31 March 2008

Great Book Finds. Aurel Stein and the Diamond Sutra ( Dunhuang 1907) Part 1

Among the great finds one will always have to number the late great Colin Frost's discovery of the Malthus letters at a house sale on the Isle of Wight. A richly deserved find by one of the top post war dealers possessed of incredible intuitive powers and boundless enthusiasm. Also the book dealers who found the 'Blair's Grave' portfolio of 19 William Blake drawings in 2004 and became millionaires (the unfortunate art broker who broke them up appears to have merely broken even which in my book means a loss...) The prize for lateral thinking goes to the guy who approached the French printer Darantiere (who printed most of the great expat books in the 1930s) and bought up a lorry load of multiples and proof copies. The great Catholic bookseller John Thornton made a goodish buy of 16th century religious rarities and incunabula in a West Country monastery in 2006 enabling a very comfortable retirement. Sadly he closed his shop in Fulham which had been the richest source of good books for sale in Britain and a very pleasant place to hang out. Talking of religious books, a dealer I met in Italy told me a monk walked into his father's shop in the shadow of the Duomo (Milan) in 1945 with a vellum Gutenberg bible but he wanted $2000 (or lire equivalent) and his dad was broke so the monk disappeared with his booty. One that got away.

An incredible collection of modern first editions, mostly fine in jackets turned up in the 1980s in a shed in the Australian desert causing dealers to fly in from New York, Berkeley and Santa Barbara. One must not forget the Denis Wheatley library (in supernatural condition) royal collecttions like King Baudoin of Begium, country house libraries, the fabulous file libraries of publishers like Warne, Edwin Arnold and Reginald Ashley Caton and the collections of major dealers like Eric Quayle, Charles Traylen and Tony Hattersley. Then there is the art dealer who recently donated £100 millions worth of art to the nation who earlier in his career had tracked down the wonderful 90s collection of Marc Andre Raffalovich and John Gray--again in a monastery. The recent discovery of 50000 mod firsts, mostly signed, at the house of the murdered attorney Rolland Comstock has been widely reported and celebrated. However the 'Comstock Lode' is like a box of dog eared paperbacks compared to the find made by the great explorer Aurel Stein as he travelled down the Silk Road in 1907. Continued in part two...

26 March 2008

Vogue's Book of Houses, Gardens, People 1968.

Lawford, Vreeland, Horst. VOGUE'S BOOK OF HOUSES, GARDENS, PEOPLE. The Viking Press, New York, 1968.

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

1968. While a younger generation were manning the barricades or kicking out the jams, the older rich beautiful people were having their homes and gardens arranged to perfection and photographed. This was a more elegant age before the TV makeover, trash culture and the cult of mass celebrity. Horst was the appointed photographer. He was the Bruce Weber of his time known for his cleverly lit, painstaking photos of buffed guys hawking their brawn under a Meditteranean sun, beautiful girl models in swimwear and one of Vogue's best-known photographs, Mainbocher Corset (1939) which was 'homaged' by Madonna in a video in the late 90s. That's him below photographed in youth by his one time lover and mentor Hoyningen- Huene.

The Vogue Book with the red cover (there are many with similar titles but you need the 1968 book with photos by Horst) is not especially scarce but always makes good money and has a sort of iconic status among taste freaks, decorators and fashion/ design people. The blurb, very much of its time, says it all:
"...the houses and rooms, furniture and collections, gardens and daily lives of some of the most interesting people in America and Europe are here presented in over two hundred beautiful colour photographs by Horst...from Miss Doris Duke's extraordinary Muslim-inspired house near Honolulu, and State Senator and Mrs. Taylor Pryor's Oceanarium at Sea Life Park, also in Hawaii, we are transported to the revived Georgian splendours of Mr. and Mrs. Desmond Guinness's. Irish castle, and to Mr. Henry Francis du Pont's world-famous estate at Winterthur, Delaware; from the work-rooms and living-rooms of the brilliant designer Emilio Pucci in Florence, to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's magnificently appointed house in the Bois de Boulogne, and to Baron and Baroness Philippe de Rothschild's unique Chateau de Mouton..there are chapters about the young: Mr. and Mrs. Carter Burden, Jr., in their New York apartment, Mr. And Mrs. Cy Twombly in their Roman palazzo, Lord and Lady Eliot at their ancient family seat in Cornwall...this book provides an opportunity to see how a number of well-known and less well-known people live during their private hours, among the possessions they love and in the surroundings they have planned or improved or cultivated.. for anyone curious about the personalities and habits of some of the most attractive and creative people of our time."

Bruce Weber in, in a 1992 television documentary on the elderly Horst, gushed '...the elegance of his photographs ... took you to another place, very beautifully ... the untouchable quallity of the people is really interesting as it gives you something of a distance ... it's like seeing somebody from another world ... and you wonder who that person is and you really want to know that person and really want to fall inlove with that person'. An archive of Horst's photos built up by a German businessman sold last year at auction for several million dollars. Although ignored by Martin Parr and the more serious photo people his name (and also his associates George Platt Lyne and Hoyningen-Huene) are always worth looking out for on books.

VALUE? No copies available for less than $350, a fine copy is listed at $1000, hard to find a respectable copy at less than $450. Its outlook is probably OK as it is becoming harder to find and as time goes by it may take on a period charm. Photo is still very bankable - although this isn't Horst at his best or most typical. There are some photos from it on Flickr including a shot of the Duke Windsoer in a suit so boldly checked that you'd have to be a royal in exile or a welching bookie to get away with it. Avoid ex library copies (unless ex library lite) - a copy sits on a web mall at an outrageous $450 described thus - 'Brodart-covered dust jacket of ex-library reference book (never circulated) with usual marks and stamps. Pages 93-108 are bound in duplicate, Pages 81-92 are missing. Interior pages are clean, tight, and unmarked, except that book opens at page 80. All proceeds go to our public library.' Ex Lib and defective -the kind of copy that should be tossed in the recycling box or priced at $10 for the impecunious Vogue / I.D. collector, if such exists.

22 March 2008

Sheila Cousins. To Beg I Am Ashamed, 1938.

Sheila Cousins. ( Ronald Matthews.) TO BEG I AM ASHAMED. Routledge, London, 1938.

Current Selling Prices
$500-$4000 /£250-£2000


I catalogued a copy recently thus: 8vo. pp 283. Billed as the 'autobiography of a London prostitute.' Publication was stopped in England due to the sexual subject matter (most copies were seized and only a few are known to have survived). Writing of the Obelisk Press Paris edition Neil Pearson in his authoritatative bibliography dismisses the idea that Greene (a close friend of Ronald Matthews) co-wrote this. It is likely that he may have contributed a few passages, and elsewhere (Mockler) it is suggested that he may have looked it over and suggested improvements. Certainly he hung out in seedy parts of London with Matthews and went on pub crawls with him. Matthew chronicles his time with GG in his 1957 oeuvre 'Mon Ami Graham Greene.' Grey cloth very slight soiled, neat name on front endpaper, some sensationalist newscuttings pasted neatly to endpapers about the 1953 reprint- 'ITS STILL A BAD BOOK' - Daily Mirror and the article by Keith Waterhose -'what a shame that her book, crawling back out of the sewers today has not been forgotten.' £750

Neil Pearson's definitive statement " 'To Beg I am Ashamed' was not written by Graham Greene....as far as I am aware that sentence has never appeared in the catalogues of auction houses or book dealers..." has slightly put the kibosh on selling this book. Thanks Neil. However our price compares favourably with an unjacketed copy on ABE at £4995 (you give the guy 5 grand he gives you a fiver change-- I can't see it happening) and another at a 'dream on' price of £7950 in a decent jacket, described thus:
'...This book does not exist - officially! Graham Greene co-authored it with Ronald Matthews. It was to quote Ahearn "Effectively suppressed in England". Greene admitted "knowing the ghost responsible", the book was submitted by Greene's agents at the time (Pearn, Pollinger & Highman). Apart from the Greene flashes which occur throughout - a key clue to the true identity lies in two of "Cousin's" characters being named Graham and Matthew! There was quite a rage about Greene's head at the time - he wisely took himself away from England and spent it in Mexico, thus avoiding a libel action (Shirley Temple) and the storm raging about this book...'
Interestingly the dealer (in South Africa, home of many overpriced mod firsts) generously adds 'Courier Service only for this item. Post will need supplement.' For a book that is said to be very scarce there are too many about, there are 6 on the web right now where it is variously described as 'genuinely rare' or as an 'excessively scarce book.' Our own 'only a few were known to survive' is looking somewhat questionable and may need toning down if any more come to roost.

VALUE? In a jacket a four figure sum is still possible for the Routledge edition. The US first (Vanguard 1938) goes for about £300 in a jacket and the first Obelisk editon (Paris 1938) in yellow 'heavy paper wrappers with fold-over flaps' about £200 for a sharp example. The above press cuttings refer to the Richards Press, London 1953 re-issue which is worth about 40 quid. Last word with Neil Pearson who states '...Greene helped his friend by chipping in with a telling descriptive phrase here and there--phrases he would later quote approvingly when he contrived to review the book...' On the subject of reviews it is odd to see Keith Waterhouse (author of the grubby 'Jubb') taking the moral high ground in these clippings. I guess this sort of prurient outrage played well in the tabloids in the 1950s, just as it does now.

OUTLOOK. Somewaht choppy, probably less than brilliant, although it will always feature as Greene apocrypha and any true GG completist will have to have it and the obsessive completist will need all three editions and will also have to hunt down the elusive first Indian edition published in 1940 by Kitabistan in Allahabad.

15 March 2008

Henry Crowder / Nancy Cunard. Henry Music, Paris, 1930 + Negro Anthology 1934.

Henry Crowder. HENRY-MUSIC. Hours Press, Paris 1930.

Current Selling Prices
$7500+ /£3600+

NEGRO. ANTHOLOGY ( Made By Nancy Cunard.) Nancy Cunard at Wishart and Company, London, 1934.

Current Selling Prices
$5500-$8000 /£2800-£4000

'Henry-Music' is a marvelous book to find. In great condition it is worth £5000 and more, but as there were only 150 copies printed it is necessarily rare. When I started in this game in the late 1970s, amongst raffish young dealers it was one of a mantra of rare and treasured books one hoped to find, but seldom did - Globe by the Way Book, Quinzaine for This Yule, Beeton's Christmas Annual, Hobbit, Astra Castra, Questions at the Well, Bear Fell Free, Gent from Bear Creek and so on. The legend of Nancy Cunard is still potent and there are several studies of her in preparation and several biographies, one from 2007. She is now seen as an important figure for her brave and tireless activism in racial politics and civil rights -in print ('Negro Anthology' + the 1931 pamphlet Black Man and White Ladyship, an attack on racist attitudes) and in her political work-- her account of the Scottsboro Boys case was important in bringing world attention to a huge injustice. One poem that she contributed to this book of her lover Henry Crowder's music was recently compared to the work of ICE-T by an earnest scholar in the USA. It is 'Equatorial Way'
'Goin to drink to the last damnation
Of the son o' bitch U.S.A.
Going to send for a conflagration
From down equatorial way...
Last advice to the crackers:
Bake your own white meat -
Last advice to the lynchers:
Hang your brother by the feet.'
Certainly it has the energy and rhythm and anger of modern rap music. Other contributors to this beautiful book with its surrealist Man Ray photomontage covers were Richard Aldington, Harold Acton, Samuel Beckett and Walter Lowenfels. Henry Crowder (1890-1955) is shown top left. He was born Gainesville, Georgia and established himself as a pianist and orchestra leader in Washington, D.C in the 1910s, working alongside Russell Wooding and Duke Ellington. Drafted in 1917 while leading an orchestra at Harvey's Restaurant he was briefly chauffeur to General March. He moved to Chicago in the early 1920s, making piano rolls in 1926, later touring with Jelly Roll Morton. He recorded with violinist Eddie South's Alabamians 1927-1928. They travelled to Europe where, in Venice, Crowder and Nancy (heiress to a shipping fortune) met. They embarked on a turbulent seven year relationship, which culminated in the production of Cunard's monumental 1934 Negro: An Anthology (dedicated to Crowder.) All the songs in Henry Music which have a musical score by HC were supposed to have been recorded but only one disc, with Cunard's "Memory Blues" aka "Boeuf sur le toit", is thought to have been released. It is included on a CD which comes with a recent book by Anthony Barnett - 'Listening for Henry Crowder: A Monograph on His Almost Lost Music With the Poems and Music of Henry-Music (ISBN 0907954367 from Allardyce Barnett Publishers. )

Nancy was, like her contemporary Harry Crosby, 'electric with rebellion' and ran with a fast crowd as an expatriate woman in Paris - they dubbed themselves the 'Corrupt Coterie'. Wyndham Lewis, Aldous Huxley, Tristan Tzara, Ezra Pound and Louis Aragon were among her lovers. Sylvia Pankhurst, Janet Flanner, Solita Solano, Kay Boyle, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Norman Douglas were life-long friends. All the books from her 'Hours Press' are collectable with 'Henry Music' probably being the most valuable, although limited editions of Pound's Draft of XXX Cantos and Beckett's Whoroscope are up there in value. There were 100 numbered and signed copies of 'Henry-Music' + 50 unnumbered and signed for private dedications; these latter copies are particularly treasured.

VALUE? 'Henry-Music' is most collected as a Beckett item and represents a heavy investment for any Beckett obsessed completist. Ropey copies have passed through auction at around $1500, but a reasonable copy will always be in advance of $5000 unless you find it overlooked with a pile of 1930s music or lotted with a bunch of outdated art books; the Beckett name on the cover means that it will be spotted by all but the dimmest dealers. You can buy a books published by the Hours Press for as low as £30 --say Aldington's 'Last Straws' or even Roy Campbell's poems. For $250 at the San Francisco book Fair I bought a decent Hours Press Brian Howard ('God save the King') with its John Banting covers and I'm hoping to keep it for a while. There are photos of Henry and Nancy working at the printing press together and it is pleasing to think they may have had a hand in the making of Brian Howard's only book.

OUTLOOK? Nancy Cunard, the Hours Press and the whole 'Published in Paris' schtick were in abeyance a few years back but there are encouraging signs of a revival. Neil Pearson's excellent book on the Obelisk Press, Paris 'A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press' was recently well received and got a deal of publicity. There is a lot of interest in Nancy, often from academics in women's studies; her civil rights work is more relevant than ever and she is an enduring fashion icon. Did anyone ever wear more bangles? Some can be seen in Man Ray's photomontage above. Her 'Negro Anthology' (Wishart, London 1934) seems to be holding its own at about $5000 and more for sharp copies - it has made as much as £5000 (2003) in auction; condition is important, as a large book it can turn up slightly shabby. This is an easier book to find that Henry-Music as there were a 1000 copies. It is said there were copies unsold in the 1960s and it could be bought then as a remainder; one school of thought attributes its rarity to copies being destroyed in the Blitz. Trouble with that theory is the book is not rare, just expensive.

The value comes from the wonderful panoply of contributors - Samuel Beckett (translated 19 of the articles), Ezra Pound, Dreiser, Claude McKay, Zora Neal Hurston, Jomo Kenyatta, Harold Acton, George Padmore, William Carlos Williams, Norman Douglas, Louis Zukofsy, Edgell Rickword, William Plomer, the Paris Surrealist Group, George Antheil, Henry Crowder, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes and Alfred Kreymborg. There are 6 copies for sale at ABE right now, a copy sold last week at Bloomsbury / Ebay for £2400 + the juice (like other copies I have seen it was slightly affected by damp.) Just one 'beautiful' copy of 'Henry-Music' sits on the web at $15000 with a very high end dealer, a rather modest price for them. It could sell over the weekend or sit there till Bush ignominiously leaves office. The last copy in auction was the Constance Bullock-Davies copy in 2001 which made £1800, an out-of-series copy in the original illustrated boards, condition not noted. As far back as 1977 a copy (warmly inscribed by Crowder to Augustus John) made $1900.

08 March 2008

Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October, 1984.

Tom Clancy. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis: [1984]

Current Selling Prices
$400-$1000 /£200-£500

Tom Clancy gave birth to the techno - thriller with this book - his first novel. It is said to have been written with the assistance of current copies of 'Jane's Fighting Ships.' His hero Jack Ryan assists in the defection of a respected Soviet naval captain, along with the most advanced ballistic missile submarine of the Soviet fleet. The movie (1990) stars Alec Baldwin as Ryan and Sean Connery as Captain Ramius. After the success of the movie people started to look out for this book and a whole mystique grew up about how to identify a true first edition. Basically you need 6 blurbs on the back in this order from top to bottom - Jack Higgins, Joseph Wambaugh, Clive Cussler, Edward L. Beach, John Moore, and Stansfield Turner. There should be no statement of edition with no series of numbers, no price on d/j, Clive Cussler review on rear jacket cover must be third one down, ISBN on lower back panel & on lower back of jacket panel.

The 'no price' thing is a catch as no price usually indicates a reprint or, worse, a dreaded BOMC. Watch out for remainder marks along the bottom. There is even someone claiming the book must weigh 1 pound 13 ounces*; one wily vendor claims that bright fresh copies are hard to find because 'most of the small run of 1st printing copies were sold to submariners and have damp stains.' Doubtless it is hard to keep books and their jackets from harm in cramped quarters several fathoms down. It was the first work of fiction published by Naval Institute Press and their most successful book ever; reportedly it was published in an initial print run of some 5000 copies.

Christopher Hichens, the literary man's shock jock, reviewed his 1996 book 'Executive Orders' (874 pages) thus:-
'...the dedication page of this Behemoth carries a lapidary, capitalized inscription, 'To Ronald Wilson Reagan, Fortieth President of the United States: The Man Who Won The War.' And this is only fair. In 1984, the Naval Institute Press paid Tom Clancy an advance of $5,000 for The Hunt for Red October. It was the first fiction that the Naval Institute had knowingly or admittedly published. There matters might have rested, except that someone handed a copy to the Fortieth President, who (then at the zenith of his great parabola) gave it an unoriginal but unequivocal blurb. 'The perfect yarn,' he said, and the Baltimore insurance agent was on his way to blockbuster authorship. Putnam this past August issued a first printing of 2,211,101 copies of his newest novel, Executive Orders, and, on the Internet site devoted to Clancy, mayhem broke out as enthusiasts posted news of pre-publication copies available at Wal-Mart. Clancy's nine thrillers, as well as exemplifying an almost Reaganesque dream of American success, have catapulted him into that section of the cultural supermarket which is always designated by the hieroglyph #1.
So fervent and steady is Clancy's readerbase that he has also branded several lines of books of 'techo tosh' with his name that are written by other authors, following premises or storylines generally in keeping with Clancy's works:
Tom Clancy's Op-Center
Tom Clancy's Power Plays
Tom Clancy's Net Force
Tom Clancy's Net Force Explorers
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell.

These are of negigible value as is almost everything else by Clancy, except the limited 'The Sum of All Fears' (1991, 600 signed copies) which can be had for a $100 bill. There are shelves of signed Clancy's at completely unattainable prices many with a much admired dealer named "FlatSigned" and the cutely named 'Books Tell You Why".

VALUE? There are an awful lot for sale and the film is the kind of thing you see on sale for $1 as a Video in thrift shops now. The high tech gadgets now look laughably obsolete with computers running Wordstar with files on separate floppies and programs whirring away on enormous Cray-2 "supercomputers". The wave has broken on the book, a decentish proper first failed to get a bid at $299.99 at ebay last week - recent terrestrial auction records show a marked lack of interest in the book with copies going through at between $300 and $700.

Curiously the highest prices are reserved for proof copies. These do not normally work anymore but in Clancy's case there may be punters for them, if you collect the book a fine/fine signed first is fairly easily acquired at the $1000 level and less, so a proof is the next step. One guy wants $4000 for unsigned 'revised and uncorrected proofs, another $3800 for a "SIGNED, unrevised and unpublished proof. Very good, in the original proof dust jacket with banner reading "Coming this fall! A thrilling novel of undersea suspense from America's leading naval publisher." Outlook? It will always be a major classic of adventure and may be looked on in a hundred years time as we look on '20,00 Leagues Under the Sea' - in the meantime, although it hasn't sunk it is not rising at all.

* Some sellers insist 2 pounds is the right weight.

04 March 2008

Dr. Seuss. The Cat in the Hat, 1957.

Dr. Seuss. [Theodor Seuss Geisel.] THE CAT IN THE HAT New York, Random House, New York, 1957.

Current Selling Prices
$2500-$10000 /£1250-£5000

Dr Seuss's breakthrough book. The story behind it is well known but bears retelling. In May 1954, Life magazine published a report by John Hersey on illiteracy among school children, which concluded that children were not learning to read because the books that were being offered them were boring. This was known as the'Johnny Can't Read' controversy. Hersey wrote:-
'...In the classroom boys and girls are confronted with books that have insipid illustrations depicting the slicked-up lives of other children. [Existing primers] feature abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls....In bookstores, anyone can buy brighter, livelier books featuring strange and wonderful animals and children who behave naturally, i.e., sometimes misbehave. Given incentive from school boards, publishers could do as well with primers.'
Reacting to this Dr. Seuss's publisher got up a list of 400 mostly one syllable words that he felt were essential and asked him to cut the list to 250 words, and write a book using only those words. Six months later Geisel was still staring at the word list, trying to find some words that rhymed...when he was almost ready to throw in the towel, there 'emerged from his jumble of sketches a raffish cat wearing a battered stovepipe hat.' Geisel checked his list—both hat and cat were on it. Nine months later, using 220 of the words given to him, he finished 'The Cat in the Hat'. The book was a huge success. Its popularity led to the founding of the Beginner Book division of Random House in 1957 with Geisel as president. Dr Seuss was not exactly unknown already and had produced many popular children's books, he had also had a success as a graphic artist and produced the artwork for the famous 1930s 'Flit' adverts. (see below)

He had started out as an academic and ended up at Lincoln College, Oxford in the late 1920s trying to get his Ph.D in English Literature. Legend has it that in classes there he used to doodle in the margins of his notes and a young girl, noticing these drawings, said he would do better as an artist than a dusty old academic. He married her and they ended up in a fine mansion at La Jolla, California where he was a neighbour of Raymond Chandler (and Ronald Reagan.) The name Dr. Seuss was chosen ironically because of his father's hopes that he would one day be a Doctor Of Philosophy. In the family it was pronounced as in 'voice' but it is popularly spoken to rhyme with 'juice.'

Ascertaining a true first. It should have the numbers 200/200 (a price) on the front flap of the d/w and with no mention of the "Beginner Books" series on the rear panel. Watch out for facsimile jackets - unscrupulous sellers have been known to substitute the 1985 facsimile dust jacket on the first edition book.  The only difference between the 1985 facsimile DJ and the first edition DJ is the phrase "Printed in U.S.A." on the bottom back flap of the facsimile. Also the jacket's freshness and newness should be a giveaway unless some wily person has aged or distressed it--all the tricks in the book, as it were. I am indebted to the invaluable Children's Picture Book Collecting site for this tip and much other information. The book itself should be in one signature (aka gathering) 2nd issue and later printings have three signatures. Some sellers mention that true firsts have unglazed (not laminated) colour pictorial boards.

VALUE? The highest auction record was achieved in the Falktoft sale in 2001, a pleasing $9000 + the juice, this was for a copy described as having 'a few creases & tiny tears to edges.' It can be found on the web in some profusion with copies from $1000 to as high as $16000 for a very sharp example. Many sellers proclaim its rarity. Unremarkable copies sans d/w sell for only a few hundred dollars or less--the jacket is de rigueur. There are about 25 firsts for sale including the occasional signed presentation copy -almost all signatures are in the edition known as the 'third variant' -i.e with the price 195/195 on the front flap. Dealers are asking between $4000 and $5500 for these.

Auction records show it to be in a gentle and possibly temporary decline, but another high profile result might perk it up. There may be an element of overkill in the current market but it will remain as a landmark book and is still read with delight by today's children. Last word to the bewhiskered wise man of Hampstead - novelist/ ex-dealer and author of 'Children's Modern First Editions" Joseph Connolly, he wrote -'This extraordinary writer has done more to foster literacy in children than most because he manages to combine lunacy with sanity, fun with learning, and quality with exuberant readability."

01 March 2008

John L. Parker. Once a Runner, 1978.

"Cassidy sought no euphoric interludes. They came, when they did, quite naturally and he was content to enjoy them privately. He ran not for crypto-religious reasons, but to win races, to cover ground fast. Not only to be better than his fellows, but better than himself. To be faster by a tenth of a second, by an inch, by two feet or two yards than he had been the week or year before. He sought to conquer the physical limitations placed upon him by a three-dimensional world..."

John L. Parker. ONCE A RUNNER. Cedarwinds Publishing, Tallahassee, Fla. (1978?) (ISBN: 0915297019)

Current Selling Prices
$80-$200 /£40-£100

Cult running classic. Number one In Bookfinder's 2007 list of the top ten most searched for books -- above the elusive Football Scouting Methods by the immortal Bill Belichick, Madonna's silver SEX and ahead of Promise Me Tomorrow, one of the countless romance novels of Nora Roberts, so shameful that she refuses to have it reprinted. They don't refuse to reprint Parker's running novel 'Once a Runner' but the 7 or 8 printings since it first appeared have not been enough for consumer demand. About 10 copies (it's a paperback) turn up every week on Ebay, only shagged out examples making less than $100, never less than $80 and decent ones can make over $150. The edition is almost immaterial. I suspect that people buy it there, read it, and then put it up again. I calculate that Ebay make about $3000 a year in fees from this one paperback alone. What's it all about? There are many, mostly positive reviews at Amazon, including these:-
'...the best running book I have ever read....The basic plot is simple and unadorned: Quentin Cassidy, a senior at Southeastern University, embarks on a quest to become the best four-lap runner he can be. Everything else in his life be damned, as it must be, for distance running is the ultimate jealous mistress... really goes into the life and mind of a runner...fantastic, unique novel... It describes the dedication, hard work, and goofiness that is required to be successful... It is a fantastic book and I would highly recommend it for beginners, enthusiasts, or someone who just needs a little motivation.'
Apart from the hero Cassidy characters include John Walton – the world record holder for the mile, and the first person to run a mile in under 3 minutes and 50 seconds. His character is based on that of the famous miler John Walker. Cassidy's race against him is the novel's climactic moment...Not everybody loves it, a dissenting voice says -'...this book is out of print for a reason, it didn't sell well because it's not a very good book. I've read countless books on running over the years and I'm an avid runner and racer but this book is silly and unbelievable in many parts, shallow and inconsistent in others... Don't let the high asking price fool you into believing it's worth your time or money... it's not. Read the Lore of Running, Ultramarathon Man (below), The Cutting Edge Runner, just about anything by George Sheehan (and his writing is not perfect either but better than this drivel), A Shining Season, A Cold Clear Day... you get my point.' Interesting to know there are other contenders, obviously running is a hot subject with an audience large enough to keep underpinning a reasonably findable paperback at a $100 a go.

VALUE? $100 max. On ABE four copies reside for the rich or unresourceful shopper at between $220 and $450 with, as often happens, the more expensive copies being the poorest -- for $400 you can get an ex library copy with the 'usual library markings'. An ex library paperback has to be one of the saddest sights. Outlook? Might be running out of steam... fine copies from the 1980s and copies signed by Parker will probably hold their value but a larger reprint would probably finish the rest off. The ebay crowd will tire of forking out a C note every time someone puts one up. Meanwhile a copy (with no photo) made $112 while I was typing this--it was described thus: 'This is a true classic!! It is vintage and is softcover and has wear and tear but no markings on pages. The front cover is wearing and the front cover is faded a little in places!!'