29 September 2007

Algorithms for Clustering Data. ( Jain and Dubes)

Anil K Jain & R.C. Dubes. ALGORITHMS FOR CLUSTERING DATA. Prentice Hall, New Jersey 1988. ISBN 013022278X

Current Values $200-$400 /£100-£200

A lot of chaps want it although it can be downloaded for free by clicking on the top title above. One of those books people get worked up about, for some its Wuthering Heights, for some its Lazy Liza Lizard and for others it's clustering data. Anil Jain is well known and respected in the field of facial and dental recognition, fingerprints and signature authentication. We're also talking data mining...our pic below is from an algorithm watchers site. He has a website devoted to him where his research interests are listed as 'statistical pattern recognition, data clustering, texture analysis, document image understanding and biometric authentication.' In the post 9/11 world such areas of knowlege are inreasingly relevant and lucrative. The book 'Algorithms for Clustering Data' is noted as being ranked by Citeseer as # 93 in Most Cited Articles in Computer Science (over all times).

VALUE? Presumably wanted by some who are in steady and well paid employment so I put the value at $200 and a bit more for sharp copies. A fine copy was listed at $550 12/06 with a relister piggybacking it at $1200. These have gone away -probably not sold but reincarnated at more sober prices - even the greediest booksellers need to sell something occasionally, painful though it is. There are now 7 at Amazon at between $200 and $500. It appears to be a book that has fallen significantly in value and the market has responded by nimbly lowering prices. Possibly one of those books that, although notionally worth several hundred dollars, is quietly traded at much less. [ W/Q *** ]

28 September 2007

Smythies & Garthwaite. Birds of Burma, Rangoon 1940

B.E.Smythies and P.F.Garthwaite. BIRDS OF BURMA. American Baptist Mission Press, Rangoon, 1940.

Current Selling Prices
$550-$1000 /£280-£500

There is a good story that goes with the 1940 first edition. It seems that the book was seized by the invading Japanese Army. They did not destroy the book on the spot but shipped the lot back to Tokyo...The story is detailed in the 1951 reprint of the book. A dealer on ABE tells it thus:
'The first edition (1940) was printed in Rangoon in a limited edition of 1000 copies by the American Baptist Press. Put on sale in January 1941, all copies were sold out by the end of that year, with very few finding their way out of Burma proper. Just prior to the Japanese invasion of 1942, all the original paintings and printing blocks of the first edition were saved and shipped back to England. All copies of the books that could be found were confiscated and shipped to Japan where they were later destroyed during an air raid.'
Presumably the book was seized because it was in English. Despite its colourful and violent history copies turn up fairly regularly and are then sold with varieties of this histoire. The copy pictured above in the elusive jacket turned up in East Anglia recently and there are a small handful on the net. The book is never cheap and as ornithological books go it is quite desirable. It has 31 colour plates from paintings by Lieut. Cmdr. A.M.Hughes, however they are not of the print quality to attract the attentions of a breaker.

VALUE? £200+ sans d/w and possibly twice that with the jacket and a bit more for a really sharp copy. The history of rare books is full of books that became rare because of warehouse fires (see Moby Dick, Gadsby, Murphy etc.,) Also books seized by soldiers, customs men, policemen and religious zealots. At the British Museum one used to call some books up and get a note back saying that a book was not available because it was 'destroyed in enemy action.' T W H Crosland left the entire print run of his first book 'The Pink Book : being verses good, bad and indifferent' on the train back from Brighton in 1894 ater he had picked up the few hundred wraps copies from the publisher Guy and Co. The book is rare but actually shows up, because the run was probably stolen or auctioned and filtered back into the trade.

The slight rarity of another bird book, this in the King Penguin series called 'Egyptian Birds' was caused by a maker of place mats buying up part of the run to use the images hot pressed into the dinner mats. Occasionally the author himself causes the book's rarity by buying up copies (sometimes in remorse, fear or shame) and destroying them. Book runs are lost in floods, hurricanes, ship wrecks, earthquakes, bombings, plane and auto crashes and occasionally they are thrown into skips (dumpsters) either due to negligence, indifference, pressure of space or possibly in contempt or disgust.

I am always interested in books published in English in exotic places - like Belize, Shanghai, Macao, Leopoldstown, Monaco, Valparaiso, Port Au Prince, Caracas, Ulan Bator (Ulanbaatar) Iraklion, Haifa, Tehran, Gwalior, Kinshasa, Dar Es Salaam or Timbuctoo (Tombouctoo) .Ted Joans (below) the late, great latterday black surrealist poet and Parisian expat used to have a flat in Timbuctoo and published a couple of pamphlets there. Another cultish expat hip writer, Charles Henri Ford published several things in Kathmandu (1960s) which occasionally show up in the trade at decent prices. C.H.O. Scaife, one of several British Council writers who published poetry in far flung spots had several books printed in Beirut and Tehran. One wonders how much English language poetry is being printed there now--also how much is printed anymore in troubled Rangoon.

24 September 2007

Tod Robbins. Close their Eyes Tenderly (1947)

Tod Robbins. CLOSE THEIR EYES TENDERLY. Editions Inter - Pub, Monaco (1947)

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

Part of a rich vein of (mainly American) expat literature. The books are often in paper wraps and look like the one above, which is essentially the format in which most French books appear. They are often printed by Darantiere at Dijon. The best-known work printed by Darantiere was the first edition of Ulysses by James Joyce in 1922. He also printed work by Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway and many lesser writers. In the early 1960s a lateral thinking dealer turned up in Dijon and bought a truck load of file copies from the printing office. Retirement money.

Paper covered books published in Europe in English are always worth pulling off the shelf and are of interest even if the author is nobody, anonymous or an obvious pseudonym. Some are erotic which usually have value, some are fantasy, some baddish modernist verse, some from odd presses like Obelisk, Roving Eye ,Black Manikin, Contact, Three Mountains, Servire and there are always completists, some well heeled, after these.

The printed dedication to this book gives a flavour of its oddness- it reads: "To Naomi Kathleen Robbins, who heartily dislikes this book. She is of the opinion that Elaine Verez's Employment Agency to help out the Nouveau Riche and Maxwell Jenks' dinner at the expense of Mrs. Peabody-Jones are bad literary taste. Then, being of a religious nature, she resents the treatment accorded the Reverend Cuthbert Parsons. But the other whimsical murders, although slightly distasteful to a virgin palate, she forgives me." I catalogued a copy of this Monaco printed rarity thus:

Tod Robbins (1888-1949) A. K. A. -- Clarence Aaron Robbins or Clarence Tod Robbins. CLOSE THEIR EYES TENDERLY. Illustrated by Paule de Nize. 8vo. Original tan wrappers printed in red and black, 131pp. Frontis and 5 full page illus by Paul de Nize - an illustrator slightly reminiscent of Beresford Egan who appears to have done no other published work. First edition, only printing, the author's last book, published far from home. Robbins emigrated to the French Riviera from New York and refused to leave during the Nazi occupation of France. He spent the war in a concentration camp and died in 1949. Presumably this is why his last work was published in the unlikely environs of the Princedom of Monaco. An excellent copy, largely unopened.

Announced in the ads is a forthcoming title: TO HELL AND HOME AGAIN, which never appeared. The implication is that the author was still alive when CLOSE THEIR EYES TENDERLY was published, putting the books date in the late 1940s. Surreal and bizarre text and images, fantastical content. The ninth and final book by the author. Robbins 1926 story 'Spurs' was the basis of Tod Brownings film 'Freaks' in 1932 and he is credited with work on three other films as well, two derived from his own novel, 'The Unholy Tree' (filmed twice) and his story 'The Branded Man.' (The Library of Congress copy posits the publication date as 1950.)

Loosely inserted was a letter which gave evidence of a much earlier printing. It was a good signed typed letter from his friend Cedric Gibbons at MGM at Culver City to Robbins dated February 19, 1947. It lets Tod down gently and gives an idea of the book's strange plot--'Dear Tod. I have read your 'Close their Eyes Tenderly ' and enjoyed it enormously. However I have been unable to interest any producer at the studio in it. I tried to explain that murder can be treated as farce and comedy, but the boys are taking life pretty seriously these days. / I have also tried to interest them in an ant-communist picture inasmuch as in the past thay have made Anti- Fascist and Anti-Nazi ones, but so far I have had very little response. / I often wonder what has happened to our brilliant companions of the Bedford Rest, such as the Mulehills and the Newberrys. God, they must be dull by now. / I may be in Europe this fall and if you are still at the same address, I will warn you of my arrival./ God help us. Cedric.' Unless Cedric read it in MS this predates the LOC copy's speculative date by 3 years.

Of the illustrator Paule de Nize nothing is known. Apart from his credit in this book he is unknown to Google (even searching books, groups, scholar etc.,) the giant art database Artprice (where I have a few Euros credit) yields no Nizes and just a few Nices none called Paul or Paule. Much is still unknown or unknowable - I have a pal in California who thinks all human knowledge is to be found at Google - but then he is not looking up obscure and forgotten oddball illustrators but stuff like the history of custard, the whereabouts of old aircraft and the early history of the Alvis--plenty of that. It is possible that de Nize was an amateur from nearby Nice, or Robbins himself.

VALUE? Not massive but a respectable 3 figure sum. 4 copies online as we speak. Robbins has always been a hard sell because of the oddness of his subject matter and style. 3 of his books are in Bleiler and there is someone asking $750 for his 1915 book of poems THE SCALES OF JUSTICE. Robbins is here credited with 2 earlier works 'Mysterious Martin' and 'Spirit Of Town' ( 'a novel presentation in fiction form of the impulse and desire which mould the lives of men.') These are all published by J.S. Ogilvie Publishing Company in New York about 1912 and very seldom met with but even so probably not of excessive value. Poster below for the 1932 movie 'Freaks'. [ W/Q * ]

20 September 2007

George Locke. A Spectrum of Fantasy. 1980 - 2002

Ferret Fantasy; Privately Printed, Tooting, London. 1980, 1994, 2002.

Current Selling Prices
$180 /£90 per volume.

A rich treasure house of info about fantasy fiction. A catalogue in three volumes (so far) of his own mindblowing collection. No mere list, a bizarre bazaar of weirdness--Locke often summarises the plot, saving readers many hours of tedium, and has fascinating anecdotal evidence of how he ran the book to earth. Prices paid were often modest by 2007 standards and go back to the old predecimal days- 7/6 etc., Currey (who has a fine set at a not outrageous $525) describes it thus:
"...An essential source for information on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century science fiction and fantasy literature, especially British publications. In the first volume, approximately 3100 books are described with full bibliographical particulars, including identification "points" for Locke's personal copies plus other editions, printings, issues and states where relevant. Locke provides notes indicating thematic content of each title, a valuable feature for collectors of "forgotten fantasy" as his collection includes many of uncommon and/or obscure early works not recorded elsewhere in such detail. Thematic emphasis of the collection is interplanetary fiction to 1914, future war fiction, lost race fiction, utopian literature, and supernatural fiction (the latter of special interest as Locke identifies fantasy tales published in single author collections of mixed stories)."

Many of the books described are signed or have letters or additional info loosely inserted - sometimes very revealing. You find out that the David Nutt published 1898 work 'The Man with Two Souls' by E.W. B. Nicholson was, in fact, paid for by the author. These are 4 short stories with the title story one of mesmerism and a man who comes to believe that his dead sweetheart's soul is cohabiting with his. A letter from the author in the book reveals that having had the book turned down by major publishers "...I issued it through Nutt on my own hook..." George then goes on to mount an excellent defence of vanity publishing, often sneered at, saying "...the deeper one goes into the subject...one finds that even fairly well known books were at least in part financed by their authors."

It is interesting to look up great fantasy rarities - most of which George has had. Vide possibly the greatest of all rarities of 20th century fantasy Chistopher Blayre's 'The Cheetah Girl" (1923, 20 copies only.) Referring to it as 'something of a Holy Grail for me' he eventually hears of one on a catalogue that has sold, but tracks down the buyer who admits that without George he wouldn't have heard of the book and sells it to him for £25 (1972?). A copy in the mid 1990s sold for £1600 at Sothebys. Blayre = Edward Heron Allen and the story is of the manufacture of a beautiful woman 'a hybrid between the human and the cheetah' - because the work had erotic elements it was deemed unpublishable in the 1920s. George had written about in his Christmas Annual and had doubts about revealing the existence of such a massive 'sleeper' - however as he recounts it he would not have found a copy if he hadn't made the book known. Tartarus have issued a reprint.

VALUE? I have all 3 beside me as I type, sitting next to Bleiler and Hubin. 2 of them appear to be limited editions and are signed, the first stating that it is one of 26 signed copies with 'Herlock's Own Mistake.' This is presumably a Sherlockian parody by GL but seems to have vanished. One of them, a signed subscriber's copy has a slip in it showing I paid a stonking £81 for the book new in 2002. These books were never cheap and it is hard to find them for less than a £100, even used copies. Condition, I find is less important with reference works. They could, of course, show up for 50p each at a muddy boot fair (some time in the far future...)

TRIVIA. Stuart Teitler, dealer, collector and scholar of old fantasy, especially lost race fiction is mentioned throughout George's works as a source of information and of books - as well as an American friend. I am indebted to fantasy buff and uber-runner Martin Stone for pointing out that Stuart is now to be found on YouTube tap-dancing (and with considerable aplomb.) Bookdealers are generally a cerebral bunch so it is good to see one with such elegant moves. Take it away Stuart:-

16 September 2007

At Swim Two Birds...Flann O'Brien 'Intoxicatingly funny.'

Flann O'Brien. AT SWIM TWO BIRDS.Longmans, London 1939.

Current Selling Prices $2000+ / £1200+

Comic and surreal masterpiece admired by Joyce, although he is not on the jacket blurb (was he ever?). JJ , nearly blind at the time read it with a magnifying glass and pronounced: 'That's a real writer, with the true comic spirit.' Also rated by Greene who was instrumental in getting it published, Beckett, Dylan (who is on the blurb - 'This is just the book to give your sister - if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl!') and in our time Nicholson Baker ('intoxicatingly funny.') Flann didn't have a lot of success in his time and his next novel (also something of a cult) 'The Third Policeman' was turned down and appeared posthumously. O' Brien (aka Myles Na Gopaleen) played a mean game of billiards and liked the black stuff and plenty of it. He wrote: 'When money's tight and hard to get/ And your horse is also ran,/ When all you have is a heap of debt /A PINT OF PLAIN IS YOUR ONLY MAN.'

VALUE? Sometimes seen, along with a lot of other homegrown lit, wildly overpriced down Dublin way- even indifferent second state unjacketed copies require a 1000 euro note. Auction records reveal 'uncorrected page proofs' selling for £1100 at Sotheby's in 1997. Venerable world class dealers Quaritch have one in d/j at £2K and that's about the limit for the second state slick grey one, the black is the first state (above) and can command as much as £3K or $5000 in a smart jacket. The trouble with all this is that it is a book whose greatest devotees seldom have a lot of spare change, and that's a fact. Stop Press Sept 07. The £2000 copy seems to have sold, an Irish book and art dealer has the US first (Pantheon 1939) at £1.6K a slightly barking, 'dream on' price because copies of the US first can be had in similar condition for less than £300. As Shakespeare might have said: 'Thy wish was father to that price.' [ W/Q *** ]

TRIVIA. O'' Brien's novel 'The Third Policeman' was featured in the October 5, 2005 episode of the hit television series 'Lost'. At one point during the episode (entitled "Orientation"), a copy of the book can be seen. The episode concerns the main characters' discovery of a mechanism which they are told must be reset at every 108 minutes by entering the numbers (4 8 15 16 23 42), or else "the world will be destroyed." The series' creators have said that anyone who has read the book "will have a lot more ammunition when dissecting plotlines" of the show. The book has seen a significant sales increase since its role in 'Lost'.

In our Charing Cross shop almost every day someone asks for it (we often have a copy) - other visitors also ask the way to the Soho pub 'The Rusty Cauldron', which doesn't exist outside of Harry Potter - however there is a rather camp pub called the Duke of York, known to some of its waggish punters as 'The Rusty Cauldron' and we occasionally send them there. Our picture below shows Anthony Cronin, John Ryan and Flann O'Brien (right with knee raised--possibly showing it to Cronin who created 'Dr. Finlay') on Bloomsday, Michael Scott's house, Sandycove, Co. Dublin 1940s.

Q. Who is Flann O'Brien?
A. Brian Nolan.
Q. Who is Brian Nolan?
A. Myles na Gopaleen.
Q. What did these three men do?
A. They wrote three books called "At Swim-Two-Birds."

--Brendan Behan, Irish Times, 30 July 1960

12 September 2007

Austin Osman Spare. Earth Inferno. 1905.

"Life is haunted- I see the faces of the so-called dead everywhere...etched and glyptographed on things." A. O. Spare 1887-1956

Austin Osman Spare. EARTH INFERNO. London: Co-operative Printing Society, 1905.

Current Selling Prices
$1250-$2000 /£650-£1000

Artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare's first book written at the age of 18 with drawings somewhat in the style of Beardsley but with a power all of their own. A very large book in printed brown paper wraps; 17.75″ x 13.5″ with a few copies in vellum and some in green boards. 265 signed copies in all. The vellum copies were supposed to have a colour print in them but no copies ever have it and presumably it wasn't inserted. A glorious vellum copy turned up 12 years back at Sotheby's with an original watercolour bound in (made £1500.)

In the mid 1980s I walked into the bookshop of an old pal of AOS and bought about a dozen Spares. It was the Bohemia bookshop on St. Leonards, mostly military books, run by a great character named Frank Letchford. He impressed me by knowing a lot about rock music, unusual in those days among septuagenarians. He had known Spare and also Henry Miller. In fact I bought a Spare portrait of Miller which thereafter seemed to spend its life in auction. It was done from a photo. Soon after with art connoisseur and boulevardier James Birch I put on a show of Spares' work at his gallery in Fulham. At the time James had Nico (Velvet Underground) staying in his spare bedroom. Every one seemed to be dressed in black. Boho days. I wrote the intro in the catalogue and it went like this:
"Some see Spare's paintings as the work of an advanced occultist (reputedly a member of "The Golden Dawn') others see the work of a superb draughtsman, an unashamed Cockney artist who went back to Southwark and painted the ordinary people- whelk-girls, barrow boys, spivs and tramps. Certainly his life divides neatly into two periods. By the age of fourteen, possibly inspired by Beardsley and Ricketts, he was producing work of a high technical order. A fellow student at the Royal College described Spare as 'a fair creature resembling a Greek god, curly-haired, proud, self-willed, practising the black arts and taking drugs.' At his first one-man show in 1914 he was showing 'psychic' drawings later developed into his 'automatic' drawings. In the 1920s Spare was at the height of his powers, intensely active, producing books, magazines, objects and becoming briefly the darling of Mayfair. He appears to have reacted against the false values of his patrons and admirers in the Smart Set. His book 'The Anathema of Zos: A Sermon to the Hypocrites'- a work of 'automatic writing' excoriates the self- pity and smugness of the mid-1920s. He was seen as a degenerate and crank; little bothered by this Spare headed back to South London, seldom to be seen again in the purlieus of Bond Street. He found peace and obscurity among the lower classes- the whores and sneak-thieves, many of whom he used as models.

His portraits from this latter period of his life show that he was still primarily a visionary. Even in straightforward works like his portrait of a Southwark tramp, something shines out beyond the technique. Spare said that 'the portrait of a person should be more like them than they are themselves...seldom complimentary.'

Spare kept open house in his Kennington flat. Often surrounded by models young and old, he would receive critics and buyers, showing them his latest pictures in the living room, bedroom and kitchen. Spare liked to meet the people who wanted to buy his work, rather than have his pictures sold in a gallery in an impersonal way. Thus he carried on for years selling works for trifling sums, sometimes reduced to decorating radio sets and even mending them. Spare wrote that he had turned his back on fame, money and comfort '...and continued unmolested my quests into the unknown realms, my natural stoicism supporting me in times of want.'

After his injury in World War II when he temporarily lost the use of both arms, Spare's memory was also affected. It was not until 1946 in a cramped basement in Briton that he began to paint again. His 1947 exhibition in Westbourne Grove attracted many people and sold well. The paintings of this last period were some of his finest and most innovative. By the time he died in 1956 he had created an impressive range of work showing throughout a singularity of vision. The original idea of the automatic drawings of' living beyond thought in courageous originality' never left him. Comparisons with Durer, Goya, Rops and Hokusai although well meant and occasionally illuminating miss the point. Spare was unique- nothing but himself.
The private view was well attended and the cheap wine flowed. At one point a fight broke out but was fairly quickly quelled, a few girls screamed, voices were raised. Some of the paintings had been donated by an old cove who had known Spare and were for sale. The son, who felt they should be his eventually, objected quite forcefully and attacked myself and James. In dealing with older owners, even with books, there are often problematic offspring in the background but it seldom leads to fisticuffs. However these day unless the books are demonstrably valuable, they are not coveted -in fact they are a nuisance.

VALUE? No copies for sale at present, auction records show copies making £500 twenty years ago. The market has not moved on vastly but a decent, clean copy would now fetch about £1000. They can turn up in truly lousy condition and being large and thin they can get bent. Although Spare now has a large fan base they are not generally the 'loadsamoney' crowd. Many good facsimiles have been produced. The excellent publishing company Fulgur has reproduced many of Spare's works and some are now out of print and eagerly sought after. Ebay sees much trading in Spare drawings ,books and art. It is worth remembering that Spare was prolific and there are many works of his art around --the very finest of his paintings can top £3000. He is not Lucian Freud when it comes to value but you get a lot more for your money. Above is a superior later work in his 'sidereal' style.[ W/Q * ]

09 September 2007

David Stone Martin - Jazz Graphics 1991

Manek Daver. DAVID STONE MARTIN. JAZZ GRAPHICS. Graphic-sha Publishing Co. Ltd, Tokyo, Japan, 1991 ISBN 4766105745

Current Selling Prices
$400-$600 /£190-£320

Manek Daver has brought together around 150 of David Stone Martin's jazz record covers, as well as around 65 of DSM's portraits of individual jazz musicians in this attractive book. The text is in both English and Japanese. Small art book size (12 by 9 inches) Soft cover with a jacket. Martin's work is instantly recognisable if you ever looked through collections of ol LP's. It is also recognisable from 50s and 60s paperback covers. He drew more than 400 album covers and created covers for Time Magazine. His work is in the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Smithsonian. He illustrated books, posters, billboards and advertisements for film, television and theatre, and created cover art for Asch, Clef, and Jazz at the Philharmonic labels of the 40's and 50's. Nice!

VALUE? Last summer a copy turned up at $300 and sold fairly quickly. A silly billy (possibly a relister) had one at £1200 which languished at half.com - a site that you never hear people talking about and may, like zshops, only enjoy a sort of half-life. A difficult and desirable book - hard to buy at less than $450. An online listing on ABE from a home counties Oxfam shop currently has one at £190 in slightly used but about reasonable enough condition - a great cause but a tiresome price to pay to a charity shop. Possibly it would be better to list it at say £125 and watch it walk smartly out of the door. If you suggested this at the shop itself one sunny morning you would quickly find out the meaning of the phrase "cold as charity." [ W/Q *** ]

06 September 2007

A Bookshop Rave

This happened a couple of weeks ago in my own neck of the woods-- a 'rave' in a bookshop. Young Julius Reed, 25, of Reed Books, High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk (UK) hosted some pretty loud music, a deejay and some crazy dancing in his bookshop during Aldeburgh's annual carnival. A few ravers even bought some books. I have been worrying recently about the future of bookshops and how to get young people to use them and like them and Julius, book collector, party animal and pillar of the community might have found a solution. Desperate remedies. Father Mathew Fox in Berkeley managed to get younger people back to church by having raves there and surely Julius is doing the same in East Anglia for books. Bless them both.

Julius buys, sells and trades books - the shop is more Black Books than Blackwells, but I have found some great stuff there - hunting books, golf, modern firsts, leather bound books, Folio Society, children's lit, thrillers, art, books on tape and signed poetry. He even has stuff to read. No incunabula so far.

Another rave organised by Julius received the unwelcome attention of the local constabulary and was shut down - it had been advertised on the net. Julius explained from his cell that it was just a question of semantics:
"The 'rave' that was advertised on the internet was in fact a birthday party ...and an artist's event ...the listing used the word rave as a verb, not a noun: come raving at the community hall, King's Field, Aldeburgh. Not, there's a rave on King's Field...I think this is where the confusion lies - the word rave does not mean the same thing to the current generation of teenagers as it does to the police and other older members of the community.”
The whole thing was reported in the local paper - The East Anglian - which resulted in good publicity for the bookshop and for the man they called the youngest bookseller in East Anglia. All hail Julius for doing something to bring books to the awareness of the ringtone generations. His achievement is hard to overstate but I'll try--singlehandedly this man has brought the second hand booktrade into the 21st century, he has breathed new life into a slumbering trade, he is the saviour of a noble business - why man he doth bestride the world like a Colossus - never in the field of human conflict has so much.....

05 September 2007

Vita Sackville-West  The Heir. 1922

"Vita for three days at Long Barn, from which Leonard and I returned yesterday. These Sapphists love women; friendship is never untinged with amorosity...I like her and being with her and the splendour--she shines in the grocer's shop in Sevenoaks with a candle lit radiance, stalking on legs like beech trees, pink glowing, grape clustered, pearl hung. That is the secret of her glamour, I suppose. Anyhow she found me incredibly dowdy. No woman cared less for personal appearance. No one put on things in the way I did. Yet so beautiful, etc. What is the effect of all this on me? Very mixed. There is her maturity and full breastedness; her being so much in full sail on the high tides, where I am coasting down backwaters; her capacity I mean to take the floor in any company, to represent her country, to visit Chatsworth to control silver, servants, chow dogs; her motherhood (but she is a little cold and off-hand with her boys); her being in short (what I have never been) a real woman. Then there is some voluptuousness about her; the grapes are ripe; and not reflective. No. In brain and insight she is not as highly organised as I am....mingled with all this glamour, grape clusters and pearl necklaces, there is something loose fitting. How much, for example, shall I really miss her when she is motoring across the desert?" Virginia Woolf. A Writer's Diary. 21 December 1925

"She is an absolute angel to me, and the value of her friendship is not to be measured in gold. Oh my dear, what intelligence! it is amazing - what perception, sensitiveness in the best sense, imagination, poetry, culture, everything so utterly un-shoddy and real. How she weaves magic into life! Whenever I see her, she raises life to a higher level."[Vita on VW.]

Vita Sackville-West. THE HEIR. A LOVE STORY. Heinemann / Privately Published ('Printed for private circulation.') London 1922.

Current Selling Prices
$650-$1400 /£320-£700

Books by the Bloomsbury Set are still fervently searched for, often by persons who would not be admitted to any of their parties or soire├ęs. I have seen massive collections of Bloomsburiana in neat suburban semis, high tech Docklands flats, once even on a pig farm in upstate New York. Then there are the married male and female couples (both gay ) trying to live the Harold and Vita lifestyle in unkempt parts of North London. It is generally admitted that Vita could write, but she did not excel at it like her one time lover Virginia Woolf (see above.)

We sold a copy of 'The Heir' on Ebay last year (they love Bloomsbury on Ebay) for about $800+. It was described thus:
"8vo. pp vi,120. Frontis. 9.5 x 6 inches. This is one of an edition of only 100 copies, printed on hand-made paper, each individually numbered and each signed on the photographic portrait frontispiece of VS-W by her. The limitation statement declares that numbers 1 to 50 were for sale, numbers 51 to 100 ‘for private circulation’. This is number 95. It was the first publication of a story which would later be reprinted a number of times alongside other of the author’s shorter works. It is a short novel which begins:"Miss Chase lay on her immense red silk four-poster that reached as high as the ceiling. Her face was covered over by a sheet, but as she had a high, aristocratic nose, it raised the sheet into a ridge, ending in a point… " It is a deathbed scene and sets in motion the story of a man’s inheritance of a house with which, as the story proceeds, he falls ever more profoundly in love. Vita would have drawn heavily for the story on her own relationship with Knole House in Kent where she was born but which, being a woman, she could not – to her everlasting distress – inherit.
Untrimmed pages are bound between patterned paper-cover boards with a spine of ivory-coloured buckram which bears a two-inch beige spine label. Facing the title page, and protected by an intact tissue guard, is a portrait of Vita based on the photograph by Swaine and which the author has signed in the lower right-hand corner." (Condition was OK but a little used.)
Below is a print of Knole House. Do not shed too many tears about her not inheriting this pile, she bought Sissinghurst Castle and made it into one of the most beautiful country houses in the home counties. Now seen as the embodiment of modern British gardening tradition, Sissinghurst is Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson’s enduring legacy, a haven of peace and beauty. Now open to the public and WAD (Worth a detour.)

VALUE? A very slight book, the trade edition has four more stories. For a book limited to 100 it turns up quite a lot. The first 50 copies bear the Heinemann imprint and the portrait of Vita is from the painting by William Strang, the second 50 privately printed with a photo. Both states are signed and there is no discernible difference in price between the although for some reason I prefer the ones with the Swain photo. The bibliography (Cross & Hulme) notes at least 2 states of the binding of the privately printed state, each with different flowaers and one with cream boards, the other mustard. In 2004 an average copy made £200 inscribed by Vita's mother to Alice Warrender. No copies currently for sale at less than £400. It does not seem to be going up in value but in general Bloomsbury prices are holding firm and Virginia Woolf shot up in value about 5 years ago and is showing no signs of collapse.

With Vita the one to find is her first book 'Chatterton' privately published in 1909 by the Sevenoaks High Street newsagent J. Salmon. The 16 year old Vita paid £5 for the 100 copies. Now valuable, Rota had a copy at £1350 in their 2002 catalogue of the Simon Nowell Smith Collection (possibly something of a rick), P. Harrington currently have a copy at £12,500. Her second book 'Constantinople' looks equally rare but a dealer in the 1980s unearthed a box of them and the book is still not worth much more than £300 in fab condition. At one time it was £20. Salmon, the printer of her first book, are still there in Sevenoaks and have a website - they call themselves 'the oldest established post card and calendar publisher in Britain.'

TRIVIA. Some gardening hints from Vita--after much digging and gently bossing gardeners about, she came to form some firm principles.  The first was ruthlessness.  If some thing was displeasing then change it.  Second was not to be too tidy in a garden, let self-seeded plants grow where they naturally fall, wild flowers mixing with cultivated plants in a garden was not a disaster.  Thirdly, have an architectural plan, a colour plan and a seasonal plan.

02 September 2007

My Edens After Burns. Val Kilmer.

Much sought after and much desired item - because it is by a movie star, and one with a more than usually dedicated fan base. He also probably inherited a few Jim Morrison devotees + some comic book afficionados and even followers of 'The Saint.' Possibly they used to follow Roger Moore... His book of poems is an Ebay blue riband item and, if you find one at a yard sale for a buck, stick a fork in yourself...you're done.

Val Kilmer. MY EDENS AFTER BURNS. Blue Feather Press, Wildomar, California, 1987 ISBN 0932482201

Current Selling Prices
$1000-$1500 /£500- £750

Self-published collection of poetry - most of it written between Val's years at Juilliard (including the poem SAND which he read during his interview with Inside The Actor's Studio) and the filming of WILLOW. One of the poems is about his relationship with Michelle Pfeiffer called 'The Pfeiffer Howls At The Moon.' Val emotes - "Poetry is a very subjective and intimate expression. It's literally your heartbeat. Your rhythm. The song of your soul. It's super-concentrated. It's a dense piece of yourself." Strangely Michelle P also enjoyed a relationship with the other and first modern age Batman, Michael Keaton.

The book was originally supposed to be a kind of Christmas present, and available in limited quantities to the public. He quickly decided to buy all of the either 2,000 or 5,000 (numbers vary) copies that were printed and that hadn't been sold, and he only gave those copies to close friends. The rest he has said that he stores in his garage. This is very common with self published books, but the usual reason is that no one wants to read the book or has heard of it. He is said to have given copies away at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 1988. Can find no samples of VK's poems online and VK fan sites either don't have it or are too respectful to publish them. On Amazon a fan says that she would buy the book (at $1200) but 'I would be intruding into the author's personal life, subverting his original intentions, and violating his boundaries. I have to stick to my values...' Uncommonly noble, almost unique sentiments.

The only thing I could find were some lyrics apparently penned by Kilmer for a loosely knit rock group he occasionally sings with:“One more mortal has let me down/ I’m alone with my rhyming/in an unknown town/alone with poetry and foreign football on hotel/television/and text messages from a troubled kept woman.” Not unworthy of the late great Jim-Jim, bringing to mind his eerie lyric 'Cars Hiss by my Window.'

His creative writing talents were also expressed in a documentary that he made entitled JOURNEY TO VICTORY a.k.a. JOURNEY TO MAGMA . Val describes it as "not so much to do with nuclear weapons as it is to do with people and their hopes and fears for the future. That inevitably has to do with whether there will actually be an earth, but it's not as widely prejudiced like most of the documentaries I've seen on the nuclear issue. They seem to go completely one way or the other, either pro or anti, which makes both arguments as bad as each other. Hopefully, this will bridge the gap a little, and there's a great sense of fearlessness which I hope comes across in the film, as these people have such a strong conviction that there are answers to these seemingly unanswerable questions."

Kilmer is a distant relative of the well known US poet Joyce Kilmer ( 1886 - 1918, a man - Val shares with him a Unisex moniker.) Last year he helped AMERICAN FORESTS plant its 20 millionth tree and gave a reading of his kinsman's deathless 1913 'Trees' poem

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

VALUE? (Updated Aug/2007) You can buy copies, pretty decent ones, even signed, at between $1200 and $1500 although an unfortunate nutso wants $7000 copies for a copy that has been there since before Google was invented. (Now taken down and put away in a skybox with other non existent items.) It has made as much as $4000 on ebay and might do again if an ebay person didn't check ABE or Amazon or the copies there sold. Ebayers frequently do not check anywhere else, and do not know any other book site than Amazon- this leads to freak results and happy sellers. It should be noted that the $1200+ copies have been there for many months and possibly copies sell at less than this on a regular basis, leading to the conclusion that $1200 is the price that it doesn't sell at. Some dealers are always searching for this price, the golden mien, and are mortified if the book sells. The right price is the wrong price. [ W/Q ****]

Bear in mind all the copies in Val's garage. Possibly yesterday's book - a financial graph of recent prices would show a slight downward sweep; but Kilmer is a magic name...want level is high. No copies available now at less than $1200 and oddly all are signed. (Our photo below shows the poet Joyce Kilmer. He was killed at the Second Battle of Marne in 1918 at the age of 31. His 1911 book of verse was called 'Summer of Love'.)

01 September 2007

The Man with the Golden Arm. 1949.

Nelson Algren. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM. Doubleday & Co., Inc., Garden City, NY 1949.

Current Selling Prices
$250-$450 /£120-£220

Algren's most famous work and the first winner of the National Book Award. 'Set in the gritty underbelly of post-WWII Chicago, Algren's prize-winning novel tells of a group of likable losers, chief among them Frankie Machine--card dealer, drummer, and drug addict. We also get acquainted with Frankie's whiny, wheelchair-bound wife, Sophie; his sweet girlfriend, Molly; the thief, Sparrow; and other denizens of Division Street as they struggle through life, often as their own worst enemies. Algren's sympathy for his creations comes through. 'Man' may be a "dark" tale, but it is laced with funny, tender scenes. Addiction, adultery, alcoholism, murder, and gambling all play a part, but they are filtered through fifty years of social and literary history. For those craving skillful writing sensitively read, this is a balm'.- J.B.G. Winner (contemporary review.)

First edition points include beige boards, green endpapers and a $3 price on the front flap - modern US novels are often clipped here to disguise the fact they are BOMC (Book Club) + there should be no mention of National Book Award. Made into the Otto Preminger film starring Frank Sinatra who gave one of his better performances. It is also remembered for the iconic work of the graphic designer Saul Bass whose staccato opening sequence is said to have transformed the way film credits were presented. Bass's credits for another Algren movie 'A Walk on the Wild Side' took the process even further and were widely acclaimed. [ W/Q ** ]

VALUE? Decent clean copies can be had for less than $300, very sharp copies a little more. Quite a few signed copies for sale, almost an abnormal amount--some authors are very free with their signature, some costive--Graham Greene used to say he would like to sign but he would be lowering the value for all the books he had already signed - a lousy excuse but perfectly logical. When Algren told Newsweek in 1956 "...Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own...' It is possible he was referring to Simone de Beauvoir whose lover he had been in the late 1940s and 1950s.

I was fortunate in the late 1991 to pick up a bunch of signed presentations from Algren to de Beauvoir on the stalls outside Shakespeare and Co in Paris. In 'Chicago City on the Make' (1951) he had written 'For Castor avec amour from Nelson in the Forrest Ave nest Oct 1951'. In a copy of 'Somebody in Boots' (1935) Simone de Beavoir had drawn two rabbits and and written under one 'Madame la Tigresse' and Algren had written under the other 'Monsieur le Tigre.' The pick of the bunch was de Beauvoir and Sartre's copy of Algren's hardboiled novel 'Never Come Morning.' Sartre and Algren were lovers of Simone concurrently and although Algren presented a tough guy image he found Sartre warm and charming (but he descibed him as looking like a shoe salesman.) Sartre and De Beauvoir had partly translated the book and many of the notes were in their hands - a triumphal airpunching find translated into a goodly four figure profit. Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?

TRIVIA. They named a street after Algren in Chicago, then after protests from locals it was changed back to its old name. Some see this as symbolic of his equivocal reputation. The critic William Brevda wrote of him:-
"... in Nelson Algrens version of the dark night of the soul it is always raining day after day and the rainbow sign is always neon Although he wrote about a circumscribed world of bars brothels prison cells and rented rooms Algren transformed the jukeboxes and neon signs of the wild side into an iconography bearing religious implication and existential universality... A jukebox running down in a deserted bar is the way the world ends..."