RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
25 June 2008
An American Prayer. Jim Morrison, 1970
Jim Morrison. AN AMERICAN PRAYER. Privately Printed ( by Western Lithographers in Los Angeles but not stated.) 1970.
Current Selling Prices
POETRY / ROCK
12mo. 5 inches tall and 4 inches wide in slightly grained burgundy red boards gilt lettered on the cover. Has the appearance of a prayer book. Sometimes described as being bound in leather but believe me, it's faux. The only information printed inside is '© James Douglas Morrison 1970 All Rights Reserved' printed at the bottom of the verso of the blank front endpaper. It has 40 unpaginated pages, 37 printed. This is the first edition that Morrison had printed in 100 copies (?) as described at OCLC / World Cat and conforms with the copy sold at Pacific Book Auctions in 1993 (for $500.) A single visionary poem in Morrison's peak Dionysian style full of incantation-- 'Give us a creed/ To believe/ A night of Lust/ Give us trust in /The Night...'
Sometimes thought to be 500 copies, but it's pretty scarce and OCLC shows only two holdings - at La Jolla (San Diego University) and Berserkly. I incline towards the 100 copies school. We bought a copy from the estate of contemporary American composer Lou Harrison in Aptos, California and it was the only nod towards Rock in the entire collection of books and records. I was told by his acolytes that Lou had considered 'Light my Fire' an inspired work.
VALUE? Our copy was described thus: 'Attractive bright condition with very slight handling wear i.e. very slight marks and a discernible hairline crack at upper spine hinge - overall VG or better. Issued without d/w.' It is a vulnerable little book. We got $2200 for it in 2003 after a month or two on the net and sold it to a high end dealer who attempted to double up. He may have achieved this; Jim Morrison is, was, and always will be, hotter than a 2 dollar pistol.
A reprint was published in Louisiana in 1983/84 that some people want $300 for but is apparently sanitised. The LP and CD have 90% of the uncensored lyrics in a booklet and don't cost much. At a Rock memorabilia sale in London 2005 someone paid £1080 against an estimate of £1000/ £1500, no condition noted. A fabulous signed copy has sat on ABE at $15000 since Blair was our leader (and has now been joined by another.) The earlier seller notes: 'The majority of copies, which were subscribed to, were sent out in mailers bearing the address of the Doors Fan Club, Santa Monica.' This argues quite forcibly against the 100 copies theory because the boys had more than a 100 fans. However the book seldom shows up at all. An enigma. It has been known to show up in Bible stores as it has the deliberate appearance of a little prayer book. Jim was buried in July 1971 at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris not far from Oscar Wilde, Molière, Chopin, Edith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Proust and, best of all, the assassinated Black Prince who lies serenely on top of his grave. Due to the constant traffic of his fans Jim's grave is a bloody disgrace -as befits a wild rock star.
Outlook? It is likely that history will see Jim as the Baudelaire of rock and he is unlikely to fade away. Danny Sugarman, a sort of Max Brod to Jim's Kafka, says that '...Jim Morrison didn't want to be a god. Jim Morrison wanted to be a poet. Surely, no modern poet has written better of the alienation and feelings of isolation, dread, and disconnectedness ... Jim's dying wish was to be taken seriously as a poet. While he was alive, his behavior blinded many of us to his words. Today his life still fascinates and amazes us, and his work as a poet is finally gaining the recognition it deserves...' This is born out by the 2006 $50000 auction record (the last significant record for Jim material) for a 12 line poem in his hand "...in black ballpoint pen on a sheet of lined paper , circa 1970, the 12 lines on one sheet of lined paper titled 'The American Night' beginning with the first verse 'When radio dark night existed + assumed control + we rocked in it's web consumed by static stroked w fear' and the second verse reading 'we were drawn down / The distance of long cities riding home thru the open night alone launching fever + strange carnage from the back seat.'" These verses are a version of a poem in this little book that I devoutly hope to find again.