Rare Books you've encountered

My coworker came in to discuss something, and once it was resolved, we were chatting a bit. He casually threw a post-it at me by flicking/spinning it, and it went a fair distance. Which sparked a memory of 10 year old Munch, sitting in a Rainy Day Bookstore, flipping through the near-pornographic book “Cards as Weapons” by Ricky Jay (for some reason, he thought it necessary to demonstrate proper playing card throwing technique by adding pictures of his naked assistant in a proper pose). I recounted the story, and looked to see if it was still for sale on Amazon.

$500 to buy a new copy, $190 for a used. eBay has a copy for $350. :eek:

Last year I stumbled across a copy of Edward Gorey’s The Recently Deflowered Girl at a garage sale. Paid a whole dollar for it. At the time it was a rarity that was going for hundreds of dollars on the Amazon Marketplace. Six months later they went and reissued it!

There’s a book called Names in Stone that I’ve been wanted to get for a long time. Amazon has it for $500, in a reissue paperback, Abe Books has it for $350. I saw two copies at one bookstore for $225 each, I should have bought the damn thing then but didn’t. They are both gone now. I still kick myself over that one.

Like the main characters in Koslova’s The Historian, I haunt rare book rooms in research libraries, so I have a few stories like this. I’ve perused a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible at Nebraska, for example, and examined the New York Public Library’s copy of Schveipolt Fiol’s Triod Cvetnaia (Krakow, ca. 1491). I quite accidentally ended up requesting a substantial amount of Jean Rollin’s nude studies at the University of Illinois; the smile on the attendant’s face is still palpable to this day.

One book that is not as rare as I thought is Tournefort’s 1732(ish) Voyage du Levant. I didn’t think a botanist’s trip to the Eastern Mediterranean would be so darned popular, but nearly every research library I’ve been to has a copy–often multiple editions. What can I say?

Good Lord, I remember when it was for sale new for less than $20. Shoulda picked up a copy.
I’m surprised which books go up rapidly in price (and down in availability). Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, which I bought not that long ago new for $14 now sells for an outrageous price.

And I’m glad I picked up that reprint copy of A.B. Cook’s Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion, Vol. II (the only one available) when I did a few years ago – it’s now outrageously priced, if available at all.

A copy of Booker T Washington’s “Up From Slavery”. First edition. On the regular OSU stacks like every other book. 3200 on Abe. if only it was not rebound…

As a kid, one of my favorite books was my aunt’s copy of Suzuki Beane by Sandra Scoppettone (illustrated by Louise Fitzhugh). When my sister recently had her first kid, I wanted to get a copy for him. $150 - 250? Guess he’ll have to miss out on that little beatnik.

I wanted a copy of Chiquart’s ‘on Cookery’: A Fifteenth-Century Savoyard Culinary Treatise for **years **before my husband paid a lot of money for it on abe.
I had an unbound copy because the copy at the university library had…fallen open on the photocopier…repeatedly. I’ve written to the publisher; I don’t know why they won’t reissue the English version.

My daughter last year was enticed by a copy of Stardust illustrated by some dude…Vess? Hardcover. I went to look for it and it wasn’t available…ebay seller wanted $300 as starting bid! I found a used library copy from a place in California costing $98. Birthday coming up so I bought it. I like to be unpredictable. :slight_smile:

I had a signed first edition of Bradbury’s Dark Carnival in my possession for a couple of weeks. I was using it to help proofread the reprint. Only 3,000 were printed and they’re selling for $5,000 and up. I was relieved to send it back to the owner. What if the dog had chewed it?

I have a signed First Edition of Larry Niven’s Ringworld. It’s the one with the mistake in it.

My wife has the 1st American Edition of the Codex Serphinianus which sells on Ebay these days for about $700. She bought it new when it came out.

Just last week, I was looking for a copy of *Gaslight Grotesque *(book of Sherlock Holmes/horror pastiches, sequel to Gaslight Grimoire, which I own). Amazon had two copies, one for $40 and one for $107 (the cover price was $16.95, and it was only published last year). I checked BN and found a used copy for $12.75, which I immediately ordered. Yesterday I got an email from them saying that they apologize, but they no longer have the book in stock. Deciding that I really must have the book and $40 isn’t that bad, I went back to Amazon to claim it–only to find it gone, replaced by two copies for $99 and $108. sigh Now, of course, I’ve decided that I have to have the book, but not for those prices. I’ll keep looking around in hopes I’ll either find one cheaper or they’ll reprint. I love Holmes and I love horror, so a combo of the two usually hits the spot for me.

I probably own a few books that are worth a small bit of money (like *The Star Trek Concordance *and The Making of the Trek Conventions) but I doubt I have anything squirrelled away that’s worth anything much.

Well, as a collector of first editions, I have a few ways to go on this one:

  • Random finds: My wife and I love the movie the Philadelphia Story, with Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart. On a lark, I did a search on a new search engine I was checking out and found a first edition of the original play for $35. Being a haggler, I talked him down to $25 and paid for the book and it was sent to me. I looked it up on my other search engines and it was valued at close to $1,000

  • Scouted finds: too many to mention, but I work to find books that are reasonably undervalued, buy them and use them as part of deals to get into more valuable books. I acquired a first edition of Woody Allen’s first play (Don’t Drink the Water), and Vonnegut’s first book (Player Piano) and then lucked into a great deal for a first edition/second state of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (the error found in the first state - one letter of the first word of a chapter was off-line - had been corrected, but there were still VERY few copies of the second state printed) - and then I was able to take those three books and a little cash and trade them for my first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is a huge high spot. Also, during the initial hype around John Grisham, I found a first edition (no dust jacket) of his first book A Time to Kill which was printed in a small run - I hate Grisham, but got the book for $5 and traded it and a couple hundred bucks for first editions of Asimov’s Foundation AND Foundation and Empire, both in dj. I totally killed that day. :wink:

  • Just amazingly cool books - the Grolier Club is the rare book hoidy-toidy club of NYC - I doubt they’d let me clean the bathrooms. But they have a Exhibition room open to the public, and one point they had the collection of this rich Swiss (Austrian?) fellow who had died but turned his collection into a museum on his family estate. As part of the collection, he has an original of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses - the pamphlet he hammered onto the church door to start Protestantism - one of maybe 3 known!!! He had chapbook versions of Shakespeare’s plays (actor’s copies from before the printing of the First Folio. But he also had Leibniz’ copy of Newton’s Principia Mathematica - with Leibniz’ notes in the margins!! (Newton published Principia which along with On the Origin of Species and Copernicus’ book on Heliocentrism are considered the most important science books around…Principia lays out his discovery of “The Calculus” - i.e., calculus and how to use it to calculate areas and limits, etc. - because Leibniz was publicizing his work in the area and claiming discovery. This was a big deal back in the day amongst the European science community - I would’ve killed to be able to read all his marginalia…

Those are some enounters that come to mind…

I’ve seen, and borrowed seventeenth-century books from the UCLA libraries. That was a few years ago, when there were quite a number of these books in the general stacks at YRL and available to borrowers. These books don’t circulate much, and these days have mostly been moved to off site storage. But patrons can still fill out a request to have them brought over, and then borrow them.

At a Dutton’s bookshop, now defunct, I once saw the official program of the 1876 Centennial Exposition. It wasn’t in the format of a large folio or magazine, the way you would expect a program to be today; rather it was a small hardbound book of perhaps 200 pages. They wanted $60 or $70 for it; I’ve long regretted not buying it.

Get yourself a copy of Cariadoc’s Miscellaney,

And if you add Cindy Renfrew’s Take a Thousand Eggs for even more cooking fun you might be happier … :smiley:

I got about 18 pages (folded in half) of old paper with tiny writing and some diagrams on it. I got it at a garage sale for a couple bucks. It’s called the Codex Leicastor… Coding Leicester… Codex Limecester… .Something like that.

I don’t have much in my collection–some old books, probably not rare. The Pears Shilling Cyclopedia (not a typo) is a favourite. I do have a copy of “The Velvet Underground”–the book that inspired the band’s name. Selling it won’t make me rich, though.

Charles Vess, and I’m pretty sure that’s been reissued in hard cover. Me, I still have my August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories that I paid 10c for, the one with the Frank R. Paul “Buck Rogers” {it was actually The Skylark of Space} jetpack cover.

In the early days of Ebay I discovered quite by accident that the local bookstores were ignorant of the internet and were underpricing their books, sometimes drastically. My first purchase was a full set of the Lord of the Rings first American editions in tattered dustjackets. I just wanted to read them, but I was interested in books and figured they must be worth more than $5 a piece. I sold them for $1200 (which in hindsight was a terrible deal for me).

From there I started buying in small auctions and looking for opportunities to exploit the higher prices on Ebay. I found that buying a $5 book and selling it for $30 was just as much work as buying a $500 book and selling it for $1100. I never kept them, but I owned some wonderful books.

Some of my favorites:

[li]A wonderfully pornographic edition of the Marquis De Sade’s Justine. It was a Dutch pirate edition from the same year as the true first edition[/li][li]Norman MacLean’s high school year book[/li][li]An absolutely perfect copy of Richard Francis Burton’s “Lake Regions of Central Africa”.[/li][li]An elephant folio sized set of Civil War battlefield maps. Elephant folios are just enormous and the detail was marvelous[/li][/ul]

I have owned every on of Twain’s first editions as well as most of Richard Francis Burton’s. The only one I really regret not keeping was Norman MacLean’s “A River Runs Through It”, which is nearly impossible to find in any acceptable condition without paying a few grand, which I can’t justify anymore at this stage in my life.

The biggest regret that I just couldn’t afford was a jailhouse diary from a man who spent time in several prisons in Georgia and Alabama from 1924-31. He was an obsessive pedophile and recorded his thoughts and experiences over close to 200 pages of writing. It sold for $1200, which I thought was too little for such a strange and possibly unique document.