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If people looked through my room they’d find various boxes and shelves representing 25 years of accumulation. In one corner of my childhood bedroom sits a giant bag full of Star Wars figurines accompanied by a lone Millennium Falcon toy. That bag contains 11-year-old me’s, (and 25-year-old me’s  – who am I kidding) prized possessions: all of the ’95 Hasbro Power of the Force Princess Leia action figures, unopened. Next to that are three milk crates full of vinyl records, within are all of my Clash first pressings, which I started collecting as a kid after my mom gave me her copy of Combat Rock. Gathered in a nearby bookshelf are my Sylvia Plath first editions. Read the rest of this entry »

Every Island Fled Away by John SanfordWhile browsing through Ralph Sipper‘s booth at this past weekend’s Los Angeles Antiquarian Book Fair, I came upon an interesting copy of book that at first seemed a little out of place at the fair: John Sanford’s Every Island Fled Away. It’s a 1964 novel that, these days, is typically a $30 – $40 book in collectible condition, and not that much more when signed or inscribed. Usually the booths at the three fairs sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (there’s also a New York show in April and a Boston show in November) are full of the best antiquarian books for sale in the country and the world (read highest quality, and consequently highest priced). Dealers usually trot out their top material, and Ralph’s booth was full of many stunning copies of notable literary first editions. Some of them, like his beautiful copy of William Faulkner’s first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, are genuinely rare in such condition. By comparison, the John Sanford book seemed to be a grade schooler lost at the senior prom. Read the rest of this entry »

More exciting than Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant? Eh, maybe not. But I was recently reminded of one of the questions that came out of this past year’s annual Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar – what’s the difference between Advance Reading Copies and Advance Review Copies, and is it legal to sell them? Read the rest of this entry »

I love first appearances, especially literary-related ones. It’s likely a symptom of the brainwashing that occurred during my youth while collecting baseball cards and comic books. Both interests value rookie card/character debuts above all others, which is probably the reason I get so delighted when I find a first appearance by a writer or artist – particularly one that others have overlooked. Still, as I helped select items for our First Books & Before catalog, I was again reminded of the different collecting whims of bibliophiles, particularly when it comes to periodical first appearance.

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Having written exclusively on antiquarian books at BTC, we thought it would fun if I commented on Time Magazine’s recently posted All-TIME 100 Best Nonfiction Books. The title neatly states its bias: the 100 “best and most influential” nonfiction books in English published since 1923, the year Time began. My bias for old times is perhaps best stated in the title of the nonfiction book I’m currently reading: Why Lenin? Why Stalin? by Theodore H. Von Laue. This influential book from the 1960s isn’t on the list, but it is not as untimely as the title suggests. Von Laue, or Theo as he was known at Clark University, writes in the preface to the second edition (1971): “Now we have entered a new era. Anxiety, sometimes heightened to panic, is creeping ever more deeply into our decisions. The model of liberal-democratic America has been blackened…”
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Dan GregoryI was recently asked by a reporter to comment on this question, and I offered some specific examples. As is often the case, my comments in the article, as well as an explanation of the examples, were very much cut for space (no hard feelings, I understand how these things go). But I thought I would provide the examples here, as well as a fuller answer to this question of how much rare books appreciate in value.

First, some examples. The exact SAME COPY of:

Author Title Old Price 2004 Price
Ernest Hemingway Three Stories and Ten Poems $6000 in 1977 $150,000
Jack Kerouac The Town and the City $2500 in 1978 $40,000
Mark Twain Life on the Mississippi $4800 in 1988 $19,000
Oscar Wilde Lady Windemere’s Fan $1700 in 1982 $32,500

But are these good examples? And what do these numbers really mean?

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We are presenting a month-long exhibition of rare Tennessee Williams books, typescripts and assorted memorabilia in honor of the playwright’s 100th birthday at The Bookshop in Old New Castle running March 1-31. Among the notable and rare items is an original script for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof which was used during the Philadelphia tryout of the play. The copy contains a sexually charged scene between Big Daddy and his daughter-in law that was removed before its run on Broadway. Also on display is one of only a handful of known copies of the original script for A Streetcar Named Desire bearing its original title, The Poker Night. This early version includes scandalous dialogue that was cut before production, implicating Stanley Kowalski’s wife, Stella, in the sexual assault of her sister, Blanche Du Bois.
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Good Books in the Woods

Good Books in the Woods

Last week I flew down to Texas for a quick consultation with Jay Rohfritch and his parents, Marta and Dick, the team behind Good Books in the Woods, situated right outside of Houston. Jay had won my consulting services during the charity auction run each year at the annual Antiquarian Book Seminar in Colorado Springs – the proceeds benefit the local libraries that donate reference works for instructive use during the week.

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We try to stay on top of things here at BTC but sometimes things get pushed to the side for more pressing matters. We truly meant to post a blog in honor of Jane Austen’s birthday yesterday but got sidetracked researching and before we knew it the day was over. So let’s all just pretend today is yesterday and celebrate this wonderful author who is as popular today as ever in books, films and fighting zombies.


Here is the two volume first American editon of Persuasion in its rare original binding.

Yesterday was also the birthday of Noel Coward, V.S. Pritchett, Margaret Mead, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, and George Santayana. Is it just me or is that an unusual number of well-known authors all born on the same day? Makes one wonder what was happening nine months ago…

This morning Matt and I were discussing our blog, and how remiss we were in posting to it. The problem is, we’re busy buying, cataloging, and selling books. It’s kinda a full time job around here. We concluded that if we’re going to blog more often, we’ll have to blog about what we’re actually DOING between the covers. I mean, AT Between the Covers. So, to restart the blog with a report of what I’ve been up to, this week I created a dozen new catalogs, each devoted to a different classic science-fiction author.

Specifically, we now have pdf catalogs you can download from our website on:

Poul Anderson (3.35 MB)
Isaac Asimov (3.62 MB)
Ray Bradbury (2.03 MB)
Arthur C. Clarke (3.26 MB)
L. Sprague de Camp (2.96 MB)
Philip K. Dick (2.73 MB)
Philip Jose Farmer (2.62 MB)
Robert Heinlein (1.52 MB)
Frank Herbert (2.08 MB)
Robert E. Howard (1.74 MB)
Ursula K. LeGuin (2.31 MB)
Larry Niven (2.70 MB)
Andre Norton (2.17 MB)
Frederik Pohl (1.42 MB)
Clifford D. Simak (1.33 MB)
Roger Zelazny (1.60 MB)

Many book dealers have stopped issuing catalogs entirely. Others are happy to put out a couple a year. With an inventory of a third of a million books, we have to work a little harder than that. I think 12 catalogs in a week is pretty good, even if they do follow our author-catalog template. Next week? Another dozen sci-fi authors, or course.

Our continually growing list of author and subject specific catalogs can be found on our website here.

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