27 April 2007

The Eye of the World. Robert Jordan, 1990.

Robert Jordan. THE EYE OF THE WORLD. Tor (Tom Docherty) New York [1990] ISBN: 0312850093

Current Selling Prices
$350-$800 /£180-£400

Only 1500 copies of this hardbound issue were produced. First book of "The Wheel of Time" series. Fine copies in fine dust jackets seem to be somewhat prized. With recent books, and especially fantasy, condition is paramount. The venerable Blackwell's, heirs to book Deity Basil Blackwell, say:
...in one short decade, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time has become the bestselling American fantasy series of all time--comparable in depth and scope to J.R.R. Tolkien's legendary trilogy," The Lord of The Rings. ... In the THE EYE OF THE WORLD three young friends; Rand, Matt and Perrin are attacked by subhuman monsters, bestial Trollocs. With the help of Lady Moiraine, an Aes Sedai, a woman who can wield the One Power and her Warder, Lan--the young boys flee their homeland. But they are pursued relentlessly by the forces of the evil Dark One--and begin an adventure across an imaginative, fantastical world of strange wonders and deadly horror--where goodness stands on the brink of destruction--for the Wheel of Time is weaving a web in the pattern of ages, a web to entangle the world...

I came across this book in a very useful list compiled by an assiduous ebayer which was part of an endless thread "A Book that Looks Like Nothing" ( very long list try here.) Here is the accumulated wisdom of 'one short decade' on ebay, a sharp learning curve with a few no hopers and netblown books thrown in. A long queue await 'Eye' at ABE presumably looking for underpriced examples. Btw the Wikiman informs us that: ' Robert Jordan has stated that he consciously intended the early chapters of The Eye of the World to evoke the Shire of Middle-Earth in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.' Jordan is a US author and the US eds usually precede. His real name is James Oliver Rigney, a decorated Vietnam Vet and '... a history buff ... enjoys hunting, fishing, sailing, poker, chess, pool and pipe collecting.' A word of warning - pipe collectors can become shocking bores when you get them on their subject.

VALUE? The cheapest copy available is $375, a signed one can be hand for $550, the word on the street is that Jordan isn't signing anymore -something you hear alot from autograph people. The UK from Orbit in 1990 seems to go for about the same. An ARC (Advance Reading Copy) is a BIN at ebay at $110 but you don't want those. There are no firsts on ebay which is a good sign. [ W/Q *** ]

26 April 2007

The Anatomy of Melancholy. Robert Burton. 1621.

'' I hear new news every day, and those ordinary rumours of war, plagues, firs, inundations, thefts, murders, massacres, meteors, comets, spectrums, prodigies, apparitions, of towns taken, cities besieged, in France, Germany, Turkey, Persia, Poland, &c., daily musters and preparations, and suchlike, which these tempestuous times afford, battles fought, so many men slain, monomachies, shipwrecks, piracies, and sea-fights, peace, leagues, stratagems, and fresh alarms. A vast confusion of vows, wishes, actions, edicts, petitions, lawsuits, pleas, laws, proclamations, complaints, grievances, are daily brought to our ears.

New books every day, pamphlets, currantoes, stories, whole catalogues of volumes of all sorts, new paradoxes, opinions, schisms, heresies, controversies in philosophy, religion, &c. Now come tidings of weddings, maskings, mummeries, entertainments, jubilees, embassies, tilts and tournaments, trophies, triumphs, revels, sports, plays: then again, as in a new shifted scene, treasons, cheating tricks, robberies, enormous villainies in all kinds, funerals, burials, deaths of Princes, new discoveries, expeditions; now comical then tragical matters. Today we hear of new Lords and officers created, to-morrow of some great men deposed. And then again of fresh honors conferred; one is let loose, another imprisoned, one purchaseth, another breaketh; he thrives, his neighbor turns bankrupt; now plenty, then again dearth and famine; one runs, another rides, wrangles, laughs, weeps, &c.”

(Robert Burton.) THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY, What It Is with All the Kindes, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Severall Cures of It- Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up. By Democritus Junior [pseud.]-. J. Lichfield & J. Short for H. Cripps., Oxford, 1621.

Current Selling Prices
$20,000-$35,000 /£10000-£17000

Robert Burton’s marvellous miscellaneous masterpiece. Not a book to sit down and read for hours, more to dip into or surf (browse) on a regular basis. Dr Johnson said it was the only book that took him out of bed two hours earlier than he intended, Sterne's 'Tristram Shandy' was shot through with it, Charles Lamb modelled his style on it and Milton was influenced by the verses prefixed to it. In our time Anthony Powell used it to great effect in his roman fleuve and named one of his early novels ('Afternoon Men') after it.

Some dealers, possibly in an attempt to sell it have tried to re-position it as a medical treatise, or early psychiatry and it fits quite suitably in these categories but is more a work of literature in the wake of Montaigne, a tour de force of intense scholarship and finely written prose from a great age. One day some one will write a self help book based on it. Thomas Moore has already profitably mined this and earlier works for his own considerable work 'Care of the Soul'. There was an exhibition in Paris 'Melancolie' at the Grand Palais in the dark winter of 2005/ 2006 where Bocklin's Isle of the Dead and "The Death of Chatterton' happily co -existed. There were several editions of Burton's masterpiece on show. A great exhibition but these themed shows are possibly too pretentious for UK and US sensiblities. I don't think it travelled on. The catalogue is, however, worth having (below.)

It is not an impossible book to own, large handsome 17th century editions can be had for less than $1500. As Pforzheimer says- "As the author continued to make augmentations and a few corrections to each edition published in his lifetime and even left notes which were incorporated into the sixth edition, published after his death [in 1640], all early editions are of interest textually." The splendid title page (illustrated above) does not appear until the third edition. I had a handsome 1628 edition at home for about a decade, to dip into and impress friends but had to sell it at a book fair to raise money. In a way I made a good move because it hasn't increased in value. It is possible with a renewed interest in depression that it could start becoming more desirable.

Burton believed depression to be both a physical and spiritual ailment. He had his own bouts with the affliction and some say that in writing the work he was able to deal with it - "I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy". He cites nearly 500 authorities (Galen more than any other) in the course of classifying the myriad causes, forms and symptoms of depression, and describing its various cures. It also has a satirical vein running through it and can be humorous.

As Norman says - 'The work is also a literary tour-de-force in the tradition of Renaissance paradoxical literature. ' One of his recommendations was to leave the city and espouse the country life. To live in the right part of the world for one's humours, was one of the best ways of avoiding melancholy. It is listed in Printing & the Mind of Man where it is described thus - "...one of the most popular books of the seventeenth century. All the learning of the age as well as its humour -- and its pedantry -- are there."

VALUE? Not necessarily a brilliant investment--the Manney copy turned up at Sothebys in 1991 and made $23000 ((prob about £15 K at the time) 14 years later the same book made $15000 (then about £8k). Depressing. Not one of the great investments although there are signs thanks to blokes like Stephen Fry, Thomas Moore and Robbie Williams of a much greater interest in melancholy, depression, bipolar disorders etc., so prices may rise. It's the age we live in. At the ill fated Garden sale in 1989 a copy (not notably fine) made $45000, the price of a small flat in New York at the time. The highest price on the web is a Eurotastic €40K for the 1621 first in what sounds like a fab contemporary binding -'In-4; veau brun, triple filet d'encad. et fleuron central à froid sur les plats, dos à nerfs (Reliure de l'époque).' Another pretty smart one can be had for $50K. Both have been on sale for a while. Meanwhile the handsome 1628 edition can he had from a 'carriage trade' dealer at £2K and a very nice 1621 first basks in Santa Monica at $28K. It is actually a book where the later editions are better, the 1621 being a sort of fetish object (the 'true first') and it will always trump later editions but unless you are absolutely loaded you don't need it.

24 April 2007

Dow Mossman. The Stones of Summer, 1972.

Dow Mossman. THE STONES OF SUMMER. Bobbs-Merrill, NY, 1972.

Current Selling Prices
$400-$850 /£200-£420

In 2002, Mossman was the subject of a documentary film by Mark Moskowitz, 'Stone Reader', which followed the director's attempt to resuscitate the acclaimed book and speak to its seemingly-vanished author. A sort of modern day 'Quest for Corvo', although Baron Corvo was somewhat stranger than Mossman. The film is available on DVD and is fascinating. Moskowitz and others recall the book when they first read it as a powerful novel that should have been much bigger than it was - almost another 'Catcher in the Rye.' The book was lauded when it came out in 1972 and promptly sunk like a stone. Wikipedia sayeth:-
"Dow Mossman was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa...studied at Coe College for two years, finished college at the University of Iowa and received his M.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1969. His novel, The Stones of Summer, was published by Bobbs-Merrill and Popular Library in 1972. Following the publication of The Stones of Summer, Dow was mentally exhausted and spent several months in an Iowa sanitorium. The novel soon went out of print... Stone Reader chronicled the director's attempt to resuscitate the acclaimed book and speak to its seemingly-vanished author. The film shows Mossman currently living in the family home, which is filled with books. According to the film, Mossman writes on the porch, and is currently working on a book based on notes he has taken from hundreds of old movies. Mossman lists the memoirs of Casanova as his favorite literary work. As a child, Dow read the Bible, and the complete novels of Arthur Conan Doyle...Mossman occasionally plays snooker at a local taproom and never misses a sale at the Cedar Rapids Library, which has provided him with reading treasures such as several years of bound Century Magazines from the 1890s, and an 1867 translation of Don Quixote which he feels captures Cervantes better than any other.
Mossman is an avid Chicago Cubs fan and rides a motorcycle.

Prior to Stone Reader, Dow had been employed for 19 years as welder. He subsequently quit to look after his aging mother, who later died, after which he returned to work as a paper bundler for the local newspaper. After the film's release, The Stones of Summer was re-published. He is now semi-retired."

A coming of age novel of youth and rebellion and 'the new consciousness' written in the late 1960s. Leslie Fiedler who was fascinated by one hit wonders said it was 'a book I clutched in my hand for months, reading it everywhere in college...' Others speculated it may have been too late for such a novel in 1972. Several litterateurs said that it wasnt actually as good as they remember it on re-reading it this century, a familiar experience. [ W/Q * ]

VALUE? The film has intriguing scenes of Mark Moskowitz getting on the net to find out about Mossman and finding very little except a small accumulation of copies of the book at modest prices ($20 or less) which he promptly bought. When the movie came out and was shown on TV all the copies disappeared and it started appearing at $1000. It has now settled back and is in a gentle but discernible decline. It is not at all scarce as a first in mediocre condition. However it is not that easy to find sharp copies for much less than $400 but it could show up in a flea market for a buck. The usual coterie of high end dealers want north of $800 for decent but not fine jacketed copies. There is a pretty decent one on ebay right now at $400 as a BIN and another with chips at $375. Signed copies of the 2003 Barnes and Noble reprint can be had for $40, always a few on ebay and sometimes as many as half a dozen 1972 firsts. A slightly unpleasant ex library copy at $849 (why are ex library books always the most expensive?) has the following modest puff, one for my collection of book barkers:-
Here for your delectation is the SPECTACULAR & RARE-------THE STONES OF SUMMER by Dow Mossman.THIS IS ONE OF THE RAREST BOOKS TO BE FOUND ON THE INTERNET!!!---or anywhere else! ... Earning its author comparisons to no less than James Joyce, J. D. Salinger, and Mark Twain, this great American novel developed a passionate cult following -- the pages and binding are tight as a drum... bid soon and often for this magnificent, impossible-to-find LITERARY COLLECTIBLE.

Marcel Proust. A la Recherche du Temps Perdu...Forget about Madeleine biscuits & cork lined rooms...

Marcel Proust. A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU. 12 VOLS. Grasset & N.R.F. Paris 1913-1928.

Current Selling Prices
$18000+ / £10000+

The supreme classic of 20th Century European literature, the ultimate roman fleuve, although Powell runs him a close second with his 'Music of Time' also 12 vols. A paperback or paper wraps, at least- I don't have a set about my person at present and have never had all 12 or any 'tetes', although we always have a few sets of the Scott-Moncrieff translation. Admired by Graham Greene, Gianni Versace, Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Logan Pearsall Smith, Arnold Bennett, Sam Beckett, Tuesday Weld, Will Self etc., Alain de Botton wrote a pretty useful self help book based on the master's life and work 'How Proust can change your Life.' Even Nabokov liked the early volumes.

Forget about Madeleine biscuits and cork lined rooms and persevere with the first 200 pages, or start with a later book, or download it to your Ipod and walk 100 blocks with it. As Joseph Conrad said: ‘It appeals to our sense of wonder and gains our hommage by its veiled greatness. I don’t think there ever has been in the whole of literature such an example of the power of analysis.’ You don't need to be an intellectual, an epicene snob or a pseud but it might be unwise if your usual fare is shopping and fucking novels. The audio version by John Rowe btw is the one, NOT Neville Jason who doesn't appear to understand what he is reading.

It is on record that James Joyce met Proust at a midnight supper in the fashionable Majestic Hotel in May 1922, the two great men did not speak more than a few words with each other. "Of course the situation was impossible," Joyce recalled later. "Proust's day was just beginning. Mine was at an end." They shared a cab home but again hardly exchanged a word. It seems a pity - Joyce once said 'I never met a bore' and Proust had a similar outlook finding an evening with unimportant provincial burghers no more or less interesting than the most fashionable ball with aristos and jeunesse doré.

VALUE? Btw this is a rejig of an earlier posting with more info, the disco version as it were. Above is a very desirable item, a review copy of the very first book. Decent French sets in the original paper wraps or in attractive and exquisite bindings with the wraps bound in can make (at auction) $18000 or more, it gets much more serious with 'editions du tete' eg one of 12 of just one vol (Du Cote de Chez Swann) made $50,000 in 1999, another inscribed to Anatole France made $70000 way back in 1989. A one of 5 of the same volume on Japon with an ALS loosely inserted made $300,000 in 2001. This was the Calmette -Le Garrec -Blaizot - Meeus - Hayoit copy and you can be pretty sure it didn't turn up at a boot fair. A 13 vol set in a Paul Bonet binding with inlaid letters across the spines and a staircase motif made $50K. The paper on the ordinary editions can become brittle, especially in hot climates and the 'editions du tete' last a lot better. English editions are reasonably easily found, the Scott Moncrieff translation being limited to 1300. Inscriptions help -- usually to toffs and grandees in his circle e.g. the ubiquitous Princesse Marthe Bibesco. Being a French book condition is vital, shagged out copies get thrown in the Seine. [ W/Q ** ]

23 April 2007

Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus. Mary Shelley 1818.

Mary Shelley. FRANKENSTEIN: OR THE MODERN PROMETHEUS. 3 Volumes. Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Macor and Jones. London 1818.

Current Prices $100000-$180000 / £55000-£90000

You can chance on the 1831 one volume edition in its brown Bentley cloth, but the 3 volume 1818 edition is always going to be found only in locked cabinets, safes and vaults...Not exceptionally rare but exceptionally expensive as a first edition in its original 3 volume format from 1818. The supreme masterpiece of Gothic literature, greater than the Castle of Otranto, sometimes put forward as the first SF novel, although in its way it is a polemic against the 'hubris of modern science.' Written at the age of 18 when she was first married to Percy. A massive name in popular culture - the price of the book has rocketed due to its iconic status and the trend for collecting famous titles (especially movie related) and landmark books. Results are however not predictable, see below. Other spin offs are worth looking out for especially Michael Egremont's 'The Bride of Frankenstein' [1935] worth several hundred pounds sans jacket and alot more with (rumours of $7500 - one hell of a jacket.)

VALUE? It has recently made as much as $120K in auction and a remarkable 'superlatively fine' copy 1818 three decker can be found on the web for the price of a footballer's Bentley. God's copy. Talking of Bentley, the one vol 3rd edition and first illustrated from the publisher Bentley (1831) is a nice book to find and again not rarissimo ( copies seem to go for as much as $15K.) 16 copies of the 1818 first have shown up in auction in the last 30 years making from $1500 to $120,000 with one copy making $85000 + auctioneer's commission in original publisher's boards as far back as 1991. Results have not followed the perfect financial upward curve as such books as "Origin of Species" and "Wealth of Nations''- the market in horror being a little more quirky.

This is a re-jig of an earlier posting fom Dec 2006. Since then another 3 decker has come to the web, the one volume books seems to have gone ahead in value a little, and there is a tacky 1930s 'Bride' at a stonking $1400 sans jacket. Without the jacket the Egremont book is not scarce - we have had 4 copies in this new century. I am doing some re-jigs because I don't have alot of time with 20000 books to price and also these posts are in need of a new look now that I understand all this jpg and html stuff better. Apologies if you have already seen them but new content guaranteed. They are 'firsts thus.' [ W/Q **** ]

Vanity Fair

Today's piece is not about Thackeray or the thrusting Becky Sharp but the vanity of writers. I will cover the book some time. Basically the 1848 first edition is worth between £500 and £1000 in a decent rebind with heading in rustic type on p.1, woodcut of the Marquis of Steyne on p. 336 (later omitted), & with the reading "Mr. Pitt" on page 453 (later "Sir Pitt"). Quite a bit more if a sharp copy in original publisher's cloth.

Above is a poster for the 1957 cult noir 'The Sweet Smell of Success' where Burt Lancaster plays a monomaniacal newspaper columnist (allegedly based on Walter Winchell.) Writers are naturally vain and a little self obsessed - try thinking of a modest writer. You need an extra large measure of self belief to write and even more to attempt to get published. However there are certain writers whose egotism goes way off the Richter scale. I remember once talking to Graham Greene (apologies for name dropping, but he talked to a lot of booksellers, he was at one point considering book dealing as a trade but his career took off). I was in a bookshop looking at a copy of of Jazz and Jasper by the writer William Gerhardie whom GG had known and admired. Greene said that Gerhardie's egomania was such that you could praise him for 2 hours but, if after that you offered some very minor criticism, you were immediately thrown out of his house. I have heard the same said of Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie. His ambition as a young man was to be the most famous writer in the world, something he may have achieved for a short time but not quite in the way he had intended.

Even a prodigiously talented writer like Vladimir Nabokov was famously immodest with scarcely a good word for any other writer--Dostoyevsky was 'a cheap sensationalist, clumsy and vulgar' - he regarded Pound as a 'total fake' --Kafka, Mann, Faulkner, Lorca, Balzac and Forster also excited his scorn. Roald Dahl, among modern writers, stands out as easily the most egotistical, his self regard was so great that it was regarded as a kind of natural marvel and people went to see him to wonder at it. Jeannette Winterson, as far as she is able, has made fun of her own narcissism often voting for her own books in those Christmas 'Books of the Year' lists. Gertrude Stein is on record as saying something along the lines of 'there's Chaucer, there's Shakespeare, and then there's me...'

V.S. Naipaul is said to be high up there but when we met him to buy some books he seemed relatively modest for a writer. Cool guy. Likewise Jonathan Miller ('this charming man' as far as I was concerned) often regarded as well arrogant.
Greene appeared comparatively unassuming, unlike his brother Hugh ('did not tolerate fools gladly' said the obituarist.). Possibly when you get as famous as Greene, when every post brings letters full of fat cheques, you can let go of the self admiration.

The vanity of authors is not restricted to the great or the famous - even hacks are possessed by it. I encountered a bloke, the author of a minor company history who was holed up in George Whitman's' writer's room at Shakespeare and Co., in Paris (any writer would do until a name came along ) the chap, Irish as I recall, thought of himself as on a par with Samuel Beckett. Talking of George W, writers of Beatnik books (often seen there) are usually major league bigheads. Hard to explain. Even a demonstrably bad writer like the completely uncollected Melvyn Bragg is known to have immense self regard, almost off the Egometer scale, but so many writers and media folk need his approbation that you will seldom hear a bad word about him.

Writers who have never even published a book , poets usually, can be almost insane with self admiration and full of loathing for the 'crap' writers who seem to have made it. Martin Amis (in my opinion a great writer, but probably insufferable ) wrote a compelling study of envy, self regard and bitter literary rivalry in 'The Information'. First editions of this work, by the way, can still be bought fine in jacket and signed for £10.

Simon Raven recalls hanging out with Gore Vidal and Isherwood in California; surprisingly Gore does not come across as above average arrogant, unlike Herr Issyvoo who could only exist on a diet of constant praise. Raven mentions E.M. Forster, of whom Vidal reported that he was annoyed about the outbreak of World War 2 - because it stopped people thinking about him and his work. Of course the writer who hits 11 on the Egometer is the worst of them all, the unfortunate William McGonagall, the so -bad -he's- good poet who regarded himself as an equal of Shakespeare. He achieved great fame however and must be considered (apart from Robbie Burns) Scotland's most famous poet.

As Louis Menard said of his fellow writers gathered at the Procope in 'Reveries d'un Paien Mystique' (Paris 1876) '.. le Diable prend souvent les auteurs...par la vanité.' Our picture shows Joseph Connolly, a not unamusing writer and ex book dealer, who has just written his annual article about modern first editions for the Daily Torygraph. Humility is not one of his problems.

Bruce Weber. Bear Pond, 1990.

Bruce Weber. BEAR POND. Bulfinch Press/Little Brown, NY 1990.  ISBN: 082121831X

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

Landmark collection of black-and-white photographs from the skull capped maestro of the gay, the fashionable and the rippling muscle. In the line of Horst, Hoyningen Huene and the ineffable George Platt Lynes. Weber did a lot of memorable advertising for Calvin Klein and pretty much established the new brattish image of the old firm of Abercrombie and Fitch.

Sometimes considered 'a late-modern erotic photography classic' especially by dealers trying to sell it. Published as a hardcover original only, with poem by Reynolds Price. It deals with the beauty of nature, dogs, and the masculine form, his three big interests. The place was the Adirondacks, the dogs Golden Retrievers and the guys buffed models from mondo fashionista. To quote a dealers catalogue:
'The underlying "message" of the work is Man's perfect harmony with Nature, which was prompted by a particularly crucial moment in American history: When the book first appeared, Bruce Weber's intention was to provide whatever solace and comfort an artist/photographer can give in the face of the devastation of AIDS. All of the proceeds from the sale of the book were donated to the AIDS Resource Center in New York City. It seems unlikely that even he could have imagined that "Bear Pond" would become an instant classic ... At their very best, the images in "Bear Pond", almost all of them full-frontal male nudes, have not been surpassed, not even by the photographer himself.'
Weber's work is completely ignored by Parr in his essential, but earnest 2 vol 'The Photobook' -- Parr tends to eschew the fashion guys, the gays and the swinging London crowd--there is no Bailey, Beard, Beaton, Horst, Hoyningen Huene or Platt Lynes. What's that all about? Weber's 1986 'O Rio de Janeiro' makes it into Roth's 101 books. 'Rio' which has girls as well + a lot of Jiu Jitsu can be had in fine/fine for a little less than $1000.

VALUE? Quite hard to find a really nice copy with d/w but not at all scarce at present, some asking over $1000 but findable at a great deal less. A signed copy was seen at $2500, seems to have vanished, unlikely to have sold, another signed tops the list of 25 firsts on ABE at $1680. Pretty nice firsts in jacket can be had for about $600. Second editions (which they often are) seem to go for around $400. [ W/Q ** ]

21 April 2007

Israel Rank / Kind Hearts and Coronets

Roy Horniman. ISRAEL RANK. The Autobiography of a Criminal. Chatto & Windus, London 1907.

Current Selling Prices
$450-$900? /£220-£450?

The novel that was the basis for the British movie masterpiece 'Kind Hearts and Coronets.' Uncommon but not impossible. I have never found a copy. Legendary book scout Martin Stone has seen it twice. Even an Eyre & Spottiswoode re-issue in 1947 (Century Library) with an intro by the redoubtable Hugh Kingsmill is unfindable. No copies of either on the infobahn, which in 2007 means rare (or highly desirable i.e. copies turn up but they always get bought in a day or 2 and no one has yet come up with a stroppy enough price to give the punters pause.)

The film is the greatest work by Ealing Studios and appears on the Time magazine top 100 list as well as on the BFI Top 100 British films list. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Kind Hearts and Coronets the 25th greatest comedy film of all time. In 2004 the same magazine named it the 7th greatest British film of all time. Directed by Robert Hamer, something of a poet, latterly a dipsomaniac but one of the British cinema's greatest directors. One of his poems can be found at our shop website. He was published in 'New Verse' and also while at Cambridge in 'Contemporaries And Their Maker' (along with the spy Donald MacLean).

The astute critic Philip Kemp wrote of Horniman's book:-

"It’s sometimes suggested that Israel Rank is a feeble book, and anti-Semitic. Neither is true. Horniman’s novel is light, witty, and entertaining, written in an aphoristic sub-Wildean style. (In his introduction to the 1946 edition, Hugh Kingsmill hints that Horniman was gay.) Above all—and this is undoubtedly what appealed to Hamer—it expresses an amused disdain for conventional morality. Here’s Israel Rank, the first-person narrator, musing on the ethics of killing: “There is an old saying, ‘Murder will out.’ I am really unable to see why this should be so. I am convinced that many a delightful member of society has found it necessary at some time or other to remove a human obstacle, and has done so undetected and undisturbed by those pangs of conscience which Society, afraid of itself, would have us believe wait upon the sinner.”

As for anti-Semitism: Horniman’s hero is half-Jewish, his Jewish father having married a daughter of the aristocratic Gascoyne clan. Horniman, himself of mixed ethnicity—according to Kingsmill, his father was paymaster in chief of the Royal Navy and his mother “a member of the Greek aristocracy”—uses his hero’s ancestry to poke quiet fun at the casual bigotry of Edwardian England.... Four years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, however, a comedy about a Jewish serial killer would scarcely have been acceptable—least of all at Balcon’s studio. Israel’s surname had to go, too: Ealing’s films, after all, were distributed by the Rank Organization, chairman, J. Arthur Rank. So Israel Rank became the half-Italian Louis Mazzini.

Kind Hearts and Coronets retains the essential plot of Israel Rank and most of its characters....the plotting is far more varied and inventive: Israel dispatches most of his victims with poison—not the most ingenious, or cinematic, of methods—where Louis uses explosive caviar, arrow, weir, shotgun, and so forth. Israel is arrested for the bungled murder of his final victim, Earl Gascoyne, whereas Hamer and his co -screenwriter, John Dighton, introduce the delicious irony of having Louis convicted for the one murder he didn’t commit."

Alec Guinness said that he was originally offered the parts of only four D'Ascoynes. "I read [the screenplay] on a beach in France, collapsed with laughter on the first page, and didn't even bother to get to the end of the script," he recounts. "I went straight back to the hotel and sent a telegram saying, 'Why four parts? Why not eight!?

Roy Horniman's papers are at the University of Reading in 27 boxes, waiting for a biographer to step forward. He was for some time the owner of 'The Ladies' Review', a keen anti vivisectionist and a member of the British Committee of The Indian National Congress. His dates are 1874 to 1930. He acted in many London theatres but his main talents lay in management and authorship. For a time he was tenant and manager of the Criterion Theatre and he wrote many original plays and adaptations of his own and others' novels. In later life he wrote and adapted for the screen. Hamer must have found his book somewhere because he is credited with seeing its movie potential. Hamer's own copy (marked up) would be a nice find. Horniman wrote several other books, two of which are in Bleiler including the occult novel 'The Sin of Atlantis' (1900) and 'Lord Cammarleigh's Secret: A Fairy Story of To-Day' (1907) Both are £100 books in excellent condition, a lot less in ordinary condition. 'Lord Cammarleigh's Secret' is less easy to find and according to EFB deals with reincarnation, magic and witchcraft. All his books are unknown to Locke which could mean they are fairly light in the fantasy department.

Robert Hamer also directed the amazing Kent based noir ' 'The Long Memory' (from the Howard Clewes novel) and 'Father Brown,' he was described by one earnest film guide as 'the greatest miscarriage of talent in the British Cinema.' He had, as they say, a problem with alcohol.

VALUE? Search me. It has to be £300+, not a thousand pound book however. A jacket would take it there but would be a minor miracle. It is (according to uber runner Martin Stone) in a pale pinkish cloth that is vulnerable to soiling and browning, so nice copies are very difficult. Somebody wants £200 for another Horniman title but on examination he is a relister who would put $100 on a Joan Fonda workout book. I would buy a copy in the low hundreds in nice condition in a provincial bookshop but would probably not leave punching the air. Trivia. Look out for the young Arthur Lowe (cult hero Captain Mainwaring in Dad's Army) as a tabloid reporter in the last 2 minutes of the film.

'Naff Puffs' & The New Snake Oil Salesmen

'Naff' is a Briticism meaning tasteless, tacky, crass, clichéd, insipid - the US equivalent is probably 'cheesy' or 'uncool'. Etymology obscure, possibly obscene. A 'puff' is sales patter, to 'puff' = to publicize with often exaggerated praise. Thus a 'naff puff' is a tacky and overdone sales pitch; there are plenty of these in the new world of bookselling in cyberspace.

I talked about a new breed of dealer the other day in the piece about J.K. Rowling's ''Chamber of Secrets." They are shameless over promoters of their own wares not dissimilar to barkers outside clubs or snake oil salesmen of the Wild West (left.) They have always been around but the web, especially ebay and the book malls, is littered with them. Some typical patter:-
'Sure to soar in value and a wonderful investment...would make a lovely gift for someone or for yourself...Your book will come with a certificate of authenticity from me promising it is real' ... 'It is a privilege to place this, at least for the moment, on our bookshelf of distinguished literary works here in the gallery...providing the astute collector with high quality books for years of pleasure and at the same time a great investment... A handsome addition to any library. ..for the fan and collector in your life...'
An email from a reader alerted me to a dealer's puff which must takes the biscuit. Basically the geezer has a rebound first edition of Kipling's Jungle Books listed online. Desirable but not at all scarce and like most books that have just come from the binder it is in excellent condition and handsome; however for this guy it is one of the supreme books in the history of the universe and he really wants to sell it:-
'This is the most stunning example of The Jungle Books you will ever find...These are the true world first, 1st edition / 1st printing hardbacks from 1894. The books are stunning. Here beautifully preserved with all original plates and illustrations throughout. Each book is individually bound by the Cottage Bindary in beautiful full Royal blue Leather. Incredible 24kt gilt hand tooling to the front and rear boards...(alot of stuff about gold lining)...The spines have five raised bands each with individual gilt compartments and the author`s name and title of each book in 24kt gold. They have full gilt edge papers and gilt spoted head & tail spines. The inner boards are tripple gilt lined with matching marble end papers... in a beautiful matching leather and cloth slip-case which again has gold hand tooled finish. The set are very very rare like this and both books are in perfect condition...One of the finest collections of Kipling`s most famous works in the world. This is the most beautiful presentation of this book you could ever wish to own. A simply wonderful true first edition two volume set bound by one of the world's greatest hand binders... this stunning set. '
Note the naff spelling. Below is an example of a way over the top 'squizz' binding (Kipling's Recessional) that you could actually talk up a bit. Our 'barker' above would probably self implode with hyperbole.

It is calligraphed in gold by George Sutcliffe (1878-1941), illuminated in medieval style by Alberto Sangorski (1862-1932), and bound in a jeweled red morocco binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, Britain’s foremost art binding firm during the early decades of the twentieth century. The Sangorski Omar Khayyam which took 2 years to bind - with its 'gold leaf blazing and the light flashing from hundreds of gemstones studding the tails of the peacocks on the cover' - went down on the Titanic and by all accounts made the above look like --well, a Jungle Book from the Cottage Bindery...

'A handsome addition to any library. ..for the fan and collector in your life...'

19 April 2007

The English Dance of Death. 1815.

Some find their death by Swords & Bullets;
And some by fluids down the Gullet.
...I have a secret art to cure
Each malady, which men endure.

Thomas Rowlandson. THE ENGLISH DANCE OF DEATH. London : R. Ackermann, 1815.

Current Selling Prices
$1800-$3200 /£900-£1600

Usually in 2 volumes with engraved frontispiece, engraved title-page, and 72 aquatints by Thomas Rowlandson, all of which are hand-coloured. Book is octavo measuring 10 inches by 6. It can be accompanied by the 1817 follow up (the prequel as it were) 'The Dance of Life.' This has a further 26 coloured Rowlandson plates and was also produced by Ackermann. The great Dance of Death, but not the earliest, was by Hans Holbein the Younger. It came out first in 1538 at Basle (Basel) as 'Les simulachres & historiees faces de la mort.'

Rowlandson's work, among his best, is a jollier affair more of a satire on the follies and anomalies of his time. Gordon N. Ray claims that this work is "the only series on the subject since Holbein's to rival that master." Martin Hardie writes: "It is obvious at a glance that the artist bestowed exceptional care on the illustrations for this book. The union of the gruesome and the grotesque appealed strongly to his imagination, and in completeness of detail and carefulness of grouping the illustrations excel nearly all his other work. The hand-colouring also has been judiciously applied. Combe's versification is full of wit, and shows a force and vigour surprising in a man who had passed his allotted threescore years and ten -- a fact that adds a certain grimness to the work."

VALUE? Sometimes regarded as a 'breaker' i.e. a book plundered for its plates. However you have to have fairly gamey, not to say macabre tastes to cover your wall with dancing skeletons. Original plates can be had at many fine firms on the web at $125 and occasionally turn up cheap amongst the millions of colour plates that (don't) sell on ebay. R.V. Tooley wrote, in the days when gentlemen had such things that the book was '...one of the essential pivots of any colour plate Library.'

Now somewhat vieux jeu but the macabre never quite goes out of fashion, nor satire and caricature. The book was occasionally making £1000+ 20 years ago and would not have been one to lay down. The only change is that now it consistently makes £1000+ especially in a decent binding and with the third volume. A copy with an original sigmed watercolour and an ink drawing and 24 extra proof plates made just over $10,000 at auction in 1995.

Details of the later work: "The Dance of Life, A Poem, by the Author of 'Doctor Syntax;'" Illustrated with Coloured Engravings, by Thomas Rowlandson. London: Published by R. Ackermann, Repository of Arts, 1817. Engraved title with hand-colored aquatint vignette and twenty-five hand-colored aquatint plates (including frontispiece) With a following wind it can go for circa $1000 by itself. STOP PRESS Our French saleroom correspondent, of a macabre bent himself, reports of a remarkable copy of 'Dance of Death' sold in France recently. It was bound in 'la peau homaine' (human skin.) An 1842 edition, it made 7300 euros (about $10,000.) It is the subject of a scholarly article in Gazette de L'Hotel Drouot (13/4/07) The illustration shows a regular brown leather book - apparently it can only be distinguished as 'peau humaine' by it's texture - on very close examination one should see pores. Une horreur, direz-vous? The John Hay Brown University Library in the USA has 3 books bound in human skin, 2 of which are 'Dances of Death' one by Zaehnsdorf. The article mentions an extreme and bizarre example of bibliomania (take it through Babel if your French isn't up to it) -
Mieux encore, en 1813 un fanatique est allé jusqu'a prélever un morceau de peau sur le cadavre de Jacques Delille, l'un des poetes idolatrés de son temps. Le fragment a ensuite été greffé sur la reliure d'une édition de luxe de ses oeuvres. Relié en peau de l'auteur? Un 'raffinement' bibliophilique de plus!'

15 April 2007

In His Own Write. John Lennon, 1964.

"Puffing and globbering they drugged theyselves rampling or dancing with wild abdomen, stubbing in wild postumes amongst themselves . . ."

John Lennon. IN HIS OWN WRITE. Jonathan Cape, London 1964.

Current Selling Prices
$150-$300 /£75 - £150

Lennon's first book. A very easy book to determine as a first, it says 'First Published in 1964' and that's it. No reprints must be mentioned. English whimsy, showing some influence of Professor Stanley Unwin (the above 'globbering' quote is a good example), Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan and James Joyce of the Finnegan period.... The major acknowledged influence on Lennon's prose style was Stanley Unwin (1911 - 2002). His 'Pidey Pipeload of Hameling' gives a good example of why the thinking man's Beatle dug the Professor:-
Once in a long far awow, in the Germanic land, there was a great city with Grubbelsberg or something like that, with an Obermeister-Bergelmasty who was in charge. Now there they had a surfeit or rat-suffery, where all they used to creep and out and gnaw sniff and gribble into the early mord (and the late evage) there, biting the bits of the table, also the tea-clothers; and when people were asleep in their beds, so these rats would gnaw into the sheebs and also the whiskers of those who was dangly hoaver.

VALUE? Just sold a bright, clean first UK copy on ebay for $298 (that's our actual photo) which is pretty much it. We got alot of emails over the 10 days asking whether it was truly a first or a 'first edition, first impression' even though we illustrated the edition statement and insisted it was the true first. It is not ignorance but distrust - too many punters have been fooled into buying reprints that have been described as first editions either by crooks or dimwits, often both.

To get anymore than £150 it has to be some sort of advance or review copy or an uncorrected proof or a signed presentation from the author. One signed twice by Lennon and also by all 3 other Fabs is on sale at £15000 and could well sell. The Spaniard in the Works from 1965 is worth about the same money if not slightly more.

Meanwhile it is said that prison guards (screws) short of a few bob get John's assassin Mark Chapman to sign copies of his favourite book 'Catcher in the Rye' and put them on ebay. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Conspiracy theories abound including an attempted connection with Billy J Kramer and the NY block where John was shot -- Billy's group was called 'The Dakotas' (geddit?) --also Mia Farrow who was at Rishikesh with the mantra muttering moptops was in 'Rosemary's Baby' which was filmed at the Dakota building. Say no more. Rare photo of Billy J and his band and Gerry Marsden with the Fab Four beneath.

14 April 2007

London After Midnight - Original 1928 Photoplay Novel

Marie Coolidge-Rask. LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. Grosset & Dunlap, NY / Reader's Library, London 1928.

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

Photoplay edition issued to coincide with the release of the silent Tod Browning directed film starring Lon Chaney Senior -said to be the first American vampire film. London After Midnight is the most famous of all "lost films" - films of which there is no known surviving print. The book is therefore important as the only tangible record of the work. Chaney stars in a dual role as Scotland Yard Inspector and gives his only movie appearance as a vampire. Illustrated with 8 photographs from the movie showing Chaney in his striking makeup and vampire costume. Some say the film was Chaney's masterpiece. One of the good Grossets, normally a reprint house- most G and D books are of low value. The Reader's Library UK ed is rarer and the cover image more striking. Tod(d) Browning also directed the cult fim 'Freaks' using real circus freaks as extras.

According to the learned buff at Hammer Books site the film was "pretty much remade' in 1935 with Bela Lugosi as 'MARK OF THE VAMPIRE.'

The book is not especially scarce in either UK or US edition sans d/w although being cheaply made and a little brittle and frail it doesnt usually show up in scintillating condition. Facsimile jackets can be bought for $25 and get placed on the book usually with an unrealistic price hike.

VALUE? People ask as much as $1000 for 1928 copies in 2007 facsimile jacket, there is a poorish unjacketed one for $130 , a decent British edition for about $1600 in a genuine but chipped d/w and a decent US ed at $3700, something of a 'dream on' price.

A copy in the fake jacket sits unbought on ebay at $1K and 11 ambitiously pricedcopies sit on ABE and have mostly been there a few moons - demonstrating that the right price is probably more sober--copies may well sell against these prices. The chap at Hammer Books who owns both editions (he has been collecting for 40 years) avers that they would probably make $450 to $750 in auction. Rather too modest for sweet copies, but level headed. Grosset and Dunlap also did a wonderful photoplay Dracula ($1000) a 'Murders in the Rue Morgue' ($500) and the daddy of them all 'King Kong' (super copies have made $10,000).

11 April 2007

The Surgeon's Mate. Patrick O' Brian. 1980.

Patrick O' Brian. THE SURGEON'S MATE. Collins, London 1980.

Current Selling Prices
$1200-$2400 /£600-£1200

The seventh Jack Aubrey novel. Has the reputation of being scarce; it is said that having spotted first editions in remainder shops the distraught author began buying them up and destroying them. He seems to have missed quite a few. O' Brian took many years before he became known, respected and best of all bought. Even when this came out he was little known in the great US market. The Surgeon's Mate was not published there until 1992.

O'Brian's Aubrey/ Maturin series has been described as collectively the greatest work of historical fiction in the English language. It's a point of view; others regard the works as superior to Hornblower or O'Brian as heir to Captain Marryat. Certainly his knowledge and research are unsurpassed - as Oxford professor T.J. Binyon said '...each incident or description is saturated by a mass of complex and convincing detail.'

He had a varied career before he produced 'Master and Commander' the first in the series. This was sympathetically filmed with the charismatic Russell Crowe (that's him below as Jack Aubrey.) Oddly enough the US ed is the first by a year (Lippincott, NY 1969 -nice jacketed copies $1000). His 3 earliest works Caesar (1930 - age 15) Beasts Royal (1934) and Hussein (1938) are written under his real name Richard Patrick Russ and are quite scarce and potentially valuable. They are all supposedly worth over $1000, even £1000 if sharp. However you don't tend to see them selling unless temptingly underpriced. O' Brian collectors, although often moneyed, tend to be cut and dried - they want Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin - the books with the masts on the covers - and that's it.

VALUE? There was a bookseller looking for £2500 for his at one point ('BEAUTIFUL RICH MAROON BOARDS DJ: NEAR FINE - SLIGHT CREASING TO WRAPPER - NOT PRICE CLIPPED AT £5.95' was the shouted description.) He appears to have gone pear shaped. A fine copy can usually be had for £1000 and possibly with discount on that. Near fine, sunned, price-clipped etc., - £600 - £800. O'Brian isn't making as much as he was in dawn of this century, there was a slight revival with the movie and other media like a TV series could enliven prices. A lot of collectors have now got the books and the market could falter if too many decide to offload--at present on ABE alone there are 1200 firsts in the series for sale.

08 April 2007

John Dunning. Booked to Die... Bibliomystery

This was our first ever entry in mid December 2006 and I am doing it again a little spiffed up over this slow Easter weekend. We have just bought 2000 books from the library of the late Angela Carter and about 1000 books of rocket science from the library of the author of 'Halley's Comet and the Principia' (Aldeburgh 1986) including 50 copies of that book. Also alot of genealogy of European nobility, Russian and Polish history and art and some stuff from the library of an intimate of Robert Byron including some of his books. So entries may be less frequent on this page -- but just till I get through 500 boxes of books. Pas de probleme.

John Dunning. BOOKED TO DIE. Scribner's NY 1992. ISBN 0684193833

$650-$850 / £320-£420

One of the very best 'bibliomysteries' (i.e. a mystery novel involving books, rare books, book collectors etc.,). The first Clifford Janeway book, there have been 5 more, all bloody good but this is the best. Dunning appears to know all about book dealers, book scouts, high end deals and also the seedy side of the biz; he may have even dabbled in books.* (Someone is telling me he had or has a shop -- shades of McMurtry.)

His hero Janeway is an ex cop, a hulk of a man who takes no nonsense from villains but also knows the points on a first of 'Tender is the Night'. Cool guy. There are actually a few ex coppers in the book trade, so it is not too far fetched, although none have such serious pugilistic skills. Another great bibliomystery (with a Charing Cross setting) is Bernard J. Farmer's 'Death of a Bookseller.'

* I found this at Dunning's own website: "In 1984, with my wife Helen, I opened the Old Algonquin Bookstore in East Denver. We closed the store in 1994, two years after Booked to Die was published, and have been online booksellers ever since."

VALUE? There was a time when this book was knocking on a $1000 but there are just too many nice firsts and not quite enough punters so the price is now about $700 for a fine in d/w job, with a few brave souls still wanting over a grand. Inscribed copies are plentiful but command a premium. NOTA BENE: There is a slight upward trend with the book in the last 4 months with no fine/ fine copies for less than $750, so the $500 to $700 fine copies available around Christmas actually got bought. It happens. [ W/Q ** ]

07 April 2007

Nancy Nutall and the Mongrel. Catherine Cookson, 1982.

Further to my piece yesterday I thought I would do a children's story dog book by the reasonably saleable but prolific Catherine Cookson. By the way - Other slow selling books and writers unmentioned yesterday include Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen, Antony by his Son the Earl of Lytton, Philip Gibbs, Richard Gordon, Doris Leslie, Walter H. Page, Marguerite Steen, Thornton Wilder and Van Loon. As for Anna O. Buchan's 'Unforgettable, Unforgotten' - forget it.

Catherine Cookson. NANCY NUTALL AND THE MONGREL. Macdonald, London, 1982.

Current Selling Prices
$300-$600 / £150-£300

Illustrated by Carolyn Dinan, more admired and collected in USA than UK. Glossy illustrated boards, could show up in a jacket but possibly never had one. Anyway, a real find if you see one at a jumble, boot or library sale. Dame Catherine wrote over 100 books but this is possibly one of the most valuable, it was her last book for children.

VALUE? On net 2006/2007 people were asking between $180 and $500 for the US 1990 Simon and Schuster paperback and one reasonable UK ed was listed at £300, another a little compromised in condition at £200. They have been around now for many months and I suspect this book is not saleable at such stroppy prices, especially with a magazine appearing for Catherine Cookson members that contains this story and seems to sell for less than $20 on ebay. The UK is the one you want and $500 for the paperback is barmy. Our pic shows the US ed.

06 April 2007

Dogs I Have Known

Current Selling Prices
$1.75-$1400 /£0.80-£720

Slow-selling, common used books are often referred to (with a curse) as "dogs." The biggest dog in Britain has to be 'The Scallop' published in 1957 by Shell Oil Company. It is an attractive 4to book dealing with the iconography of the scallop and would be quite valuable if it were not so incredibly common. Copies were sent to every Shell shareholder and were (possibly) given out at petrol stations.

In England one can still come across shops with 5 or 6 copies. I have seen it priced anything from £1 to £15. Other unsaleable books include works by Thomas Armstrong, F. W. Bain, Ann Bridge, Thomas B. Costain, Galsworthy, Francis Parkinson Keyes, Donn Byrne, C. E. Montague, Walter H. Page, Cecil Roberts, H. M. Tomlinson, Morris West and Humbert Wolfe (although his 'Circular Saws' is always wanted as the d/w is by Evelyn Waugh).

Also worth avoiding are Donn Byrne, Lloyd C. Douglas, the American novelist Winston Churchill (not to be confused with the British Prime Minister), Howard Spring & Frank Yerby. In the USA, Rod McKuen heads the list, I am reliably informed.

THE SCALLOP. 'Studies of a Shell and its Influences on Mankind' was first published in 1957 the most expensive copy on the web is about $130 from a chap on the shores of Lake Michigan, there are 310 copies for sale at ABE and the cheapest, in no worse condition that the most expensive, is $2. This is from someone in the seaside retirement town of Eastbourne in Southern England. By the way it never had a jacket but can turn up in a slip-case.

It is just as useful to know what doesn't sell as to know what is hot and it can save you time and money. Will post more on this, including doggish subjects, sort of Cave Canem. Things change - Virginia Woolf's dog book 'Flush' used to be a howling dog in itself but is now desirable because VW's books have become so valuable. Robert James Waller's books have become desperately common and very hard to shift and I expect someone like Louis de Bernieres will be a future dog but it's a hard thing to call.

Avoid F. W. Bain whose books (slightly dull early 20th century Indian mysticism, often in vellum) look so promisingly expensive when you first see them but are, sadly, a very hard sell. Titles like :A Digit Of The Moon, The Great God's Hair, A Draught Of The Blue, An Essence Of The Dusk, An Incarnation Of The Snow, The Ashes Of A God, Bubbles Of The Foam, A Syrup Of The Bees - often from Riccardi Press. Neophyte dealers buy them because they look fancy, occasional vellomanes pick them up, he has a few followers and some madmen reprinted his works this century but they are as slow as molasses. Prices on the net range fom $1.75 to $1400 and there are over 700 Bains on ABE alone. Plenty on ebay as Buy it Nows that appear never to get bought now or ever, amen. The bane of my life, as it were.

04 April 2007

The Big Book of Buttons

Elizabeth Hughes & Marion Lester.THE BIG BOOK OF BUTTONS. Boyertown Publishing Co., USA 1981. ISBN 0962904600

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

The bible of American button identification. 800+ pages. Reprinted in 1991 and again in 1993 but hard to find, like many definitive collectables books. Copiously illustrated in colour and black and white throughout. Hard to tell whether button collecting is waxing or waning. Seems to be reasonably strong with much interest on ebay in the vintage sewing section and a few major button dealers and even a promised news sheet called 'The Daily Button'. Doesn't seem to need a jacket.

VALUE? No copies available for less than $500 but not worth a lot more than that, the claim that 'for years now button collectors have been trying to get their hands on this book!' is used by a chap asking $1200 for his. He obviously belongs to that old school of seller who believes that if a book is wanted the price should be so high that nobody can buy it. A not uncommon but mystifying and mildly annoying ploy. Schadenfreude = the elated feeling one gets when a foolishly overpriced book is reprinted in a better, enlarged edition at a tenth of the price. Sadly it's not going to happen this time. A copy just sold at Ebay with 32 bids taking it to $309. The seller barked:
Presented for auction is this MUST HAVE book for anyone who collects buttons. This book is in great shape and has hardly been opened. FILLED with lots of photos of buttons and descriptions and history of the various types of buttons. This book is due to go for reprint sometime in 2008 with up-to-date button values, but the retail price will be around $500. This is your chance to own this book at a more realistic price. This would also be a great gift for the collector or enthusiast. Why not place your bid now?
Possibly button collecting is a cut throat world, full of collectors who would betray a lifetime's friendship for the chance of a rare bakelite fancy. Not unlike the bookplate world.

Lady Colin Campbell. Empress Bianca...the grail quest begins

This trivial book started me on a quest. I was stuck up North for an auction, with just my laptop, holed up at a Trust House Forte. The shop rang to say they had found an Empress Bianca, a faintly notorious withdrawn book. I checked the various book sites. I was alerted to its potential value because there were no copies on the web and 50 wants for it at ABE. Anyway, I carried on reading, ploughing through 1000s pages of wants. The grail quest had begun. You might call me a sad bastard but you've probably never been to Middlesborough. The results of that exploration I am gradually sharing with an indifferent world...P.S. We decided to put it on ebay where it made bloody near $2000. An almost obscene figure for such a book.

Lady Colin Campbell. EMPRESS BIANCA. Arcadia Books, London 2005

Current Prices $450-$900 /£220-£450

Last copy that came through we sold on ebay for about $900 using this description:- 'An authentic surviving copy of the book that became the high-society scandal of 2005. The always-controversial Lady Colin Campbell – not nobly-born herself, but the divorcee of a Scottish lord – had scandalized the British aristocracy before with exposes of the private lives of Diana and other royals. Although she claims that the protagonist of this her first novel, the bewitching but dangerous Bianca Barnett, was based on her cousin, Lily Safra society billionairess and close friend of, inter alia Charles and Camilla, disagreed: in July her legal firm sent Campbell and her publishers a letter pointing out seventeen close parallels between the lives of Bianca and Safra, with instructions to have the book withdrawn from sale and all unsold copies pulped. Unable to face the financial cost of a battle in the courts the publishers agreed to Safra’s demand, thus averting what would have been a spectacular clash between two of society’s most notorious (and litigious) femmes - although Campbell has since declared her intention to sue Safra for loss of earnings. Now, a year after the pulping, copies are distinctly thin on the ground.
This one is more or less as new in a nearly pristine, unclipped dustwrapper...' Forgive the word 'pristine'. This is the world of Vanity Fair, Dominick Dunne and Ladies who Lunch. The 'deeply shallow' - to quote Ricky Gervaise. [ W/Q *** ]

VALUE? Not as much as before. Too many copies have come out of the woodwork, although a copy of the slightly less desirable US ed by Bliss Books sits on ABE at $1500 it passes through ebay almost weekly for sums around $500. Sometimes it goes into the late hundreds but has made as little as $400. If it was a stock I'd consider dumping it, scandals tend to lose their resonance over time. Our first copy on ebay had the distinction of being mentioned in London's evening paper - the 'Standard.' STOP PRESS. I bought a signed copy in fine condition. Lady Campbell signs with her real name thus: ''With best wishes, Georgie Ziadie Campbell." It's on the mighty Abe here.

03 April 2007

All the King's Men.Robert Penn Warren, 1946.

Robert Penn Warren. ALL THE KING'S MEN. Harcourt, Brace, NY 1946.

Current Selling Prices
$2500+ / £1300+

Novel by a poet loosely based on life of demagogue Huey "Kingfish" Long of Louisiana. Started out an idealist from the back country, rose rapidly, became corrupt, ended badly. RPW won a Pulitzer for it in 1947, it was filmed to some acclaim with bulky Broderick Crawford as the governor - here called Willie Stark. D/w must have a statement from Sinclair Lewis to be right, it was removed from all reprints.

VALUE? A book that is possibly in a gentle descendant price - wise but still hard to find a decent one wearing a smart jacket for less than $2 to $3K. Political novels tend to date but after 60 years this has the status of a minor classic. A 2006 movie didn't help its fortunes, despite starring Sean Penn - it appeared in Rolling Stone's 10 Worst Movies of the year with the byline 'dull as dog shit.' Also in the movie Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Mark Ruffalo (pictured left).

Ahearn rated it at $6000 in 2001 - only signed association copies can now scale such a price. The signed 2 vol LEC edition from 1989, gets about $500 - $600. It is illustrated with ten photogravures by Hank O'Neal made from the original negatives by Jon Goodman. Being a totally Americanocentric work no one really cares about the UK Eyre and Spottiswoode 1948 first. There is even a point on it (jacket must be blue and white) but a sharp copy is worth about a tenth of the USA ed. Penn Warren did a book with lenser Walker Evans in 1971 'Portfolio' in 100 signed copies that goes for $30000 - that's the one you want. [ W/Q ** ]

Ezra Pound's Rarest --'A Lume Spento' 1908.

Ezra Pound. A LUME SPENTO. A. Antonini. 'In the City of Aldus' [Venice] 1908.

Current Selling Prices
$45000-$90000 /£24000-£48000

A byword in rarity and high value, although Pound's second work 'A Quinzaine for this Yule' is also very rare. 150 copies printed (some sources say 100, a census has revealed 25 holdings, so 150 is more likely.) Published in Venice and sent to friends and literary movers and reviewers in Britain and America. In the same manner Basil Bunting's rare first book 'Redimiculum Matellarum' was sent from Milan in 1930 and Larkin's 'XX Poems' was posted from Belfast (some without stamps) in 1951. A1 in the Gallup bibliography where the misprints are noted (in many copies they are corrected in EP's hand.) The University of Delaware (from whom this pic comes, many thanks) appear to possess a not bad copy of the book (possibly lightly restored at the edges) and they sum up the influences on this work thus:
Ezra Pound’s early work, culminating in the publication of his first book, A Lume Spento, was infused with the spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites, of Romanticism, of William Butler Yeats’s Celtic nocturnes, and especially of Robert Browning...

The young Pound was also very influenced by Algernon Charles Swinburne, whom he claimed kept alive the notion of poetry as pure art, and whose rhythm and sound—both extremely important elements in Pound’s concept of poetry—he admired greatly. “Swinburne beats us all,” he wrote to Archibald MacLeish in 1926.
Henry James was another influence, less for his style than as an example of an American abroad in Europe (although Pound later described his long poem Hugh Selwyn Mauberley as a “Henry James novel in verse”). Pound wrote an extended commentary on James’s work after his death in 1916, which he called a “Baedeker to a Continent.”
The book is his dedicated to his 'first friend William Brooke Smith: Painter, Dreamer of dreams.' He was going to dedicate it to fellow poet H.D. but Brooke Smith his closest friend had died at age 24. An enigmatic figure, possibly more than a platonic friend, he is described variously as a 90s aesthete, a sexual revolutionary, a dreamer and a dissolute hedonist.

Pound himself is buried in Venice not far from Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Joseph Brodsky and Baron Corvo. His grave is easily found. I went to Venice's Isle of the Dead (Isola di San Michele) in 2005 and found that whereas Pound is in a rather grand grave in the Russian section next to his partner Olga Rudge, Corvo is tucked away in one of those filing cabinet tombs about 12 feet off the ground. Hard to put flowers up there. The Baron died broke.

VALUE? A copy turned up in 2004 the property of the much liked Quentin Keynes, a major collector of highspot poetry. His copy was described thus:
'Occasional light marking and marginal paper flaws, variable light browning. Original light green printed wrappers, top edge trimmed, others uncut, later morocco-backed box (upper wrapper lightly spotted, creased and with short edge tears, some skilfully repaired, lower wrapper and spine replaced).'
It made £21,510, a not very good copy but it had a few notes by an old girl friend of EP's called Viola Baxter. Another also less than brilliant copy with the usual couple of pencil corrections by Pound, but no association elements, made £21,420 at Bloomsbury also in 2004. In 1990 a reasonable but soiled and faded copy made $60,000 at the toney Bradley Martin Sale.

In general, poetry is not as favoured as it once was by the men in soft suits who tend to be the ones who pay the fat sums for books- so Pound's star may not be in the ascendant. However a sleek copy or an electric association (Eliot, Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Yeats. W. Lewis,H.D., F.M. Ford) could go ballistic. Pound's later anti semitism and crazed rants about usury have gone against him; Nabokov while also slagging off Brecht, Faulkner and Camus railed against 'the pretentious nonsense of Mr. Pound, that total fake.' Nevertheless we have many customers who come through the shop and swear by his Cantos; to my mind they outvote the sage of Montreux. [ W/Q * ]

FOOTNOTE. 'A Lume Spento' translates as 'With Tapers Quenched' a reference to a funeral in Dante. He was going to call it 'La Fraisne' after a poem in the book, until the death of his friend William Brooke Smith. Dante was also the inspiration for Eliot's sincere but measured 'thank you' to EP for his radical editing work on 'The Waste Land.' Eliot called Pound 'Il Miglior Fabbro' - the better craftsman, the better maker.

02 April 2007

Always a Thief. Jeffrey Deaver, 1988.

Jeffrey Deaver. ALWAYS A THIEF. Paperjacks, NY, 1988.

Current Selling Prices
$100-$220 /£50-£120

His second book and relatively hard to find but the kind of book you might turn up at a charity sale, thrift shop or flea market. Preceded by the supernatural thriller 'Voodoo' which is, for some reason more common and worth about a third less; second books are often harder to find than the first. Always a good idea to have some knowledge of collectable paperbacks 'cos in a lot of places paperbacks is all they've got. An art theft caper -didn't our own Jeffrey (Archer) do one of those? There is another 'Always a Thief' by Kay Hooper - a San Francisco art caper featuring Quin, a cat burglar. Not of significant value.

VALUE? Nice copy $100 + (all the cheap ones that were there when I looked in 2006 have gone) and being a paperback they are often not nice at all. Sometimes signed, I guess because punters took them to his Borders signings and the Deaver duly obliged. I have heard that occasionally this and his first book (also a pb original) turn up on ebay and can make 'ridiculous' prices. JD has sworn they will never be reprinted. Alot of writers do this, perhaps the most famous is Greene's 'Rumour at Nightfall' a book of which he was later ashamed. All copies are firsts and damned saleable. Often writers will not sign these disowned books but Deaver (by all accounts an amicable fellow and excellent cook) is an exception. [ W/Q ** ]

01 April 2007

Cruel month for Baedekers and other plans...

Among the books I am thinking of doing in the cruellest month are a Baedeker or two, 'A Lume Spento' a great Pound rarity, the Book of Buttons, a photo book by skull-capped fashion snapper Bruce Weber, a Hull Grundy anatomy book of fiendish rarity, a LeFanu ghost book, a weird conspiracy book Imperium: The Philosophy Of History And Politics (1948) by Varange, a disturbing photobook by Chris Killip 'In Flagrante' and an 'Aggie' - possibly Roger Ackroyd + that rare book stalwart Sir Winston Churchill, possibly one of his elusive pamphlets like 'Mr Broderick's Army' or 'For Free Trade.' Maybe 'Chamber of Secrets' for the muggles punters and Rodenbach's Bruges-le- Morte for the whey faced decadents. Don't hold me too it. I have a formidable stack of books that I have to price with a pencil and put in boxes- so blogs may be intermittent, but not for long. Talking of Baedekers and Pound, when he was in Venice in 1907 he made a little walking around money writing the entry for Venice in the 'Baedeker für Kinder' that was published exactly 100 years ago today - to the day. The "Baedekers for Children" (or 'Baby Baedekers' as they are sometimes known) have become rare and are often overlooked as they are half the size of normal Baedekers and are pink rather than red...