March 21, 2019
I like rare books and I cannot lie
by Michael Seidlinger
I like rare books and I cannot lie, but like most of us, I’m too poor to ever own any rare books. But I can window-shop! I can read and dream about being able to flip through signed first editions, historic documents, and other pricey collectibles. Such is the case with the recent New York International Antiquarian Book Fair. John Williams, for The New York Times, wrote about the 59th anniversary of the fair, complete with wondrous images of literary lore.
What was for sale? Let’s take a look—
$145,000 for the second edition of an 18th Century book by Louis Renard. Only 100 copies were ever published, but still, six figures for an edition? Wow.
$19,000 for an original, five-page, hand-corrected typescript of the fourth Batman story (from DC Comics, 1939) by Gardner Fox. Anyone, spare some change?
$178,000 for Shakespeare. Makes sense. Specifically, a first edition of his co-written play, The Two Noble Kinsmen (London, 1634).
$250,000 for a pair of relief etchings from William Blake’s A Cradle Song, from Songs of Innocence (1789). No comment. But yes I’m taking donations.
Hey look, something affordable: first edition of William Lindsay Gresham’s noir Nightmare Alley (Rinehart, 1946). $375. No big deal.
Okay, for real—I want and need this. From Left Bank Books, the first UK edition of Albert Camus’s The Outsider / The Stranger. One of my all-time favorites, anyone want to buy this for me? It’s a steal at $1,800.
I mean, really, what is money but something to lose?
Michael Seidlinger is the Library and Academic Marketing Manager at Melville House.