27 February 2010

J.G. Ballard. The Atrocity Exhibition, 1970.

J. G. Ballard. THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION. Cape, London & Doubleday New York, 1970.

Current Selling Prices
$300-$9000 /£200-£6000

A re-post in hommage to and in memory of J.G. Ballard who died on 19/4/09. Will Self claimed (with a few caveats) that JGB was the most significant post war novelist. I second that emotion. Certainly in terms of knowing what was really going on (and often well before it happens) he was the supreme figure-- his novels and short stories have demonstrably foreshadowed global warming, environmental disasters, the grotesque rise of celebrity culture, science parks, 'retail therapy', even the death of Princess Diana (Crash).

I have chosen his suppressed novel The Atrocity Exhibition because it was a breakthrough book in terms of shock value and also because it is his most valuable book by a long chalk. A 'stopper' for any determined completist. You need the U.S. Doubleday 1970 first. Most of the stories that make up the book had been originally published in the late 1960s in SF magazines (which, by the way, are rarely of value) others appeared in regular journals like Encounter, Transatlantic Review, etc., - also small change to buy. The first English-language publication was in the U.K. by Cape in 1970. The publication history is best told by Mike Holliday at the definitive J. G. Ballard - A Collector's Guide site. Basically Doubleday pulped the book due to what it perceived as obscene and inflammatory content.

The US 1972 Grove Press 'Napalm' edition is only worth about $50. The 1968 Brighton / Unicorn printing Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan, a pamphlet, is worth nearly £1000 in the signed edition of 50 and about half that in the unsigned edition of 200. There are now 3 copies on the web. The 1990 Re/Search signed edition of 400 gets priced between £200 and £400. The UK first in its surreal jacket (below) can be found between £100 and £200. Note that the red lettering on the spine of the dust jacket of this edition is particularly prone to fading and unfaded copies are prized.

A serviceable copy of the US rarity in a chipped and nicked jacket is has been on sale for the carefully considered price of $10, 900 for many moons (2 years ago it was $11,900). Collectors have their limits. It is obviously howling rare but it is just possible more escaped the pulper's tank than was previously thought. Ballard mentions 'signing one or two copies that somehow escaped the Doubleday thought police.' SF overlord (pace George Locke) Lloyd Currey reckons there are ten copies around*. The rarity of pulped, seized and 'disappeared' editions can sometimes be overstated - vide the 3rd edition Ulysses where 499 of 500 were said to have been seized and destroyed by customs--there have been at least a dozen of those in commerce in living memory. We had one in the late 90s from the widow of a douanier on the Kentish coast. If copies of 'Atrocity' are going to surface New York is the place. In the late 1990s we cleared 3000+ books (mostly novels, mostly file copies) from Doubleday's London office, sadly 'Atrocity' was not among them. One thing I noticed about Doubleday in bulk is they are not sturdy books and do not generally wear well, also the jackets are thin and frail so fine/fine copies are very difficult.

* His exact words were - 'If I recall correctly, I've sold a total of four and they all came from publisher employees or reviewers. Frankly, I don't think there are too many out there. ... I would guess there are somewhere between 10 and 25 copies extant. Number depends on how soon the order to stop distribution came down from Nelson Doubleday. Doubleday, in those days, sent out a fair number of review copies, at least 25 and sometimes more.'

26 February 2010

Michael Cooper. Blinds & Shutters (1990) Part 2

The image above is Michael Cooper's shot for the Stones Satanic Majesties album. If you click on it goes to a good size and you can make out the faces of John, Paul, George and Ringo to the left and right within the gilt encrusted psychedelic decorations. Cooper was one of a handful of elevated souls who were friendly with both groups. His self portrait shows a wistul groover almost Edwardian in his striped blazer - like something out of Kind Hearts and Coronets or Mr. Polly. Terry Southern said of him -“Michael Cooper was a person of tremendous love and vision...I do not expect to see his like again.”

In 2002 we catalogued a copy and after a few months (and some haggling) sold the black and yellow opus for £400. We catalogued it thus:
Michael Cooper. BLINDS & SHUTTERS. Genesis/ Hedley, Guildfrord, 1990. 4to. 368 pages. 14" x 10" Hardcover leather/buckram in yellow and black in a matching hand made silk screened solander box. Limited edition of 5000 copies of which this is No.3087. A weighty photographic record of Michael Cooper's work. Michael Cooper was a 60’s beautiful person (obit 1972) and friend of the Rolling Stones, Robert Fraser etc., Every copy has at least 9 different autographs of subjects with Bill Wyman being the only constant. This copy is signed by David Hockney, Don Bachardy, Jenny Boyd, Spencer Davis, Terry Doran, Derek Taylor, Harry Nilsson, Adam Cooper, Bill Wyman and Colin Self and Ann Marshall. Solander box has liftable flap at centre - each copy having different small photo beneath - this has Marianne Faithful with bespectacled man. Book is about fine, box is slightly rubbed at corners o/w also about fine. A lavish production and the ultimate record of this gilded period.

No two copies are alike and the value depends on who signed your copy + the photo under the liftable flap (Beatles are best.) Here is a random list of signers from copies I have seen. It is unlikely to be comprehensive and we would welcome news of any other signers. A merry galaxy of 60's movers, shakers, posers, celebs and characters:
Bill Wyman, Colin Self, Neil Aspinall, Adam Cooper, Terry Doran, Richie Havens, Allen Jones, John Mayall, Richard Merkin, Billy Al Bengston, Gerald Malanga, Bridget Riley, Steve Winwood, Michael McClure, Sandy Lieberson, Spencer Davis, Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell, Harry Nilsson, Jenny Boyd, Jo Bergman, John Dunbar, Richard Hamilton, Anita Pallenberg, George Harrison, Pattie Clapton, Peter Blake, Francis Bacon, Donald Cammell, Anthony Caro, Allen Ginsberg, Astrid Kirchherr, Claes Oldenburg, Perry Richardson, Ringo Starr, Jurgen Vollmer, Klaus Voorman, Eric Clapton, Christopher Gibbs, Keith Richard, Nigel Waymouth, Ann Marshall, Marianne Faithfull, Larry Rivers, Brian Auger, Larry Bell, William Burroughs, Andy Warhol, Pattie Clapton, Jann Howarth, John Mayall, Bridget Riley, Terry Southern, Kenneth Anger, Don Bachardi, David Hockney, Graham Nash, Derek Taylor, Julie Driscoll, Stanislas Klossowski de Rola, Nicholas Monro.
Francis Bacon is possibly the Button Gwinnet of the pack, although it is said that the Warhol signature does most for the value of the book. Colin Self is the second most common and Peter Blake manages to get his oar in on most copies. I have heard of a limited edition of 250 copies lettered in roman numerals but it doesnt seem to differ in any way.

VALUE? The book can go for anything from £400 to £2000. A chancer on Amazon has one one at £2500 with Burroughs as one of the signers--he claims that WB signed very few. The number of people willing to fork out 50 hard won £50 notes to get at Burroughs signature is likely to be miniscule...Warhol's signature has a proven track record of turbo charging the book towards £2000. Beatle signatures are good, Keith Richards probably helps and Bacon is a name to conjure with.

OUTLOOK? Good. Even though there are 5000 out there they are actively traded and possibly growing in value. Ebay sees copies occasionally and multiple signed books tend to work with the punters there. Some people don't like Genesis books at all and they can be slow to shift unless you have the right ones, or the de luxe issues. They are seen as books for unsophisticated, celebrity obsessed arrivistes. For myself I am glad to buy them and also glad that the publishing company are vigorously knocking out new titles When buying them it is always worth checking with Genesis to see if they have any left. Blinds and Shutters is long gone however. The average age of collectors is about 40 and when these collector retire, move or die many copies may start to surface and some titles could prove a poor investment. Left is a photo of the unforgettable Talitha Getty leaviing a party with Stash (Stanislas) de Rola, princely son of Balthus. It is almost certainly not by Cooper, but the work of a nameless paparazzi, but it sums up 60s high style--these guys didn't get their kit from Gap. Photo removed by a noilly prat...as Logue said 'we will not argue about it in eternity.'

24 February 2010

George Bourne, Change in the Village (1912)

Current Selling Prices £60-£80

George Bourne. CHANGE IN THE VILLAGE. (London, Duckworth & Co., 1912)

When Kevin McCloud in his brilliant recent TV documentary ‘ Slumming It ‘showed how happiness in the world’s biggest slum Dharavi derives not so much from rampant individualism, but more from the mutual support and community spirit engendered through shared space and shared values. Similarly, when sociologists and anthropologists attribute our present sense of alienation to the lack of community spirit---a theory also propounded in books like Tom Hodgkinson’s How to be Idle, and How to be Free, which adopt a mainly Kropotkinite anarchist perspective--- there is clearly something in the air, a sense perhaps that we are in the West at last examining whether membership of an advanced consumer society is what we truly want.

In the early years of the last century, galloping social and industrial changes prompted a similar debate. One of the most influential protagonists was the proto-socialist George Sturt (1863 – 1927),who from his base in Farnham, the former home of that other radical social commentator, William Cobbett, published Change in the Village (1912). Sturt, writing under his pseudonym George Bourne, surveyed Edwardian social and economic ‘progress’ from the perspective of a ruralist looking back to an era before the motor vehicle had ushered in a revolution in the social fabric of rural life. To him the 1880s he knew as a young man was a time when life had hardly changed for the rural labouring class for centuries, where the pleasures they shared remained untainted by industrial progress, and any problems and hardships were overcome, or at least mitigated, through community spirit and cooperation. But Sturt was no sentimentalist, and though he regrets the loss of what he calls ‘ the scene of a joyful and comely art of living ‘ he ( as a good Fabian ) ‘ would not go back ‘.
‘ I would not lift a finger, or say a word, to restore the past time, for fear lest in doing so, I might be retarding a movement which, when I can put these sentiments aside, looks like the prelude to a renaissance of the English country folk ‘

Of course, the Great War put paid to much of that; and perhaps as a response to Sturt and other rural commentators, in the days before and immediately after hostilities, there seems to have been a similar mood of wistfulness towards what was seen as a fast-disappearing world. So look out also for books by Major Gambier Perry, notably The Spirit of the Old Folk (1913), The Pageant of My Days and Allegories of the Land (1912), which come up occasionally. More challenging and a rarer book to find is Old and New in the Countryside (1920), where country house life at the turn of the century is viewed with mixed feelings by the redoubtable lady traveller Victoria de Bunsen, author of the better known The Soul of a Turk (1910). To de Bunsen the passing of the old order is inevitable:

‘ The War has brought everything to an end as we have known it. When the very foundations of European civilisation are rocking, can we hope to retain in its familiar guise any one of the old forms ? Surely the very face of the countryside will wear a different aspect in the time to come…under the engine of man’s rage for destruction ‘

De Bunsen deserves more attention than she has received but Sturt already has a high reputation, largely due to Frank Leavis and his writer-in-arms Denys Thomson, who played his wholesome rural values against rampant modern consumerism in their writings. And although Leavis the literary critic has been deeply out of fashion for many years, his promotion of Sturt seems to have paid off. ABE is crammed with various editions of Change in the Village and The Wheelwright’s Shop including some from the Caliban Press, which has been bringing out editions of Sturt for over thirty years. About four years ago I was thrilled to pick up for a mere 90p my first of Change in the Village in a charity bookshop. The only first of this title in ABE at present is priced at $112.There are firsts of two rare titles, The Ascending Effort (1910), a book on aesthetics, for £25.50 and an ex- library copy of William Smith, Farmer and Potter (1919) for an eye-watering £40, though this price reflects its strong appeal and rarity. I paid £1 for my copy years ago, but I was very lucky. [R. M. Healey]

Thanks Robin wise and timely words. I shall keep an eye out for these three. I note that Victoria de Bunsen came from a grand but radical family -- she was the sister of philanthropist Charles Roden Buxton who lived such a frugal lifestyle that, on walking tours in the south of England, he was sometimes mistaken for a tramp. This often happens to bookdealers down on their luck.

When this recession finishes (if it ever does) I trust that the renewed interest in community, altruism and less materialistic ways of living does not end with it. Let’s hope we don’t return to an era of total bastards in red braces swigging Bollinger and charging round in Aston Martins. Good to hear the sacred name Major Gambier Parry—I have a feeling I have a few on the net that could be repriced!

23 February 2010

Michael Cooper. Blinds & Shutters (1990)

Michael Cooper. BLINDS & SHUTTERS. Genesis/ Hedley, Guildfrord, 1990.

Current Selling Prices
$350-$3000 /£500-£2000

A desirable photobook, from cool limited edition publisher Genesis, of the work of beautiful person and rock photographer Michael Cooper. Like all rock snappers - Mick Rock, Keith Morris, Chalkie Davis, Dominique Tarlé etc.,- he is beneath the Martin Parr radar but that doesn't stop the book changing hands at sizeable prices. Cooper is probably best known for shooting the cover of Sergeant Pepper and also the Stones drug addled response Satanic Majesty's Request. He had the dubious honour (healthwise) of being Keith Richard's closest friend and was with Jagger, Richard, Robert Fraser, Marianne Faithfull and Christopher Gibbs at the famous Redlands Bust. So opiated was the environment he moved in that it is amazing his pictures are in focus. He was also at the Stones French exile residence Villa Nelcote in 1973 but sadly was one of those troubadours who got killed before they reached Bombay-- he overdosed that year (some reports say suicide.)

Getting close to the Stones appears to have been a perilous business, some of Coopers photographs show whole gatherings of young groovers who are now long dead, exquisites, dandies, flower children--all broken butterflies and moths to fame --extending the lepidoptera metaphor George Melly called Cooper a "dragonfly that darted and hovered across these careless years." His photo below demonstrates the casualty rate- of this bunch only the indestructible Anita Pallenberg is still with us- from left you have Brian Jones, Nicki Browne, Bill Willis, Talitha Getty, John Paul Getty II and Anita all tripping on acid near Luggalor - a Gothic castle in the Wicklow mountains home of Tara Browne ('he blew his mind out in a car...').

Blinds and Shutters is one of the finest and most valuable of Genesis publications. More valuable are their editions du tete, the lavish de luxe productions some limited to 100 copies. The most famous are the two signed George Harrison books Fifty Years Adrift (1984) and I, Me, Mine (1980) both of which can sell at over £2000. Equally desirable, talking of broken butterflies, is the more recent Mick Rock volume of photos of Syd Barrett 'Psychedelic Renegades' the de luxe of which was fully subscribed form the get-go; amazingly it is signed by the madcap himself. Copies on Ebay signed by Syd can make £2500 [to be continued with a monumental list of all the signers of Blinds and Shutters--all copies are signed by Bill Wyman and eleven other 60s scenemakers and none of the 5000 are the same--the most valuable copies have the rarest signatures, its a minefield...] Below Cooper shoots Beaton snapping Keith by a pool in Marrakech, man.

19 February 2010

Hesse, Eliot, Salinger: An Eternal Golden Braid

Thanks to Douglas Hofstadter of Gödel, Escher, Bach fame for the title of this interim posting. In May 1922 T.S. Eliot visited Hermann Hesse at his villa in Montagnola, an isolated Swiss village above Lake Lugano where Hesse had recently settled and where he was to live until his death in 1962. Eliot had been profoundly influenced by a slim volume of Hesse's Blick Ins Chaos ('In Sight of Chaos.') He refers to it in his notes to The Waste Land. In his essay "The Brothers Karamazov or The Downfall of Europe" Hesse had detected the emergence of a new type of man - 'the outcome of a primeval, occult Asiatic ideal'. He called him ''Russian Man' and he signifies the decline of Europe in a '...turning back to Asia' and 'turning away from every fixed morality and ethic.'

Ex Blondie musician and now gifted mystic writer, Gary Lachman, sees this type as the progenitor of such disparate characters as Crowley, Manson, Neal Cassady, Alan Watts etc., They can as easily become criminals as ascetics, and as Hesse says 'believe in nothing except the insane uncertainty of every belief.' Heavy stuff with a touch of wu-wu but Hesse was undeniably a seer. In 1953 he wrote an interesting piece praising Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Through reading the novel he finally understood the many letters he had been receiving from young American readers of his novel Steppenwolf. He sees Caulfield, despite his facade and the filth around him, as 'a completely beautiful pure lovable and loving soul..' The essay ends:
'Whether one reads this novel as the individual story of a half-grown problem child or as the allegory of a whole country and people, one will be led by the author along the beautiful road from dislike to understanding, from disgust to love. In a problematic world and time, poetry can achieve nothing higher.'
As for the 'golden braid' --it is theoretically possible to have a line of writers who praised one another going back to Chaucer. It might go something like this Salinger, Hesse, Eliot, Hardy, Wilkie Collins, Wordsworth, Blake, Burke, Sterne, Swift, Defoe, Wycherley, Milton, Ben Jonson, Shakespeare and beyond--all were living when the other had published so could have praised (or noticed) their work. The trouble is the golden linking stops or stalls in forward mode with Salinger. The only author he is known to have praised is Hemingway (the feeling was mutual--Hem said of him "Jesus, he has a helluva talent"). I guess one could move sideways using Hemingway- who praised Cyril Connolly - who, in turn, praised all manner of younger writers.

TRIVIA. Hesse has a tribute site at MySpace and has 2,027 friends ('Click here to add Hermann Hesse as a friend.')

The Hofstadter book Gödel, Escher, Bach from Basic in New York 1979 now goes for $300 as a fine first in jacket - but always read the small print as most people selling are under the impression that first edition, ninth printing is almost as good as a true first and charge accordingly, whereas what they have is an almost worthless reprint fit only for reading.

In 1999, the bicentennial year of Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin, Hofstadter published a verse translation of Pushkin's classic novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin. A good effort with Nabokov having set the bar so high. Hofstadter did not bother adding 3 volumes of footnotes...

Hemingway and Salinger had a good exchange of letters in the mid to late 1940s. Value? Possibly a staggering sum.

That's Hermann's desk below.

13 February 2010

Pevsner - Architectural Guides


Current Selling Prices

Is it in Pevsner ? What does Pevsner say ? Cries often heard among amateur architectural historians, church crawlers, and prospective owners of any building looking ‘ a bit Regency ‘, ‘ definitely Georgian ‘ or ‘possibly by Lutyens’. If it does turn out to be in the great man’s magisterial Buildings of England, or in the follow up volumes that dealt with the rest of the UK, there’ll doubtless be a premium to pay, though most house buyers would be happy to shell out for the privilege. Twenty seven years after his death Pevsner, the German-born workaholic, has become a national treasure about whose life few but his closest friend knew much at all. But now with the news that the long-awaited ( it was expected to appear in 2002 ) biography is due out later this year, any one who was ever curious about what drove him to complete one of the most celebrated series of books in the history of publishing will be able to find out.

Immer fleissig perfectly suits Pevsner, the assiduous Herr Professor Doktor of Betjeman and of every post-war anti-German chauvinist who ever resented the fact that six years after we defeated the Jerries a damned German was showing us how to appreciate our own buildings, some of which, ironically the Germans themselves had flattened. But the truth remains that had this Jewish academic never fled Hitler for England it is unlikely that any Englishman would have had the energy or chutzpah to take on such a necessary job—certainly not the slowcoach Howard Colvin, for all his erudition, and probably not Ian Nairn, who for all his brilliance, would have devoted too much time sampling the local brew.

Although the idea behind The Buildings of England was first mooted in 1936, it took until the Festival of Britain year of 1951 for the first title to appear. Pevsner had already had a hand in the series of King Penguins and Penguin Modern Painters and so for him to take charge of a series devoted to the architecture of Britain must have seemed a logical next step for the marketing men at Penguin. But to create the format that they did was more than shrewd marketing—it was a stroke of design genius. Part of the appeal of the volumes is their size and format. Pevsner’s only rival in the architectural field at that time---the pre-war Shell Guides and their successors, the Murray Architectural Guides---were closer to being coffee-table art books than the hold-in-your hand guides they aspired to be. Moreover, they were too expensive. The paperback format, cheapness and sheer utilitarian drabness of the Buildings of England volumes, with their truly execrable paper and po-faced snaps of buildings, perfectly suited the era of post-war austerity. You could slip a copy in your pocket as you trudged across fields in search of that castle or ruined church. And if a page got torn or if you dropped the book in the mud it didn’t matter much.

The men at Penguin were so confident of success that, according to one source, they printed 20,000 copies of the first few titles, which explains why copies of Cornwall, Nottinghamshire, Middlesex, North Devon, South Devon, London, Hertfordshire, and Derbyshire are so easy to
find. The earliest titles were priced at 3/6 and don’t appear to have been issued with jackets—at least I’ve never seen one—and the addition in 1954 ( for Essex )of a pictorial jacket for the paperback seems to have coincided with the introduction of the cloth-bound edition ( also with pictorial wrapper )to be published alongside the paperback version for a few more years.

Sales were slow at first but gathered momentum as word got around. Then, as the volumes got fatter, more informative and more expensive, the less informative Shell Guides remained dearer still, and proved less popular, though they were, as always, much more attractive visually. By the sixties the Shell marketing men , nervous at falling sales, considered closing the Guides down and Betjeman ( though not Piper, who was a friend of Pevsner’s ) became more irritated. Within twenty years the whole of England had been covered by Pevsner and his team ( not something that could be said of the Shell Guides )and the process of revision began. Prices rose to match those of the Shell Guides until in the eighties they exceeded their rivals in price. Today, titles in the Pevsner Architectural Guides series retail at around £35 new, though these are sometimes to be found modestly discounted. Pevsner would have been astonished at these high prices, but perhaps would have been equally proud that few would baulk at paying them. Such is the price of success.

Rare Pevsners ? Probably few, if any. Discovering very early titles with jackets would indeed be interesting , but the 1700 listings in ABE throw up nothing of the kind. Don’t expect to pay more than £10 for a paperback with a wrapper, or £20 for the fattest hardback in good condition with wrapper. Doubtless there are some ‘points’ to be hunted down in certain titles. My copy of Durham, for instance, has blank pages regularly interspersed throughout, as if for note-making. Perhaps it was a one-off. Perhaps not. [R.M.Healey]

Thanks Robin. ABE does show a few sell by numbers chancers asking over £50 but most keep them reasonable as there are a lot about. I remember a guy at a provincial fair putting out a box of fifty for £1 each. He was a children's book specialist and knew no better -- they went like snow off a dike as they say in Canada. Pevsners are a useful weathervane of a shop's pricing policy—if the dealer regularly charges over £15 (unless it is the actual county you are in or they are brand new) he might be a difficult type, possibly mercurial in temper and everything could be similarly overpriced—if his Pevsners are over £20 take it as a warning, if £25 or over leave fast without engaging in idle chat. Do not return. Of course if they are signed by Pevsner or annotated by Betjeman or Ian Nairn then stroppy prices may be in order...

08 February 2010


Clifford Ashdown. (i.e. R. Austin Freeman & J.J. Pitcairn.) THE ADVENTURES OF ROMNEY PRINGLE. Ward Lock, London 1902.

Current Selling Prices
$4000+/ £2500+

Legendary rarity. Queen's Quorum listed short stories of a gentleman thief in the Raffles tradition, although with no Bunny to soothe his brow. Ostensibly a literary agent, charming and handsome, he tended to rip off other crooks and makes enough to retire to Sandwich, a seaside hideaway also favoured by Simon Raven. Part of a mantra of mystery rarities like The Curious Mr Tarrant and Mysterious Affair at Styles that book runners like Martin Stone / Nicholas Lane used to hope to find for chump change in dull market towns and bear back to London for a few weeks of living high on the hog. Days gone by. It is worth examining books like these fairly closely -- because of their value they have often been mucked about with, lack a plate or have a page in facsimile, have been cannily recased with new endpapers or in some way are not quite the full shilling.

VALUE? Not quite as rare as Ellery Queen used to make out (only six copies known etc.,) but still a very useful 4 figure book in nice shape with 2 copies sold at £1K & £3K in the last 2 years, neither outstanding. RB Russell in his ' First Edition Prices' puts it at £1500. A very sharp copy should now command twice that; I had thought the the vogue for collecting old QQ fiction was a bit vieux jeu but in Feb 2009 there is only one copy online, an indifferent example with the front cover vignette perished and tobacco stains. If the tobacco has also left an odour that is another minus in today's market. It is priced at a gutsy $5000 and may have been there since summer, if not before. The quote from Ellery Q (used by all sellers of the book) is: 'Bibliophiles and book scouts have scoured England and America, seeking in the most likely and unlikely places; yet after 50 years of eagle - eyed and expert excavating, the recorded copies total exactly 6 - no more, no less.' Hyperbole--there were 4 copies through the web in 18 months (noted 2007). EQ did not have the advantage of the infobahn which has made certain books thought to be very rare into the merely rare. Otto Penzler also dismisses Queen's claim as 'incorrect' - nominating Victor L. Whitechurch's Thrilling Stories of the Railway (1912) as one of a half dozen books rarer than Romney. A census of copies can often be inaccurate, except possibly in the case of 7 figure items like the Bay Psalm Book or First Folios, Caxton Chaucers or indeed Gutenberg's 'great bible of Mainz.'

I am grateful to R. Austin Freeman collector Mark Sutcliffe for a photo of the true first which can also show up in red with no priority established ( a presentation copy on publication day might do the trick.) Mark notes that '...the white vignette of Pringle at the lower right front corner tends to flake away to a greater or lesser degree.' The later or, more likely, remainder binding, shown left, is a little shorter and narrower and has completely different boards. Mark suspects this was a standard format used by Ward, Lock at the time. There was also a Colonial issue in 1902 (red wrappers) and a 1903 paperback (white, pictorial wrappers), both difficult. A first in the dust-wrapper would be a miraculous find, please report any sightings.

05 February 2010

Quest for J.D. Salinger 2

Does the death of a great author affect his or her value to collectors? In some cases the author's values (and reputation) can take a dip with the person not around anymore to fight their corner--this may have happened in the cases of Mailer, Updike and even Bellow. Harold Pinter's prices have not been helped by his Nobel Prize, his demise or even a superb London production of 'No Man's Land.' Movies don't necessarily help either even with Oscars thrown in. In the short term with Salinger there is now a fast sale of lesser items and some modestly priced books that had been around for a while have at last started to shift. The online mall ABE record January sales of a decent Catcher in the Rye at $8000 and an amazing $6500 for his Nine Stories (1953). Catcher can make into 5 figures for impressive copies but Nine Stories must have been an exceptional copy or some punter, in his grief, hit the Buy it Now button and swallowed the price. Otherwise high end and overpriced Salinger firsts, some of which have been around since the days of Dubya, are not selling any better than usual.

Very ordinary items that would not normally sell have been getting goodly sums--the first paperback in less than limpid condition garnered a flukish $200. At least two 'signed' reprints of Catcher with not even an attempt to provide provenance have made $500 and someone somewhere is laughing, hopefully buyer and seller--authenticity seems to count for less across the pond than in Old Europe. The first UK of Raise High the Roofbeams sans d/w made $100--the kind of book normally you wouldnt give a fiver for. A very ordinary first UK (Hamish Hamilton) Catcher made $998 this week. Touted as an investment, it was in a slightly unpleasant chipped d/w but Fritz Wegner's fine cover was pretty much intact. This used to be a £300 book in better condition but is now on the move as it seems to be desirable to American collectors. However in general the lesson is that It is unwise to buy shortly after an author's death...

Far gone chancers on Ebay are trying to sell Salinger related dotcom domains, one seller barks PREMIUM DOMAIN FOR SALE! WWW. JD Salinger Secrets .COM --SINCE HIS DEATH THE WEB HAS BEEN BUZZING! CASH COW!!! They need $25000 or best offer. Another optimist wants a modest $4999 for InMemoryofJDSalinger.com. Talking of dotcommers the greatest cache of Salinger letters to ever get near the market, letters to his young lover, the petite horizontale Joyce Maynard, were bought by the American inventor of a hugely profitable computer anti-virus software programme – he promptly made them over them over to Salinger as a gift. A quixotic but (from a dealers point of view) dull and painful gesture.

Yet more riveting trivia emerged in obituaries and tributes. The ghastly Mark Chapman was not the only assassin inspired by Catcher-- John Hinckley, Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was also reported to have been obsessed with the book. Julian Knight, perpetrator of the infamous Hoddle Street massacre was said to have read the book also. As for the paperback shown above it turns out JD didn't like Jim Avati's illustration. Avati reported:
'...he didn't like my cover for Catcher in the Rye. In fact, he resisted the very idea of having artwork on the cover. One day he came to the NAL offices to complain about it. We went together into a little room and I said, ‘Come on! These guys are doing the selling, they know how to sell.’ But he was very reluctant. At first, his idea was to have something less realistic, more the printmaker's look. But since that was impossible - he was not yet a known author - he wanted something more sentimental. The carousel in the park, you know...'
As for the vexed issue of the genesis of the name Holden Caulfield, Joyce Maynard (not especially liked by Salinger diehards) says that he got it from a movie marquee hoarding for the Joan Caulfield and William Holden movie Dear Ruth (1947). The problem is that Holden Caulfield is mentioned in Salinger's short story Last Day of the Last Furlough in the July 15, 1944 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, three years before Dear Ruth , but the Caulfield name, including a mention of Holden, appears as early as the unpublished 1942 story The Last and Best of the Peter Pans.