28 January 2012

‘Only one copy known….’ Well… perhaps two.

Arthur Machen, Eleusinia (Joseph Jones, Hereford 1881). One copy known. $15,000

Privately printed by Joseph Jones of Hereford when Machen was just 18, and not long out of Hereford Grammar School, this was a poem of teenage ecstasy by the Welsh wizard of fantasy. According to his biographer John Gawsworth, Machen received only six copies of his poem from the printer, who kept the remainder for himself over a payment dispute. Some say only one copy is known to exist; other say two. Peter Vincent’s story, ‘Completion’, recounts the experiences of one bibliomaniac’s quest to secure a copy of Eleusinia.

Robert Frost, Twilight( Laurence, Mass. 1894)

Two copies made; one was said to have been destroyed by the author. $75,000 (Ahearne 2000). When it fetched $3,000 in 1949 this was the highest price paid for a contemporary American author. This surviving copy ended up in an American library.
Apparently, the man who became one of America’s greatest poets was so unsure of his talent that he only paid for two copies of this debut volume of six poems, one of which was meant for his fiancĂ©e. A re-reading of these callow effusions may be the reason why he later destroyed one copy. Pray that more were printed.

John Bunyan, A Book for Boys and Girls, or Country Rhimes for Children (London, N. Ponder, 1686). Two known copies. £20,000+.

The BL claims to have one of the two known. Published posthumously, this illustrated anthology of Christian homilies, or meditations, on ‘74 things’ was deemed ‘lost‘ to bibliographers until the copy that had been bought in the year of its printing by Narcissus Luttrell for 6d turned up at a London bookshop c 1882. This in turn was bought for 40 guineas by an American collector who soon afterwards let it go to the British Museum Library. The Library of California at Santa Barbara has the other known copy. Why there are so few copies is a bit of a mystery, but the answer may lie in the fact that little children tend to tear up books, especially if they contain pictures.

Robert Burns, The Merry Muses of Caledonia (1799).Two known copies. £20,000 +

One copy of this collection of extremely bawdy songs based on examples found among Burns’ papers at his death in 1795 is owned by the University of South Carolina. It is not known how many of these were composed by the Bard himself, and for this reason some Burns enthusiasts are reluctant to admit the collection into the canon. Another reason why only two copies are known may have something to do with British Puritanism--- many of the songs feature human genitalia.

John R. Ridge, The Life and Adventures of Joaquim Murieta (1854). $15,000 Only 2 copies known.

One is at Yale, the other is in a private collection. Ridge, or ‘ Yellow Bird ‘ has been claimed as the ‘ first Native American novelist ‘ and his book ‘ the first Californian novel ‘. Murrieta (note alternative spelling) was a bloodthirsty Mexican bandit who terrorised California in its formative years. He was killed at the age of 21 and Ridge somewhat romanticises his life.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, Poems (c1903) pp29. Two known copies. $20,000+

Montgomery (1874 – 1942) was, of course, the author of the classic Anne of Green Gables (1908 ), a first of which can fetch around $10,000 in decent condition. The poems, published when Montgomery was 27, are 32 in number and most are printed on one side of the paper only, which suggests that some sort of crude printing devise was used . The librarian at the Canadian library that owns a copy, speculates that the author probably gave a ‘very limited ‘number of copies to friends around Christmas 1903. How many is ‘very limited ‘? Hope that Miss Montgomery had plenty of friends if you want to secure a copy. You won’t find the title listed in Ahearne (2000), so one can only hazard an educated guess at its value.

To be continued….

[R. M. Healey ]

Many thanks Robin. Awesome and inspiring. Will start searching right away. The sort of books that show up at a church jumble sale once in a blue moon...

23 January 2012

Second hand bookshop window display

I am fortunate to live near a good second hand bookshop Reed Books 2 on the High Street in Aldeburgh on the Suffolk Coast of the sceptered isle. Idyllic but a bit too close to the mighty Sizewell Nuclear Power station. Time and again this shop gets annoyingly good books some of which end up on the web, but many go out in the shop and I occasionally buy some with a view to making money. Reed Books 1 was across the way and closed a couple of years ago - it was run by book enthusiast and party hound Julius Reed kinsman of "wild thing" actor Oliver Reed. Julius at one point had a rave in his bookshop which attracted a younger crowd but drew some disapproval from the council. He has moved into antiques and his cohort Robin Summers has taken over the mantle and now runs and owns Reed Books 2.

A retired TV actor not unknown to the IMDB database Robin has a very good eye and has done at least 3 themed window displays. My photo above shows his latest-- carefully chosen faces staring out of the window. He also had a great window entirely full of Britain in Pictures - apparently when shown like this en masse they sell well. He also had a window display of Teach Yourself books, covered in an earlier posting. The subject of displays in bookshop windows is not without interest-- very few shops pay a lot of attention to staging. Robin consciously sets aside books for his window and it pays off.

In a display in his shop window of books with bizarre or unfortunate titles I picked up a Scouts in Bondage (in dust wrapper) for £20. It is rare thus and the profit might pay for one night in a half decent London hotel, and possibly a meal - but I am not selling at present.. If any readers have photos of thematic bookshop displays please send them in. We are doing a sports window for the London Olympics this July... slightly predictable but almost obligatory.

14 January 2012

Vivian Nicholson. Spend, Spend, Spend...

Vivian Nicholson & Stephen Smith. SPEND, SPEND, SPEND. Jonathan Cape, London 1977.

Current Selling Prices

A book that looks like nothing...In 1961 Vivian ('Viv') Nicholson won £152,000 on the football pools when she correctly predicted 8 draws. She announced to the press that she was going to "spend, spend, spend". The phrase has entered the language, a recent £8 million pound lottery winner also said she intended to 'spend,spend, spend.' Within 3 years the wild Viv had spent the lot (the equivalent of £3 million nowadays). She had been a tabloid sensation, she recorded a single ('Spend, Spend, Spend') appeared in a strip club dancing to 'Hey Big Spender' and was the subject of a musical and TV play by the late Jack Rosenthal. Rosenthal's play was based on this book of taped interviews with Viv by ghostwriter Stephen Smith.

Rosenthal was a colleague of the PR man who, on behalf of Littlewoods Pools, persuaded Nicholson to allow publicity for her pools win. He wrote in his autobiography: "From that day on, I followed her wild, seemingly stupid adventures in the papers - and believed every snide, snooty, biased word the relentless publicity said. All adding up to one word - that she was a cow." Reading the book caused Rosenthal to reassess his attitude and he "became a fan" eager to put across an explanation of her behaviour.

The 1978 musical was successful, although I tend to agree with the acerbic critic Martin Cropper who stated that in his opinion all musicals were bad. It's a botched art form, although a million busloads of punters would disagree. Certainly the lyrics are unpromising:

'8 draws, you've got them all, 8 draws,
Love was a bitch, but now you're rich,
She's bloody Santa Claus.'
As a kind of outrageous pre-Punk she was a natural hero for that anarchic era. Her photograph later appeared on the cover of The Smiths' 1984 single "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and "Barbarism Begins At Home". In 2012 she may be slightly neglected but the book still commands fancy prices with Angela Carter's copy at £150, and a copy with two pages missing (but supplied in xerox) at a chancer's £75. The paperback version which I just picked up for 20p (reduced from 35p) has to be worth £20+ and has a better cover than the hardback. The book is as the blurb says "...a totally unselfconscious self - portrait, a ripping good tale, fast cars, booze, 'sexual happenings', deaths...you name it Viv can talk about it as if it were the most natural thing in the world." The style is 'Educating Rita' before her Michael Caine makeover. The book ends- 'I still have hopes of making me million...pinning me hopes on the rock opera version, I am.'

06 January 2012

Same name, different game….2

I ‘ve now discovered that not only does my namesake, the elderly woolly jumper-admiring New Zealand poet, have at least one fan in the world (according to the bookride comments box), but also there are many copies on ABE of two books by yet another Robin Healey.

This upstart, it would seem, is a world expert on Italian literature, whose Italian Literature before 1900 in English Translation and Twentieth century Italian Literature in translation: an annotated bibliography, 1927 - 1997 appear to have created quite a stir in the academy, judging by the reviews. I was particularly delighted to read that ‘ If anything, Healey is much too modest about his own accomplishments ‘.

Along with the disadvantages of having a nominal doppelganger in the literary stakes, come some obvious advantages. Online Googlers will make gratifying assumptions in your favour regarding books bearing your name, including details relating to your age, education and background. Which is nice. Meanwhile, here are some further names to conjure with.

Geoffrey Archer, Dark Angel, Skydancer, Scorpion Trail, etc etc etc.

Matthew Arnold, Stakeholder negotiations: Exercises in sustainable development, 1995.

Jane Austin, Jump Start
The Overwrought Urn (Graphic Originals)

James Baldwin, Whole Earth Ecology, an environmental tool-kit.

John A. Brain, An Evening with Thomas Talfourd , 1889.

John F. Brain, The Man who created God.

Robert Bridges, Invitation to Fly Flight Manouevres Manual for Private Pilots, 1983.

Frank Bruno, Riggermortis, 1966

Roy Campbell, Measuring the Sales and Profit Results of Advertising

Edward Carpenter, The Service of a Parson: why is he there and what he does.

Steven Crane, The personal Income Tax Savings Handbook

Steven A. Crane, Ashamed of Joseph: Mormon Foundations Crumble.
Is Mormonism now Christian ?

Raymond Chandler, All that Glitters, the crime and the cover-up. (Chandler was the lawyer uncle of the boy at the heart of the Michael Jackson scandal ).

Leonard Cohen, Choosing to work: an action-oriented job-finding book, 1979.

Harry H. Crosby, A Wing and a Prayer: the ‘ Bloody 100th ‘ Bomb Group of the eighth US Air Force in action over Europe in World War II.

John Dunne, Reasons of the Heart

William C. Falkner, The Siege of Monteray

Iain Fleming, Accounting for Business management, 1997.

Robert Frost, Victorian and Edwardian Staffordshire from old Photographs, 1977.

Robert Frost, All for Strings ( comprehensive string method ), 1986

John G. Fuller, Prescriptions for Better Home Video Movies

Alan Ginsburg, American and British Regional Export Determinants, 1969

William E. Hague, Remodel, don’t move: how to change your home to fit your lifestyle. New Complete Basic Book of Home Decoration, 1982.

Ian Hamilton, Resources and Industry (OUP)

Dennis Healy, The Illustrated Rules of Baseball, 1995.

Geoffrey Hill, Illuminating Shadows: the mythic power of film, 1992

Susan Hill, Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel: meet the ‘Munks.
Spider-Man: Spider man versus Electro.

David Hulme, Will Christ Return ?, 1990.

Lee Hunt, The Vampire of New York

M. R. James, Successful Bowhunting

John Keates, Understanding maps, 1996

John Locke, Isometric perspective designs and how to create them

Mary McCarthy, Making Books by hand

Margaret Mitchell, Mealtime Magic Cookbook.

Henry Miller, California Missions: the earliest series of views made in 1856

Keith Richards, Tender mercies: inside the world of a child-abuse investigator, 1991

Walter Scott, Lung Cancer: a guide to diagnosis and treatment, 2002.

Ian Sinclair, Photographic Guide to Birds of Southern Africa.

Adam Smith, Supermoney, 1972.

John Wain, Wildtrack, a poem.

Harold K Wilson, Grain Crops, 1955

W. B. Yates, Diaspora .


Many thanks Robin. Got a feeling that John Wain (angry young man) actually wrote 'Wildtrack', but not John Wayne the cowboy actor. As for 'Adam Smith' I guess that was a sort of 'nom de blague' (real name Hiram Potts or something.) The odd thing is when a well known writer also wrote a very minor book as well. Robert Aickman the highly rated, valuable and collected writer of ghost stories and fantasy was also the was founder and Vice-President of the Inland Waterways Association. He wrote 'Know Your Waterways. Holidays on Inland Waterways' which is worth £10 as opposed to £500 or more for some of his fiction. One wonders whether any of the above writers are one and the same with their famous namesakes -- could Frank Bruno have knocked out a forensic thriller ('Riggermortis') between bouts in the ring or Geoffrey Hill, the great poet, also be an expert on cinema and myth... ?