31 July 2007

Cyril Connolly. Bond Strikes Camp.1963

Cyril Connolly. BOND STRIKES CAMP. Privately Printed at the Shenval Press, London 1963.

Current Selling Prices
$1800-$3000 /£900-£1500

With a new original James Bond adventure being planned for release in 2008 to coincide with the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth it is worth noting this early Bond parody/ tribute. Connolly was a friend of Fleming and was commissioned to write this for the London Magazine run by another pal of Fleming--poet, sportsman and man of letters Alan Ross. As I recall Ross would occasionally sign the issue that contained the story as 'Cyril Connolly' - mainly because he had almost the same handwriting. We sold a copy of the signed limited edition - a 16 page booklet, in 1998 described thus:
"Royal 8vo., green paper wraps, title label, frontis. Fifty copies only were issued for sale. Signed presentation copy to the publisher, Alan Ross, this being one of two copies out of series,so designated in the author's hand and signed on the colophon:" one of two- other for Dennis Craig sold at Christies-1973, May." Inscribed on title-page:"Alan with love from Cyril the onlie begetter from the misbegotten." Additionally inscribed beneath the lascivious frontispiece:"A torpedo-shaped Larranaga," Originally published by Alan Ross in the London Magazine, Connolly's scurrilous pastiche in book-form is one of the greatest rarities of Bondiana, here found in unsurpassable association. Trivial faint mark lower wrap else fine copy."
The humour of ‘Bond Strikes Camp’ (1962) depends on the contrast between its use of Ian Fleming’s butch style and the events it describes—James Bond’s undercover entrapment of a Soviet agent at a drag club:
‘One more question, sir. I have no wish to weary you with details of my private life but I can assure you I’ve never dressed up in “drag” as you call it since I played Katisha in “The Mikado” at my prep. school. I shan’t look right, I shan’t move right, I shan’t talk right; I shall feel about as convincing arsing about as a night-club hostess as Randolph Churchill.’

VALUE? With 50 copies only being issued it is necessarily scarce. We sold our copy in 1998 for £850, there is one on the web now at £1950 (not fine)--the kind of price it takes to stop it selling. A copy of the magazine with the contribution signed by Fleming to Hugo Pitman made £1350 in 1992 at Sotheby's. Obviously he took the squib in good humour. Serious Bond completists have to have the book - but unless they are rich or ridiculously keen, they make do with the contribution (The London Magazine, Vol 3, No. 1, April 1963) which can be picked up for less than 20 quid. Pics above from the 1967 movie 'Casino Royale' with David Niven as Bond - said to be a sort of surreal parody and slightly camp. [ W/Q * ]

27 July 2007

Jim Crace. Continent, 1986. ('Netblown')

Jim Crace. CONTINENT. Heinemann, London 1986.

Current Selling Prices
$20-$200 /£10-£100

I checked this book up recently on the various internet book malls (Bookfinder etc.,) and found that, although it is the first book of a rated writer, it can be bought in fine condition for $20 and for not much more signed. In Ahearn's guide to the prices of author's first books it is rated at $75 in 2000, up from $60 in 1995. The book's value has now been blown away by the internet ('Netblown') - like many other books that were once thought to be scarce, valuable and hard to find.

I looked up Crace's book when I read about the murder of his greatest fan and greatest collector - a 70 year old Springfield attorney named Rolland Comstock. Comstock was a serious book collector (profiled in Basbanes' 'A Gentle Madness') shot by a person or persons unknown. Police checked his collection of 50,000 books against his catalogue and found none missing. The case, like something out of John Dunning, is covered over at the excellent Philobiblos.

Crace writes: 'I first encountered Rolland in 1987, when 1,086 copies of my first novel, 'Continent' were remaindered...Rolland bought the lot, utterly convinced that given time they would become valuable.' The perspicacious Basbanes notes- 'Rolland sure guessed right on him...' Possibly they will become valuable, but with prices at an all time low and 1,086 copies waiting in the wings it may take 100 years. With quantities like this you need an author with a vast customer base underpinning him or her - a Fleming, Rowling, Harper Lee or Hemingway.

At the turn of the century we bought 300 copies of Fleming's 'Octopussy' --all firsts and all fine in jacket. It took about 5 years to sell the lot on Ebay, the net and in the shop--none went for less than $40 and some made $200. The book was remaindered in the early 1980s at 5p (10 cents) and is still ridiculously common. The difference between the excellent 'slipstreaming' novelist Crace and the smoke wreathed Fleming is that Ian has about 20,000 collectors and Jim probably has less than 50.

VALUE? Not a lot. Hope to cover a few other netblown books soon--Corelli, English Patient, Leaving Las Vegas,Girl on a Swing, In Patagonia--suggestions welcome.

25 July 2007

Learning From Las Vegas. 1972

Current Selling Prices
$1250-$3000 /£650-£1500

Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour. LEARNING FROM LAS VEGAS. Cambridge, Mass. & London: The M.I.T. Press, 1972 ISBN: 0262220156

Cult classic -architecture / urbanism...a revolutionary case study that opened the world's eyes to vernacular architecture and iconography-the "ugly and ordinary" structures and signage born to satisfy the needs of regular people, not architects. Venturi Scott Brown are now an important Architectural firm with buildings at Harvard, Michigan, Yale and Tsinghua University Beijing. Robert Venturi is often referred to as the "father of Post Modernism."

The book is a large quarto of 188 pages and can turn up in a translucent glassene printed jacket that adds considerably to its value. In an interview by Melissa Urcan last year with the two surviving authors we get a look at the work 35 years on:
"Melissa Urcan: I would first like to ask you about the weight of Learning from Las Vegas, now almost 35 years old. Do you feel tied to the association of your work to this book, or is it something you continue to draw from?

Robert Venturi: Since then we have written an essay called "Las Vegas After Its Classic Age," which emphasizes that Learning from Las Vegas in the context of now is completely historical. If you had written a book on the Renaissance in Florence, it would have taken maybe 100 years to say, "Oh that's historical." Now you can say 35 years have gone by very fast. But Learning from Las Vegas is still relevant in many ways, such as in its recognition of the relevance and significance of iconography and signage more than of space. Las Vegas got us in a lot of trouble, but we learned a lot from it.

MU: The Strip in Las Vegas appears to be where you spent the most research time. In this book you had the premonition of the building and sign eventually merging. Did you have any idea how big the entire city would become?

Denise Scott Brown: We did concentrate on the Strip, but not only on the Strip. We studied patterns of land use throughout Las Vegas. And we mapped all the strips of Las Vegas, not just the famous Strip.

RV: In the essay "Las Vegas After Its Classic Age," we say the obvious-that the Strip evolves into the Boulevard. The former Strip is now officially "the Boulevard." I love the use of the word "scenography"-in a sense Las Vegas is now City as Scenography; it's a Disneyland. Most cities are to some extent scenographic, but few are as explicitly theatrical.

VALUE? The book has been reprinted and can be picked up for $30 but the 1972 first is now quite scarce. There are 4 copies on ABE at between $1800 and $4500. A copy appeared in auction at Bloomsbury in London last week, singly lotted for the first time in its book auction history. It was a reasonable copy in d/w and made £950 in a rather costly art book sale.

22 July 2007

Captain Joseph W. Kittinger "The Long Lonely Leap" 1961

In an open gondola hung beneath a shimmering cloud of plastic, a man ascends to the awesome height of 102,800 feet. He looks about him at a world that is not the world of man. The atmosphere of his planet lies beneath his feet. The velvet blackness of space is close enough to reach out and touch. He is absolutely alone. Then he jumps . . . ( From the blurb of 'The Long Lonely Leap' 196i)

Captain Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., USAF (with Martin Caidin.) THE LONG, LONELY LEAP. E.P. Dutton & Company, N.Y. 1961.

Current Selling Prices
$350-$600? /£180-£300?

Highly uncommon regularly published book that is much sought after. There are no copies currently for sale online. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, well before liquid-fuel rockets were fully operational, a small group of military men made the first exploratory trips into the upper stratosphere to the edge of outer space in tiny capsules suspended beneath plastic balloons. They are sometimes referred to as 'the pre-astronauts.' Doctors, physicists, meteorologists, engineers, astronomers, and test pilots, they made great personal sacrifices and took great risks for the promise of high adventure and the opportunity to uncover a few secrets of the universe. One of their number, Capt. Joseph Kittinger, rode a balloon up to 103,000 feet in an open gondola and then stepped out and freefell to Earth, becoming the only person to break the sound barrier without a vehicle. Kittinger wrote the book with Martin Caidin, aviation writer, pilot, and author of over two dozen books, the two men flew and spent months together to re-create the amazing events of this story.

A good summary was posted on the Corinth Information Database in 1995:
"Beginning with his boyhood and youth in Florida, where he explored wilderness waterways and was a professional speedboat racer, Captain Kittinger describes his experiences as an Air Force aviation cadet, fighterbomber pilot and test pilot. In 1957 he soared to 96,000 feet in a sealed capsule as test pilot of Project Man High, the high-altitude balloon program studying man's ability to function usefully as part of a man-machine system in a near-space environment. Then, after work with the Escape Section of the Aerospace Medical Laboratory, Captain Kittinger became Chief and volunteer test subject of Project Excelsior, the program aimed at developing a parachute by which a man could survive escape at extreme altitudes. To put the new Beaupre chute, and related equipment developed by the team, to practical test, Captain Kittinger made his three great jumps-Excelsior I, II, and III.

These courageous jumps reached their climax in his famous record leap from the very edge of space itself, almost 20 miles above the earth. This drop included a free fall lasting more than an incredible 4 1/2 minutes, during which Captain Kittinger reached a falling speed of 614 miles per hour before his parachute finally opened at 18,000 feet. Captain Kittinger describes the preparations for the balloon ascent, and the actual ascent itself. He tells of floating for eleven minutes in the alien world of space, 102,800 feet up. Then . . . the descent. Using an actual tape recording of his words as he fell, Kittinger relates his impressions, vividly re-creating this magnificent and terrifying experience."

In later life Joe Kittinger served three combat tours during the Vietnam War, flying a total of 483 missions, On March 1, 1972, he shot down a MIG-21 in air-to-air combat, and was later downed himself on May 11, 1972, just before the end of his tour. He spent 11 months as a prisoner of war in the "Hanoi Hilton". He was not a good prisoner.

VALUE? I hesitate to say 'sky high' but this appears to be an unfindable book. Wikipedia, which posits a reprint in November 2005 (didn't happen) says that 'surviving copies are expensive.' A National Geographic from December 1960 has an article about his jump and that can command $50. His signed photo can go for between $150 and $240. In the hands of a dealer from Ventura one could imagine a four figure price. No copies appear to have passed through ebay. A reprint could still happen- but try $500 for a fab copy of the 1961 first. [ W/Q ***]

21 July 2007

Awesome Book Wants list from 1920s


(Opposite Mudie's Library and near the British Museum).

Telephone No. 5847 Central. Telegraphic Address- "Phiz, London."
Bankers - LONDON & COUNTY (New Oxford St. Branch).

Any Parcels of Books sent, I willingly pay carriage both ways, if we do not come to terms.

Cash always sent by Return Post. Established 1884

→ Shall be glad to hear of Imperfect Copies or Odd Vols of any Books or odd plates in this List.

We recently found this closely written 24 page catalogue of 'books wanted' put out by London bookseller Walter T. Spencer in about 1920 (date taken from BM copy.) We are publishing it online almost in its entirety (long lists of Scott, Ainsworth and Dickens have been abbreviated.) Some of the books are now impossible to find, a lot were very rare even then - especially anonymous pamphlets put out by the Romantics and items such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning's impossible first book 'Battle of Marathon'. Spencer's list encapsulates bookseller wisdom of his age and rarities passed down from 19th century book sellers. These were the 'sexy' books of his day and some of them are still appearing on wants list, some no longer wanted or easily found (e.g. Charles Lever, Frank Smedley, Walter Scott.)

I may add a few notes in but time forbids me from identifying every anonymous and pseudonymous item. Occasionally he offers money for a book and one can multiply that by about 100 to get his modern price. It is to be assumed with some books that they are there because a valued customer had asked for them.

Spencer, known in the trade as 'Tommy', wrote a memoir "40 Years in my Bookshop" (London 1923) that reveals part of his story. Spencer's dates were possibly 1866-1964, he is unknown to Wikipedia and the DNB but these old booksellers lived long lives. He was a major book seller of his time, a friend of forger Thomas J. Wise and appears to have dabbled in forgery himself. His shop was at 27 New Oxford and he dealt in prints, plate books, bound sets, the Romantics, Americana, first editions of his time (Wilde, Conrad, Galsworthy, etc.). A big Dickens man, popular with visiting American plutocrats like pickle king Henry J. Heinz and numbering among his customers, Sir Henry Irving, Gladstone, George Meredith, Andrew Lang, Gissing, Pater, Swinburne, and Richard Jefferies. Tim D'Arch Smith recalls Spencer trading from Upper Berkeley Street in the late 1950s. He even remembers his bookseller code - 'TWICKENHAM' with T standing for one, W for 2 etc.,

Marc de Vaulbert Chantilly in his excellent survey of bookseller's memoirs (in 'Out of Print & Into Profit' 2006) quotes O.F. Snelling '...much of what he knew has certainly gone into limbo...some of the best tales I ever heard of Spencer's dealings never got into his book.' He was a constructor of false provenances, involved with some fake Shaw letters, a maker up of questionable sets of Dickens in the parts and would also 'sophisticate' books with unacknowledged facsimiles. His 1920 wants list (undoubtedly effective) could, to a great degree, have been the source of his fortune. It partly answer bibliophile A.E. Newton's remark- 'How he does it, where he gets them, is his business.' There is often a clever trick or stratagem behind fortunes made in the book or art trade.

The first book mentioned 'Absurdities In Prose & Verse' is illustrated by Alfred Crowquill (pic by him above) with 13 hand coloured paltes and now goes for £150 + in nice condition, for the ninth book in the list- 'A Declaration of the State of Virginia' (1620) you might get £15000. It is likely that Spencer put many standard collector's books in his list to hide the occasional devastatingly valuable book.

Absurdities In Prose Verse, 1827
Account of New South Wales, 1804
Actors by Daylight, 1838-9, 55 Nos.
Actors by Gaslight, 1838, 37 Nos.
Adair (J.) History of American Indians, 1775
Adam (R. and J.) Works in Architecture, 3 vols, folio, 1778, &c.
Addison (J.) Damascus and Palymyra, 2 vols, 1838
A Day's Ride, second edition
A Declaration of the State of Virginia, 1620
A Dialogue in the Shades, 1766
Click for the complete pamphlet...

18 July 2007

The Principles of Knitting

June Hemmons Hiatt. THE PRINCIPLES OF KNITTING. Simon and Schuster, NY 1988

Current Prices $160-$300 /£80-£150

Much sought after especially with a strong rebirth of interest in knitting. Considered almost an inspirational work in the canon and it leads knitters to the unimaginable stage of actually knitting to their own designs. It could well be reprinted and there seems to be a growing clamour to get this done with some knitters petitioning S & S for a reprint. Ms Hiatt is apparently esp good on wools and yarns etc., The book is seriously discussed over at Library Thing. She is against circular needles, feeling they produce "barrel sweaters" - this is now considered an unfashionable view and these needles are popular. Some knitters consider Ms Hiatt dictatorial. However there are 80 people wanting this book at ABE alone.

VALUE? 2 copies on ABE at $210 and $290, several on Amazon UK from $350 to $500 meanwhile copies change hands almost daily on ebay at around $100 - $200. Not scarce and a legendary library sale find. It's a big art book size hardback; some knitters are intimidated by its bulk. Can wear a jacket. It is not growing in value, although all the grossly overpriced copies of last year (highest $800) have disappeared or been reduced to merely unreasonable...[ W/Q **** ]

17 July 2007

William Golding. Lord of the Flies, 1954.

"... a very serious book ... written with taste and liveliness, the talk is natural, the descriptions of scenery enchanting. It is certainly not a comforting book. But it may help a few grown-ups to be less complacent and more compassionate, to support Ralph, respect Piggy, control Jack and lighten a little the darkness of man's heart. At the present moment (if I may speak personally) it is respect for Piggy that seems needed most. I do not find it in our leaders." E.M. Forster , introduction to Lord of the Flies 1962.

"I have lived for many years with small boys, and understand and know them with awful precision." William Golding, 1965.

William Golding. LORD OF THE FLIES. Faber and Faber Ltd, London 1954.

Current Selling Prices
$6000-$10000 /£3000-£5000

A dystopian 'Coral Island' and a great classic of the Atomic Age. Not at all easy to find in superior condition as the book was read, especially by younger readers, and the yellow jacket is easily soiled and often fades. Many copies went to libraries.
Famously rejected by a slew of big name publishers, it received this damning reader's report at Faber:
"Time: The Future. Absurd and uninteresting fantasy about the explosion of an atomic bomb on the colonies and a group of children who land in jungle country near New Gunea. Rubbish and dull. Pointless."
However it was Faber (due to the perspicacity of Charles Monteith) who published it after quite radical revisions to the first chapter, changes which Golding was happy to make. It was at that point called 'Strangers from Within' - the actual title was thought up by Alan Pringle at Faber. 3040 copies were printed and they sold slowly until good notices started to appear and E.M. Forster chose it as his book of the year for 1954.

Rick Gekoski has a good chapter on the book and Golding in 'Tolkien's Gown.' WG thought Gekoski and Grogan's bibliography of his works was a waste of time, exclaiming 'Why don't they just read the damned books'. The full bibliographical panoply can read thus -'Barron (ed), Horror Literature 4-123. Jones and Newman (eds), Horror: 100 Best Books 53. Survey of Science Fiction Literature III, pp. 1257-60. Gekoski and Grogan A2aI.'

'Bibliography is a lie' I was once informed by a prominent Texan dealer in Americana  - 'if you cite enough of it you can make any edition of any book sound significant.' In the bibliographical spirit it should be noted that the book can turn up with a wraparound band (sometimes known in USA as a 'bellyband.') This has reviews on it and was presumably placed on it at at a slightly later stage, eg. it quotes Arthur Calder Marshall's BBC review - 'A dizzy climax of terror.' This band, unknown to Gekoski and Grogan, can turbo charge the asking price to a stonking $19000.

VALUE? Hard to find a decent copy in a jacket for less than £3K although they have passed through Ebay at less. A copy described as 'Ealing Studios copy, with stamp on front rear endpapers' made £7000 at Sotheby's in 2002, at the atypical Drapkin sale where all the books were in fancy binder's boxes (variously descibed as 'hideous' and 'wonderful') a copy made $16000 in 2005. A copy in a faded jacket made £4500 at CSK in 2005. The book has doubled in value in the last 10 years. 20 years ago at Sotheby's London, Gekoski himself paid £800 for a jacketed UK first described as ' a variant in dark blue cloth' -the kind of thing that interests a bibliographer. The US ed is worth about a tenth of the UK. [ W/Q *** ]

TRIVIA * An episode of The Simpsons titled Das Bus was a parody of Lord of the Flies, mirroring it in many ways. For instance while trapped on an island, they use glasses to make a fire and also hunt pigs. Another Simpsons episode, Kamp Krusty , also makes some reference to the novel.

* Nick Hornby commented that a newer novel, The Beach , is: "A Lord of the Flies for Generation X".

*Art becomes reality T.V. - A film adaptation of the book was one of the main inspirations for the reality TV show Survivor All Stars, according to host Jeff Probst.

*Lord of the Flies is referenced several times (often jokingly) in the TV drama Lost which is also set in a desert island when the characters feel they are under the threat of turning wild.

14 July 2007

George White. English Lantern Clocks.1989

George White. ENGLISH LANTERN CLOCKS. Antique Collector's Club, UK, 1989. ISBN 0907462332

Current Selling Prices
$1000-$2000 /£500-£1000

Highly sought after reference work that defines this collecting area. If you collect Lantern clocks or deal in them you have to have this book. 70 punters waiting at ABE, 30 at Alibris and a small queue outside my shop. Some Antique Collector's Club monographs command fat sums when they go out of print but ATC have been known to issue much better updated editions that severely deflate the price of the originals, so caveat emptor, noli tangere and quid pro quo. BTW a lantern clock is nothing like a grandfather clock, check out our pic...you see them on the mantelpieces of nice homes in the home counties. A good one is very expensive as they are often very old (they were the earliest type of domestic clock in Britain)--forgeries abound. The Wikiman tells us:
'... other names used to indicate these clocks are "Cromwellian Clocks" or "Bedpost Clocks". Even "Sheep head Clock" is a fashionable term used for a certain type of lantern clock that has an extremely large chapter ring covering almost the entire front of the clock...'

VALUE? One on web late 2006 at 950 quid ($1800) and another as a Buy it Now on ebay at $2000. Neither chap can give any indication of condition so one assumes what the French call 'moyen' i.e. mediocre. Not impossible to find, as every seller claims, just bloody expensive. Auction catalogue. Couple of decent copies at ABE at £550 and £675. STOP PRESS, Amazon are taking pre orders for a reprint at £70. Has Sir George White now asked for as reprint...? Collapse of stout parties, Schadenfreude etc., The reprint was scheduled for Spring 2007 and is now Jan 08 --one seller reckons it will never happen ('long promised') - but he is trying to sell his stroppily priced o/p copy. There is one on Amazon Canada (something of a gathering place for ultra overchargers) at a carpet biting £3500. Watch this space..this is a book wanted for the information in it, so a later revised edition will mortally wound all earlier editions. [ W/Q **** ]

13 July 2007

Wiped Out: How I Lost A Fortune In The Stock Market...

WIPED OUT: How I Lost A Fortune In The Stock Market While The Averages Were Making New Highs, By An Anonymous Investor. Simon & Schuster, N.Y. 1966.

Current Selling Prices
$80-$1100 /£40-£550

The first truly anonymous book I have done--the author is unknown. Certainly not Warren Buffett. One of those 'don't do what I have done' books- the 'totally galvanizing' confession of an amateur investor who at first made money in the stock market and then tried to make more money faster.. .

A great ebay favourite where it has made a few notable prices and is featured at the excellent and exhaustive list a book that looks like nothing at the Ebay Forums. Possibly 'netblown' - you now see copies all over the web -one virtual antique shop has it at an unashamed $700. I suspect that after a few spectacular results at Ebay many people dug out copies and supply and demand took over and the wave broke. It is not entirely ruined yet and there is a growing number of collectors for stock market related books. A collection was recently offered for over a million dollars by Shapero in London and not all stock market books are about fortunes made--there was a spate of books about the crash of 1929 and Black Thursday - Tennyson's 'Maud' is said to be about the suicide of someone who lost all his money in the markets:

'Did he fling himself down? who knows? for a vast speculation had fail’d,
And ever he mutter’d and madden’d, and ever wann’d with despair,
And out he walk’d when the wind like a broken worlding wail’d,
And the flying gold of the ruin’d woodlands drove thro’ the air. ..'

Failure is always fascinating. I shall be dealing with the Failiure (sic) Press this week-an obscure journal to which Stephen Fry was wont to contribute in the late 1970s. 'Wiped Out' for some reason comes in various different coloured d/ws -- no precedence has been established...no one has yet bothered. This is usually done with dated presentations and I have never heard of a signed copy. Can an anonymous person sign a book?

VALUE? Copies seen as high as $1100 (for a proof copy, but a frankly demented and buffoon price). A fine copy can be had for around a $100, half that for one with shelf wear--this is not 'Wealth of Nations!' [ W/Q ** ]

12 July 2007

Albert Goldman. Disco, 1978

" That everybody sees himself as a star today is both a cliché and a profound truth. Thousands of young men and women have the looks, the clothes, the hairstyling, the drugs, the personal magnetism, the self‑confidence, and the history of conquest that proclaims the star. The one thing they lack—talent—is precisely what is most lacking in those other, nearly identical, young people whom the world has acclaimed as stars. Never in the history of show biz has the gap between the amateur and the professional been so small. Nor ever in the history of the world has there been such a rage for exhibitionism..." [Goldman 1978]

Albert Goldman. DISCO. Hawthorn Books, Inc., New York 1978

Current Selling Prices
$100-$240 /£50-£120

The above quote in Albert Goldman's deathless prose is somewhat prescient, reality TV hadn't been invented then...but down the disco everyone was a star. I hesitate to trot out the word 'seminal' but this is the Disco book, especially as it came out at the time. No doubt Abrams will produce a 5 kilo book on the subject or Taschen a 20 kilo book signed by John Travolta with a raised silver platform boot on the cover by Jeff Koons - but they will not surpass Goldman's masterpiece.

The book, the size of a small art book and not substantial (174 pages) is illustratred throughout in b/w and has a subsection featuring select colour photos. It came out in paperback and hardback with a jacket. The jacketed hardback is, as always, preferred and is more expensive and rarer. Very much the kind of book that would be turfed out at a boot sale or sold for 50 cents at a library sale - although being a bit of a Ebay special it is not really a sleeper anymore + alot of the books at library sales are now checked out on the web beforehand. It's not fair.

Jack Kroll in a review in 'Newsweek' gives the flavour of the book:
'...Albert Goldman's account of the Disco scene has the drive, color, and pounding beat of the music itself. Only Goldman could have brought such a unique package of talents to the task of exploring the greatest outbreak of Dionysiac madness since the Jitterbug, Lindy-hopping nights of the Swing era. Goldman seizes the scene from the multiple perspective of a musicologist, a sociologist, a psychiatrist, an anthropologist -- and a perfectionist. he is the swinging man's Levi-Strauss, tracing the Disco explosion back to its primeval roots and forward to the tribal rites of the sophisticated savage who is contemporary man and woman.'
The reference to Levi - Strauss is, presumably, to the 99 year old anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and not the jeans..

VALUE? Reasonable copies usually start at $150. A not fine signed copy sits at ABE at a stroppy $500 and in an Ebay shop a copy in a 'fair' d/w is a BIN at $150. Fair is a word which, even when used by an amateur, usually means 'poor.' A chancer on Amazon wants $575 for an unsigned copy ('Factory-sealed in plastic; Unopened; Rare find! Preserved unopened by a collector since it was issued; Text in Excellent shape; Great pictures! Great info!') Prada clad NY photo dealers want $500 for the book, but a judicious shopper should be able to pick up a sharp copy for $200.

One Disco enthusiasts site advises that the book is worth every cent of $150 and adds that it '...is perhaps the most sought after book from the actual Disco era about the Disco era. No revisionist BS here as it was written back in the day when Disco ruled the world.' The book was produced by Spritzgun Productions and that is disco model Vivianne Castanos on the cover.[ W/Q ***]

10 July 2007

Adam Smith. The Wealth of Nations 1776.

"...by directing (his) industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it..."

Adam Smith. AN INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND CAUSES OF THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. London, for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776.

Current Selling Prices
$90000-$15000 /£45000-£75000

A wonderful title. A landmark work by the prophet of the free market. The Victorian philosopher Henry Thomas Buckle once claimed that, in its effect, this was "probably the most important book that has ever been written" and that "that this solitary Scotchman has, by the publication of one single work, contributed more toward the happiness of man than has been effected by the united abilities of all the statesmen and legislators of whom history has presented an authentic record." On the other hand Dr Johnson told Boswell that Smith "was as dull a dog as he had ever met with" --Boswell had been one of Smith's pupils at Glasgow University.

The book, two sound quartos, sold well, and the first edition, the number of which is unknown, sold out within six months. This came as a surprise to the publisher, and probably also to Smith himself - in a letter to David Hume he wrote that the book 'requires much thought and reflection (qualities that do not abound among modern readers) to peruse to any purpose."

Probably one of the least asleep of all books--you are most unlikely to find one cheap--if you find a 1776 edition, and they do turn up, it will almost always be the 3 volume Dublin printing worth about a tenth of the London edition. The above quotation about the 'invisible hand' gives an idea of the style and thrust of the book. It is much loved by enlightened Republicans, libertarians and high Tories. Bagehot was a fan. Reaganomics was nothing but Adam Smith. The amusing P.J. O'Rourke has produced a sort of 'Adam Smith for Dummies' called 'P.J. O’Rourke on The Wealth of Nations" a good summary and explication in which he also takes a few swipes at liberals (however the man, described on one site as 'an ageing bong head', is no Rush Limbaugh.) He sees Enron as an example of businessmen not following Smith's principles - self-interest and greed being antithetical to each other. Greed is not good business.

The book is featured in 'Printing and the Mind of Man'- a work that used to be a bible among serious collectors of landmark books. It is still important, but you don't hear people say 'it's in PMM!' so much anymore. PMM says of the book:
'Where the political aspects of human rights had taken two centuries to explore, Smith’s achievement was to bring the study of economic aspects to the same point in a single work … The certainty of its criticism and its grasp of human nature have made it the first and greatest classic of modern economic thought...’

VALUE? A copy made £85000 (+ commission taking in to little short of £100,000 to get it out of the room) in June this year. It was in an Edwards of Halifax binding (decorated / painted at the spine with a family crest.) There is a bit of a fetish for such bindings so this may have fired this price up, a copy in a handsome binding sits in London at £75000 and a copy described as "...a remarkably clean, fine and totally unsophisticated copy" made $135000 at Sotheby's New York in 2005. A worn copy made $60K last year and 10 years ago decent examples were making $30K. William Rees Mogg once wrote an article showing how key books such as this could be an investment and if chosen wisely could outpace inflation. He may well be right so far. You are never going to find a set now for much less than $60K unless it is defective or has had a hard life. [ W/Q ** ]

TRIVIA. O'Rourke parodies Smith's opaque prose style in his own work on him - “Pretty soon Smith gets enmeshed in clarifications, intellectually caught out, Dagwood-like, carrying his shoes up the stairs of exegesis at 3 a.m., expounding his head off, while that vexed and querulous spouse, the reader, stands with arms crossed and slipper tapping on the second-floor landing of comprehension.” Also it could be argued that Adam Smith inspired Boswell in his great biography of Johnson - he attended Smith's lectures at Glasgow University, and was captivated by Smith's remark that even the smallest detail is of interest in a great man - such as John Milton's choice of shoe laces over buckles.

07 July 2007

This is Tomorrow. Whitechapel Art Gallery 1956

Lawrence Alloway (ed.,) THIS IS TOMORROW. Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1956.

Current Selling Prices
$1000- $2000 / £500-£1000

Small blue catalogue of an important exhibition -"This is Tomorrow" -variously described as 'seminal' 'landmark' 'watershed' and 'groundbreaking.' Something of a sleeper - in the sense that it can be cashed in with almost any art reference dealer for $1000 but to the unhip eye looks like a $15 fifties art catalogue. Not impossible to find, it was a popular exhibition, we have had 3 copies in the last 10 years. We desrcibed the last thus:
'8vo. Unpaginated--about 60 pages and some product ads. Illustrated throughout. Groundbreaking exhibition devoted to the possibilities of co-operation between architects, painters, musicians, graphic designers and sculptors. 4 pages of poems by Reyner Banham. Exhibition featured work by Erno Goldfinger, Victor Pasmore, Paolozzi, Anthony Jackson, Germano Facetti, Theo Crosby, John Ernest, William Turnbull etc., Highly important and difficult to find, especially in this condition. Small oblong rung bound catalogue; slight spotting to covers, one corner sl creased ; vg+.'
Sold it for about £400 in 2002. For some reason we forgot to mention the early appearance of Richard Hamilton, curently selling for mindblowing sums. His room was the most visited of the show-- he shared it with John Voelcker and John McHale, with collaboration from Magda and Frank Cordell. It included the Op Art Dazzle panels, and Pop Art readymades of a film advertising billboard of the Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot and a Jukebox that were provided by McHale.

It can be found reproduced at thisistomorrow2.com. There is thus no need to buy it - but it has become an iconic object marking the beginning of a great new spirit in art.

VALUE? A book dealer from the NY art /vernissage coterie had a copy at $5000 in late 2006, possibly a 'having a laugh price' aimed at a hedge fund art trendy or super rich artist/collector like Richard Prince--anyway it went or was not there a week later. Likely to have been an "I saw you coming" price - while on the subject of comedians note the resemblance of the stout artist Paolozzi to comic and hoaxer Dom Joly (above) + those are not Ipod earphones Smithson is wearing but the drawstrings of a sort of khaki army pullover affected by cool Bohemians of the 1950s. TRIVIA. One wonders whether architect Erno Goldfinger's name was the inspiration for Ian Fleming's 1959 novel. [ W/Q ** ]

04 July 2007

Celebrity Book Collectors. Part Two.

Sometimes it is hard to know whether a celeb is a book collector or merely a buyer of books who is occasionally spotted in bookshops. Sometimes he or she is merely buying an expensive book as a gift or inducement. For a while at the turn of the century it became fashionable for Hollywood stars to buy one another rare books as presents, especially at the end of making a movie.

Seen in bookshops, but not confirmed as collectors, are stars like Dustin Hoffman, Elton John (can be seen in Sandoe's of Chelsea) David Bowie (Shakespeare and Co, Paris) Quentin Tarantino (Charing Cross Road) Bob Dylan (Heritage in LA) Neil Young (Logos, Santa Cruz) Julia Roberts (Notting Hill.) I remember Ronnie Corbett showing up once at our Hammersmith shop wanting yards of leather for his mansion -- he may be known in USA from 'Extras' (small guy caught snorting coke in the loo at an award ceremony - ''just a bit of wizz to blow out the cobwebs.") The finest star I ever saw in our shop (and there haven't been many) was John le Mesurier--who seemed exactly the same as on screen--vague, diffident, posh, charming. Our shop was also frequented by a pop combo known as the Jesus and Mary Chain. Sorry to be dropping such heavy names.

Madonna. Said to colllect early books by and about women starting with Hildegard of Bingen, Juliana of Norwich etc.,. Doesn't want them in Latin because she likes to actually read them. An expensive collecting area.

Keith Richard. His library ('reading retreat') is pictured in Estelle Elis's 1995 book 'At Home With Books: How Booklovers Live With and Care for Their Libraries' copies of which can be found for about $35 inc post. He has quite alot of books but they look like fairly common military books, sensational paperbacks, Franklin mint classics, 'Occult Reich' that sort of thing. Perched on one bookshelf is a bottle of HP sauce, a noose and a skull wearing a sailor's hat. I have heard that Keith has more recently moved on to serious and valuable books including Early Printing. Another distinguished former heroin addict and collector was the late John Paul Getty III who had a world class library - especially Pre Raphaelites and Incunabula.

Bernie Taupin. Elton John’s long-time lyricist. Mentioned in Rick Gekoski's excellent 'Tolkien's Gown.' Gekoski is our own Basbanes but lacks Basbanes' boring side. Bernie, not short of a few bob, bought from Rick a superb 2 vol Paris 'Lolita' in 1992 inscribed with the customary butterfly drawing thus -‘For Graham Greene from Vladimir Nabokov, November 8, 1959’. He paid £9000 and sold it a bit later for not a lot more. Slightly daft move as in 2002 it made $264,000 at Christies. Bernie collects modern firsts esp Greene.

Thurston Moore. Leader of experimental rock group 'Sonic Youth'. An assiduous collector of experimental 'underground' literature mainly from the 1960s. Like many collectors now he is not served by some tweedy book dealer but buys from all and sundry over the net. Much of this stuff is ephemeral and rare. He in his turn is collected (see Prince below.)

Neil Pearson. Excellent Brit actor mostly seen on TV but can be found in Bridget Jones movies, 'Love Actually' and the recent TV thriller 'The State Within'. Also reads audiobooks. Great collector of 'Published in Paris' books esp Obelisk Press. He recently appeared with Rick Gekoski at Hay on Wye festival talking about rare books.

David Attenborough. Much loved maker of fine Nature programmes for BBC. A great collector of serious older Natural History books especially those with colour plates. Seen at ABA book fairs.

Barry Humphries. Aka Dame Edna Everage. Serious collector of decadent literature -- especially 1890s. Is said to favour minor nineties poets like Theodore Wratislaw and illustrators like Charles Shannon. Has a long suit of Oscar Wilde. Married Stephen Spender's daughter.

Ashley Drane. Star of 'That's So Raven' a TV show whose plot is summarised thus: 'A teenage girl periodically receives brief psychic visions of the near future. Trying to make these visions come true results in trouble, and hilarious situations, for the girl and her friends.' Classic modern collector--Ashley collects 'Alice in Wonderland' and has every kind of object, ephemeroid and doll but finds the actual book a bit boring. Certainly doesn't have an 1865 printing, possibly just the Franklin Mint. This may be the future...

Michael Winner. Film director. The man they love to hate. Has a house in Kenington next to fellow book collector Jimmy Page's Victorian pile (by Burges.) Collects Arthur Rackham including drawings etc., I am told Rackham prices are falling and he has become a little vieux jeu.

Jay Leno. Lantern jawed US TV presenter. Collects cars and motorbikes but apparently has an impressive Dickens collection -- including some works 'in the parts' --i.e. in the earliest form that his works were issued.

Richard Prince. Wealthy and prolific contemporary American artist, probably best known for his pulp fiction nurse paintings.

Prince collects books and ephemera much of which end up in his work e.g. a Sonic Youth check with a signed drumhead and a Sid Vicious letter. He also collects American first editions and his collection morphed into art can be seen in the Glenn Horowitz published 2004 book 'Richard Prince: American English.' Horowitz is , of course, one of the biggest dealers in rare books in the world. Prince is said to have paid a 6 figure sum for a 'Naked Lunch' presented from Burroughs to Paul Bowles. Rather too much money but it may end up as seven figure art. Our own diamond geezer Hirst has a masked nurse by Prince in his collection.

Other glitterati associated with books and collecting include Lana Turner (serious collector) Michael York (seen with Dame Edna) Bryan Ferry (collects Wyndham Lewis) Gregg Lake (fishing books) Vic Reeves (exploration) Ricky Jay (magic and illusion) Anita Pointer of the Pointer Sisters (Black history) John Larroquette, Daniel Radcliffe (Potter actor seen spending large sums at auction on modern literature in manuscript) Mike Read (Brit DJ with serious Rupert Brooke collection) Simon Callow, Michael Lerner (bird books) Terry Jones, Herbert Lom, Hanif Kureishi, Michael Flatley (Irish literature) Michael Richards (Kramer in Seinfeld) Andrew Lloyd Webber (PRBs).

Lastly I once saw Kate Bush at auction buying the film script of 'Magical Mystery Tour' annotated by the mantra muttering moptops themselves. She paid £15000 and I was second underbidder. I wish I had gone on but there wasn't a lot of money about in the mid 1980s.