Books To Die ForSunday, January 27, 2013
It was President Juan Domingo Perón who when I was a child told us that books were valuable and sacred. He told us to protect them and never write on them. To this day, while being aware that a few years later Perón burned books, I value books and never bend pages or write on them. There are many methods available to mark a page or point to a quote that does not deface the integrity of a book.
Yesterday I spent my whole day dusting my large book collection that must amount to about 4,000 tomes. While doing this I noted the sad loss of many through unreturned loans or perhaps as gifts. I have been looking for a perfectly bound edition of G. K Chesterton’s short stories, including his Father Brown series to no avail. Did I lend it or give it away? It was around just a couple of years ago when I noted that H.G. Wells had become unreadable while Chesterton kept freshness relevant to my present world.
I like to look at the back page of the NY Times’s Book Review. It is always and ad for Bauman Rare Books. I once visited the shop on 535 Madison Avenue in New York City and I can attest that it is almost as wonderful experience as a visit to the Metropolitan.
Today’s NY Times ad lists Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell: 1936, an American Classic, inscribed and signed in the year of publication. $24,000
Others in the list are John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath for $14,000 and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for $21,000.
In 1992 I photographed author John Dunning at the now gone Mystery Merchant bookstore on 4th Avenue. Dunning’s books then were mysteries that featured a used book collector called Cliff Janeway and it was in those books that I found out that books had value, particularly when they were rare and not necessarily because of their literary value. In some cases it was about a book that had early mass appeal, purchased in the thousands and then thrown away. So if you happen to have a pristine edition (a first edition) with an intact dust jacket of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot you might be able to sell it and get the down payment for a Bentley.
I have one of those The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’s to remind me of my folly and yet I value the moments spent reading it.
Do we buy books because of their market value? Some do. I was given William Gibson’s Neuromancer (a British first edition) by its author. It is still worth at least $2000 and even more if he had not dedicated it to this unknown photographer.
As for Dunning I have not seen any of his books recently nor have I checked on the value of a first edition Booked to Die. The price is irrelevant. My cheap pocket book edition gave me pleasure enough.