RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
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.