The Unbearable Banishment: Brother, can you spare $398,000 for a book?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Brother, can you spare $398,000 for a book?

Bauman Rare Books is one of the premier rare book dealers in the U.S. I've always thought of them as the the dealer of choice for wealthy, lazy collectors. Granted, Bauman's stock is top-shelf, but the prices they charge are so far above the market median that I can only think their clientele is people for whom money is no object. A little homework would turn up a comparable copy at a more reasonable price. But sometimes, they get a truly one-of-a-kind book and can charge whatever the hell they feel like. There IS no comparable!

Bauman occasionally buys a full-page ad in the New York Times Book Review. They'll feature a dozen or so books. Most of them are show-off pieces. The type of posturing and preening you see at rare book fairs.

Currently, they have for sale, a Second Folio of Shakespeare plays (1632). It's no exaggeration to say this book is a cornerstone of Western literature. There are fewer than 200 known copies and most of them are incomplete or somehow defective. This is a complete copy and is reported to be in excellent condition. Most of of the surviving copies are housed in institutions; there are very few in private hands.

So I would like this book. I'd like to keep it in my little hamlet in New Jersey. (Ha. See what I did there?) The asking price is $398K. That's not so bad when you consider a First Folio would easily run in the millions. True, you can buy a house for $398K, but I'd really like this book.

Can you help me out, brothers and sisters?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, I'm all tapped-out! I can maybe manage lunch, if that helps!

Do you mind if I link to this from our artists books blog?

January 27, 2011 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger kyknoord said...

Can't help with the book, but I know some people who could arrange to have you housed in an institution.

January 27, 2011 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

MIT: Link away! As everyone knows, I am a whore for attention.

kykn: How many rooms?

January 27, 2011 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

sugar, if there was a paypal site here, i would have dropped a little change in the cup. xoxoxo

January 27, 2011 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger LẌ said...

Be careful! I suspect it is a fake! Just look at all those typos on the cover!

January 27, 2011 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

If I win the $50mill lotto tomorrow, I'll buy it for you. ;-)

January 27, 2011 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Sav: I think if I posted a PayPal link on my blog I'd risk alienating the few readers I have!

XL: HA! That's a good one! And they claim they invented the language. Pish. Everyone know "color" doesn't have a "u" in it.

Ponita: You'd better be careful because if I find out you won and didn't buy me a Second Folio, I'm going to be really hurt.

January 27, 2011 at 2:41 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

check is in the mail - you deserve to have this book! go ahead and max out your credit cards. i'm good for the money...

January 27, 2011 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

So supposing all we friendly bloggers chipped together and gave it to you. Then what? Surely it would be too precious to handle let alone read. And then there's the insurance.
No - for the better good I'm not going to organise a whip round. You know it makes sense;)

January 27, 2011 at 6:44 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: Never mind my priceless book. Go buy yourself a new car, for crissakes.

Pat: I have an idea. Why don't you allow ME to decide what's good for me and what will cause me grief? Wow. You gals are all the same.

January 27, 2011 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

If I win, I'm coming down there and I'll buy it for you for sure. My word is a solid promise, UB... Keep your fingers crossed!!

January 27, 2011 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I have his complete works, essays, etc in current publication. I'm not sure what it's worth but I'll sell it to you for $10,000.00.

January 27, 2011 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Ponita: Wouldn't that be just too funny?

Christina: Are they signed editions? Perhaps then...

January 27, 2011 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 27, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

Right, I've calmed down now.


How can I say this?


You must realise what you and your family could do with THAT much moola?!

Fuck sake, $398 is nothing to laugh at these days, let alone adding three zeros!!

Sorry pal, but books and such, though wonderful things, come way down the list, (even imaginary) after roof & food these days!

Times are a bit tough here at the moment!

(Gigs a bit quiet!)


January 27, 2011 at 10:07 PM  
Anonymous Sid said...

398 000 ... US dollars. God I don't even want to do the math to figure out how much that costs in rands. What do you even do with the book once you have it? Hide it away in a safe?

January 28, 2011 at 1:54 AM  
Blogger Sausage said...

First of all how is the noggin?
do you take checks?
did you get a new hat?

January 28, 2011 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Map: It makes no sense, I know, but you can apply that argument to ANY collectible. For that matter, what is gold but a piece of shiny stone?

Sid: I don't lock away any of my valuable books. It's crazy, but I like to pull them off the shelf and smell them every once in a while.

SF: You can't blame this behavior on my recent head trauma. I've been like this for a long, long time. Ask Mrs. Wife.

January 28, 2011 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Kono said...

You know i saw that at Half Price Books the other day for only $199,000, i'll check and see if it's still there, the dustjacket was a little worn but other than that it was perfect.

January 28, 2011 at 7:48 AM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

Are there any 3 for 2 deals?
If there are then I may think about it.

January 28, 2011 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger SY said...

What a beautiful thing literature is but I have to say buying a book like this would make me feel extremely guilty..

January 28, 2011 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

kono: That's very funny! Laughed out loud in the office and made people turn around.

SB: If there are, do I have to give you a copy? Can't I keep them all for myself?

SY: You'd better do away with that guilt nonsense or you'll never enjoy anything that frivolous. I use to have a lot of Catholic guilt but it's long gone. I've never felt better!

January 28, 2011 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

...Yeah, you keep the Shakespeare gumpf, and I'll take home a couple of Jackie Collins's... seems like a fair deal.

January 28, 2011 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Ellie said...

cheap as chips

January 29, 2011 at 2:41 AM  
Blogger Madame DeFarge said...

I could tell you the endings of all the plays, if that helps.

January 29, 2011 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

SB: It could conceivably happen that, many generations from now, the Collins first editions could be more valuable than the Bard's! There's no way to predict it.

Ellie: But not as digestible.

MDeF: Hi! Please don't post the endings. You'd spoil all future performances. I understand that some people die?

January 30, 2011 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger healingmagichands said...

Oh, I'd love to help you out, but I'm still saving up to replace the first edition of Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" that was in perfect condition and even had the dust jacket that one of our foster children stole when he got moved to another housing arrangement. The social worker was never able to quite get it back.

I'm still annoyed.

January 30, 2011 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

HMH: That's my worst nightmare revealed. I've always imagined walking into my living room one day and see my toddler "improving" my first edition of ON THE ROAD with her crayons. I wake up screaming.

January 30, 2011 at 11:41 AM  

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