RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
16 August 2009
Checking prices of French books on the net
In general it is best to stick to prices charged by French dealers, outside of France dealers tend to overrate these books and fail to understand condition standards and all the different states of the limited editions. Some have limitations as low as 2 or 3 copies, on vellum thick as Mother's Pride. Most book sites will not recognise signed books in French even if you tick the signed box so use words such as 'envoi' or 'envoi de l'auteur' in the keywords section.
Do not start booking holidays or ordering cars if you find a signed French book-- they are thick on the ground and values can be surprisingly low even with relatively major names. World class names such as Proust, Baudelaire, Rimbaud (mega), Lautreamont are cause for celebration if you come across books signed by them but you can occasionally find books signed by, say, Camus or Huysmans or Cocteau for low three figure sums. The ubiquity of signed literary books was once explained to me as being part of their salon system where writer and their readers enjoyed lively liaisons and literary intercourse...
The other thing to look for with French books, apart from colourful erotica and tomes with illustrations by modern masters such as Picasso, Rouault, Foujita, Man Ray or Braque, is exquisite bindings. Leather bindings that we might regard as very fine and elaborate are, by comparison with French efforts, ordinaire and at best worthy or merely competent. Left is a superb Bonet binding for Cirque an unpublished 1939 work by André Suares with illustrations by Ambroise Vollard. Livres d'Artistes in their elaborate boxes, chemises and slip-cases are another story to be dealt with at another time... The trouble with all this is that these books scream high values--they are very unlikely to show up undervalued. But not impossible. Never forget the wise and stirring words of Cadillac Jack --'anything can be anywhere.' Courage Fuyons!