RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
06 April 2007
Dogs I Have Known
Current Selling Prices
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.