On Collecting Books

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is one of the most-celebrated and most-notorious novels of the twentieth century. Its path to publication did not run smooth, and there are many different editions and translations worthy of the collector's attention. 1955: The Olympia Press Two-Volume First Edition The multi-lingual Nabokov (he grew up speaking Russian, English and French at home) finished Lolita in 1953, but it was rejected by all the major American publishers for fear that its subject matter would prove too controversial. He turned to the Olympia Press in Paris, then notorious for essentially publishing pornography, for the first publication of his famous novel. Lolita (First Edition) Paris: Olympia Press. Very Good. FIRST EDITION of one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. WITH IMPORTANT PROVENANCE: From the Bureau Littéraire Clairouin, Nabokov's literary agency who was instrumental in its publication. "Vladimir Nabokov is an artist of the first rank, a writer in the great tradition ... Lolita is probably the best fiction to come out of this country (so to speak) since Faulkner's burst in the thirties. He may be the most important writer now going in this country. He is already, God help him, a classic" (Critic Conrad Brenner, in 1958). Controversial since its conception, Lolita was rejected by American publishing houses until finally accepted by the avant-garde Olympia Press in Paris and published in a fragile two-volume format. First issue, with 900 Francs on... [more]

A deluxe copy of a children's classic is a favorite gift at almost any point in childhood. As the child grows older and better able to appreciate a care for their books, some seek to introduce the book-collecting bug with a signed copy, a meaningful first edition, or a particularly beautiful volume. We've collected a few beautiful, rare, or signed editions below for inspiration. You can search Children's Books by category here... A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger Natick, MA: Picture Book Studio USA/Neugebauer Press, 1988. Modern illustrated edition of the quintessential Christmas classic. Written in a mere six weeks at a low point in Charles Dickens's career, and published at his own expense in time for Christmas 1843, A Christmas Carol revived Dickens's fortunes, establishing a robust market for holiday gift books that survives to this day. "When this strain of music sounded, all the things that Ghost had shown came upon his mind; he softened more and more." In 1990, illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger won the Hans Christian Andersen medal in recognition of her "lasting contribution to children's literature." A near-fine copy. Tall narrow folio, measuring 13.5 x 8.25 inches, black linen spine, original glossy color pictorial boards, pale yellow endpapers, original unclipped color pictorial dust jacket. Illustrated in color throughout text. Light edgewear to jacket. (Offered by Honey & Wax Booksellers.) Search for other copies of A Christmas Carol..... [more]

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Buying Rare Books as Gifts

By John Schulman

ABAA member John Schulman of Caliban Book Shop has some advice for anyone considering buying antiquarian or rare books as gifts, and explains how to use the ABAA's website and how to work with ABAA dealers to your best advantage. So it's crunch time and you need a gift for a booklover. When people come into our store asking us to find the perfect item, the first questions we have are about the recipient. We ask the standard questions: how old is the recipient? What does he or she like to read? Has the person already started collecting books in a focused way? Then, as we think about what we have in stock, we ask a few more questions: what is the price range? Would the recipient like a first printing or something in a handsome binding? Once we have an idea about the recipient, we can get to work. A Word of Caution! Giving a book to a person who's enthusiastic about a particular subject or author has its pitfalls: the person may already have the book you are thinking about giving, or may have rejected it for some reason. The more you know about the recipient's tastes and collection-thus-far the better. The Edible Woman (First Edition) by Margaret Atwood Toronto, Montreal: McClelland and Stewart Limited, . Octavo, boards. First edition. The author's first novel. Very slight spine lean, a fine copy in very good or better dust jacket with touch of wear at edges, 20 mm closed tear and associated wrinkle at bottom edge of front panel, and small bookstore price sticker at lower fore-e... [more]

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Explore New Arrivals

By Rich Rennicks

ABAA members list newly acquired or catalogued books on almost every day of the year. Keep an eager eye on our "New Arrivals" search page to see what's recently been offered for sale and find the books you need to build your collection! Here are a few highlights from this week's crop of newly listed items: Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald London: Grey Walls Press, 1953 First English edition. Publisher's light blue cloth, lettered in gilt to spine, in original pink pictorial dust jacket. Near fine with a slight lean to spine and a touch of wear to spine ends, light offsetting to endpapers, a few tiny spots to top edge; dust jacket with a few tiny nicks to spine ends and corners, spine faded but front panel extremely bright. Overall, a tight and attractive copy. Originally published by Scribner's in the US in 1932, Save Me the Waltz is the first and only novel by Zelda Fitzgerald, better known as an artist and wife of the renowned author F. Scott Fitzgerald. An extremely autobiographical text, it tells the story of "a young artist to whom success comes very early," and "a Southern girl" who would travel the world, live as an expatriate in Paris, and ultimately "return to the Southern town in which she was born." Similarly, Zelda and F. Scott were married young, lived abroad for several years, and then returned to the American Southeast for health reasons. Increasingly afflicted with mental illness in her adult years, Zelda was admitted to the Sheppard Pratt sanatorium in T... [more]

ABAA-member Charles Roberts (Wonder Book) has published a wonderful meditation on the classic cookbook The Joy of Cooking on his blog at Wonder Books. More than a straight article about the book's creation (although it does cover that) or its critical reception and impact on the wider culture (that, too), Roberts conveys a real bookseller's perspective on the book, both as a cultural artifact and a physical artifact. More interesting still is his consideration of the market forces that affect physical books in unique ways, and how a bookseller can still find utility and value even in old, nondescript cookbooks that are not rare by any stretch of the imagination. Some books tell stories in ways other than their contents. At Wonder Book, we used to rarely get copies of The Joy of Cooking in any condition. It was just a book that people would not give up. Now we are seeing more and more older copies appear in our warehouse. The Joy of Cooking has a sad beginning. Irma Rombauer published it originally in 1931. Her husband had killed himself in 1930. Irma's children convinced her to record her recipes and cooking styles. Why? Maybe they thought it would distract her from her loss and the money problems and personal turmoil it caused. She wrote in the forward, "It was written at the request of my children, who, on leaving home, asked for a record of 'what mother used to cook.'" Somehow she put it all together and published the first Joy privately! She paid for a printer to print an... [more]

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Books of the Week

By Rich Rennicks

Every week ABAA members list their latest acquisitions on abaa.org and issue catalogs of rare books and print ephemera. Here are a few A Pirate Classic From description: The Observations of Sir Richard Hawkins Knight, in his Voyage into the South Sea. Anno Domini 1593. Hawkins, Sir Richard. John Jaggard., ( 1622), London (4), 169, (1 errata), (5) pp. Richard Hawkins was an Elizabethan adventurer who saw action against the Spanish Armada in 1588. In 1593 he sailed to South America to raid Spanish colonies on the Pacific coast. Years later he produced this account of his privateering venture, which was published in 1622. His “Observations”, aside from being a pirate classic, is the best account of Elizabethan life at sea. It was the first work published by the Hakluyt Society (1848), and has been reprinted several times since. most notably by the Argonaut Press in 1933. This is the copy of famed Americana collector Thomas Streeter, with his distinctive bookplate, and a note on the front blank by his son Henry, indicating that he had purchased it at the auction of his father's library in 1968. This sale of the Streeter collection took place between 1966 and 1969. The catalog of the sale, produced by Parke Bernet Galleries, was issued in seven volumes, which remain an important reference for rare Americana. This book was number 2400 in the sale. It is in exactly the same condition as it was in 1968. Three letters on the title page (the “THE” in the title) are in facsimile... [more]

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Books of the Week

By Rich Rennicks

What leaped off the pages and (figuratively) screamed "Buy Me!" as we thumbed through the most-recent catalogs from ABAA members. Well, these items for starters... THE LAST TYCOON: An Unfinished Novel, Together with The Great Gatsby and Selected Stories Description: New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1941. First edition, first printing with the “A” and the publisher's seal on the copyright page. A roman a clef, following the Hollywood rise to power of Monroe Stahr, modeled after film producer Irving Thalberg, and his conflicts with rival Pat Brady, a character based on studio head Louis B. Mayer. The novel was unfinished and in rough form at the time of Fitzgerald's death at the age of 44. His close friend, literary critic and writer Edmund Wilson, collected the notes for the book and edited it for publication. This copy is inscribed on the front flyleaf by Frances Kroll Ring to Nicholas Patrick Beck, an avid F. Scott Fitzgerald collector and scholar, who was also a journalism professor at California State University, Los Angeles. Ring (1916-2015) was the personal secretary of F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood from 1939 and until his death in 1940. She typed the manuscript for The Last Tycoon and settled Fitzgerald's affairs upon his death. This included corresponding with Wilson and advising him on the author's intentions for the book. Octavo. Original blue cloth binding, with gilt titles. An especially crisp and tight, near fine copy in an uncommonly nice example of the ... [more]

Lately, the online world is alive with discussion of Blade Runner 2049, which releases this weekend. Following the success of Amazon's Man in the High Castle television series, Philip K. Dick is once again the go-to science fiction novelist for Hollywood. ABAA members have many interesting items related to Philip K. Dick and this infamous film (which is something of a love-it-or-hate-it phenomenon) available, some of which reveal the tortured path this story took from novel to finished film. One of the most-exciting items is an original script for Blade Runner from 1980, before revisions and re-writes. I'd love to read that to see how the vision changed during the adapting process and before direct Ridley Scott came on board! Blade Runner: The Original Screenplay Hampton Francher & David Peoples Los Angeles: Brighton Productions, Inc./Sunset Gower Studios, 1980. 1st. Original Wraps. Collectible; Very Good. The 1st printing of the 1980 original screenplay, based on the 1968 Philip K. Dick novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". A VG copy in its original yellow wrappers, with minor offsetting to the front panel (where there had been a label) and several very small, unobtrusive stains. Quarto, 140 pgs. Submitted to Sunset Gower Studios on Dec. 22nd, 1980, this screenplay-- in its original incarnation-- pre-dates the legendary 1982 Ridley Scott film by almost 2 years. Very scarce in its original state. (Offered by Appledore Books) Members offer several first editions of Ph... [more]

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Meet the 2017 NCBCC Winners

By Rich Rennicks

The annual National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest aims to encourage young collectors to become accomplished bibliophiles. The 2017 contest winners have built up fascinating collections on topics as diverse as teaching mathematics, the literary history of the Maine woods, and seminal cyberpunk novels. We asked the winners a few questions about their collections. 1st Place Alexander M. Koch, The Breath and Breadth of the Maine Woods Unity College ABAA: Could you give us a brief description of your collection? AK: My collection, The Breath and Breadth of the Maine Woods, is an examination of the manners in which the Maine woods has influence. These numerous books, as well as related ephemera, are the breath of the Maine woods. They are the exhalations of centuries of life in Maine, and love for its forested lands. From mid-19th Century ephemera and books on history to turn of the 20th Century fictional accounts of log drives, and from mid-20th Century town histories to 21st Century poetry, these works show the breadth of thought and examination of the Maine woods. From collecting and reading these works it is clear that the Maine woods form an important basis for the livelihoods, industries, and recreation that has made Maine a resilient and awe-inspiring land. ABAA: What first interested you in collecting items related to the Maine Woods? AK: I have always been fascinated by the forest, and by Maine. From my earliest memories I recall spending time with my father driving d... [more]

Book collectors and fans of experimental musician and artist Bill Drummond (The KLF, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu) are engaged in a fascinating scavenger hunt for 32 copies of a limited-edition book hidden around Ireland. Among Drummond's many, many projects is The Curfew Tower, a 19th-century tower originally built as a jail in the town of Cushendall in Country Antrim, Northern Ireland. Drummond owns the tower and has run it as an artist's residency since 1999. He originally purchased the tower intending to use it to house the one and only copy of his book Bad Wisdom; intending that would-be readers would need to travel to the tower in order to read the book as a sort of secular pilgrimage. That project was eventually published more traditionally by Penguin Putnam in the UK, so Drummond had to find another use for his tower. In 2015, Drummond published a book compiled from the work of the artists who lived in the Curfew Tower during 2014, The Curfew Tower is Many Things. It was published in a limited edition of 1000 copies by Drummond's press, The Penkiln Burn, most of which were distributed to the various stakeholders in the project, while 250 copies were sold to the public. Drummond initially reserved almost one third of the print run to be distributed anonymously by leaving the copies “randomly in bars and cafes across the island of Ireland” over a period of years. It's not known whether the 32 copies he hid around Ireland are the last available copies, but as the ... [more]