The Unbearable Banishment: My obsession: a photo blast

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My obsession: a photo blast

This weekend was the annual ABAA antiquarian book fair in Manhattan. I start looking forward to it right around February and it never disappoints. Imagine the one material thing you love the most. Now, imagine an armory filled to the rafters with the best of the best of that one special thing. When I walk in it smells like old paper and glue. I get woozy.

I collect rare books but this stuff is way out of my league. No matter. I have to go. It's like the literature museum except everything has a price tag on it. A dealer from California was selling a book that use to be part of my collection. The asking price was a hell of a lot more than I remember selling it for. That's always a bit of a shock. Here's a few high spots.

This is a fourth folio of the works of Shakespeare. It was printed in 1685 and is in pretty miraculous condition. When you collect books, condition is king. Yours for $225,000. And that's for a fourth folio! A first, if it ever came on the market, would easily run into the millions.

Agatha Christie's most popular novel is And Then There Were None. It's been made into films and plays and has sold millions of copies. In the U.S. it was originally published as Ten Little Indians, which is kind of racist. But it's not quite as racist as the original title from the UK first edition.

I suppose this wasn't a big issue in 1939 but it's pretty difficult to look at today. The illustration of jungle savages is particularly grating. Agatha Christie! My God! What was she thinking?!

This isn't a first edition but it's still pretty valuable. It's an early copy of The Wizard of OZ that signed by the cast on the left free end paper...[You can click on this to study the signatures.]

...and by a bunch of Munchkins on the right free end paper. $85,000

There's always at least one nice copy of The Great Gatsby and this one is a beaut. The stunning jacket, one of the most iconic in American literature, was designed by Francis Cugat (older brother of bandleader Xavier Cugat.) $175,000.

We now move from the sublime to the ridiculous. This is purported to be Ernest Hemingway's typewriter. The asking price is $110,000. For that kind of money, you could get a near-complete run of his first editions. Wouldn't you want that instead? I would.

And if you're interested in beat literature, then you must, must have Jack Kerouac's pants. That's right, his pants. These are his jeans and what they're doing in a rare book fair is beyond me. Looking for a sucker, I suppose. $5,500.

There's always a few first editions of On The Road and Catcher in the Rye in the room. Each of those titles would set you back thousands, but I see them with such regularity that it makes me question their rarity.

That's my obsession. Have you got one?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

getting into kerouac's trousers would be special, but not $5,500 worth of special...

my obsession? collection? i don't think i have one... maybe because mom was such a packrat growing up, but i've developed an aversion to 'stuff'.

oh, wait. i guess guitars are 'stuff'. busted... eight, with a couple more on the 'wish list'...

April 11, 2010 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger mjp said...

This is purported to be Ernest Hemingway's typewriter. The asking price is $110,000. For that kind of money, you could get a near-complete run of his first editions. Wouldn't you want that instead?


There are hundreds, if not thousands, of first editions of his books. Only a handful of typewriters.

I would trade every scrap of Bukowski stuff I have for one of his typewriters, and even then I would feel like I just got away with The Great Typewriter Robbery.

pants are just pants. But a writer's typewriter - come on, man!

April 11, 2010 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger RubyTwoShoes said...

I'm too anxious to do collecting - imagine the head spins I would get!
I wonder if Jack Kerouac's pants found a sucker...

April 11, 2010 at 11:29 PM  
Anonymous nursemyra said...

For me it's corsets..... ;-)

April 12, 2010 at 4:55 AM  
Anonymous Sid said...

Read that version of Agatha wasn't a fan.

Loved Great Gatsby. Or at least learnt to appreciate it. Read it in high school. My edition of the book was filled with "Ben was here" type scribbles.

April 12, 2010 at 6:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as I love books and reading and confess to having done a bit of lesser priced collecting, it is the connections of shared experiences that I obsess about most.

Great post made even better by the photographs. I think I would have to go with mjp in that I would want the typewriter.

April 12, 2010 at 6:35 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: I would never be completely comfortable that those pants belonged to Jack. Who the hell knows for sure?!

mjp: You make a good point. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, what the hell’s the difference between buying a book and buying a typewriter? But I’m still sticking with the books. That’s the road I’m on and I’m not going to take a detour though kitschville.

Ruby: That's actually very Buddhist of you. Collecting leads to attachment. Attachment leads to misery. It never fails.

Nurse: Luckily for us it's corsets and not coins or stamps.

Sid: Gatsby is actually a really good read. That may seem obvious but not all classics deserve to be classics. Have you tried to get through Ulysses?

GOTJ: Lesser priced collecting is a gateway drug. That's how I started. "Oh, I'll just collect this set of Ian Fleming vintage paperbacks." The next thing you know I'm walking around a bookfair in a state of euphoria.

April 12, 2010 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

Those jeans look a little new and clean if you ask me.
They look fresh out of the Levi factory.
I collect shoes and articles of men's clothing.

April 12, 2010 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Barlinnie said...

Fine wines... and wristwatches. Time is equally of importance to both.

April 12, 2010 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Here In Franklin said...

I have some first edition Oz books, but not The Wizard of Oz. Are they worth anything? They're not in pristine condition.

April 12, 2010 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Scarlet: I don't believe for one minute that they're Jack's pants. You collect men's shoes or women's shoes?

Jimmy: I have a soft spot for watches, as well. I get the fake ones down in Chinatown. If they break, who cares?

HIF: They might be! How beat-up are they? But I wouldn't count on them for your retirement.

April 12, 2010 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

Either... I like the smell of fresh shoe leather...

April 13, 2010 at 3:30 AM  

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