a very fancy Sangorski box and slip-case estimated at $30,000 to $40,000. It was catalogued as  'a beautiful and unique hand-made leather slipcase and box by the legendary bookbinders of Sangorski & Sutcliffe with their anthemion located on the bottom of the back cover...the slipcase is supple black leather with applied white leather to form the stark image of Count Dracula about to feast on the neck of Mina Harker...' Slip-cases and such adornments tend to be site specific, once you take them out of an auction house they can lose much of their value and may only repeat the result in a similarly hyped up setting. This very binding had been sold  in London in 2005 at £6000 and had been returned to the rooms too fast. 15 firsts from 1897 can be found at ABE awaiting punters--from £3500 to £35000 for a copy inscribed on the day it was published.

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