29 May 2007

Ellis Credle. Andy and the Circus

Ellis Credle. ANDY AND THE CIRCUS. Thomas Nelson, NY 1971

Current Selling Prices
$90-$200 / £50-£110

Ellis Credle (1902-1998) was an author and illustrator of books for children and young adults. Born in North Carolina, she attended Louisburg College and the New York School of Interior Decoration. Her first children's book 'Down, Down the Mountain' became a Junior Literary Guild selection. The running-away- to-the-circus theme has always been wanted. A book that is seldom seen without library markings and often lots of them. Ex lib copies seem to be available at less than $80, but there are dealers, not part of the usual coterie of overpricers asking over $200 for ex lib lite copies. One dealer describing his copy as 'retired' from a library then promotes the book as being sturdy because such books are often reinforced at the spine.

Ex Lib is nasty and to be avoided, imho they are only OK if v cheap or you merely need the text or the book is otherwise unobtainable. Ex library books have usually been purchased for a dollar or at a dollar a pound weight so theoretically the seller has room to negotiate ('wiggle room') so it is worth making an offer if you really need the book. It is unwise to do this on massively overpriced books. In my experience price = character and a gross overpricer is likely to be a difficult and intransigent person, possibly disturbed, and is best left in their misery. Caveat emptor.

VALUE? An ebay favourite -the customers there can probably swallow an ex lib book more readily. Do you really want to spend $150 on a second edition described thus- "Book has tape on the cover from dust jacket being taped to the book, library pocket and markings, scattered light smudging on some pages, not affecting text; otherwise, pages mostly clean. A 1/4" closed tear at bottom of one page. Dust Jacket is price-clipped. Protected by a clear Gaylord cover taped to the book. A 1/2" closed tear at bottom of back flap..."

A few months ago there were 15 copies priced from $60 to $280 on the web, all ex library except one which was a reprint. Now there are only 10 priced from $70 to $350, seven are ex libs. The $350 copy is a 1973 reprint, all the first editions offered are, sadly, compromised ex library books. Given the fact that 60 people are registered as wanting the book it is not inconceivable that a sharp shopbought jacketed first could fetch $400+. [ W/Q *** ]

28 May 2007

Lytton Strachey and friends. Euphrosyne. A Collection of Verse. 1905

Anonymous. [Lytton Strachey, Saxon Sydney - Turner, Clive Bell, Walter Lamb and Leonard Woolf & others.] EUPHROSYNE. A COLLECTION OF VERSE. Elijah Johnson, Cambridge 1905.

Current Selling Prices
£1500 / $3000

Large 8vo. 90 pages. Ur Bloomsbury. Poetry in a ninetyish style with an interesting long poem ‘At the Other Bar’ about a a disappointed drunk and other poems on 'Dreamland', 'Water Spirits' 'The Trinity Ball' 'Andromeda' etc., The poem 'The Cat' is known to be by Strachey as are a few others, the poem 'Song' by Lamb is addressed to a Duchess. A collection of verse and translations from French published in the summer of 1905 - as Quentin Bell says in his biography of Virginia Woolf '...they seldom alluded (to it) in later life so that the book would have been forgotten if Virginia had not managed to keep its memory green...Virginia laughed at it and began a scathing essay upon it and its contributors...' Indeed she used the name 'Euphrosyne' for a ship in her first novel "The Voyage Out.' In her unfinished May 1906 essay on the book and the Cambridge set behind it she wrote '...some few songs and sonnets were graciously issued to the public some little time ago, carelessly, as though the Beast could hardly appreciate such fare, even when simplified and purified to suit his coarse but innocent palate...it was melodious ...but when taxed with their melancholy the poets confessed that such sadness had never been known & marked the last and lowest tide of decadence.'

In our last copy a pencilled note by a bookseller stated the book came from the collection of Raymond Mortimer and Francis Birrell - the only other time I have seen this book was in the collection of Dadie Rylands. Although VW mocked the writers for their 'overweening seriousness' this is a fascinating piece showing the very earliest manifestation of the Bloomsbury set as a coherent group. It is a book unlikely to surface outside of Bloomsbury writers collections and is decidedly scarce.

I heard of a third copy going through CSK at the sale of the library of Lytton Strachey’s sometime lover Roger Senhouse (1899-1970) who was a translator of Colette and a partner in the publishing business Secker and Warburg. Interestingly that was a famously botched sale from the 'chinless' of Christies-- almost all the books were in tea chests and contained incredible Bloomsbury rariana, signed Virginias, Hogarth & Omega Press, scarce Continental presses and a batch of presentation George Orwells. A lot of the books went for very little and ended up with the celebrated and unlettered bookseller George Jefferys, who knocked them out on the pavement at Farringdon Road - pretty much as you see in our signature photo top corner of this web page. A friend who got a few chests was surprised when Cyril Connolly turned up at his premises (with entourage) wanting to buy from the collection. 35 years later you still see Senhouse books with his small neat pencilled ownership signature. He had the admirable habit of compiling indexes in books where the dastardly publisher had been too lazy to include one. Non fiction books without indexes are like a bicycle without wheels. Simile needs work, but an indexless work is abhorrent, horrific and unforgivable.

The photo above shows the beautiful Emma Thompson and Jonathan Pryce in 'Carrington' the best of Bloomsbury movies (most are poor vide 'The Hours') - Pryce was an exceptional Strachey and Rufus Sewell a fiery Mark Gertler. Sample from the script - Gertler is pissed that Carrington is in love with Strachey:
Mark Gertler: Haven't you any self-respect?
Dora Carrington: Not much.
Mark Gertler: But he's a disgusting pervert!
Dora Carrington: You always have to put up with something.

VALUE? I have had 2 copies in 30 years both from old Bloomsbury types. In a list of Leonard and Virginia Woolf's own library (4000 books at Washington State) it is noted they had 2 copies, seemingly both bound up by Virginia. The book is preceded in the Lytton Strachey canon by Prolusiones Academicae (1902?) which is hideously scarce and probably slight. 'Euphrosyne' is a true sleeper and I feel bad about awakening it, my excuse is that it is too uncommon to have any real currency, also there are other Bloomsbury sleepers of greater value that can remain, for the moment, sound asleep.[ W/Q * ]

26 May 2007

Joseph Conrad and 'Heart of Darkness' 1902

"He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision - he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath - '"The horror! The horror!"'

Joseph Conrad.YOUTH: A NARRATIVE & Two Other Stories [Heart of Darkness]William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1902

Current Selling Prices
$2500-$3500 /£1200-£1800

3 stories including 'Heart of Darkness' from which Eliot took the epigraph "Mistah Kurtz. He dead' for his 'Hollow Men'. Coppola took some of the plot, mood and theme for his portentous, not to say pretentious, movie 'Apocalypse Now' and a decent blend of roasted coffee in the celestial California town of Santa Cruz also uses the name. A whole lot of trivial and semi serious cultural phenomena seem to derive from it. Basically it's a bleak tale of brutalisation in the Belgian Congo, the title hints at about six meanings, racist tones have recently been detected (notably by Chinua Achebe) but it is primarily about the unknowable human heart, about imperialism, exploitation and barabarism. Kurtz,the superman figure at the very heart of the tale is as Cyril Connolly says:
'...A Dorian Gray whose picture gets a little more frightening with every brush stroke until in the final scenes everyone within reach - but one - is contaminated.'

Orson Welles tried to make a film of it in 1940 but had to abandon the idea. Coppola's very watchable movie with its doomy long opening song ('The End') has revived the fortunes of Conrad's great work and there is even a movie 'Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse' about the making of the film. Conrad said of himself in a letter to his French translator 'I am neither clever nor very eloquent. I have a certain feeling for far-off things, a taste for analysing simple emotions and a turn of phrase that strikes the English. Please note that I do not say which pleases. I don't believe I please anyone here...' He saw himself as different from Kipling whom he regarded as a 'national writer.' Kipling, Conrad wrote, was interested in his subject, whereas Conrad was interested in the effect he produced. On the subject of Kipling - his "The Man Who Would Be King" has an identical premise to Heart of Darkness—a white trader sets himself up as God-King to an remote tribe, but he is no Kurtz and is exposed as merely mortal by a woman in the tribe.

VALUE? Connolly lists 'Youth' in his 100 Key Books of the Modern Movement' and there is evidence of a revival of interest in collecting from his list. A high profile sale of a collection comes in June 2007 and the list is frequently invoked by dealers, who are holding any of the books, to add gravitas. It still works. There are three states of the book, each a little better than the other.The best is ads at rear dated 10/02, next ads dated 11/02, lastly no ads. Decent clean copies have made between $1500 and $3500 in the last two years at auction, an inscribed family copy made $20000 in 2002. Seems to be a book on the move - 5 years ago it was a $800 book in sharp condition, now a superior copy could make nearly 5 times that. 'Lord Jim' is a better book moneywise and it looks similar, 'Typhoon' is sometimes quoted as his greatest work. Lastly 'Heart of Darkness' (inevitably) shows up in 'Lost', someone is seen reading it on the beach, and along with 'The Third Policeman' it is a significant key to its myriad mysteries.[ W/Q * ]

ADDENDUM. A friend in California emailed to say that as well as the coffee in Santa Cruz, they produce a 'big' red wine called 'Heart of Darkness' pictured below.It comes from just outside Santa Cruz at Bonny Doon, home also of the excellent 'Cigare Volant.' Also someone took umbrage 'cos I called 'Apocalypse Now' pretentious. Pour moi there is nothing wrong with being pretentious - Brian Eno, often accused of it, answers that children are pretentious and Anthony Burgess felt the English were far too afraid of pretentiousness. I have a feeling he left England in a 'chauffeur driven huff' after appearing in 'Pseud's Corner'...

25 May 2007

Robert Frank. The Americans.

Robert Frank. THE AMERICANS. Grove Press, NY 1959.

Current Selling Prices
$5500-$10000 / £2700-£5000

Intro by Kerouac in his inimtable bop style - "...a sad poem sucked right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world. To Robert Frank I now give this message: You got eyes." The book resulted mainly from a car trip across America where Frank shot some 20,000 images on 687 rolls of film. From these he selected the 83 plates in the book.

Some of the photos were used on the album cover of The Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street giving the book further hip credentials. Frank also made a rockumentary about the Stones 1972 US tour - 'Cocksucker Blues.' Not esp scarce but hard to find a fresh copy as photo books tend to get handled and looked through. Preceded by a Paris edition in 1958 "Les Americains," which has text with the photos - this too is wanted and is potentially more valuable than the US edition. As Parr says, Frank's book was a healthy antidote to the bland sanctimony of photobooks of the time, like 'The Family of Man.' A review at the time in a popular photo mag said "...meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness." It is claimed that the gravure plates in the original Grove first edition are far deeper and richer than the reproductions in subsequent reprints.

Parr pays the book special homage - '...it paved the way for three decades of photographs exploring the personal poetics of lived experience. Many memorable photobooks have been derived from this mass of material. None has been more memorable, more influential, nor more fully realized than Frank's masterpiece.'

VALUE? Decent copy of the first in a jacket has to be $1200 - $2500, sl worn copies in jacket have made $1300 and more in NY auctions in 2004/05 and photo is currently rather a hot collecting area. One hesitates to recommend books as an investment, and photo went through a painful price correction in the late 1980s, but as the greatest US photobook of the latter part of the century this can only go up. Even in 2006 it gained in value. Only 3 things to remember-- condition, condition and condition. Tastes, however, change and money follows the changing tastes and photo is fickle.[ W/Q ** ]

RECENT VALUES / MAY 2007 The above was written in January 2007. Yesterday a nothing special but jacketed 1959 first made $4560 at Swann in NY with a similar Aperture edition bringing $780. This prompted me to look at 2006 auction records and the book, uninscribed but presumably fine in fine made just over $13000 twice at Swann. One of the copies was from the collection of Robert Bretz. High prices confer status and the book is now seen as the pinnacle of modern American photography. The French edition now makes about half the US edition's price but is still desirable. Both books have greatly improved in price in a year, the US edition having more than doubled.

The Aluminum Trail by Chick Marrs Quinn

This is part of a fascinating genre of books, self published military histories. They are not like the buckram bound regimental histories lettered gilt on spine and front cover with crests etc. They are more likely to be paperbacks written by old soldiers and sometimes their widows, many came out of WW2 in US and UK and are often very hard to find.


Current Prices $200+/£100+

Not a lot known about this wanted book except that it's about US aerial operations in the Pacific Area in WW2 and CMQ was a woman last heard of living in Lake City Florida. The book is dedicated to 1st Lt. Loyal Stuart Marrs, Jr., Chick's husband who was killed February 27, 1945. A letter to her from someone at the China National Aviation Corporation site in 2005 was returned unopened. The CNAC site has good info on many other books about US aviation in the Indo - China area in this period. The 'aluminum trail' title refers to the pattern of air crashes in these difficult regions, especially the Himalayas. I suspect persons who lost relations and loved ones flying so far from home eagerly want this rare book and not a few libraries.

VALUE? Not on web and I have little idea of price. Pretty scarce. One chap on the excellent wantedbooks.com site is offering $25 to $50 for a copy for his 85 year old uncle. Probably could add quite a bit to that. As uberbookmeister AMW Rosenbach said 'a book is worth what somebody is willing to pay..' or was it 'A book is worth what you can get for it?" [ W/Q *** ]

Update note/ May 2007. I have had several emails from old soldiers and their sons looking for this. It is resolutely unfindable although a copy seems to have gone through ebay recently for about $50 so watch the skies. They should reprint it. Meanwhile here is a verse from the book, probably a dedication at the front:
A steak of silver in the sky...the engines roar...propellers try...
To lift the giant screaming plane...above the mountains drenched with rain..
Black ominous clouds and gale winds blow...amid the ice and swirling snow..
As plane and crew, with every breath...tries to win a fight with death...
To climb above the snow capped peak...a place not far for the very weak...
The plane is in a mighty grip...the crew can hear the metal rip...
As suction lifts them like a kite...above the peaks into the night...
Then, just as quickly dropped like snow...into the jutting rocks below...
Time has run out for plotted goals...a cry aloud,"God save our souls"!...
A crash like thunder, a flash of light...then silence in the blackened night...
Crumpled engines, wings and tail...help pave the "Hump's" Aluminum Trail...
A dog tag here...a jacket there, a picture worn by love and care...
A parachute unopened lay...no time to jump, no time to pray...
In this far, forgotten place, of jungles, mountains, rocks and space...
The wreckage lay like broken toys...discarded by mischievous boys...
And boys they were of tender years...and families weep in silent tears...
To know the sacrifice they made...the part their gift for freedom played...
Lieutenants, Captains, Sergeants too...Privates, maintenance, or crew...
Whatever rank, whatever job...they did their best with each heart throb...
Some gave their lives to save a friend...a brother to the very end...
They gave their lives, so we might live...what more can any person give.

24 May 2007

J. D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye.

There are no rules in book collecting - but before the advent of the net there was a sort of consensus that in literature you wanted first editions. Second editions could be tolerated in the case of world stars like Shakespeare, Joyce or Dante but otherwise a second edition was merely a reprint and OK for reading but not collecting. Not so any more. In the case of today's book some, to my mind, unfortunate person just paid $300 on ebay for a third edition 'Catcher' in a facsimile jacket. Kind of book you might have left on the shelf at $10 when you saw that the jacket was from a commemorative facsimile edition and the book was basically a reprint. All is changed, changed utterly... my advice is do what thou will, but proper firsts are going to be easier to shift if and when you sell...

J. D. Salinger. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. Litttle Brown & Co.,Boston, 1951.

Current Selling Prices
£4000+ / $8500+

Still avidly read even by youths of the IM generation. Teen angst, teenage wasteland etc., Considered obscene in its time and given a sinister vibe by its association with psychotic assassin Mark Chapman. Hard to tell what that did for the reputation of the book apart from make it even more famous. A reclusive and litigious author, but signed material does occasionally creep out including a questionnaire he filled in for a travel agent after a continental holiday (appears to have sold for $20K+.) Dealers selling letters and notes from him have learned not to quote them unless they want a lot of grief from his lawyers. The main way of telling if you have the proper first is the Lotte Jacobi photo on the rear (missing in later editions) + no 'Book of the Month Club' slug on front inner flap. The 'Book of the Month Club' issue can, however make awesome sums on ebay. Backpacker classic, the ultimate cult novel but watch out for phony jackets.

VALUE? Not uncommon but not exactly a sleeper so always expensive. There is the tale of the East Coast bookseller in the 1980s who found a box full of the proper firsts - these have long been absorbed by the market. The kind of book bought by stars such as Pitt and Depp for their panelled book dens. Hard to find a nice one with d/w unclipped and with the $3.00 price for much less than $8K. Limpid copies way more. In auction the book has had spectacular and possibly unreproduceable results. Nice copies of the US first were making $100 in the 70s and a fine copy made $1500 as recently as 1992, and a 'superb copy' $15000 in 2003. The Neville copy made $25K signed in 2004. All part of an increasing trend for buying ( and investing in) cult classics: if you are going to spend this kind of money you might as well have something everybody has heard of.

It may have topped out, although the market hasn't been tested recently by another superb example. 2 copies turned up in auction in 2006 both with slight wear, they made $3000 and $5250 (' d/j with tears & chips to edges & split to lower front joint - bdg with some rubbing'.) Inscribed copies are not as rare as they were - anything 'flatsigned' (ie signed but without inscription) is best avoided without ironclad provenance. There are several for sale with clipped signatues mounted in them, always faintly tacky and faintly unconvincing. Watch out for facsimile jackets. Likewise restored jackets unless at hard to resist prices. There is a chap online at present selling the first state jacket without the book for $7500. One day it will marry.

Illustrated below is the UK first edition with a memorable jacket by the highly rated British illustrator Fritz Wegner. It is considered more attractive than the US jacket, the young man pictured looking oddly contemporary. It can sell for over a £1000 in sharp condition ( it made $3000 in a freak result at Christies NY 2002- a reasonable copy made $525 last year at Auction Explorer.

In 2005 at a glittering champagne fueled sale in NY a copy of the UK first made a staggering $23000 ( '... in a folding case by the Dragonfly Bindery of George & Patricia Sargent - rubbed, chipped & creased - Drapkin copy - Christie's New York, June 29, 2005, lot 328'.) One can only imagine the exquisite splendours of these boxes and indeed they added to the value of other books contained in them. Auction results, however, can be fatally 'site specific'. [ W/Q **** ]

22 May 2007

Deep Sea Diving. Robert Henry Davis, 1935.

Robert Henry Davis.
Saint Catherine Press, London 1935 (and later)

Current Selling Prices
$300-$750 / £150-£350

Much wanted and well regarded diving book. 'The bible for hard hat divers.' Diving is a well known area of collecting and like Golf and Mountaineering those who go in for it often start collecting the books. Handsome well illustrated tomes, much recondite info - including some fictional stories and dry wit and many 'diver's yarns.' As an exposition of the art of deep-sea diving it is second to none.

VALUE? Appeared latterly in 2 vols and appears to sell expensively whatever the edition. 1950s editions, some by Davis's own company Siebe Gorman of Gwent seem prominent. It turns up signed by Sir Robert which can add a few bob. No true firsts around and one surmises they would attract good money which some divers have about their neoprene suits. Look at the cars parked around diving sites, Astras they are not. For the diver on a budget a modern reprint can be found as a Buy it Now at ebay at $195 (it seems to be the publisher who is selling it.)

Sir Robert Henry Davis(1870–1965) gets a good entry at DNB - as they put it '...Davis devoted his life to the study of problems confronting those called on to work in unbreathable atmospheres.' The DNB, by the way, notes an edition of this book from 1920, which I must investigate; he is known to have revised it throughout his life.

During a lecture for the Royal Society of Arts, he provoked some anger by suggesting (possibly ironically) that convicted murderers awaiting execution should be given the option of participating in extreme decompression experiments. ‘We feel that if such criminals were given the choice between certain execution and a chance of surviving the scientist's experiment, very few would refuse to take the risk,’ he argued. ‘While expiating their crimes, they would be helping the progress of research, and some of them might even be the instruments of such far-reaching discoveries for the benefit of suffering humanity as to warrant their inclusion among the saints - in the scientific sense.' He died at his home 'San Toi' in Epsom age 95 and left £112,930, a tidy sum 40 years ago. He was the inventor of items such as
  • Davis False Lung in 1911
  • Davis Submersible Decompression Chamber (DSDC) in 1912
  • Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus (DSEA)

[ W/Q ** ]

19 May 2007

Fumes of Formation. Amanda M. Ros, 1933

Amanda M. Ros. FUMES OF FORMATION. R. Carswell & Son, Belfast. 1933.

Current Selling Prices
$300-$500 /£150-£250

A scarce 44 page book by the extraordinary Amanda Ros. 2000 copies were printed but only 160 bound up; the remaining sets of sheets were destroyed. It never had a jacket, 100 had rounded spines, 60 had flat spines. Flat is best. A collection of poems, whose source the author describes in a note on the title-page: ''This inventive production was hatched within a mind fringed with Fumes of Formation, the Ingenious Innings of Inspiration and Thorny Tincture of Thought.''

Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860 - 1939) is still something of a cult. She is often cited with William McGonagall as an amazingly bad writer. However whereas WM was simply a thumpingly awful writer, Ros could occasionally turn out magical lines such as her dismissal of the critic D.B. Wyndham Lewis as '...a thick-witted, evil-minded snapshot of spleen.' In describing the gilded young hustlers whom she imagined flaunted along the streets of London she wrote:
'Their hair was a light-golden colour, thickly fringed in front, hiding in many cases the furrows of a life of vice; behind, reared coils, some of which differed in hue, exhibiting the fact that they were on patrol for the price of another supply of dye.... The elegance of their attire had the glow of robbery - the rustle of many a lady's silent curse. These tools of brazen effrontery were strangers to the blush of innocence that tinged many a cheek, as they would gather round some of God's ordained, praying in flowery words of decoying Cockney, that they should break their holy vows by accompanying them to the halls of adultery. Nothing daunted at the staunch refusal of different divines, whose modest walk was interrupted by their bold assertion of loathsome rights, they moved on, while laughs of hidden rage and defeat flitted across their doll-decked faces...'
Aldous Huxley wrote that the above passage is in the very spirit and language of John Lyly's 'Euphues' (1578.) Through her intense solipsism and isolation from current literary thought Amanda Ros had arrived 300 years later at the exact stage of development as Lyly and his disciples- 'We see, as we see in the Elizabethan novelists, the result of the discovery of art by an unsophisticated mind and of its first conscious attempt to produce the artistic. It is remarkable how late in the history of every literature simplicity is invented...'

Fans include Twain, Huxley, Auden, Sassoon, Anthony Powell, Frank Muir and C. S. Lewis. Powell said of her -'She may be a long way from Shakespeare, but she partakes in however infinitely minute a degree, of the Shakespearian power of language.' The Inklings who would meet at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford for readings of her work - playing a sort of game of trying to keep a straight face for more than a minute while reading from her works and downing pints. Earlier a club of London men of letters (including Lord Beveridge, Desmond MacCarthy, E.V. Lucas and F.Anstey) met specifically to exchange the most ludicrous examples of her work that they could find.In a late interview with the BBC she was asked why she named a villain Lord Raspberry. It is reported that: 'Mrs. Ros put down her teacup with a startled air. "What else should I have called him?" she said.'

VALUE? You could probably build a complete Amanda Ros collection for $1000, for a £1000 they would all be in super condition with the occasional presentation and even signed letter. For £5000 you would be the Roman Abramovich of Ros collectors with a few manuscripts, early jackets and variants, proof copies, portaits, photos and scarce ephemera. There is a ceiling on value and a limited (but keen) coterie of collectors--she is not Sylvia Plath; for the truly borassic collector of Ms. Ros there is a good guide on the web - 'A Pauper's Guide to collecting her works' at Oasis of Futurity ('A Shrine to the Late-Lamented Amanda McKittrick Ros.') Her rarest items are probably the 2 broadsheets from 1915 and 1916 - 'Kaiser Bill' and 'A Little Belgian Orphan' (signed pseudonymously Monica Mayland.) St. Scandalbags (1954) is difficult, as is Poems of Puncture - published by the vanity press Arthur H. Stockwell in 1913. We sold Frank Muir's copy of this (with a few corrections by Ms Ros) in 2005 at £150. Frank had a lot of her books and knew her biographer Jack Loudan. At a London book fair in June 1973 a completist collection formed by a founder of the British Communist Party, one David Mercer of Thames Ditton, was offered by dealer Alf Wallis at £4500 - it contained many manuscripts, letters and rarities. Possibly not a great investment, 34 years later we have less of a taste for oddities, whimsy and weirdness. [ W/Q * ]

One of her rarest books is 'Bayonets of Bastard Sheen ( 50 copies only in 1949). It was culled from letters written between 1927 and 1939 mostly vituperations against critics + a short piece 'Lewis Carroll. A Hasty Evaluation' prompted by the price of £15,400 paid by Dr. Rosenbach for the manuscript. She takes a very dim view of the Carroll book in several letters. Here is a list of her synonyms for critics:

Apprentices to the scathing trade
Auctioneering agents of Satan
Clay-crabs of corruption
Conglomeration of braying opinions
Cornerboy shadows of criticism
Critic cads
Critic Crabs
Critic Curs
Denunciating Arabs
Drunken ignorant dross
Egotistical earth-worms
Egotistic atoms
Evil-minded snapshots of spleen
Gang of drunken swags
Gas-bag section
Half-starved upstarts
Hogwashing hooligans
Intelligibles of bad-breeding
Maggoty numskulls
Maggoty throng
Mushroom class of idiotics
Mushroom class of talent twisters
Poisonous apes
Poking hounds
Poor apes
Public character-tearers
Raging roughs
Random hacks of illiteration
Rodents of State
Scandalizers of books
Scandalmongering critics
Scathers of genius
Scathing circle
Scorchers of rare talent
Scribblers of thick witted type
Scurrilous scribes
Self-opinionated mortals
Starving critic cads
Street Arabs
Talent wipers of a wormy order
Tree of rebuff

Rave on, O rare Amanda!

18 May 2007

Marc Platt. Lungbarrow (Doctor Who series) 1997

"In this, the seventh Doctor's final new adventure, he faces a threat which could uncover the greatest secret of them all..."

Marc Platt. LUNGBARROW. Virgin Books, London 1997. ISBN ISBN 0-426-20502-2

Current Selling Prices
$150-$200 /£70-£100

After 673 years, the Doctor returns to his place of greatest fear: his home, the lost house of Lungbarrow in the southern mountains of Gallifrey. Meanwhile, Romana's presidency is facing its greatest test, Leela and Andred's futures are uncertain and the Doctor's deepest secrets are forcing themselves out into the open...

Wikiman says:
'...Lungbarrow was published in Virgin Books' New Adventures range, it was the last of that range to feature the Seventh Doctor. It was the final novel, under any banner, which featured the Seventh Doctor as the "current" Doctor, although McGann's Eighth Doctor had already made his televised appearance by the time the novel was published. Like all Doctor Who spin-off media, its canonicity in relation to the television series is unclear...'

Unclear canonicity?! You can't buy phrases like that. I've lost touch with Dr. Who, all I know is that Chris Evan's young wife Billie Piper was the latest Doc's handmaiden and I used to see Dalek's for sale in memorabilia sales when I was looking at books at CSK. As I recall they used to make big money but on close inspection were slightly tacky. Also 'pipe' has an equivocal meaning in French.

'Lungbarrow' is an expensive and much sought after paperback from Branson's company and although published in London all copies for sale are in the USA. The Dr. Who cult seems to be equally big there.

VALUE? A difficult book to locate--a decent clean copy is usually north of $120. My copy of BMC's 'Collecting Children's Books' list 150 books and annuals under 'Doctor Who' -- 'Lungbarrow' is not mentioned, possibly because it is heretical. The most expensive book is Doctor Who: The Cybermen' by David Banks described as having a silver leather binding and worth £90 in 2001.This book seems to have halved in price. On the web now the dearest is Doctor Who and the Crusaders from 1965 at $550 closely followed by Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks the first Who book from 1965 £250 in a jacket. My 2001 guide has that at £20, indicative of a huge surge in price, possibly unsustainable. Below is David Tennant the ninth Doctor Who with Billie Piper, Billie stayed on with the tenth Doctor but the eleventh will have a new eternal consort. [ W/Q ** ]

17 May 2007

Graham Greene, Brighton Rock 1938

Graham Greene, BRIGHTON ROCK. Heinemann, London & Viking, NY 1938.

Current Selling Prices £20000+/ $40000+

Greene's most famous and most valuable book. A note of caution, the value lies almost entirely in the jacket of the British (Heinemann) edition. Our photo shows the US edition which is worth a fraction of the UK edition but has a much more attractive jacket. The artwork is by the revered graphic designer George Salter who was known for his multi dimensional images. The rarissimo British d/w is reddish orange and not illustrated.

A recent theory is that Greene got the idea for the book from watching the Jean Gabin movie Pepe le Moko which he had reviewed in early 1937. Greene wrote - 'I cannot remember a picture which has succeeded so admirably in raising the thriller to a poetic level.' Similarities include smiling villains and the trivialisation of murder and betrayal. The crimes of the racecourse gangs who created havoc in Brighton during the 1930s had been reported widely and it is likely he was drawn to this; also he had stayed in Brighton and responded to its seedy and violent undercurrents. Brighton still has a louche and sordid side to it, although possibly less palpable than in GG's day.

The first of Greene's overtly Catholic novels. Orwell said that they put forward 'the idea…floating around since Baudelaire, that there is something rather distingué in being damned; Hell is a sort of high-class night club, entry to which is reserved for Catholics only, since the others, the non-Catholics, are too ignorant to be held guilty.…'

Still much read and studied, also the 1948 movie has cult status. Richard Attenborough, the original lovey, is unforgettable as the baby faced psychopath. TRIVIA:- The four members of Pinkie's gang receive a nod in the Morrissey song "Now My Heart Is Full" from his Vauxhall LP. - "Tell all of my friends (I don't have too many) Just some rain-coated lovers' puny brothers -Dallow, Spicer, Pinkie, Cubitt / Rush to danger, wind up nowhere." Pete Doherty wrote a song entitled "Love You But You're Green" which makes many references to Brighton Rock. Rock band My Vitriol (who?) take their name from Pinkie's habit of always carrying a bottle of sulphuric acid for protection. The climax of the film takes place at the West Pier, which differs from the novel, the end of which takes place in the nearby town of Peacehaven. In the United States, the film was released under the title Young Scarface.' Lastly, I once read that Greene stayed at the Metropole Hotel on the sea front whilst recovering from an opium binge in South East Asia.

TRIVIAL TRIVIA. The title refers to a sweet or 'candy' sold mainly in British seaside towns. As a young American scholar says:- 'Rock is kind of like a stripey candy cane in the US, but it's sold in straight sticks, not curved canes.' It is made from sugar and glucose, often coloured a livid pink, and is pulled into shape when nearly cool. Flavour is added - usually mint. Writing often runs through it giving it a 'souvenir function' --words like 'Welcome to Brighton'. How the words get there is a great mystery. Greene once generously referred to Patrick Hamilton's 'The West Pier' as the finest novel ever written about Brighton. In fact 'it rocks!'

TOTAL TRIVIA. Greene appears as character and narrator in the Doctor Who novel, The Turing Test, which gives a fictional account of Greene's time as spymaster in Sierra Leone and World War II Paris. Finally I once attended a writer's group in Santa Cruz, California where I mentioned the work of Graham Greene - no one had ever heard of him. That does not bode well.

VALUE? About 2 years back there was a pretty nice jacketed copy of the 1938 UK first that went from book fair to book fair at £50K, something of a 'get lost' price. It seems to have eventually sold, possibly severely reduced and with time to pay. Very few people pay retail at that level. In auction it has made £18000 in slightly chipped jacket in 2000 and £4000 in 1992. The US first in a great jacket with wraparound band has made $3000 but decent examples can be had for less. The UK sans jacket is worth a few hundred pounds and is not scarce.

PROOFS? Someone wrote me the other day about proof values. They can vary alot. In the late 1980s there was a vogue for them and prices surged but the market quickly ran out of steam. Proofs were then looked upon by dealers with mild disdain except in the case of major works or controversial books and banned items. Typically they are plain and uninteresting in appearance. Ebay has slighly revived their fortunes but they are tricky and don't tend to hold to consistent patterns of value.

I sold a proof of Brighton Rock about 7 years ago for circa $4000, not in wonderful condition. They are not impossibly scarce. At first I was excited by it, but found there are almost no changes with the proof and the hardback first- Greene's period anti-semitic tone is retained (passages like '...he had been a Jew once, but a hairdresser and a surgeon had altered that...' and references to Jewish women as 'little bitches') although it was later expunged. The only difference is that Brighton is spelled Brihton on page 77 and one letter of damaged type has been repaired on page 13. Substantial differences would have made a substantial difference to the price- a good rule with proofs.

14 May 2007

Clive Cussler. Iceberg, 1975.

We've done Proust, we've done Tolkien but this guy outsells them both. 'Iceberg' is what we call in the trade 'underpinned', that is having a large customer base, if one guy doesn't want it another one will. A very cool book...

'Just seventy-two hours ago Dirk Pitt was lying in the hot California sun with a beautiful woman, a Scotch on the rocks in one hand, but an urgent call from Admiral James Sandecker, his commander at the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), has brought Pitt out of the warm Pacific breezes and straight into a North Atlantic deep freeze. The reason: the discovery of a long-missing luxury yacht, en route to a secret White House rendezvous, frozen solid in a million-ton tombstone of ice..."

Clive Cussler. ICEBERG. Dodd, Mead, NY 1975.

Current Prices $1500-$2000 / £750-£1000

Cussler's second novel and the first in hardback. An ocean adventure thriller featuring Major Dirk Pitt. An ebay special and with 5000 printed there is usually one on there, although it is said that many went to libraries. He has a customer base most authors would die for and there are 70 wants for this book at ABE alone, mostly people hoping for that elusive fine copy at a bearable price in which case they have to be fast to the draw. CC is so popular that one website proudly proclaims that it is the 'number one Clive Cussler website in the world.' This is the 'Society of Cusslermen' -- you don't mess with them.

VALUE? These days it is hard to find a nice first in d/w for less than $1500 and signed fine ones can be double that. Book appears to be rising in value, an indication of collecting trends. An ebay shop featured a fairly decent one at $1565 summer of 06. This sold or vanished. People even charge serious money for Large Print copies, Young Person's editions decimated ex libs and there are some, imho deluded souls, wanting $1000 for the 1996 edition. The 1996 Simon and Schuster re-issue edition can go for $300+ and should have the 10987654321 line to be right, the Book Club edition can make over $200.

I first did an entry on Cussler 6 months ago and his prices have risen about 10% since then. I dare say that eventually they will flatten out and then gently fall, Dirk Pitt is not Sherlock Holmes or even Bond and there are no cult movies yet. Cussler is, in fact, suing - so lousy and forgettable was the last Dirk movie 'Sahara'. As one report has it, Cussler considers that:
'Sahara’s flop did near-fatal damage to his career — which is possible, I suppose, only if you factor in the hypothetical millions Cussler might have made if Sahara had spawned a Dirk Pitt franchise. (Pitt’s the hero of most of Cussler’s novels — now that he’s been irreparably McConaughey'ed, he’s unlikely to find his way back to the screen.)'

Thorstein Veblen put forward the creditable notion that men are at their height as consumers and collectors in their 40s and, possibly these days,their 50s. Presumably these are the ones buying Cussler and driving the market. As they age the price will fall unless, as was the case with Bond, a new generation come along waving credit cards. I can't see the ringtone generation going for Major Dirk Pitt when they are at the height of their collecting powers.

The author's prose described on one site as 'not just wooden but petrified' is not relevant to action fans, and great prose and great adventure seldom go together (Buchan, Household, Stevenson, Ambler - maybe?) The NY Times said of 'Raise the Titanic' (1976) '...seldom has a book with such an exciting idea been so poorly written. Cussler is the cliché expert nonpareil.' The 'wooden' critic goes on to say '...the Pitt series is the closest thing going to that highwater mark of cartoonish derring-do, Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, and the rollicking rough-and-tumble here should satisfy most action fans just fine.' 

Vanitas vanitatis et omnia vanitas. I was talking of the vanity of writers the other day and nothing surpasses the arrogance of world masters of schlock (weltschlockmeisters?). If you measure literary success by money these guys are the world's greatest writers, leaving the likes of Martin Amis and Don DeLillo crying in their beer. A friend on Jersey said that he ran into best selling novelist Jack Higgins, whom he vaguely knows, and Higgins was complaining loudly and bitterly about how he keeps getting recognised and bothered by people. As he walked away he couldn't help notice that the back of the great writer's sweatshirt was emblazoned with a name - Jack Higgins.[ W/Q **** ]

11 May 2007

Billionaire's Book Club


Seeing lists of billionaires in magazines, I speculate about how many of these men (they usually are men) collect books. Andrew Carnegie ('Man of Steel') who appears to have been worth today's equivalent of $100 billion gave away a large part of this fortune to build public libraries. But did he collect books? Alot of wealthy men endow libraries and colleges and may have a 100 yards of fine leather bindings but do not actually collect books or care very much for them. The only recent moguls I have heard of that collect books are Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Fred Koch and the late Paul Getty, Malcolm Forbes and James Goldsmith. Hopefully there are a few more.

Forbes ('who dies with the most books wins') was a collector of many things but books were a passion. Gates is, apparently, well read and collects manuscripts (eg the Leonardo Codex.) In an interview he refers to Scott Fitzgeralds' lines at the end of 'The Great Gatsby' about the green light*--an apposite image for him. He is so keen on Fitzgerald that he is known in some circles as 'The Great Gatesby.' 'Tender is the Night' is his favourite.

Getty was, of course, a fabulous collector and photos of his temperature-controlled English Country house library can be found in a 1990s glossy book about celebs and their book collections (Keith Richards, Nicholas Barker and other intellos.). He is said to have bought the $7 million Caxton Chaucer incunable that was auctioned a few years back, possibly to go next to his Kelmscott Chaucer (vellum, 1 of 3 copies.) At one time he was a considerable buyer of Pre Raphaelite books and manuscripts, with a taste also for William Blake. Such books are now beyond the grasp of mere millionaires. Fred Koch (oil) was always mentioned in the salerooms when any Nineties highspot came up--Wilde letters, Dowson holograph poems etc.,. He was also, reputedly, a heavy collector of livres d'artistes, a category he may have tired of, as many of these appeared to come back to auction in the mid 1990s. He is also a keen collector of original photos (see our piece below on the El Morocco album.)

James Goldsmith was reported as having upwards of 50,000 books at his mansion near Acapulco. He collected, among other things, travel books. Paul Allen collects Science Fiction (known to collectors as SF not Sci-Fi) especially artefacts. He probably has a set of Daleks. Andrew Lloyd Webber, probably a dollar billionaire, collects PRB -obviously a rich man's tatste. Jimmy Page, just a millionaire, but with more fans than all the billionaires put together collects Aleister Crowley, alchemy and the occult. I once met an old party at a book fair who told me he was a 'Huntingdonaire' - he bought some T.E. Lawrence and indeed his cheque went through. Some research on the net revelaed that his family were at one point very serious book collectors buying up several vast Country House libraries from England and shipping them to the California sun - billionaires of yesteryear.

Some of the Russian billionaire oligarchs are said to collect books and they, or their gofers. occasionally turn up at auctions, especially house sales, and cause a nuisance by outbidding everybody for finely bound, mostly illustrated, books. The fictional billionaire book collector and occultist Boris Balkan in the biblio-movie 'The Ninth Gate' pays seedy book runner Dean Corso (Depp) to track down an ancient text called "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" which is supposed to be able to summon the Devil himself.

My favourite wealthy collector was the late Maundy Gregory (pictured above.) He was not a billionaire but had in the 1920s what amounted to a licence to print money. He sold honours, a profession that has made a comeback in the Blair years. For £10,000 (about $1 million now) he could get you an earldom; knighthoods were a bit cheaper. You could, in fact, sign a cheque to him in your expected new name--only cashable when you assumed the title. He liked rare books, especially the works of the fantastical Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo.) In some cases (according to AJA Symons in 'Quest for Corvo') he would pay his agents to track down supposedly unfindable books, money no object. In the case of one particularly difficult book his agents hunted down the original printer, long defunct, and found four mint copies in a cellar. One wonders how much money it would take to track down a copy of James Joyce's first book 'Et tu Healy' (no copies known) or 'Questions at the Well' (Ford Madox Ford under the name Fenil Haig--only copy known was in the British Museum but has been stolen.)

I expect we will hear more of Maundy Gregory, at one point suspected of murder, in the coming months as the new 'cash for honours' scandal unfurls. On that subject - Blair, the poodle, is the only Prime Minister ever to have his collar felt while in office. As they say in France - 'Je m'en fous.'

* 'Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther....And one fine morning - So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.'

10 May 2007

El Morocco Family Album. Zerbe, 1937.

Jerome Zerbe. JOHN PERONA'S EL MOROCCO FAMILY ALBUM. Privately Printed, N Y, 1937.

Current Selling Prices
$800-$1400 /£400-£700

An uncommon and much wanted book. Unknown or disregarded by Parr and Badger (also Roth) the deities of the Photobook. Zerbe was a gay socialite from the American Brahmin class and although Slim Aarons makes the cut, most socialite smudgers are ignored, possibly rightly. A book of 62 pages of half-tone photographs from the El Morocco nightclub, one of the prime locations for spotting celebrities and high society in New York City in the 1930s. Prohibition had just ended and nightlife was booming. The club was on East 54th Street in Manhattan and run by one John Perona and his son Edwin. Patrons of the establishment appearing in the album include an array of actors, socialites and notables including Gary Cooper, the Vanderbilts, Ruth Weston, Elsie de Wolfe, Serge Lifar, the Duke and Duchess of Leeds and Clark Gable. All were photographed inside the club, many seated in the signature zebra pattern upholstered booths. Jerome Zerbe was the official photographer of the El Morocco from 1934 to 1939.

Zerbe was one of the first society photographers, now known as paparazzi. He was interviewed by oral historian Studs Terkel for his major work on the 30s, 'Hard Times.' In the interview it emerges that celebriies came to the El Morocco in order to be photographed, as Zerbe told Terkel:-
The social set did not go to the Rainbow Room or the El Morocco until I invented this funny, silly thing of taking photographs of people. And the minute the photographs appeared in the paper, then they came.
Terkel: In short they became celebrities at that moment.
Zerbe: Yes, yes, that's right. So, I would send my photographs not only to the New York papers. I sent them to the London Bystander, to the Australian -- I've forgotten what the name now was -- there was a paper in Rio; I sent them all over the world. So people would come in to the El Morocco and I would get a note saying, "The Duchess of Sutherland has just arrived and would love to have her photograph taken." [laughs]

Unlike later parazzi he never had to hide in the bushes to get shots of the rich and famous. “Once I asked Katharine Hepburn to come up from her place at Fenwick, a few miles away, and pose for some fashion photos for me,” Zerbe recalled in his book Happy Times. “She arrived with a picnic hamper full of food and wine for the two of us. I snapped her just as she came to the door.”

Zerbe was a Navy photographer during World War II. According to the 1951 cocktail recipe book 'Bottoms Up' Zerbe is credited with inventing the vodka martini. He was rumoured to have had an affair with Cary Grant and was known as a celebrated society "walker". He was the author of several other books of photographs, including Happy Times, which includes his photographs from the El Morocco years with text by New Yorker writer Brendan Gill (easily found in nice condition at less than $40). Among Zerbe's other books were People on Parade (1934) and The Art of Social Climbing (1965) both worth about £80, the former more in a jacket. He also did a book with Cyril Connolly 'Les Pavillons' which is sometimes collected as a Connolly item but is worth no more than $80 last time I looked. Zerbe was the longtime companion of the society columnist and writer Lucius Beebe- he wrote the introduction to several of his books and was known as 'the last of the boulevardiers.'

Zerbe had a vast collection of photographs, which a biographer estimated had 50,000 images in 150 scrapbooks. They were thought to be lost or possibly dumped in a skip but it turns out they are part of an extensive private photography archive owned by London based collector Fred Koch, the eldest son of industrialist Fred C. Koch. Koch is a great collector covered in another piece 'Billionaire's Book Club.'

VALUE? No copy on web, a non web mall dealer had a slightly worn copy on sale last year -as I recall the price was about $1200. The only auction record for Zerbe was for his work with Cyril Connolly, the net has thrown too many copies of that book up for it to ever enter auction records again.

By 1992 the El Morocco had become a topless bar. [ W/Q *** ]

09 May 2007

Casino Royale (1953) Ian Fleming.

A highspot hopefully given a slight boost by the new movie - the book is one of the flashiest of modern firsts. For the moment it is marking time a little in financial terms, but it is always readily saleable if you don't push for the final, ultimate 'end user' price...

Ian Fleming. CASINO ROYALE.Cape, London 1953

Stunning debut novel by posh English writer harking back to Edwardians such as Raffles and Bulldog Drummond but with Aston Martins, added sadism, Vodka, temptresses and fancy handmade ciggies. In 1967 it was made into a bloody awful comedy caper film -- a kind of spoof with Peter Sellers, David Niven and Woody Allen as Bond and Orson Welles as Le Chiffre also starring Deborah Kerr, William
Holden, Ursula Andress, Daliah Lavi, John Huston and Charles Boyer, Jean Paul Belmondo. Recently a new movie appeared with handsome Daniel Craig well reviewed and noted for giving back Bond a sense of danger, something lacking from the Brosnan efforts. Fleming always insisted that Bond looked like Hoagy Carmichael and must have been slightly bemused by Sean Connery.

Current Prices £10000 - £15000 /$18000 - $28000

VALUE? (12/06) Not scarce (4728 printed) but difficult to find in superior condition and valuable thus. Trouble is that people read the book and it had no significant value for the first 30 years of it's life so it is hardly ever fine. Alan Ross, a pal of Fleming, told me that his copy (signed to him) was borrowed by someone who wanted to read it and he forgot to ask for it back. That copy would now be worth more than a new Jaguar. It is always best to avoid 'flatsigned' copies ( a regrettable term invented by Stephen King on an off day to describe a book that is merely signed by the author 'directly on the page, and not on a bookplate' and now in use all over the less challenging parts of the infobahn ). Fleming, as a rule, added a few words to his inscriptions and forgers cannot usually risk more than just doing the name tout court.

An unsigned copy described as fine made a little over $33000 in a high profile (Falktoft) sale 2002. The first copy mentioned in auction records made £420 in 1982 to Richard Booth, of Hay -on Wye. STOP PRESS. MAY 2007. I now think this must have been a buyer who was around the rooms at that time called Robert Booth, a Nineties collector, but with a roving eye for fancy books. The King of Hay has never, to my knowledge, been seen at a London auction.

The price on 'Casino Royale' is discernibly levelling off despite the very good movie. The 2 copies that turned up in 2006 at terrestrial auctions, both wearing slightly worn jackets, made £3000 (Christies) and £6000 (Sothebys.) Prices such as for the Falktoft one ($33K) would now be reserved for resonant presentations and very, very fresh copies. The highest one on the web at present is with an unkown dealer at £15K said to be fine apart from a biro inscription. On ebay it would probably make $15K, when it comes to modern firsts the punters there tend to be bottom feeders. The big money fights are for incunabula, Bibles and presidential autographs. [ W/Q ** ]

Dan Brown. The Da Vinci Code, 2003

One of those books that is so popular that you get emails from people in prison wanting it. Fairly readily available so not frenetically sought after but a remarkable phenomenom, and one worthy of consideration. This is a rejig of an entry from December 2006 showing a 25% fall in price. Supply and demand-- there are just too many out there. However signed copies have increased in value, probably by the same amount, possibly because there are a finite number around and the author isn't doing signing sessions.

Dan Brown. THE DA VINCI CODE. Doubleday, NY 2003. ISBN 0385504209

Current Price $250-$550 / £130-£280

Astounding best seller - so successful it inspired workshops, seminars and, for a time, revived the European tourist industry. There is a point on the book - you want a jacket price of $24.95 and on page 243 scotoma should be misspelled skitoma. Also you need the 'First Edition' statement and the complete number line of 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 listed on the copyright page. One suspects the print run was pretty high, this was DB's fourth book and he was already doing well. (Doubleday say it was 260,000--dealers holding copies cast indignant doubt on this figure.) Such bestsellers never become hard to find-- take a bestseller like 'All Quiet on the Western Front' 80 years later there are still plenty about in jacket and they only did 100,000 of that one.

VALUE? 12/06. Fine copies can be had for less than $500, sometimes even signed. There are copies on the net proclaiming the first edition price will rise when the Tom Hanks movie comes out - i.e. they have been there a while. Some dealers asking $4000 for the same copies people are asking $500 for. Slightly weird; it may be a decade or 2 before the book is in any way uncommon. Oddly enough the really, really dear copies are tipped as investments. And they are 'pristine'.

For a guy who is probably worth more than Yoko Ono, Dan Brown seems quite approachable-- signed copies abound (however see above.) A decent signed copy made $289 last week at ebay, the seller stated that Brown would sign no more 'for security reasons.' On the other hand back in June 2006 a copy on ebay made $5825.28 - it was signed by the film's cast, crew and Dan Brown. Provenance is pretty important. A copy signed only by Hanks made £2250 but was being sold for charity. Bless.

VALUE? STOP PRESS. May 2007. Fine copies in the jacket (also fine) can now easily be had at ABE for $260, the cheapest signed are at around $800. On good days at ebay somewhat less than these prices. There are still sea green optimists holding out for $4000 with increasingly desperate blandishments. The book is, of course, 'smoke free' (a now common requirement) and 'absolutely flawless' and 'protected by clear archival Brodart' and 'carefully packed in a box.' Copies are even offered with a 'Lifetime Guarantee' whatever that means- perhaps you can get the book serviced every four years. One copy is proclaimed as the years best seller indicating it has been there 4 years. One recent entry, possibly having a laugh, puffs the book as 'increasingly rare.'

For $4000 you could buy all Brown's novels, all immaculate and smoke free and all signed and expect at least $1500 change. Digital Fortress, his first novel, goes for circa $400 fine/ fine, Angels and Demons, the book that introduces the charismatic Harvard prof Robert Langdon $400. His other novel 'Deception Point' (2001) can be had for $50. Double for signed copies (on the page--signed bookplates are best avoided entirely) except with a first of 'Deception', where you might have to spend several hundred.

His first two books, humorous paperbacks, can be had for $20 each as true firsts although a few chancers want 10 times that. They are '187 Men to Avoid: A Survival Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman' (1995) co-written with his wife under the pseudonym Danielle Brown and 'The Bald Book' 1998, co-written with his wife under the name Blythe Brown.

As to Dan Brown the writer, his peers have been slightly sniffy, an article at Slate reckons his finest piece of writing was his 69-page witness statement filed with the British courts in 2006 when he was being sued for copyright infringement by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Certainly he is no Nabokov, even Ian Mcewan and possibly Louis de Bernieres can turn out better prose - but when it comes to writing for dollars he defers only to J K Rowling and Stephen King. [ W/Q *** ]

08 May 2007

The Wreck of the Titan + Titanicana

Above is the frontispiece to the book we dealt with in our last piece 'Titanic' by Filson Young said to be the first book published about the tragedy. Below the ship is the exact map position of where it happened, although when they found the wreck 73 years later it was a few miles from there. In the same year of 1912 there were at least a dozen further books, also poems, broadsides and sheet music. There is also a healthy trade in newspapers announcing the sinking with the ones nearest to the wreck being the most valuable; they appear on ebay alot and can make $500 or quite a bit more. Newspaper reports of great events are not always scarce because they tend to be hoarded from the get-go.

Morgan Robertson. FUTILITY (THE WRECK OF THE TITAN.) McKinlay, Stone & Mackenzie, New York [1898]

Current Selling Prices
$2250-$6000? /£1100-£3000?

in 1898 Robertson wrote of the sinking of a British ocean liner, 800 feet long, with triple expansion engines, two masts and three screws. This fictional ship was the largest most luxurious ever built and was considered unsinkable. She was racing across the Atlantic in the month of April at high speed when she collided with an iceberg off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland near midnight. Despite her many watertight compartments, the ship foundered very quickly and almost everyone was lost, due in no small part to a completely insufficient number of lifeboats.

The name of Robertson’s fictional ship was the Titan. At first this seemed so incredibly prophetic that people doubted the existence of the earlier edition. It is very rare but it certainly exists and was seen, for example, by Martin Gardner (The Wreck of the Titanic Foretold? ) who points out the many differences between the book and real life event - The Titan was filled to capacity, for example, while the Titanic was barely half full. Titanic’s last night was clear and cloud free, the Titan was racing through heavy fog. The survival rate between the two is also very different. On Titanic, roughly a third of the people survived, while the Titan went down with just about everyone aboard, there were only thirteen survivors.

The whole thing is not helped by Robertson, never one to let a good thing go, re-issuing the book in 1912 and again later with new up to date details from the event. It is the 1912 and later issues that turn up - renamed 'Futility, or The Wreck of the Titan.' The book is listed in Bleiler under the categories 'fantastic stories, imaginary wars and inventions.' 5 other titles by Robertson are listed with categories such as 'Feral Man' and Personality Exchange' although most seem to have sea going themes.

Robertson is also credited with inspiring Edgar Rice Burroughs to create Tarzan, through the pair of 1898 stories,' Primordial' and 'Three Laws and the Golden Rule.'

In 1926 Howard M Chapin issued in 50 copies 'Bibliotheca Titanicana. A List of Books relating to the Loss of S. S. Titanic.' There were 50 copies and it appears to be a valuable book in itself, possibly $600+. It indicates the extent of collecting interest already established in Titanic books. Other 1912 books include L.H. Walter 'Sinking of the Titanic: The World's Greatest Sea-Disaster' and Everett Marshall 'Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic: The Ocean's Greatest Disaster'. The latter can be picked up in good shape for circa $100 but Walter's book is scarce and worth a deal more.

Some Titanic books are true sleepers. We sold the following title 4 years ago on Ebay for circa $500 'Memorials of Henry Forbes Julian...also Letters from the Titanic and the Carpathia' by Hester Pengelly Julian (London 1914). Julian, a distinguished Irish engineer went down on the Titanic and the book has several chapters on this and includes letters he sent from the ship. Ours was a superior copy as I recall.

You could, if you were a total Titanic completist, collect his Forbes Julians published books like 'Cyaniding Gold and Silver Ores (1904) - also books by writers such as Jacques Futrelle and W.T. Stead, who both drowned. Stead wrote several books warning against such shipping disaters all very collectable and dealt with (and reprinted) in Martin Gardner's book. Both Stead and Futrelle wrote fantasy fiction- one wonders if they met on board. It's an endless field- a serious collection of Titanicana would probably fill a mid size truck; even a lesser disaster like the Marie Celeste generated a sizeable tranche of books.

Works of art also went down on the Titanic, including the legendary Sangorski Omar Khayam known as 'The Great Omar'- it took 2 years work and may have looked something like the images above and below. This was said to be the most sumptuous jeweled binding ever undertaken - with its 'gold leaf blazing and the light flashing from hundreds of gemstones studding the tails of the peacocks on the cover'. Sangorski have done several others since, including these 2, but the lost one was supposed to be the finest. Other book related casualties include some of the finest work of the illustrator Nannie Preston, a gifted artist whose work was mainly in lantern slides - her set of illustrations for Pilgrim's Progress went down with the Titanic.

VALUE? I am making a stab at the value of the Morgan Robertson book. It should be remembered that in the main Titanic collectors want facts and MR's book is a curiosity, however remarkable. Poems and song sheets tend to stay in the low hundreds of dollars, whereas newspaper and periodicals do very well. 'The Journal of Commerce Report of the British Official Inquiry into the Circumstances Attending the loss of the R.M.S. Titanic' a 1912 report in mediocre condition made circa $2000 in an Irish auction 2 years ago. A 1912 copy of 'The Deathless Story of the Titanic' by Philip Gibbs in Lloyd's Weekly News signed by 5 child survivors made $600 in 2001. Edwin Drew's 'The Chief Incidents of the "Titanic" Wreck treated in Verse' (1912) made £80 in 2002. A fascinating but volatile and unpredictable market that shows no signs of abating. There are several thousand Titanic related items for sale every day at Ebay, not all of it trash, kitsch or movie related. [ W/Q ** ]

06 May 2007

Filson Young. Titanic, 1912.

Filson Young. TITANIC. Grant Richards, London 1912.

Current Selling Prices
$300-$400 /£150-£400

Said to be the first book published on the great disaster. It appeared exactly 37 days after the Titanic sank, although it shows no signs of hasty writing. Filson Young (1876-1938) was a respected writer who had a succès de scandale in 1905 with a novel
about prostitution 'The Sands of Pleasure' (much admired by Jean Rhys.) Later James Joyce was disappointed when Filson's publisher Grant Richards failed to persuade Filson to write an introduction for the first edition of Joyce's collection of stories, Dubliners, which Filson had been one of the first to praise when the manuscript had reached him in his capacity as Richards' reader.

There is an excellent article on Young by his kinsman the writer Richard D North. North calls this book a 'drama documentary' and notes that FY was 'an establishment essayist admired by Henry James, caricatured by Max Beerbohm and 'blasted' by Wyndham Lewis.'

A TV play based on the book was not broadcast in the early 1930s due to protests from relatives - in our time movies about 9/11 came out in the first 4 years. Talking of movies the 1998 Titanic movie certainly affected prices on this book and they have probably halved since then. Movies rarely have that effect on prices, but if the movie is good enough or big enough it can happen.

VALUE? Several copies at ABE (including ours) at £280 -£420 but I am told that copies regularly go through Ebay at half my lowest estimate, although a fine copy would probably buck the trend. It was a best seller in its day and is not scarce. The big money with Titanic books goes for the journal 'The Shipbuilder' that featured the mighty ship in it's Midsummer 1911 issue and, fatefully, had pictures of it's maiden voyage in 1912 - an issue which hit the stands before the disaster. They also issued a 'Souvenir' issue after the disaster. All of these can make over a $1000 and often £1000+ although they do show up every now and then, the April 1912 one being the most difficult.

A fat 1912 US government report 'Titanic Disaster: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce United States Senate' with witness statement from survivors and observers, 1163 pages including 3 maps seem to command $10000+ or at least that is what 2 respectable dealers want for them as we speak. Meanwhile for $100 almost any day you can get the book below on Ebay, a litle more for great examples. It's 'The Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters' edited by Logan Marshall and it also appeared in 1912. [ W/Q ** ]

03 May 2007

Charles Clapp Jr. The Big Bender, 1938

Charles Clapp, Jr. THE BIG BENDER. New York: Harper & Row, 1938.

Current Selling Prices
$600-$800 /£300-£400

Much wanted book about a struggle with alcoholism by an early Alcoholics Anonymous and Oxford Group associate. Charles Clapp was an Oxford Grouper, who AA founder Bill W had helped get sober in October of 1935. CC had been working with one Sam Shoemaker, but could not stay sober until he got help from Bill. "The Big Bender" relates that story. Clapp was from Bedford Hills. His book was written around 1937 and in 1942 he wrote another book called "Drunks Are Square Pegs." In that book he wrote that now that he understood everything about alcoholism, it would be possible for him to drink and control his drinking if he chose, an idea that diverges quite sharply from A.A. thinking and one which Clapp seems to have later recanted. He wrote another book, "Drinking Is Not The Problem," which was published in 1948. This puts forward some ideas that seem to be very much part of A.A. thinking-- briefly if a drunken pickpocket becomes sober he is still a pickpocket - alcohol abuse being symptomatic of all sorts of other problems than just the 'bevvy.'

The Oxford Group preceded A.A. and has some of the same ideas - especially the idea of the group and sharing and possibly the Higer Power.The OG program emphasized acknowledgment of offenses against others, making restitution to those sinned against, and promoting the group to the public.

The London newspaper editor Arthur J. Russell joined the Oxford Group after attending a meeting in 1931. He wrote 'For Sinners Only' in 1932, another valuable and much desired book as a first edition. The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. and Dr. Bob Smith, were inspired by Oxford Group principles.Our photo above shows the Gate House of the Seiberling Estate in Akron where Bill W and Dr. Bob met and talked for 6 hours straight. Akron was something of an Oxford Group Centre and an alcoholic scion of the local rubber tyre family, one Bud Firestone, had managed to knock drinking through association with Oxford Group members. The full story can be found at these Oxford Group pages.

VALUE? Early A.A. and Oxford Group literature has been collected for quite a while and started making good prices in the late 1990s. One used to receive long lists of Oxford Group and early A.A. books, many manifestly Christian, one presumes that alot of collectors have now found most of the books and new collectors are not necessarily being generated. It doesn't seem to have moved on vastly and may have levelled off but it is still a good collecting area.

The cheapest copy on the web of Clapp's book is circa $700 in mediocre condition with decent ones with jackets between $800 and $1000; whether they sell at these prices (some have been there for a while) I am not certain but decent copies probably sell at $500+. A wise old bookseller out on the West Coast once told me that a good and pricey book usually sold readily if you took 40% off the price as long as the price wasn't crazy to start with. Some truth in this. [ W/Q *** ]

02 May 2007

Takashi Homma. Tokyo Suburbia, 1998.

Takashi Homma. TOKYO SUBURBIA. Korinsha Press, Tokyo, 1998.

Current Selling Prices
$600-$1000 /£300-£500

The book appears in thick card cover about the size of a phone directory, with photos printed on a thickish stock. No jacket. Homma's photo book of the Tokyo suburbs and the kids growing up there is much wanted. It is covered approvingly in Parr & Badger (Photobook 2, 2006). His previous book, somewhat in the wake of transgressive photographer Nobuyoshi Araki was called 'Baby Land' (1995) a lesser effort full of the pouting-young-girls-in-white-panties so much admired by Japanese smudgers.

'Suburbia' is a small masterpiece -- you really need the 20 page English language booklet that goes with it (especially to achieve true fiscal value) - it includes an annotated subway chart showing the location where each photo was taken and extended captions to some of the photos - these written by architect Momoyo Kajima with an essay on Suburbia by sociologist Shinji Miyadai. Homma won awards for the book. Homma manages to make "kogai" (suburban "newtown" housing developments) and the 'bed towns' seem slightly cool or at least he raises the possibility of seeing them as intriguing and worthy of inspection.

A photo critic in 'Archis' observes:-
'...Beyond the apparent frivolity and mischievousness, there is another, unironic, message: that everything — that is, every thing — has potential aesthetic properties. In this sense, perhaps the best point of reference for these photographs is John Cage’s composition 4′ 33″; scored as silence, it requires the listener to pay close attention to a random slice of environmental noise. Homma works with a similar arbitrariness — he could have pressed the shutter half an hour earlier or later.

Homma deliberately leaves the edges of many photos uncropped with all the consequent intrusive elements, although it is not a hard and fast rule- he is said to regard Catier Bresson's pride in never cropping a photo as “photographic narcissism.” Of course it is fairly well known that HCB quietly ignored his own dictum.

VALUE? Araki is of course where the big money is, with collectors of New Japanese Photography paying $5000+ for his first book (Sentimental Journey 1971, 1000 copies printed) but I have seen prices as high as $1300 for decent but not flawless copies of Homma's Suburbia. Cheapest on ABE is $900, a reasonable copy with no mention of the leaflet went through ebay at $500 in Feb 07 and one sits in an Ebay shop at $1050 with 3 offers on it. Don't quite understand all that offer thing, I guess the more offers the better. Probably vaguely on the rise, there are 20 million potential punters in the suburbs around Tokyo for a start. No one is calling the top of the photography market just yet. [ W/Q * ]

01 May 2007

John Blaine. Danger Below, 1968.

John Blaine. DANGER BELOW. Grosset & Dunlap, NY 1968.

Current Selling Prices
$450-$600 /£220-£300

A much wanted book, one of a handful of true Grosset firsts (normally a reprint house.) Like many rarities it is the last of a series (began in 1947) and it is that odd thing - an illustrated hardback that came out sans jacket. A book that looks like nothing, in fact a book that looks like trash, but in nice condition can be cashed in for a $500 note. Of the content the Wikiman explains:
'The stories focused on teenaged Rick Brant and his ex-Marine pal, Scotty. They live on Spindrift Island off the coast of New Jersey, where Rick's father, Hartson Brant, heads a group of scientists working in the field of electronics, later expanding to a wider range of scientific endeavors. In this way, Rick and Scotty are able to be involved in various adventures in the US and abroad, solving many baffling mysteries. Series second-banana regulars include a resourceful youth from India named Chadha; Steve Ames, agent of a government spy group called JANIG; Rick's pert younger sister Barbara; and proto-girlfriend Janice Miller.

The publishers were averse to any suggestion of the supernatural in the series. An ambiguous coda to "The Blue Ghost Mystery" was dropped, and an entire book ("The Magic Talisman") was rejected due to its inclusion of ESP elements. This lost tale was eventually published in an independent edition in 1990.'

VALUE? Most copies that show up seem to be unpleasant ex library copies with pockets , stamps, labels and perforations, a clean civilian copy can cost as much as $600. Signed copies are not unknown, usually signed Hal Goodwin. John Blaine was a pseudonym for Peter J. Harkins and Harold L. Goodwin. Goodwin wrote the last 21 of the series of 24. Harkins appears to have been the Syd Barrett of the operation.

As always it is often possible to pick up copies more reasonably at Ebay - the trouble with citing Ebay prices (apart from the fact that copies are sometimes in poorish condition and badly described) is that you take yourself out of the equation in the result. Once you actually bid, especially on a decent copy, there can be quite a difference in price. The price before was low because you weren't there! With keen bidders prices can exceed the ABE/ Alibris/Biblio price-- sometimes by a country mile.

The book mentioned above 'The Magic Talisman' appeared as a limited edition of 500 copies and seems to sell for $1200 +. It was published by Manuscript in Mountain Home, Tennessee, after Goodwin's death. Again no jacket and again Ebay might yield up a cheaper copy. [ W/Q *** ]

Incredible trivia - everything you need is at Spindrift Island including where and how to find the books. The cool young Indian guy Chadha should have his name pronounced Chowder like the soup corn chowder and in Hindi his name looks like this:-