30 June 2007

Celebrity Book Collectors. Part One.

Having done Billionaire book collectors I thought I would move on to mere mortals and do Celebrity book collectors. Let's celebrate the stars who collect books -they spread the word, they give book collecting a better name and they pour some of their swags of cash into our coffers. This list won't be comprehensive and may include some celebs who merely wandered into bookshops or bookfairs but are not the real deal. Although the cult of the celebrity (today's aristos) is distasteful and banal, the ones who collect books, and even read them, are the good guys--these aren't your Vin Diesels, Limp Bizkits and Jordans. Here goes:-

Johnny Depp. Seen at bookfairs. Collects beats, said to have bought Kerouac's shabby old mac for $20K. He starred as seedy book scout Dean Corso in Polanski's 'The Ninth Gate.' Corso is trying 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. A rare and dangerous book. Johnny's brother, Dan Depp, once had a cool bookshop in Santa Cruz, California - 'The Frugal Bookworm.'

Whoopi Goldberg. Seen at shops and bookfairs. Also collects bakelite. Has been known to spend such a lot at a fair that she turned a lousy fair into a good 'un. Bless her.

Brad Pitt. I saw him wandering around the Los Angeles bookfair in a grey hooded tracksuit. Small but perfectly formed. He was buying Salinger, Kerouac and Cormac for four figure sums. A flunky paid and collected the books. Brad can also be found on audio CD reading Cormac McCarthy -All The Pretty Horses / The Crossing / Cities Of The Plain.

Sarah Michelle Gellar. Aka 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'. She once told an interviewer, “I cannot go into the Heritage Book Shop without buying something. I joke that it’s my church. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I can go in there and look at these books and get completely lost in the old, illustrative art.” Heritage has just shut down but I guess the church reference comes from the ultra kitsch stained glass windows which even in LA were de trop.

Jimmy Page. Led Zeppelin (pictured left.) Collects Aleister Crowley and at one time had a bookshop in Kensington Church Street. Said to be cautious with his money when it comes to books --he is sometimes known as "Led Wallet." So keen was he on the Great Beast he bought Boleskine House, Crowley's rural retreat on the shores of Loch Ness.

Another celeb who has a bookshop (and collects) is the great British film director Bryan Forbes. He collects Napoleon and has a bookshop in toney Virginia Water (Surrey.) Larry McMurtry famed novelist and screenwriter also collects books and has a bookshop -'Booked Up'- in Archer City, a one horse town in Texas. The store is arguably the largest single used bookstore in the United States, carrying somewhere between 400,000 and 450,000 titles. All second hand or used or 'previously owned.'

Nicholas Cage. Serious comic book collector, offloaded part of his collection last year for a million dollars or more. He turned up at our London shop earlier this year and was buying pretty illustrated books. Had a minder but was apparently a very amusing bloke. Talking of minders - the Reverend Ian Paisley used to turn up with 4 bodyguards and buy armfuls of theology. A serious collector.

The first great celebrity collector of the modern age has to be songwriter Jerome Kern. He wrote "Ol' Man River," "I Won't Dance," "The Way You Look Tonight," and "A Fine Romance" and was said to live off the income of his income. He collected books like Shelley's own copy of Queen Mab, complete with annotations in the author's hand -- which he bought for $6000 in a 1920 auction. (Its previous owner, Buxton Forman, had paid £6 for it in 1896.) Such a book makes a jacketed 'On the Road' look like a Mills and Boon. In the famous Kern sale of 1929 at Anderson Galleries, he recouped his initial investment when the book sold for $68,000. (The auction total was $1,729,462.50.) No celebrity (except Gates) could come near having such a fine collection now.

More of this nonsense later in the week when I shall be dropping names like Ashley Drane (of 'That's So Raven') Richard Prince (ridiculously trendy artist) Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) Bernie Taupin (Elton's lyricist) Madonna, Anita Pointer and that little bloke who plays Harry Potter.

29 June 2007

Dean Koontz's lost novel 'Hung' ?

Current Selling Prices
$500-$1200? /£250-£600?

A cheap paperback that is said to be by Dean Koontz and is, judging by the cover (not always wise) of a lewd, probably erotic nature. Also the title points that way. The blurb reads:-"THIS BOOK "SCANDALIZED" NEW YORK PUBLISHERS.  THEY WOULD NOT PRINT IT BECAUSE OF ITS SEXUAL CONTENT...BUT SEX IS YOUTH'S DEFENSE AGAINST THE VIOLENCE OF OUR TIMES; AND VIOLENCE IS ALL AROUND. HUNG! WILL BE REMEMBERED AS THE GRAPHIC STORY OF A SEXUALLY LIBERATED GENERATION." A true sleeper that in the Koontz world was, for a while, a jealously guarded secret. A serious collector on a Koontz site writes:
'...Since January 2001, I have been subjected to nasty emails, had my ethics questioned and been told that I am no fan of Dean Koontz. All of this came about because I was approached by someone who had located a paperback book called "Hung", written by Leonard Chris. and wanted to know if it was the same book which had been mentioned in the Katherine Ramsland biography.
After reading the entire text and comparing it with what little information was publicly known about the book, I was able to verify that it was the "lost" novel that Koontz himself had ADMITTED writing and, therefore "Leonard Chris" was the pseudonym Koontz had REFUSED to acknowledge. I was ecstatic because I now knew that pseudonym.

As a long-time collector of Dean Koontz novels, I felt a responsibility to make that information available to other Koontz fans. There is, however, an elite group of Koontz collectors who believe that the fans should not be given this information, presumably because these collectors have searched long and hard for "Hung" (as well as other titles which Koontz is alleged to have written under other as-yet unacknowledged pseudonyms) , and they wish to be able to obtain these books from unsuspecting individuals at lower prices. I'm no knight in shining armor, folks, but that strikes me as just plain WRONG...'

He cocludes by saying that it is possible that DK himself did not want his authorship revealed. The significant thing here is that he has not disowned the book which means it is probably by him - although the above writer does not actually say how he knows from reading the book that Koontz was the author. One assumes the style or phrasing or ideas in it are uniquely Koontzian--possibly some tricks of description, oddities of language, sentence structure etc., External info and hearsay may also play a part...

A similar thing happened with the Lovejoy writer Jonathan Gash - he was said to have ghostwritten the 1959 Bodley Head book 'Streetwalker' - an anonymous autobiography of a London prostitute. The book (not scarce) was changing hands at £100+ until Gash publicly stated he didn't write the book. Similarly in the 1930s Graham Greene was said to have co-ghosted (with Ronald Mathews) another autobiography of a London prostitute ' To Beg I am Ashamed'. This has been fairly roundly disproved although it is possible he may have had a hand in revising it. Copies of the London and Paris firsts can still command $1000 but do not sell with any alacrity - as they did when there was no doubt in the matter.

The reaction of these Koontz collectors to the revealing of hidden, secret knowledge seems almost quaint in these Google days. In my trade many dealers tried to hold on to hard won information about rarities - price guides were scorned and it was considered sacrilege to sell a customer a copy of 'Book Auction Records.' Even before the net this was all falling apart. My opinion is that there will always be 'sleepers' and great finds, because the ocean of information is so vast that no one person, or even groups of experts in half moon specs, will ever master a significant part of it.

VALUE? The Koontz scholar quoted above (to be found at Angelfire ) is investigating the authorship of more than ten other novels published under several other pseudonyms which he believes may have been written by the great man. In an article Dean Koontz wrote for ENREGUMEN 8, a fanzine published in 1971, he admits to writing 30 pornographic books to build a "healthy bank account." This could be something of a minefield but copies of this unassuming, slightly lurid paperback are pretty scarce. There are no copies for sale and none seem to have passed through ebay. Koontz wrote another book in 1970 for sleaze publisher Cameo under his and his wife Gerda's name (said to have been a printer's mistake) 'Bounce Girl' - a copy of this resides on Ebay as a Buy it Now at $1995. Possibly a chancer's price; so far no one has pressed the buy button. Extrapolating from this I am tempted to say $1000 and I'll stick with that. A lot of people want this book. [ W/Q *** ]

27 June 2007

Despised and Rejected (1918)

A. T. Fitzroy. DESPISED AND REJECTED. (Pseudonym of Rose Laure Allantini Scott). C. W. Daniel, London. No date (circa 1918).

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

Landmark book in the canon of gay and lesbian literature and a noted rarity in first edition. A long novel with pacifist overtones, this + its sympathetic treatment of the two overtly gay and lesbian main characters caused its immediate seizure on publication and banning in a subsequent court case in which the publisher was fined 160 pounds. Photo above shows a court convened to examine the claims of pacifists in WW1.The novel reveals inner knowledge of London pacifist and socialist circles in WWi and also deals with the self discoveries of a gay man and a gay woman and links the persecution of gays, pacifists and Jews.

Reprinted several times in recent years, modern critical opinion considers the author, the wife of the gay composer Cyril Scott, to have written the novel as a counter blast to inimicable portrayals of homosexuality in D. H. Lawrence’s “The Rainbow” and other novels of the period.

A.T. Fitzroy was the pseudomym of Rose Laure Allantini who was born in Vienna to a Polish mother and an Italian father, but was brought up in England. She left home to become a writer. In 1921 she married fellow occultist and composer Cyril Scott with whom she had a son and a daughter. During that time she published one novel under her married name. In 1941 Allantini and Scott separated, and she went to Rye to live there with Melanie Mills. Between 1941 and 1978 she published some thirty novels under the pseudonym Eunice Buckley, one of several she used, as did Melanie Mills, also a writer. Some are said to be tinged with mysticism, lesbian references and re-incarnation.

Her main claim to fame in the pantheon of lesbian and gay writers rests on this novel which, after the obscenity trial, was withdrawn from the market until its reprint in 1988.

VALUE? A 'sleeper' that I feel slightly bad about awakening but what the heck. In 1918 all unsold copies were destroyed by court order and the book is decidely scarce. We sold our last copy for nigh on £1000 3 years ago and described it thus:
'8vo. 350 pages. First edition. Hardback. Slight fading at spine, faint coffee ring to front board else a clean, very good copy of a poorly-produced war-time book.'
There was a vogue at the time for vintage gay literature and a few well heeled players in the market. I have seen other copies since offered at £1000+ and they appear to have sold possibly against an inferior sounding copy that was listed at circa £2000, making cheaper but nicer copies look attractive. No idea what happened to the exorbitant copy and must assume it sold - possibly severely discounted. The number of punters for firsts at full strength prices must be limited. Also it is possible that the wave has broken for the book, certainly no other work by her is worth more than about £50. [ W/Q ** ]

23 June 2007

Dr. Trelawney unmasked-- Aleister Crowley and Dr. Philip Oyler

Philip Oyler. SCARLYN. E. S. Fowler, Eastbourne (1911)

Current Selling Prices
$100-$120 /£60-£80

A small thin 28 page book of poems. The poems are of a pantheistic, Theosophical bent and are by a young man who went on to live a long life as an educationalist, Utopian, 'New Lifer' , country writer and 'Prophet of the Soil.' He was also an inspiration for the mystic and mage Dr Trelawney - a recurrent character in Anthony Powell's roman fleuve 'A Dance to the Music of Time' . Tim D'Arch Smith, in the revised edition of his excellent work 'The Books of the Beast' has a chapter on Dr. Trelawney ('thaumaturge and seer') where he draws parallels with Aleister Crowley and Powell's fictional creation. At that point Powell, much amused, wrote to Tim D'Arch Smith and said that Crowley was indeed an inspiration but he also used a certain Dr. Oyler. He notes in his journal for 4/8/88 that Oyler was-
''...an earlier avatar...who used to lead his mob of children in Grecian costume in runs across Grayshott Common, when we lived at Stonedene just before the First War. I have come across references to Oyler occasionally (I foolishly did not note them down.) He was just as described in 'The Kindly Ones' with a touch of Crowley added...'
Until I found that Dr.Oyler was also known as Philip Oyler (1880-1973) I could find little on him. But as Philip Oyler he is reasonably well known especially as a country writer - his 1950 book on farm life in the Dordogne 'The Generous Earth' is regarded as a minor classic and came out in Penguin in 1961. He seems to have inspired the earlier incarnation of Dr. Trelawney. The later Dr T is a darker figure, owing much more to Crowley - at one point in 'Music of Time' he is hounded by the 'Sunday papers' after a devotee had fallen to her death at a temple Trelawney had set up in remote North Wales '...there was talk of nameless rites, drugs, disagreeable forms of discipline...'

Oyler wrote an earlier work before the slim volume of verse 'Scarlyn' that is rarer (but not, as yet, valuable) - 'Invitation to the Woods' published by Henry J Drane in 1910. At 175 pages it is probably not verse but may be a 'back to nature' polemic. Drane is a fascinating publisher of odd books, many of which are now very thin on the ground - they published Edward Heron-Allen and Edgar Saltus among others. Oyler contributed to various theosophical and New Age / New Life magazines at this time including 'The Path' and 'The Adyar Bulletin.'

In 1912 he wrote an article on 'Education from a Universal Standpoint' for 'Freewoman.' He then seems to have founded a (progressive) school at Headley Down in Hampshire known as 'the Morshin School.' From here he published 'non cranky' books on diet and well-being such as ' Simple Rules of Health'. For some reason this is still mentioned on the net as '3d. net. Post free from the author, Morshin School, Headley, Hants' as if you could still send (or Paypal) 3d (about 6 cents) to him. He was instrumental in bringing Rutland Boughton's music festival to Glastonbury from Letchworth. This flourished from 1914 to 1926.

Oyler nexts turns up in the 1940s near Sarlat in the Dordogne where he buys a farm and discovers a vanished pastoral world and becomes something of an advocate for the soil, for an acre of land for every countryman and other Utopian ideas. His books 'The Generous Earth and 'Son of the Generous Earth' are about his experiences there. He was a neighbour of Delius whom he saw often and his last recorded writing is a piece on the great composer published in 1972. He is mentioned, even in 2007, in holiday brochures and estate agents sites about this still wonderful area. He is unknown to the DNB and Wikipedia.

VALUE? This little book of poems, 'Scarlyn', which started me on this quest, is very hard to find but, sadly, not easy to sell. A dealer would probably hold out for at least £40 because there are seldom any copies for sale and it is likely to be the only one on the net. 'Scarlyn' appears to be a sort of beautiful seer wandering with his love 'deep set in thought,/...in the elfin autumn woods...' The book is illustrated with drawings of trees and windswept landscape by R. Wheatcroft and dedicated to 'My Mother-- who does not know me.' A sample of the verse - possibly the kind of thing he would have addressed to his followers on the downs:
'Walk circumspectly. Day is wrapped about
With night, and all we know is still no more
Than all we say is all of that we feel.
The past is Now, Now is eternity.
Our soul-life is in it, and when we live it
We are in it too. What the past aspired
To be, we are...'

Step aside Eckhart Tolle. Lastly one wonders whether Oyler, like Crowley and Dr T, had some sort of mystical greeting:- with the Great Beast it was, of course, 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law' to which the only response was 'Love is the Law, Love under Will.' Trelawney's was 'The Essence of the All is the Godhead of the True' to which the correct response was the splendid 'The Vision of Visions heals the Blindness of Sight.' Trelawney's pronouncement on death, later echoed by Scorpio Murtlock his sinister latterday follower / reincarnation in the hippie era, has the Oyler touch - 'There is no Death in nature, only transition, blending, synthesis, mutation...'

21 June 2007

Stephen W. Meader. Bulldozer, 1951.

Stephen W. Meader. BULLDOZER. Harcourt Brace, NY, 1951.

Current Selling Prices
$80-$200 /£45-£100

This is the third of a trio of Ebay nostalgia/ children's books (Young Adult) that are highly sought after. The other two, covered earlier by us were Jellybeans for Breakfast and Lazy Liza Lizard -- all much wanted by Boomers who grew up on them. The other two were for girls -this one is for boys and tomboys and budding business tycoons. A fairly simple plot - Bill Crane and his friend Ducky Davis discover a Caterpillar Tractor sunk and abandoned in a lake and use their ingenuity to restore it and build a profitable business. Among their adventures, a successful battle against a forest fire. All with cool b/w illustrations by Edwin Schmidt.

Most copies out there are paperbacks or rather sad ex library copies--here is a description of a paperback that with most other titles would be immediately tossed, trashed or vapourized. It is described in what I call the Alain Robbe Grillet style --i.e. so much detail that it is hard to envision what the thing actually looks like. The cost for this paperback is $70 - take it away Alain:
'...Fair binding cracking at page 100; heavy spine crease; moderate crease along spine edge of front cover; slight crease along spine edge of back cover; ½" trinangular chunk missing from front fore-edge; ½" closed tear to top back spine edge; 1" closed tear to top and bottom front spine edges; small, slight crease to back corners; two heavy creases to bottom front corner; heavy crease to upper front corner; rubbing and chipping to upper edge of front cover; rubbing to other edges; rubbing, slight soil to covers; several indentations to front and back covers, two penetrate to next two pages; crease to bottom corner of about a dozen pages; age tanning to pages and inside of covers, pages are not brittle; moisture stain to margin of bottom corner of first 18 pages, does not affect the text; rectangular piece cut out of top corner of front endpaper; ¼" closed tear and crease to fore-edge of last three blank pages...'
If the book was stabbed through the middle with a greasy kebab skewer and then dropped in a puddle it could hardly be worse but after all this we are assured '...pages are clean, no marks to text, no owner signatures, inscriptions, store stamps, remainder marks.' I would avoid buying the library of the collector who buys this.

VALUE? Hard to find a decent non Ex Library first in jacket for less than $100, a simple reader can be picked up for under $30. There are several firsts on ABE at between $200 and $300, the most expensive, as always, being the nastiest. [ W/Q ** ]

20 June 2007

Bookplate for Lytton Strachey by Dora Carrington (1931) - a Bloomsbury Goddess...

This is the first bookplate I have done. They are an interesting collecting area. Values are mainly driven by the artist who designed the bookplate or the fame of the bookplates owner. Looking at our own files we have listed bookplates on the net over the last 10 years by such collectable artists as Jessie M King who did some delightful plates, some heightened with gold, Eric Gill (see below), Austin Osman Spare, Jack B Yeats, Rex Whistler, Beresford Egan, Ardizzone, Willy Pogany, E. McKnight.Kauffer, Simeon Solomon, Escher, Rockwell Kent, Beardsley, Edward Gordon Craig, Mark Severin (erotic) Von Bayros (also erotic) Goor (homoerotic) Burne Jones, Michele Fingesten (see below) Adrian Feint, Joan Hassall, James Guthrie, Rene Lalique and lastly WPB whose bookplate for Charles Stewart Rolls (of Rolls Royce) I would love to have again. Mostly under £100 and a lot under £30 with most bookplates having a very modest value, think penny shares.

We did, however, sell (and possibly undersold) Paul Klee's bookplate for his fellow Swiss school friend Louis Michaud for £1350 (say $2500). This bookplate we described thus:
Within a tree trunk frame Mephistopheles, seated in Dr. Faust's office addresses an eager student. Surrounding them are various objects comically recalling medical studies - a skull with a pipe in its mouth, a nude female torso, a retort, an inkwell, a baby in a wire covered jar and a stuffed hanging fish. Above and below merged, as it were, with the tree are a snake or lizard-like figure.
The high value is possibly because, although a bookplate designed to be stuck in Dr. Michaud's books, it is regarded as an early print by Klee. Bookplates are often worth more than the book they are in- they can be sold with the book rather than removed from it.


Current Selling Prices
$140-$400 /£75-£220

A little piece of Bloomsbury history - this small bookplate by Dora Carrington measures 1 3/8 inches high by 1 3/4 inches wide in it's largest version. The large version is rarer than the smaller but both have now become quite elusive. The tiny postage stamp size one measures only 1" by 3/4 ". Both have the words Lytton Strachey in a plaque or cartouche with folded edges surrounded by net-like cross hatching in a dark sepia tone.

A relic of the artist and Bloomsbury goddess. Carrington wrote of this bookplate in her diary (March 20 1931) rather prophetically:- 'As I stuck the book plates in with Lytton I suddenly thought of Sothebys and the book plates in some books I had looked at, when Lytton was bidding for a book and I thought: These books will one day be looked at by those gloomy faced booksellers and buyers. And suddenly a premonition of a day when these labels will no longer (be) in this library came over me. I longed to ask Lytton not to stick in any more.' He died 10 months later. Carrington shot herself a few months after.

VALUE? Can be found for £50+ although Bloomsbury specialists tend to charge £150+. I once had a supplier for the plate who had one in every volume of Strachey's OED. Bloomsbury collectors tend to be fervent in their pursuit of material so they seem to have all sold. It is so small that I lost a couple. Strachey was a keen collector of antiquarian books so it can turn up in valuable items.

Bookplates by Gill (Coomaraswamy) and Fingesten below. Check out fellow blogger Lewis Jaffe's site Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie.

17 June 2007

The Future of the LongPen

Having read over at Book Patrol that 84 year old Norman Mailer doesn't fancy the journey to Edinburgh and will be signing books by the LongPen from New York, I decided to see how the thing works.

It was invented by Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood but presumably the thing itself was engineered by geeks and boffins at the Unotchit company that she formed to market this marvel. There is a video at Unotchit showing the thing in action.

The author faces the person who wants the signature on a video / internet link and asks them how they want the book signed, the author then signs it, chats a little to the fan and the fan sees the intended inscription and approves it - it is then sent over to the robotic inking arm at the other end. This process can be abbreviated depending on time and the length of the queue. Margaret says that, in fact, it is a more intimate experience than actual real life signings. It probably takes longer but the author hardly needs to leave home--no more lousy hotel rooms, long haul flights and jet lag. Baseball bats and hockey sticks can be signed, also CDs, checks, contracts and presumably prints and lithographs--Salvador Dali would have loved it.

What value do longpen signatures have and are they detectable if not declared? I looked up 'longpen' on ABE as a keyword --it brings up 4 entries, all signed Atwood books and all pushing the signatures as having been done long before the LongPen--so straightaway a virtue is being made of the real over the virtual--rather like the unrestored jacket being preferred to the restored or a signature in a book being better than on a pasted in bookplate. One Chicago dealer (www.modernrare.com) even holds forth on the subject in an entry for a signed proof of her 1991 novel 'Wilderness Tips which he lists at a modest $55:
'This copy is prominently and beautifully signed in black pen on the title page by Margaret Atwood. Atwood's penmanship is among the most beautiful among writers: Clean, flowing, and elegant. Laid-in is a copy of the Souvenir Program at which the signing was held. This signature was obtained in person, not through the author's "high-tech" invention called the LongPen. Copies "signed" in the latter manner must be identified as such because they have no collectible value. The point of a signed copy is that it unmistakably indicates that the author held the copy of the book and left his or her trace on it. '
Point taken, but will sellers identify LongPen signatures as such and will wily autograph dealers be able to pronounce on the matter -'Sorry this was signed with a LongPen - $5 is all we can give...'? Looking at the video they seem pretty good, possibly slightly scrawly but hard to distinguish from a face to face signing. They are quite similar to a cyclostyle signature--an old technology' device to reproduce the signatures of famous men--Churchill had one. These are distinguishable as fakes because they are always exactly the same.

So far Margaret Atwood, Dean Koontz and Robert Kennedy Jnr., have used it, and now Norman Mailer. I guess you have to know the names of the LongPen authors and the books they signed to be ahead of the game but it is possible in an increasingly virtual world that a remote signature will be considered pretty much as good as the real thing, or no one will really care anyway. It will also be useful to old and infirm authors + its use in business is likely to grow. The word itself reminds me of the cannibal word for humans- 'long pig' - and someone has suggested the alternative 'Roboscrawl'...

16 June 2007

Miriam Young. Jellybeans for Breakfast (1968)

Miriam Young. JELLYBEANS FOR BREAKFAST.Parents’ Magazine Press, New York [1968]

Current Selling Prices
$150-$300 /£80-£160

Probably more famous in the world of ebay book trading than 'The Da Vinci Code.' A copy revealed for a second at a library sale would probably cause a life threatening stampede. Miriam Young (1913- 1974) wrote other stuff but this is the one everybody wants. Not impossible to find for slightly less that $100 but most copies are poorish ex library reprints at that level, often with many faults. Hardly anyone mentions the plot but deep excavation found this summary in a blog and I can't quite remember where:
'It's the story of a couple of cute tykes who fantasize about all the fun stuff they'd do if they were free from their parents and their teachers and all the usual everyday constraints. They'd ride their bikes to the moon. They'd go barefoot all the time. They'd live in a treehouse in the woods. And they'd eat jellybeans for breakfast. '

Miriam Young hailed from San Francisco and her books were aimed at little girls. These girls (and a few males) have now grown up and want the book - the excellent ebay bookseller blog has identified these buyers as a niche market:
Fond memories are what drive this buyer. A man, now in his 50’s, is looking for a book from his youth. Maybe it made a big impact on him and influenced a career decision, or maybe it was an adventure story that captivated him. A woman in her 60’s is remembering cuddling up with a parent or grandparent reading a favorite book. She wants to share this experience and this particular book with a child in her life.
The nostalgia buyer is not concerned with finding a book in excellent condition, especially if the book is to share with a child. While doing research, I came across this question to a seller of a $150 eBay book auction:
“I had no idea this was a rare book. I read this book over & over when I was a child & only want it to read to my granddaughter. Is there an old beat-up copy that’s still readable available for an affordable price?”
Yes, even "old beat-up" copies sell. Sometimes the buyer is looking for a particular binding. In many cases this is an ex-library book. Here’s another quote I came across online:
“I’ve recently been reunited with my favorite childhood book . . . We never had a copy, but got it out of the library every week. When I grew up, no one could remember what the book was and it took a year to find the name, then another 10 years to track down a copy.”

Do you think money was a big issue for him after waiting ten years to find that special book?
Selling to this market can be very profitable. Many of these buyers are baby boomers or grandparents with high disposable incomes. Selling to this market can also be rewarding. It is not unusual to receive a grateful letter from someone who has been reunited with a fondly remembered book after a long search. Selling to this market is easy. He is not usually a serious collector and does not expect proper terminology and a certain level of expertise.
Knowing which books the nostalgia market is looking for is the problem. Research is the solution. You can do your own research in closed auctions on eBay, or you can buy research from others. Books sought by the nostalgia market tend to fall into two groups: picture books for the younger child and fiction (chapter books) for the young adult. Three examples of books sought by this market - •Lazy Liza Lizard by Marie Curtis Rains • Bulldozer by Stephen Meader • Jellybeans for Breakfast by Miriam Young.

Will probably do 'Bulldozer' tomorrow - it sounds like a boy's book; we have already done Lazy Liza Lizard. Our ebay book colleague above has identified a market that doesn't need bookseller's 'expertise' or their detailed descriptions and in fact would probably be put off by them. Forget octavos, foxing and endpapers with this crowd, 'retired from the library' and 'much cherished' are what works for them.

VALUE? I have seen people asking $500 for this book but so many copies have surfaced that is now a $100 book and twice that for a nice one. However, as noted above, it is not really a collector's book but a boomer nostalgia book. Because boomers must have eveything they want and, 'like, yesterday' it can sell on a Buy it Now at around $100 - often a reprint in regrettable condition ('with expected imperfections.'). One guy at ABE has a copy at $400+ but seems to think it was published in 1905. Outside of books I think the title "Jellybeans for Breakfast' means, or has come to mean, something - possibly mad, hyped up or delusional. Not sure. [ W/Q **** ]

15 June 2007

Bay Psalm Book, 1640

"...we have therefore done our endeavor to make a plain and familiar translation of the psalms and words of David into English metre, and have not so much as presumed to paraphrase to give the sense of his meaning in other words; we have therefore attended herein as our chief guide the original, shunning all additions, except such as even the best translators of them in prose supply, avoiding all material detractions from words or sense." From the introduction to the Bay Psalm Book, 1640.

THE WHOLE BOOKE OF PSALMES. Faithfully translated into English Metre. (The Bay Psalm Book.) [Cambridge, Mass.] : Imprinted by S. Daye, 1640. Compiled and translated by John Cotton; Richard Mather; John Eliot; Thomas Weld; Stephen Day; Matthew Day; Adrian Van Sinderen.

Current Prices

The Bay Psalm Book was the common hymnal of the Massachusetts Bay colony. An American icon, a piece of heroic history - it was both the first book printed in the Colonies and it was also the first book entirely written in the Colonies. Printed 20 years after the first arrivals in Plymouth in 1620 on the first printing press in New England which was purchased and imported from London specifically to print this book. In 1639 the press printed first the Freeman’s Oath and then an almanac, no copies of which are extant. The mind boggles at the value that could be attached to these.

The translations were prepared by a committee of approximately thirty clergymen, including Richard Mather, John Eliot, and Thomas Weld. The preface is generally attributed to Mather, although some scholars believe it was written by John Cotton. The book went through several editions and was in use for well over 100 years. Later editions had tunes and music which are not to be found in the first edition.

The poetry of the versifications in the first edition is often crude and awkward, but the writers considered faithfulness to the scriptures to be more important than poetic elegance. In spite of this, the Bay Psalm Book achieved considerable recognition in its time, a recognition that went well outside of New England, and even the Colonies. Copies reached both England and Scotland and saw some use there.

VALUE? Unless someone finds 'Love's Labour's Won' - the supposedly published, but never found, Shakepeare play - this is the most valuable printed book in the world. Almost impossibly rare but never forget Cadillac Jack's dealers dictum 'Anything can be anywhere.' It is said that there are only about a dozen copies in existence, 2 of which are in private hands. There have been no copies in auction in the last 50 years, however one can get a vague fix on the price from the record of the sale of a copy in 1947. It was a perfect copy of 'the first edition of this little book' and was sold at public auction in New York City. It was bought, on behalf of Yale University, for the sum of $151,000, at the time the highest price ever paid for a book at public auction. A copy in the amazing Brinley sale of Americana in 1879 another fine copy, again noted as 'this small book' made $1200. Another copy turned up in a bookseller's catalogue around 1900 described thus:
A BEAUTIFUL and ABSOLUTELY PERFECT copy; having the additional page of “Faults escaped in printing.” The binding---one of Mr. F. BEDFORD’S master-pieces---is in dark brown crushed levant morocco, the sides studded with gold stars, within broad gilt borders, with corner and center ornaments; and the volume is enclosed in a Solander case of blue, straight-grained morocco, lettered.
There is even a record of a copy bought in a bookshop in this catalogue entry (by Rosenbach?):
To offer any remarks on the RARITY or the IMPORTANCE of this precious volume would be sheer impertinence. The acquisition of a copy of the original edition of the Bay Psalm Book must always be the crowning triumph to which every American collector aspires,---while the chances of acquisition are constantly diminishing. It is by no means probable that another copy will be offered for competition within the next quarter of a century, at least.

Laid into the copy is a letter by Bishop Hurst, its former owner, in which he says: “I purchased it [this volume] on August 25, 1892, from the Burnham Antique Book Store, Boston, Mass. It was purchased by the late Mr. Burnham about twenty years previous (about 1872), probably from a lady. Mr. Burnham at the time did not know exactly what the book was. Mr. R. C. Lichtenstein (who was with Mr. Burnham then) compared it with the copies in the Boston Public Library and discovered that it was a genuine copy of the original (1640) edition.”
It is hard to extrapolate from $151,000 in 1947 but you could probably buy a sizeable block of flats in a decent part of New York at that time. Also there is a greater market for fine Americana now and a whole lot more money about. The book probably wouldn't make the value of a Warhol car crash but could top $20 million. It is intriguing that copies made it back to Britain and I shall be paying close attention to small 17th Century books of psalms - even incomplete copies.

[ TRIVIA ] There have been at least 2 bibliomysteries featuring the book --'The Bay Psalm Book Murders' by Will Harris (1983) and 'The Collectors' (2006) a great piece of hokum featuring some downy old birds calling themselves the Camel Club. Jonathan Dehaven, the director of the Library of Congress' Rare Books and Special Collections Section is found dead under suspicious circumstances. A copy of the 1640 Bays Psalm book is found among his own rare book collection at his posh house...The book also features a dodgy rare book dealer, wily collectors and librarians.

13 June 2007

A "Ghost" -- a priceless book / Lost in the Wilds

This is a book I do not possess and never will. Sounds useful if you are lost in the jungle after your light aircraft has had to make a forced landing.

D. Croyle. LOST IN THE WILDS. No place. No date. (1997)

Current Selling Prices
$0000 / £0000

A much wanted book that doesn't actually exist. There are about 40 people waiting to be quoted it at abebooks.com and several elsewhere. The book is seen being read by billionaire magazine publicist billionaire Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) at the beginning of the 1997 movie 'The Edge.' It appears to be a book about survival in the wilderness but was mocked up by the props department (the director's assistant was a chap called Darragh Croyle.) The book is never seen after Morse's plain crashes in the woods and would have been kind of useful. Google reveals one bloke who wants the book for his son's school work. The book is what is known in the trade as a 'ghost.' This is usually a work announced as a forthcoming book that never gets published. In the case of the faked up book 'Flyfishing' by J R Hartley, featured in a UK Yellow Pages ad, it became so famous that someone actually wrote and published the book.

VALUE? Priceless. For everything else there is Visa. The curious thing is that one site says it is a small yellow book that costs $75 and BibliOz lists it but with no details. The book has as a sort of half life-- as befits a ghost. No ISBN as yet. BTW if you are lost in the wilds, especially the bush there is a book by one Alan Fry (Toronto 1981) that covers most eventualities: ' Survival in the wilderness : a practical, all-season guide to traditional woodlore and survival techniques for hikers, skiers, backpackers, canoeists, travellers in light aircraft, and anyone stranded in the bush.'

Trivia. The working title of the movie was 'The Bookworm' and the film begins with Morse being presented with a 'beautiful' book (I think it's this Croyle ghost) and as someone says at the Stanford student discussion site:
' Our friend the billionaire happens to love books; moreover, his knowledge of things (he really knows EVERYTHING) comes only from books and, although theoretical, his knowledge will probably save them (no, I will not tell you the end).'

Must see this movie, it sounds anti-book, which is very much the spirit of our times. Don't be fooled however - everything is in books (except this one.)

12 June 2007

John Masters : A Regimented Life

John Clay. JOHN MASTERS. A Regimented Life. Michael Joseph, London 1992.

ISBN: 0718129458 & 9780718129453 

Current Selling Prices
$220-$400 /£100-£200

An authorized biography of the novelist John Masters (1914-83). His best known books are 'Bhowani Junction' (1954) and 'Nightrunners of Bengal' (1951.) Born into a family who had served in India for five generations. Educated at Wellington and the RMA, Sandhurst, Masters returned to India in 1934 as an officer in the 4th Prince of Wales’ Own Gurkha Rifles, and saw active service in Waziristan, Iraq, Syria and Persia. Later, in Burma, he commanded a Chindit brigade, and fought with the 19th Indian Division at Mandalay and on the Mawchi Road. He retired in 1948 to emigrate to the States and take up writing. This biography provides a portrait of his sometime fiery character and, through its analysis of Masters' life and novels, an insight into the last days of the Indian Empire. John Clay is a practicing Jungian psychotherapist and the author of a biography of the bridge player, Ely Culbertson and also of psychiarist and thinker R.D. Laing. ('A Divided Self.') Bridge, Brains, Bengal.

An unaccountably scarce book. At present there isn't a single copy available anywhere on the net. It is listed on a book site in Zaire but noted as 'SOLD.' It was said of Masters by an Indian writer that while Kipling understood India, John Masters understood Indians. Basically a wandering expat, he moved from New York to Santa Fe where he made his home and enjoyed great literary success. He was a serious walker and (ahead of his time) he had tried to set up a travel agency in New York in the early 1950s for walking tours in India. When he died in 1983 his friends and family scattered his ashes from a plane over his favourite New Mexico hiking trails.

VALUE? Master's books are in the main not scarce and you could probably buy his entire works for less than £400, possibly a bit more if the books were very fine with a few signatures etc. John Clay's biography of Masters is worth more than any of JM's own books. 9 months ago there were 2 copies available both over £100 and they both seem to have sold. As a collector of literary biographies (they are actually useful in this game) I checked if I had a copy, found a decent one and put it up on the net at £120 where it went like a bullet. Buyers waiting. Trouble is I no longer have a copy and I've spent the money.

Now I've cashed in it's time for Josephs to re -issue the book. Masters own books will probably make a comeback --he is a much admired writer but without a lot of current media interest. There have been 2 movies including Bhowani Junction with Ava Gardner and four of the novels were adapted for an 18 part serial in BBC Radio 4's classic serial slot 1984 -1985. [ W/Q *** ]

11 June 2007

The Book of Bread. 1903

Owen Simmons. THE BOOK OF BREAD.McLaren, London, 1903

Current Selling Prices$750 - $1500 / £375 - £750

An illustrated guide to bread, quite technical. Worth quite alot of dough! Not especially uncommon but featured in Martin Parr's seminal collector's book ('The Photobook. A History. 1.') and so copies seem to have gone to ground. 12 chromolithographic large colour plates and 27 b/w photos of loaves, with titles such a 'Holes in Bread.' Rather beautiful photos (photographer unknown.) A sort of surreal objet trouvé or, as Parr says, reminiscent of 1980s conceptual art in its obsessive style and rigorous and precise cataloguing. Parr has a 'whim of iron' as Powell said of Betjeman.

VALUE? I sold a copy 3 years ago for a £100 probably to a food person. No copies on web for quite a while. A copy sold at Bloomsbury Book Auctions in 2001 at £50 and in 2005 a less nice one made £480 + a bit of commission ('the juice') making it a $1000 book, but I suspect that might be a freak result. At that sort of price the whimsy starts to fade. Watch this space. (written late 2006 but see below--whimsy on the rise!) [ W/Q ** ]

STOP PRESS. A copy in a special limited edition binding and signed by the author made £500 last year. This year (quite recently) the book was spotted in a lot at a UK provincial auction. There were 11 other books on bread and baking with it, some possibly nice but all post 1800. The lot made £3000 and I feel sure that a lot of that would have been because someone one went crazy for the Simmons book, possibly hoping to get most of the money back for the other books. Purely speculation - but it is likely that Simmons book is climbing into four figures. It is worth noting that books can often do absurdly well when lotted with a few other half decent books. They force the buyers to rate (and over rate) all the books in the lot at best prices and competition can be intense. Paradoxically the books would make less if singly lotted. Still no copies on any book mall...

08 June 2007

A Sale of Modern Movement books / Connolly 100

I am away in London - I went to a Sotheby's sale of the collection of books formed by Annette Campbell White - a highly literate San Francisco based money manager (MedVenture Associates.) The collection was based on 'the Connolly 100' - i.e. books listed by Cyril Connolly in his 1965 book-'The Modern Movement. One Hundred Key Books from England, France, and America 1880-1950.' She is said to be to be one of those fortunate persons who 'doesn't need money' and estimates and reserves were high as she would not care if the books came home unsold. A certain number of lots (about 25%) failed to sell - which, given the high reserves, is actually something of a success. The wholse sale made £1.3 million about half a million less than the top expectations. There was little for dealers who were consistently outbid by anonymous collectors. Prices often seemed higher than a dealer would ever think of charging but that is often the case. Paradoxically dealers will often pay more for a good book than the public so outbidding them is a risky game.

Many of the dealers attending were the same chaps who had sold Ms Campbell the books. When a collector wants something like the Connolly 100 you are basically working through a list. Many lots went to the same anonymous bidder (identified by a code number) on the phone who must have spent about £200K, possibly filling gaps in his or her own Connolly 100 collection. They were probably sitting by or in an 'infinity' pool in L.A. over breakfast.

The Gatsby went to the trade at £84K (jacket a bit chipped but a better than normal copy) and a very fresh 'The Sun Also Rises' at £60K. I learnt that the Gatsby jacket is about an eighth of an inch taller than the book and often turns up cut down to size or sadly creased at the overhang but this copy was complete and free of such problems. The first lot of the sale was a very nice 3 decker first of 'The Portrait of a Lady' which made £29K (all these prices including the 20% premium) against an estimate of £7000 - £9000 so it looked like it might be one of those sales where records were broken with every lot. However it was quickly followed by many 'bought in' lots, mostly over estimated French literature. Connolly liked his French books, some of which are now somewhat vieux jeu. I'm thinking of de Montherlant, Malraux and Michaux.

A slightly crumbly first of 'Ubu Roi with a signed presentation from Jarry made just under £3000- a great book but it had been bought in California where the climate is bad for the cheap French paper. If it had been a limpid edition de tete it could have been the most expensive lot in the sale. The auction appeared to be entirely free of French dealers and collectors -probably due to condition problems. The word on the street ( Bond Street that is) was that the stuff had all been bought too recently and was in less than fab condition.

A few trends were discernible - they still love Henry James, Conrad, Hardy, Proust, Waugh, Hemingway, Joyce and Eliot also anything Irish. Greene has gone a little flat but mostly still sold, likewise E.M. Forster (several 'buy- ins'). Hart Crane still works, Ezra Pound seemed a bit lacklustre, Norman Douglas seems to be making a comeback and Arthur Koestler seems to be in abeyance along with Henry Green, Robert Graves and the Sitwells. One remarkable result was a jacketless but decent Tarr (1918) with a nice inscription from Wyndham Lewis to Violet Hueffer (ie Vilolet Hunt.) It made £3600 against a reserve of £500. Lewis although much admired has been a very hard sell of late. Talking of Violet, Ford Madox Ford still rocks with a stunning £21,600 made for 'The Good Soldier' in a colourful but rather chipped (rare) jacket.

The attendees were mostly male, besuited, not young-- however I spotted Jeannette Winterson - she underbid some Woolfs and bought some Eliot and, I think, Macneice. In general American books did better than British and signed stuff was favoured. Conclusion --plenty of money about for the right stuff and the highbrow market is healthy and probably less volatile than the popular literature market. There may even be new blood collecting the Connolly 100...

06 June 2007

Arthur Bryant. Unfinished Victory, 1940

Arthur Bryant. UNFINISHED VICTORY. Macmillan, London, 1940.

Current Selling Prices
$250-$400? /£120-£200?

Highly uncommon book especially in a jacket. It appears never to have been reprinted due to accusations of anti-semitism. The dust jacket blurbs states: '...Mr. Bryant explains that however signally we defeat Germany in the field, we shall never achieve our end, which is the peace and liberty of Europe, until we have learned to understand Germany.' He says of Hitler: 'His racial theory may be repulsive gibberish, his ambitions barbarous and ridiculous, his motives cruel and sadistic, but only a man deliberately shutting his eyes to realities can deny his astonishing genius for leadership.' It is said that Bryant attempted to buy up and destroy all copies of the book, realising how untimely were his views.

Bryant was probably the leading historian in Britain in the twentieth century in the middlebrow mass market. He specialised in 'doublet and hose' history as opposed to scolarly, academic specialised work. He was mentioned recently in Socialist Review in a list of appeasers of Hitler:-
"In the build-up to the occupation of Iraq, American and British politicians and generals were trotting out quotes from Churchill and comparing the anti-war movement to those who appeased Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930s. Few bothered to point out that it was not the left who appeased Hitler but the right--including the 'Daily Mail', virtually the entire Tory Party, hack historians like Arthur Bryant, military experts like Major General JFC Fuller (Britain's leading exponent of armoured warfare), the ex Liberal prime minister Lloyd George, the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII) and the mother of our present queen. Indeed Winston Churchill was regarded as a dangerous maverick because he recognised the danger Hitler's Germany posed to the position of Britain as a world power..."

This is the world of Ishiguro's 'The Remains of the Day' which is narrated by the butler of a Nazi-sympathising English aristocrat. I recall in the late 1980s attending a contents sale at Byant's house in Cathedral Close Salisbury. To be fair it was not crammed with Nazi tracts, I don't even recall a 'Mein Kampf', the only sign of his nationalism was a very large old Union Jack on the wall of an upstairs room. I came away with a van full of good saleable books including quite alot of books signed to him by other writers. Andrew Roberts lays into him in 'Patriotism: The Last Refuge of Sir Arthur Bryant' -

On 19th February 1979 London's literary, political and historical world came together in the Vintners Hall for a dinner to pay tribute to Sir Arthur Bryant CH, CBE, LLD, FRHist.S, FRSL on his eightieth birthday. The author of over forty books, a columnist on the Illustrated London News for more than four decades, and knighted by Churchill, Bryant sat between Harold Macmillan and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Other guests included the then prime minister, James Callaghan, a brace of field marshals, the chairman of Times Newspapers, half a dozen knights and over two dozen peers and peeresses. It was, as one of those present put it, 'Bryant's apotheosis as the Grand Old Man of British historical writing'.
Yet those distinguished guests in the Vintners Hall could not have known what the expiry of the Fifty Year Rule and the subsequent opening of Bryant' s private papers can now tell us; that far from being the patriot he so long and loudly proclaimed himself, Bryant was in fact a Nazi sympathiser and fascist fellow-traveller, who only narrowly escaped internment as a potential traitor in 1940. He was also, incidentally, a supreme toady, fraudulent scholar and humbug." (Tell us what you really feel!)

VALUE? I am always interested in books where the author destroyed copies--if he or she really went to work it can cause great rarity. There is a poorish unjacketed copy on ABE at £50 and a VG+ copy, also sans jacket, at UK's Biblion site at £170. I guess in a jacket £200 is achievable but untested. A scarce book - but Bryant is not seriously collected at this level so far--unlike another writer associated with Nazi appeasement the military historian, Major General JFC Fuller, onetime pal of Crowley and known as 'Boney.' His works can scale £300. With Bryant his most expensive item is a 12 LP set of speeches by Churchill where he writes the 'appraisal' (sometimes seen at £200 or more) and his signed limited Dropmore Press edition from 1946 of 'Historian's Holiday'. You can buy one of the signed edition of 25 of this at just over £100. [ W/Q * ]

04 June 2007

Haruki Murakami. Pinball 1973

"I used to love listening to stories about faraway places. It was almost pathological.

There was a time, a good ten years ago now, when I went around latching onto one person after another, asking them to tell me about the places where they were born and grew up. Times were short of people willing to lend a sympathetic ear, it seemed, so anyone and everyone opened up to me, obligingly and emphatically telling all. People I didn’t even know somehow got word of me and sought me out. "

Haruki Murakami. PINBALL 1973. Kodansha Publishers Ltd, Tokyo, Japan, 1985.

Current Selling Prices
$600-$1000 /£320-£520

The first English language edition of his second book and the second book in the "Trilogy of the Rat." It follows the much rarer 'Hear the Wind Sing' and precedes The Wild Sheep Chase. A smallish paperback with integral jacket, in the Kodansha English Library series, a series intended to allow Japanese readers to read Japanese books in English -- some copies can be found with the wraparound band proclaiming 'Let's Read in English' --on a belly band and on a loosely inserted bookmark. It has notes in the back which translate English colloquialisms into Japanese characters. Murakami has reportedly indicated that he does not want to publish it internationally, he considers his first two novels "weak," and was not eager to have them translated into English. 'Pinball', however, went through several editions into the nineties. The entire text can however be found on the web at Cramois Bibliotheque.

Wikiman says (look away now if you don't want to know the plot)-
The plot centers on the narrator's brief but intense obsession with pinball, his life as a freelance translator, and his later efforts to reunite with the old pinball machine that he used to play. Many familiar elements from Murakami's later novels are present. Wells, which are mentioned often in Murakami's novels and play a prominent role in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, occur several times in Pinball. There is also a brief discussion of the abuse of a cat, a plot element which recurs elsewhere in Murakami's fiction, especially Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (in which the search for a missing cat is an important plotline). Rain and the sea are also prominent motifs.

Similar to many of Murakami's other novels, the narrator is a detached, unintentionally apathetic character whose deadpan demeanor stands either in union or, more often, starkly in contrast with the attitudes of other characters. The narrative, detached from the tangible world but highly introspective, sets a surreal tone for the novel, in which the narrator seems to find little unusual about such things as living with a pair of twins whom he cannot distinguish and whose names he does not know, or performing a funeral for a telephone circuit box. While the novel hints vaguely at supernatural occurrences (which often appear in Murakami's fiction), the plot is not intended to be interpreted allegorically.

VALUE? Right now a copy from Tokyo is a BIN at ebay at $250 ('excellent condiiton except browning by ages. no tear, no bend' ) but no statement of edition. On the web if the edition is not stated assume the worst. Also when a seller doesn't give condition it is best to assume it is lousy, unless the dealer is French where no condition can mean very nice or even fine. Not supplying condition (sometimes a ploy to draw direct communication, sometimes laziness and sometimes cheer cussedness) is always vexing.

'Pinball' as a firstcan be found for between $500 and $800, there are some dealers wanting $2000+ but at that price it will not shift. If Murakami wins the Nobel prize things may change. He has won the Kafka prize often a prelude to winning the Nobel, rather like horses who win the Oaks going on to win the Derby. With Murakami you want his first book 'Hear the Wind Sing' to get into the $2000 and above class. Outside of Japan and, possibly, TEFL circles it is hard to know where these books will show up, like many great sleepers they look worthless. [ W/Q ** ]

02 June 2007

Predictions--who to collect right now...

I was asked by top bloggerati - "Mr. Millions"/ C.Max Magee - to offer my 2 cents worth on the subject of which authors are worth investing in now for the future--i.e. who will be the collected writers in 10 to 15 years time. My response is posted over at his excellent and much visited blog  The Millions.

There are many pitfalls in this type of exercise. In the past books such as 'The White Hotel' by D.M. Thomas were tipped as invesments but the book is worth less now than it was 25 years ago. It is hard now to imagine the intense buzz about that book in the early 1980s--there were rumours that when a movie came out it would go ballistic. It never happened. * A decade before there had been similar collecting fever around the John Fowles book 'The Collector' - worth a whole lot more then than it is now. likewise Ondaatje's 'English Patient' (big when the film won Oscars) has fallen steeply in value.

In the distant past great things were expected of Donn Byrne, H.M. Tomlinson, Robert Nichols, Philip Gibbs and C.E. Montague. Do not phone a bookseller with a collection of books by this lot. In the overheated children's fiction market Eoin Colfer was tipped as the next big thing but isn't really happening. Generally it is best to avoid writers trumpeted as the next big thing. Patrick O'Brian, Ellis Peters and Robert Graves are, for the moment,  in a gentle decline. Authors can, of course, suddenly come back, some authors are in one moment and out the next and a little later everyone wants them again. The market is continually in flux and timing is crucial --my advice is to get your author before he starts to rise, dump him at the height of the market and chuckle as he then plummets like Icarus.

I should have put in Cormac McCarthy who, although high, could rise a bit more or even double. Being chosen by Oprah was unexpected but bloody helpful. Changes in taste, however, are unknowable and could later consign him into the 'soft price' category. The old cliche about buy what you love still holds... The full text went like this:
'Predicting which authors will be collected in the future is a good game but slightly risky.

In the past people have tried to suggest authors worthy of financial investment and often got it sadly wrong. E.g. a few years ago Louis de Bernieres was being tipped as a highly collectable author. His prices did indeed shoot up in value so that at one point fine firsts of Captain Corelli were worth as much as $2000, but it is now readily buyable at less than half that. It could be because there has been a move against authors associated with Magic Realism, but also because the book is readily available and copies just keep turning up. The lesson is that however good a writer is - if there are too many copies of his or her works (and not enough collectors) the book will not prove a good bet. Supply and demand. That being said let me try and suggest a few writers.

Of the serious American novelists you should be OK with Don DeLillo, Brett Easton Ellis (especially the UK hardback first of American Psycho), Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, William Gibson, Toni Morrison, limited editions of Vollmann, signed stuff by Hunter Thompson. Of the mass market authors, I cannot see Stephen King falling into desuetude but you need to stick to the early stuff, thriller writers like Michael Connelly, Pelecanos, Lee Child, Laurie King, Ian Rankin are happening and may continue to resonate. The big money is now in photobooks, children's literature (Rowling, Pullman, Dahl) and artist's books (Koons, Hirst, Warhol, Emin, Prince). Photographer Robert Frank's The Americans has more than trebled in value this century now selling for $10000+ in great condition, same goes for some of the young Japanese photographers. Condition is, as always, paramount.

The Irish poets like Heaney, Muldoon, Mahon and Michael Longley are a goodish bet. I like Harold Pinter and think he will rise in value - other Nobel Prize Winners might do well like Gao Xingjian and Jose Saramago. South American writers are a little played out with the brilliant exception of Roberto Bolano (who, perversely, said that most writers who won Nobel prizes were "jerks"). Another great collectible iconoclast is the French enfant terrible Michel Houellebecq. US poet Philip Levine will hopefully be seriously collected, possibly Patti Smith and amongst the Brit poets I would back James Fenton.
A litany of Brit writers like Ian Mcewan, Hanif Kureishi, Julian Barnes and Irvine Welsh are unlikely to flatline and in the "world music" category dig Haruki Murakami, Aime Cesaire, Khaled Hosseini, and Naguib Mahfouz. Of older writers I think Flann O'Brien might well increase in value - his work is said to give clues to the real meaning of [the TV show] 'Lost'...

*A day of Biblical rain in New York... a winey dinner... On parting, Potter's face streamed with tears as his crippled, arthritic hands grasped  Lynch's lapels. If they didn't screw it up, he said, if they saw it through to the end, this would be the work they would both be remembered by. "This movie will be the Madame Bovary of our time."

D.M. Thomas in 'The Guardian'  2004 on the attempt to make the film of 'The White Hotel'. Dennis Potter had been hired as the script writer, David Lynch was to direct. Our pic shows the Penguin, so far has the book fallen I couldn't find a shot of the original jacket-- white, as I recall...

Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged.

Ayn Rand was her Ellis Island name, the Rand taken from the make of her typewriter. She prefigures our own Maggie Thatcher in her belief that there was no such thing as society. In the early 30s she wrote screenpplays in Hollywood, the kind of thing it would be pleasing to turn up unnoticed somewhere. Among her fans are Rush Limbaugh, Michael Caine, Alan Greenspan and the metal group Rush. She has shifted 30 million books...

Ayn Rand. ATLAS SHRUGGED. Random House, NY 1957.

Current Selling Prices
$1200-$2000 / £600-£1000

Ayn Rand had original wanted to call it 'On Strike' but her husband came up with 'Atlas Shrugged', a brilliant title. Not absolutely sure what it means. Has sold over 6 million copies and changed lives. Novel of ideas. Very pro capitalism. Often voted greatest novel of the 20th Century in USA, occasionally it's 'The Hobbit' and sometimes 'Ulysses.' Book opens 'Who is John Galt?" and it takes 650 pages before the reader gets the glimmer of an answer. The phrase has entered the language as an expression of puzzlement, apprehension or mock despair. Not quite as memorable as 'Call me Ishmael' but a darn good opening line. 2008 is said to the date of the release of the movie. A film 'The Passion of Ayn Rand' starring Helen Mirren gives a slightly chilling portrait of her. Peter Fonda plays her long suffering spouse.

VALUE? A very decent first wearing jacket can be had for less than $1800. Faultless copies can be found at about twice this although oddly a copy described as '...Very fine copy in a fine plus first issue jacket...' is not faultless but rubbed at corners. I guess 'very fine' is better than 'fine plus' but both are a few degrees short of very fine plus. This sort of grading is a little dubious but you tend to see it around Rand and also SF highspots. Her prices are not going down, despite the Rush / Rush endorsement, if anthing they are keeping pace with inflation.

Because of its size (1168 pages) the jacket is often creased or torn. Fat books tend to shrug off their jackets. Signed copies go for more but are not impossibly rare and many signatures are in reprints or in the 2000 signed copies of the 1967 anniversary edition. Patient buyers can find copies of the 1967 edition at ebay for sober prices. Do not exchange a new Jaguar for one. [ W/Q *** ]

01 June 2007

John Hull Grundy. Human Structure and Shape. 1982.

"...a knowledge of muscles and bones is not enough for the anatomical draughtsman; he must also have a reverence for the parts, engendered by a deeper understanding and sympathy with the nature of the Human Machine, which constitutes the most perfect and free-living structure in existence."

John Hull Grundy. HUMAN STRUCTURE AND SHAPE.Noble Books, Chibolton, Hampshire, UK. 1982.

Current Selling Prices
$400+ /£200+

Much wanted and practically unfindable anatomy book. Wanted by medics, artists, body workers, dancers and moi. The work has a flowing, connected quality that sets it apart from the Mr Muscle charts hanging on clinic walls. His artwork on bugs (insects) is more widely known than his work on human anatomy. He was a gifted teacher and lecturer, and a perfectionist in his draughtsmanship; he was known to tear up an almost perfect and completed picture because of a small inaccuracy. It would break the hearts of some of his students to watch him erase the most exacting and superbly executed drawings from the blackboard as if they were mere doodles.

John Hull Grundy studied art at King's College and the Chelsea School of Art in London before joining the staff of the Royal College of Art. The advent of World War II drew him into the world of medicine, and he developed his drawing of the body with anatomical studies made for the Royal College of Surgeons and the Orpington War Hospital. In 1942, he began as lecturer in Entomology at the Royal Army Medical College in London, a post he kept until his retirement in 1967. On his retirement, he was named a member of the British Empire (MBE). There is not a lot on Grundy on the web but I found a a good article by Thomas Myers on him in the AMTA journal. Myers writes:-
Human Structure and Shape was compiled in the early 1980s by Dr. Smith from drawings that spanned Grundy's entire career, beginning in the 1920s. Therefore, the pictures display an incredible variety of style and method. They also display a remarkable set of insights into human movement unequaled in both visual accessibility and simple common sense.
To give some flavor of his thinking...here are a few quotes from his brief introduction to the book: "The word Anatomy has a Greek derivation, ana- up, and temno-to cut, and means the study of the animal machine by taking it to pieces in order to understand and reconstruct it in the memory."
I love this part about reconstructing it in the memory. In the massage profession, the study of anatomy suffers precisely because so much of its presentation is not memorable. Part of this situation is that, in order to feel "professional," massage schools have sought out medical practitioners-doctors, chiropractors, etc.-in an attempt to enhance the credibility of their programs. While the motivation concerning lifting the profession is laudable, the end result is often that massage students are being taught aspects of anatomy more relevant to medical pathology than to the daily practice of hands-on soft-tissue work, so the anatomy is forgotten as irrelevant.
For the massage therapist, the reason for studying anatomy is very simple: When you can "reconstruct in your memory" the structures under your hands, your intuitions, perceptions and assessments about those structures will be more clear and more reliable. The study of anatomy is not anathema to intuition; to the contrary, it is one of its strongest pillars of support. But it has to be taught memorably...."Doctors and medical men want to know about function more than they do about shape. The Artist, on the other hand, is chiefly interested in the shape itself. Nature is such a good Architect that she shapes her work so that it efficiently performs its duties," he writes.
Grundy goes on to excoriate both medical and artistic anatomies for not successfully combining the two ends of the spectrum, and urges the student to follow the example of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci by personally exploring without being frightened or bored by the complexity of the body. The student should push through, drawn by his reason, to "fill in the empty spaces in the ranks of culture, as well as using his brain on the most wonderful thing ever constructed."
Though Grundy's respect for the body was boundless, he knew well, from his study of insect infestations, the problems associated with humans on the earth. He quotes Nietzche: "The Earth has a skin, and that skin hath diseases. One of these diseases, for example, is called man."

VALUE? It is very hard to be sure. I have never seen a copy for sale and it was probably published in a smallish quantity. The kind of book you might see in an Oxfam shop for £3. There are no copies anywhere so I would say £200-- in Ventura and other epicentres of relisting it would be $1200, but a relister has to find at least one listing somewhere on which to piggyback and there are none. There are alot of people looking for the book and I can find no suggestion that it will be reprinted. [ W/Q ***]