RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
27 July 2007
Jim Crace. Continent, 1986. ('Netblown')
Jim Crace. CONTINENT. Heinemann, London 1986.
Current Selling Prices
MODERN FIRST EDITION
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.