RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

31 January 2010

Quest for J.D. Salinger


A great writer is gone. At 91 he'd had a good innings, possibly achieving longevity through a macrobiotic diet. The obituaries in the broadsheets and online dailies have made fascinating reading. Obituarists can't be seen to say the same thing as the next guy so have to dig for ever more recondite info to flesh out their subjects. Did you know that Salinger was a bit of a practical joker? He would wet his fingers with water and then pretend to sneeze behind someone while flicking the water at the back of their neck. A good wheeze, but timing is everything. On the subject of spit he used to refer to his first wife Sylvia, a German woman said to have been a Nazi, as 'Saliva.' In some versions she is French.

There is much speculation as to writings he may have left behind, some suggest a slew of stories about the Glass family or a major series to rival Balzac's 'La Comedie Humaine.' Over at The Daily Beast they have something of a scoop from their pal Jay McInerney who said he heard (from “an ex-girlfriend”) that Salinger was mostly writing about health and nutrition. The shortest obituary was seen on Twitter, probably from a Cockney tweeter -'Rye Man is Brown Bread.'

When a major writer leaves the planet there is the usual rush on Ebay to capitalise. Within hours of his death being announced a signed typed letter had gone up as a Buy it Now at $2000. It was from Salinger to one "Madeline" in New York asking her to 'please stop sending requests for an interview.' Not a bad price and it sold within minutes to the fastest finger. Meanwhile someone wants a risible $36000 for an unprovenanced and distinctly dodgy plain signature on an envelope. It does not pass the 'blink' test. Another less greedy entrepreneur wants $2500 for a USPS delivery confirmation signature from 1997. A hurried and untypical signature but probably genuine.

This must be a wily autograph dealer trick - you send your famous person (say Pynchon, Dylan, Marquez) a parcel containing something of obvious value and request signature confirmation and make sure you get the original returned to you. With Salinger there are about a dozen signed typed letters for sale on various online malls from $5000 to $15000 and I suspect that many more will now come out ( he appears to have been a fairly voluminous correspondent). Holders of autograph material may have been afraid to sell because of JD's litigiousness, presumably this threat is gone or has diminished.

The Onion, a sort of US 'Private Eye', had a good report on the great man's demise:

Bunch Of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger

CORNISH, NH—In this big dramatic production that didn't do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. "He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers," said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don't have to look at them for four years. "There will never be another voice like his." Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it's just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.
[to be continued with sober pondering of values, reflections on authenticity, and the mysterious genesis of Holden Caulfield's moniker... ]

28 January 2010

Manet and the Post-Impressionists (2)

Fry had doubtless predicted an outcry when the exhibition opened and he was right. The comments from the old guard of British art can be imagined. One visitor—rumoured to be the reactionary Orientalist, Wilfred Scawen Blunt –went as far as warning one young man not to enter the gallery for fear of being horribly corrupted by what lay within. The popular press almost to a man supported this view. To many the exhibition was dangerous. The artists couldn’t draw or paint; the colours were obscene and decidedly not to the taste of the great British art lover.



But takings were excellent. Some pictures were even sold, and Fry, though stung somewhat by the comments left by visitors and by the press reaction, was sufficiently encouraged by the response of the cognoscenti, to organise a second exhibition in 1912, which he imaginatively entitled ‘The Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition’.

A century on, Post Impressionism has become part of the history of art and it is the Edwardian Academicians that tend to be dismissed . Consequently, the catalogue of this first brave statement in defence of modern art is eagerly sought after. But where can one find one ? My own ‘ Under Revision ‘ copy, which had once belonged to Antonia Forest’s father and was rescued from a job lot, is similar to the copy the Tate was boasting about online. But try as I might I couldn’t find another for sale anywhere. I contacted one dealer specialising in catalogues, who thought it was ‘ the rarest of the rare’, but had never handled one . Sims Reed didn’t have one. There was no copy on ABE. Crispin Jackson, then Head of Books, couldn’t say if a copy had ever been sold at Christie’s, but phoned back much later to say that if it ever turned up it would probably fetch £250. Bloomsbury couldn’t help either. Eventually, a copy did end up on ABE about seven months ago, in worse condition ( ‘ fair ‘ and spine lacking ) than my own, priced at £1,100, but this too has now disappeared .

But we do know just what someone is willing to shell out for this most modest looking catalogue without illustrations of an exhibition that changed the face of art for ever. [R.M.Healey]

Thanks Robin. I have been pondering values of this catalogue and thinking of other valuable 20th century exhibition catalogues. There are rare Dadaist and Surrealist catalogues, some guy, possibly deluded, at ABE wants £2K+ for Gerhard Richter Venice Biennale catalogues, last week a 1920s Picabia catalogue made 10000 euros (it had a drawing by him, but so did all 200 issued) and then there is that common rare catalogue 'This is Tomorrow.' A copy surfaced at £30 on the net a month back and sold in its first hour of life. Decent copies still find end-users at £1000.

I did actually find an auction record, albeit a buy-in, for the Fry/ Manet catalaogue. A copy with covers detached failed to make its £700 reserve in Christie's 2006 dispersal of Library of Lady Ottoline Morrell. The cataloguer made a good fist of it, even coming up with some gossip - often needed to clinch a big sale of a Bloomsbury item:
'Ottoline Morrell had been closely involved in its organization, inspecting the Cezannes and Van Goghs in Paris with Fry and Desmond MacCarthy. Roger Fry, who had met the Morrells in 1909, wrote to Lowes Dickinson on October 15, 1910: 'Lady Ottoline was with us in Paris. She is quite splendid ... The show will be a great affair. I am preparing for a huge campaign of outraged British Philistinism.' In a letter to her, Fry wrote, 'I can't tell you how it helped me to have you at such a difficult time, to help and advise. I don't think I could have done it without you.' Yet they were soon to quarrel - each accusing the other of gossiping - and the friendship was never again so strong and purposeful.'
Gossip about gossip, in fact. Christies barked: 'A FINE ASSOCIATION COPY OF THE CATALOGUE TO ONE OF THE MOST MOMENTOUS EXHIBITIONS HELD IN BRITAIN IN THE 20TH-CENTURY.' The trouble was that Lady O had not written her name in the thing and Christies did not make up a posthumous ex libris so the association would be pretty much lost once the book left the room, also the sale was mainly literature, and art stuff may have gone over the assembled punter's heads.

Among the Van Gogh's in the catalogue were the following:
Garden of Daubigny in Auvers-sur-Oise
Orchard in Provence
Paysage
View of Arles
Iris
Le Postier
Jeune fille au bleuet
Pont d'Asnieres
Les Usines
Les bles d'or.
Cornfield with blackbirds
Les soleils
Dr Gachet
Pieta (after Delacroix)
Resurrection of Lazarus
La Berceuse
Le gardeur d'oies
Arles
Cypres
Evening landscape
Tournesols
Current value of this lot must be way over the billion pound mark. As I recall Lord Andrew Webber paid £100 million just for the Dr Gachet. Vincent, once an art dealer himself, could have used the money when he was around... 'Cornfield with Blackbirds' is shown above--it is not hard to see how this might have flummoxed an Edwardian stuffed shirt...

Above left is the jacket of 'Roger Fry, A Biography' by Virginia Woolf (Hogarth Press, 1940). 2,530 copies printed and not at all scarce although sharp copies wearing clean jackets can make £500 on a good day. The portrait is by Vanessa Bell. Virginia said of her book - “I can’t help thinking...I’ve caught a good deal of that iridescent man in my oh so laborious butterfly net.”

24 January 2010

Manet and the Post-Impressionists (1)


Manet and the Post-Impressionists (London, Ballantyne & Company Ltd, 1910)

Current Selling Prices
$1500+ /£900+




MODERN ART / EXHIBITION CATALOGUE
If there is a Holy Grail among exhibition catalogues this is it. ‘Manet and the Post Impressionists’ is arguably the most significant and the most controversial exhibition of paintings ever to be held in the UK. It was an exhibition which put modern art on the map. Indeed, it actually defined what modern art was, and those who saw it went away either enraged or inspired.

When the 46 year old artist, curator, writer on art, but not yet Bloomsburyite, Roger Fry began to assemble paintings by the greatest names in the modern French school, the work of Cezanne, Seurat, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso and the rest had never been exhibited in the UK. Some of their names were known to art lovers, but a trip to the continent was necessary to view paintings by them. Fry meant to change all that with a show that would rock the staid world of salon art and Royal Academy annual exhibitions. With his many contacts in the art world he asked leading collectors in Europe and beyond to lend him their paintings. Many works were for sale. Dealers in modern art were more than eager to break into the British market.

For want of a name to describe such a disparate group Fry coined the term Post-Impressionism, and so as not to scare away potential visitors he attached to this new word the name of the respected Manet. Fry needn’t have worried. Once the doors of the trendy Grafton Galleries opened on 8 November 1910 word got around quickly and in days, thanks partly to some negative press publicity, everyone was soon talking about the show.

Fry had prepared the ground. He had recruited two committees of the great and good in the Arts and had persuaded the respected critic Desmond McCarthy to come on board as Secretary for a fee of £400 and to contribute a short preface to the catalogue, based on his notes. As for this catalogue itself—it was the dullest thing imaginable-- a 40 page octavo job priced at one shilling and made of thick paper with muddy brown paper covers and, bizarrely, no illustrations whatsoever.[R.M. Healey]

Thanks Robin, wise words indeed and to be continued.... I know that H.M. Bateman did a cartoon of visitors to the exhibition (so far unfindable) probably showing shocked faces and people keeling over in front of the strange art that had invaded London. If anyone has an example of it please dispatch it to us! It was reviewed by Rupert Brooke, Charles Ricketts, Arnold Bennett (as Jacob Tonson) Holbrook Jackson (in an article called 'Pop Goes the Past') and the fascist Ludovici. There is an entire book devoted to the critical reception the Post Impressionists received in Britain (by J.B. Bullen). Values will be discussed in the next part--the only British catalogue of comparable value that I can think of is that of the 1929 Bruno Hat exhibition ( a surrealist hoax/ lampoon) at Bryan Guinness's house at 10 Buckingham Street, London SW1. The introduction to the catalogue ('Approach to Hat') is by Evelyn Waugh under the pseudonym A.R. de T. Also on the subject of Fry one must not forget 'The Roger Fry Memorial Exhibition' catalogue by Virginia Woolf (1935). Only 125 copies were produced and it can go for than Bruno and the above combined. Oddly enough I need a copy at the moment so ship and bill, please.

21 January 2010

Things in books---books in things

Things in Railway Timetables

Blake etchings. Eight relief hand-coloured etchings discovered by a book collector between the pages of an international rail timetable bought in the late seventies from a ‘North London book dealer’, and recently acquired by the Tate for £441,000. Apparently, the reason suggested as to why the dealer hadn’t bothered to check through the huge timetable before putting it out for sale was because it was so ‘ boring'. Questions must be asked. Why was an out-of-date timetable so much less boring to the new purchaser ? Was he enchanted by the notion of using the book to plan an imaginary journey through mittelEurope, or had he, on a cursory inspection of its pages, spied some interesting looking prints within? We must, I suppose, take the anonymous vendor’s word. It certainly took him long enough to decide on a valuation---nearly 30 years.

Come to think of it big, fat international timetables, like bound volumes of respectable Victorian magazines, are good places to hide fragile papery items. They can be safely preserved and flattened beneath the three pound weight of pages. I myself once found a rare early etching by Whydale between the pages of Punch. But to return to the mystery Blakes, there is a novel to be written here—a crime caper or thriller. Did the purchaser hide his new purchases in the timetable on returning home from an art-buying expedition to the continent ? Or was this an attempt to conceal the prints from burglars, after which he forgot about them. Perhaps he lapsed into Alzheimer’s soon after hiding them. It’s possible !

Books in things

1) Drawers
.
Another Blake item. In the recently published account of John Gilkey, Allison Bartlett’s The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, which is set to become a classic of its kind, a dealer recounts viewing an auction in London and finding in a bureau drawer a copy of Blake’s Book of Job in which had been tucked his even rarer Song of Liberty. The bureau was estimated at about $2,000, the Job was worth at least $100,000. Obviously rejecting the Gilkey option of trousering the book and walking out of the room with it, the dealer. oddly, decided not to bid for the chest either. He doesn’t say why, but he may have reasoned that someone else had noticed the book and had decided to bid, prompting a bidding war. Or, perhaps someone had opted to steal the book at some point, in which case our friend would need to keep his eyes on the chest almost up to the point of sale. As it was, the dealer informed the auction house of the hidden treasure before the chest was sold. The four-page Song of Liberty was duly removed and later fetched $25,000 at auction. We are not told what happened to the Job. Personally, I would have taken my chance and bid for the chest.

Moral. Always look in drawers. The redoubtable John Harris, expert on architectural drawings, was always peering into them on his numerous forays into abandoned country houses in that golden age after the Second World War. In his No Voice from the Hall (1998) he recalled finding a Georgian porcelain tea set and jewellery in drawers and also the remains of ancient libraries left to moulder on shelves. And it was in a drawer of the bookshop in which he worked as a youth that cult Sci Fi guru Brian Aldiss reported finding copies of Wyndham Lewis’s BLAST, a legendary rarity ( see his autobiographical The Brightfount Diaries ), though when I questioned him about this he admitted that he had made it up.

2) Boxes in Draughty Barns In the Country

Not a surprising location, you would imagine. But there are finds and finds. One of the rarest first editions in American literature, Tamerlane and other poems , a forty page pamphlet published pseudonymously at his own expense in 1827 by the 17 year old Edgar Allan Poe, was found in a box of agricultural pamphlets in a New Hampshire antiques barn in 1988 by a lucky dealer who recognised its worth and secured it for $15 .Only a dozen copies are said to exist. This one sold not long afterwards at Sotheby’s for $198,000.

3) Book bindings.

God alone knows how many interesting medieval and later manuscripts ended up scrunched up in the hands of some monk, aristocrat or bookseller in the days before toilet paper, but a few were preserved , albeit performing the marginally less undignified duty of stiffening a binding. Solomon ‘ Potty ‘ Pottesman, an obsessive collector of incunabula, was aware of this common practice and when, on one particular occasion, he removed from a seventeenth-century binding some sheets from the ledger of a bookseller working in 1603 which proved that Shakespeare had followed Love’s Labour Lost with Love’s Labour Won, he generously sold this evidence to an impoverished Shakespeare scholar for a sum far below its real worth . How many dealers would do that today ?

4) Rubbish dumps

There is probably a whole book to be written on the subject of treasures discovered in municipal waste sites. When in 1970 we had a family holiday in North Wales and for some reason we decided to park our camper van on the edge of Caernarvon’s rubbish tip, I found at the bottom of a cage-like incinerator twenty or more scarce leather-bound volumes on early nineteenth century colonial history, some of which I still have. Later on in the seventies I picked up a first English edition of Melville’s Typee by the roadside leading into the main part of the municipal tip near my home in Swansea.

To be continued…[R.M. Healey]

14 January 2010

Books Do Furnish a Room


Interesting recent book (late 2009) from Interior Decorator writer Leslie Geddes Brown. It can be had at various book malls from about £15 inc postage. Like a lot of I.D. books it is fairly easy on the brain but the writer is obviously ridiculously well connected and there are shots of amazing libraries from very grand centuries old collections in castles to book crammed apartments in New York. It is reminiscent of Estelle Ellis's 'At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries' which featured the libraries of Paul Getty, Keith Richard and Nicholas Barker (whose tempting library is also here.) Probably of more practical use than any previous work, it shows how books can be featured in every part of the house including bathroom, loo and kitchen. She does not recommend the larder and I would avoid the bathroom because of steam (another enemy of books.)

There is a great shot of designer Sallie Trout who built shelves in an inaccessible stairwell which she reaches by a bosun's chair fastened to a chain hoist hanging from the ceiling above. To a bookdealer many of the styles of libraries look familiar--the indiscriminate polymath whose library takes about 4 long vans and three strong men to remove, the library full of leathery odd volumes with cracked spines and the occasional gem, rooms full of weighty coffee table books, art and design books which look valuable but are often surprisingly common. The author encourages the mixing of books with objects, especially those relevant to the collection. I am not overfond of people who put sculpture and paintings on shelves in front of books--it can have a slightly pretentious feel and is a nuisance when you want to get to a book.

The book's title, of course, comes from Anthony Powell (unacknowledged here) and one wonders where he got it from. It sounds a bit like Browning. It is the 10th novel in his roman fleuve 'A Dance to the Music of Time.' The phrase refers to a character- 'Books-do-furnish-a-room Bagshaw', who edits a magazine called 'Fission.' A great title for a trendy post war literary magazine - hard to believe it wasn't actually used somewhere. Powell gives Bagshaw's cumbersome nickname two possible origins -first, that while drunk, Bagshaw had attempted to find a volume at the top of a large, glass paned bookcase, which had subsequently fallen on top of him. Lying prone, Bagshaw muttered "books do furnish a room". The second story had himnaked in the book lined study of a drama critic, approaching the also naked wife of the absent drama critic. As they embraced Bagshaw, again inebriated, states "books do furnish a room!". The book itself is not scarce and can be had for about £60 as a decent condition first. The entire 12 volume set is rising in value and can command over $5000 and sometimes if very sharp, or with a few vols signed, over £5000.

The decoration book 'Books Do Furnish a Room' hardly mentions individual books or writers and is not aimed at book collectors. The only book mentioned by title is 'The Big Red Book of Tomatoes' by Lindsay Bareham which she values at 'more than £100' but can be got for half that and with patience £20. Leslie Geddes writes “...to me, a room without books is missing an essential feature, as important as lights, chairs or carpets" and she adds “...take an unadorned space, cover one wall with crowded bookshelves, add a chair and a table, also crowded with books, and you have a furnished room." I second that emotion, although I no longer associate the possession of vast quantities of books with intelligence, discernment or culture--sometimes the owner is a maniac or even a book dealer. But rooms or houses without books can be disquieting, also vast wall space without pictures -often found in California. I once saw a room full of three deckers and yellow backs--fabulously impressive, as is a local collectors room full of ink blue gilt decorated Victorian bindings.Thematic collections can be fun, although one of our customer who only bought books with the name Rita in the title was probably not going to fill more than a vestibule. Rooms full of leather bindings and sets are usually impressive but not if, on closer inspection, they are all odd volumes, cracked or in Swedish. Huge collections of pulp paperbacks are also memorable as is the aroma of old, yellowing cheap paper.

Lastly on the subject of shelves -handmade, fitted shelves by a master carpenter are best but a terrible drain on finances. At the other end of the scale Ikea's Billy shelves (40 million sold) are pretty good at £30 for a six footer. Ms Geddes mentions the trend in the 'austere' Fifties for shelves of 'good looking wooden planks balanced on a series of plain bricks' still sometimes seen, also with milk bottles instead of bricks, sometimes stuffed with stones or even filled with water. As a writer of such, she has a preference for coffee table books--ideally piled on low tables for anyone to have a browse--fine, but not for the catalogue raisonné or $500 photobook featured by Parr -when it comes to collectible books condition is everything.

09 January 2010

Books on a Plane



The Guardian Books Blog had a good piece this week on Mile-High Reading. It was about which books to take on a long haul flight. It attracted a lot of suggestions in the comments field and some good advice. Don't take Manga as you need about 20 for a long flight because they are so fast to read. Likewise don't take something too slim (By Grand Cental Station I Sat Down and Wept, Livingston Seagull, Great Gatsby etc.,) or something you have nearly finished. Not a good idea to take something too controversial- like a book on assassination techniques (there are several) or an inciteful youth revolution book such as 'The Coming Insurrection.' Douaniers are a literal lot--a colleague who had a few rare leather bound antiquarian books on Afghanistan that he was taking to a book fair was delayed for hours having to explain their presence to uptight officials. In general you also don't want anything too deep or too unpleasant.

For some reason a few people went for erotica (e.g. Anais Nin) and several for books related to their destination. 'Bitter Lemons on the way to Cyprus, 'The Beach' en route to S.E. Asia, Cervantes for the Iberian visitor etc., Other authors recommended include Sir Terry Pratchett, Haruki Murakami, Vikram Seth (the enormous 'A Suitable Boy' at 1471 pages, one for the beach and the return flight) Roberto Bolano's amazing 2666, 'Foucault's Pendulum. There is something to be said for the philosophical thriller -especially as one's main concern is to while away the tedious but anxious hours. In my opinion you don't want utter rubbish - after all this might be the last thing you ever read.

I was once absorbed on a mid length flight by de Botton's 'How Proust Can Save Your Life' --less demanding than 'Temps Perdu' but useful and edifying. Anything by A de B might be suitable or any other purveyor of 'philosophy lite'--you usually see someone reading Deepak Chopra. Scando thrillers were much mentioned and they can currently be useful for absorbing the hours--thank God for Wallander and Kalle Blomkwist. Cormac McCarthy was cited as a real bringdown for the flying reader, likewise you might avoid Sir Thomas Browne's 'Urne-Burial' , although Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy could be absorbing. Several people mentioned that books you could dip into were a good idea - Perec's 'Life a Users Manual', Browne's follower W.G. Sebald, Ackroyd's 'London' etc., Audio books were also advised although I tend to associate them with motoring and commuting. DVD's can now be watched on Iphones for those not happy with in-flight movies and Sudoku and puzzles sometimes do the trick. I once sat next to a guy who attached his laptop to the window and monitored the land beneath via Sat Nav-- he seemed content with that.

The book shown by Le Corbusier 'Aircraft' is a classic modernist photobook from 1935 published in England and not that scarce (sans jacket) but you can usually get £200 for a sharp copy. Parr either ignores it or doesn't know it. Lastly, the last time I flew to USA (October2009) I was surprised by the amount of people reading- there were more readers than laptop users and even a couple of Kindle like devices. All is not lost.

04 January 2010

Enemies of Books

William Blades. THE ENEMIES OF BOOKS. Trubner & Co., London, 1880.



Current Selling Prices
$100-$700 /£60-£450



BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS / ODDBALLIANA
A curiosity and a classic from the great age of 'books about books.' In the late nineteenth century book collecting was one of those subjects (like cookery now) where an author could expect an assured, if sometimes modest, sale. This went on until about 1930 when Holbrook Jackson's fat tome 'The Anatomy of Bibliomania' was published. Titles like Books in Chains (Blades again) Book Hunter in Paris, Art of Extra Illustrating, 33 Years Adventures in Bookland, Bibliophobia (Dibdin) Eugene Field's Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, Autolycus of the Book-Stalls, Shadows of the Old Booksellers, The Souls of Books, Book Song, Behind my Library Door, The Romance of Book Collecting and one of still current interest The Lost Art of Reading.




Blades identifies the enemies of books thus:

-Fire
-Water
-Gas and heat
-Dust and neglect
-Ingorance and bigotry
-Bookbinders
-Servants and children
-The bookworm
-Other vermin
Jackson adds kittens to the list and I can add noxious cleaning liquids that often ruin the books on the shelves nearest the floor. Blades himself advised that a book should never be dusted and had a particular horror of 'careless servants and housewives.' One might now add careless scanners of books who break their spines, day glo hi-lighters, a variety of fiendish librarians (the ones who go for labels, stamps and perforations all at the same time) internet entrepreneurs who abandon millions of neglected books in cavernous warehouses and, of course, Nintendo and maybe Kindle (but at least that is about reading.)

Blades writes of a collector with an album full of title pages, something repugnant to modern tastes -as are those misguided collectors who clipped signatures from autograph letters. He also writes of 'bibliotaphs' - miserly collectors who bury their books by keeping them under lock and key in darkened and obscure rooms and never see what they have bought. He even identifies one such book that I have dreamed of finding 'The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye' the first book printed in English -hidden away by the unhinged bibliotaph Sir Thomas Phiilips of Middle Hill. This type is by no means extinct, I am glad to report. Blades reserves his greatest scorn for incompetent bookbinders ( 'biblioclastic bookbinders') who cut the margins of books and envisages that, in the spirit of Dante's Inferno (where the tortures are based on the past crimes of the lost souls) the errant bookbinder will be roasted in hell with the all the paper shavings he had so ruthlessly shorn off in his life.

VALUE? You can buy a decent first for about $100. The 'books on books' thing probably isn't quite as hot as it was say a decade back. A lot of reference material is now available on the web. There are bibliographies of books on books and somewhere there are bibliographies of bibliographies of books on books. I think I saw one once and it wasn't slim. High prices for 'Enemies of Books' are reserved for quirky bindings, something that seems to happen to the work. People tend to overprice fine bindings on the web, often they are catalogued by dealers who haven't seen very many and are thus overawed when they confront an exquisite binding and price it with the foolishly rich collector in mind, a very scarce breed. The most reasonable at £500 is described thus:
'in full light brown mediaeval morocco by the Guild of Women-Binders (signed on front-free endpaper), marbled endpapers, green edges, on the upper cover an embossed design of seven rats and title within a double border, and on lower cover a humorous vignette of two rats, designed by Miss Pocock, worked by Miss Gaskell...
Never quite sure about the value of Guild of Women-Binders books but they seem to be desired so this price may be fair. Another in old full polished calf with gilt panelled spine by Sangorski & Sutcliffe may be a little toppish at £800. At $2400 a copy bound by Loren Schwartz (known for later bindings for the Roycrofter's group) may be destined to sell at some magic time in the far future. However it is lavishly bound in full blue leather with doublures and silk endpapers with extensive gold tooling including a large art deco representation of a book worm on the front and back. Blades waxes eloquent on the worm--'...quiet neglect is necessary to his existence; dirty books, damp books, dusty books, and books that the owner never opens, are most exposed to the enemy...'