On Collecting Books


Weekly Highlights

By Rich Rennicks

Our members list new acquisitions and recently cataloged items almost every day of the year. Below, you'll find a few highlights from these recent additions... King Kong - Original Folded One Sheet Movie Poster (1976) by WALLACE, EDGAR AND COOPER, MERIAN C. Los Angeles: Paramount Pictures, 1976. 76/212. "For Christmas". The original teaser poster for the 1976 version of this classic movie story, hence no credits appear on this version, just one great graphic poster ! Near Fine, small tears at center fold and light age toning in white margins of poster. . First Printing. Original One Sheet Movie Poste. Near Fine. 27" x 41". Offered by Dale Steffey Books. Godzilla (Original double weight photograph from the 1954 film) by HONDA, ISHIRO (DIRECTOR, SCREENWRITER); TAKEO MURATA, SHIGERU KAYAMA (SCREENWRITER); AKIRA TAKARADA, MOMOKO KOCHI, AKIHIKO HIRATA, TAKASHI SHIMURA, FUYUKI MURAKAMI (STARRING) Tokyo: Toho Company, 1954. Vintage double weight photograph from the 1954 film, the first appearance of Godzilla, who would go on to appear in countless other Japanese monster movies, as well as non-Japanese ones. With holograph annotations on the verso. The original Godzilla film is one of the first Kaiju films, a Japanese sub-genre of films featuring giant monsters attacking cities and engaging in violent confrontation with the military and other monsters. The film was an allegory for the effects of the hydrogen bomb and radioactive contamination, and gave way to a long series and whole ... [more Weekly Highlights]

The Antiquarian Booksellers' Benevolent Fund Since its founding in 1952 by a group of ABAA members, the Antiquarian Booksellers' Benevolent Fund has been dedicated throughout its history to providing timely financial assistance to those in the book trade who find themselves in a time of need. Originally known as The Charles Grand Memorial Fund (a founder's reminiscence can be found below), it was specifically meant to provide “for the assistance of needy persons, regardless of affiliation, who are or have been engaged in the business of selling and dealing in books, manuscripts, and printed matter in general,” with the only proviso being that funds may be granted only for personal needs, not for business needs. In a typical year, the Fund gives a total of $40,000 in one-time disbursements to booksellers in need, the majority of whom are not members of the ABAA. Historically, the Fund has been sustained by donations from ABAA members, their generosity born out of their understanding of how precarious a livelihood in the book trade can sometimes be. Most antiquarian booksellers are individual proprietors with limited capital, and are especially vulnerable to unanticipated ill-health, accidents, natural disasters or other types of misfortune. The Antiquarian Booksellers' Benevolent Fund is administered by a group of Trustees comprised of the three most recent Presidents of the ABAA. The ABAA regards its stewardship of the Benevolent Fund as one of its most important responsi... [more Donate to the Benevolent and Woodburn Funds]

What's better: a simple author signature, or an inscription? As a longtime bookseller -- a veteran of Borders, Waldenbooks, and independent bookstores -- I thought I knew the answer. But, once I began working for antiquarian booksellers, I discovered the question is much more complex. A comment on the ABAA Facebook page recently asked why some booksellers appear to prefer plain signed books, rather than inscribed ones? While trying to find the answer, I encountered an interesting tale of changing fashions and the dark side of book collecting. The prevailing wisdom in literary circles over the past decade or two has been to ask an author for a plain signature when getting a book autographed (some collectors even purchase two copies, asking the author to inscribe one to them for their 'permanent collection,' and to simply sign their name to the other one, which they will hold onto in the hopes its value appreciates -- sellers of new books have no qualms about endorsing this point of view, although antiquarian booksellers know there is no certainty of modern firsts becoming valuable collectibles, and strongly caution collectors against viewing them as such). To my shame, I've organized and helped run hundreds of book signings and never previously gave this standard advice much thought. inscribed -- a book, or other printed piece, with a handwritten and signed statement usually written for a specific named person(s) and often located on the end paper or title page; when "inscribe... [more Signed Books Vs. Inscribed Books]

Rare books and ephemera can be a fascinating avenue to examine the past and understand what was really happening during significant events or time periods. We took a deep dive into the database to see what light our members offerings could shine on America's new favorite drama... The Queen's Gambit Netflix's #1 new show is the coming-of-age story of a female chess prodigy struggling with addiction and the chauvinism inherent in 1960's American society. Based on Walter Tevis's 1983 novel of the same name, the show is being talked about for many reasons, not the least of which is the way it revels in decidedly analog pleasures -- the slow, methodical game of chess itself and the fashions of the 1960s -- and a very retro style of editing at odds with the frantic pace of modern television. At the same time, its vision of glass ceilings shattering and the importance of a team of like-minded friends to support each other speaks directly to issues very much on our minds at the current moment. Chess lovers have noted the accuracy and care with which the chess games themselves are depicted, which is no surprise considering the show recruited Grand Master Garry Kasparov and noted chess instructor Bruce Pandolfini (who also helped proof-read the original novel!) to oversee the gameplay and coach the actors on the nuances of competitive chess. In this time of social isolation, games like chess are discovering new fans and inspiring older ones to return to the board (the so-called "pandem... [more Behind The Queen’s Gambit]


Exploring Lovecraft Country

By Rich Rennicks

HBO's latest hit show, "Lovecraft Country" is based on Matt Ruff's 2016 novel of the same name which mines the horror and mythology of H.P. Lovecraft, but instead of hiding his racist views, highlights them by having a group of African Americans from Chicago encounter both racists and supernatural forces in Lovecraft's New England during the Jim Crow period. H.P. Lovecraft has long been praised as a visionary and trailblazer for American fantasy; and is regarded as "second only to Edgar Allan Poe in the annals of American supernatural literature" by critic Michael Dirda. A prolific writer, Lovecraft was nevertheless unable to make a significant income from his fiction during his life. His reputation and influence only increased after his death, and there are now many collectors of his work, both serious and casual. Most of his stories were published in pulp magazines during his life, which can present challenges for collectors who wish to own copies of the magazines in which various stories made their first appearance. His work has been widely collected and anthologized in recent decades. After his death, his friends and fellow horrow writers August Derleth and Donald Wandrei attempted to interest major publishers in a collection of his best work, but found traditional publishers had little interest in occult horror. They formed a publishing company, Arkham House, specifically to reprint Lovecraft's stories, and over the decades published much of Lovecraft's fiction, as well ... [more Exploring Lovecraft Country]

Every so often an ABAA member lists an item that gets people in the business talking, regardless of whether it fits with their own particular interests or specialities. One of those items is this exceptional letter from Jack Kerouac to a young boy tasked with writing to a published author for a school project. The response is generous, eloquent, and expansive, offering more of a window into the author than the typical high-school project might reasonably be expected to produce! Jack Kerouac Autographed Manuscript by Jack Kerouac Description: 1964. Jack Kerouac's candid handwritten reply to a young man's questions about being a "Beatnik," his life philosophy, his thoughts on Montana, and more. Students in Robert Dodd's ninth-grade class were given an assignment to contact their favorite writer with their own unique series of questions relating specifically to that writer. The young Dodd chose Jack Kerouac, and the author replied at length to his questionnaire, which includes queries about his classification as a "Beatnik" (his answer: "I never was a Beatnik - it was the newspapers and critics who tagged that label on me...."), life philosophy ("My philosophy is 'No Philosophy,' just 'Things-As-They-Are'"), career goals ("Be a great writer making everybody believe in Heaven"), the ideal way of life ("Hermit in the woods..."), his thoughts on fame ("My name is like Crackerjacks, famous, but very few people buy my books..."), and segregation ("he Irish and Italians of Massachuset... [more Jack Kerouac in His Own Hand]


Collecting Film Scripts

By Rich Rennicks

Note: We're reposting this article on collecting film scripts in light of the growing difficulty in acquiring copies of classic mid-century films and movie studio's reluctance to make classics available for exhibition. It was originally published in August 2019. According to a great many people, the film (or movie, if you prefer) was the great art form of the 20th century, so it shouldn't be any great surprise that there is a large number of collectors — individual and institutional — focused on the movie business; but it might surprise many to learn that there's great interest in collecting the seemingly least-glamorous part of the entire filmmaking process — the scripts themselves. Collecting scripts is different from collecting many other forms of printed matter, as scripts were not mass-produced (excepting the relatively recent trade-paperback editions of hit films) or made available for sale to the general public. Scripts were typed out and mimeographed; changes were printed on different colored pages and the earlier pages thrown away; scripts went through innumerable drafts, and sometimes several sets of writers; and all that before the production technicians and artists got hold of the "finished" script and began annotating it for their own purposes. There are therefore multiple different types of script and an entire language of shorthand to decipher when evaluating a script manuscript. Different eras and areas of production had their own conventions and practic... [more Collecting Film Scripts]

One phrase you might hear at a rare-book fair is mapbacks. No, that's not some sort of tattoo favored by rare map dealers; a "mapback" is the informal name for a series of pulp paperback books published by Dell between 1943 and 1950. Initially, the back cover of these books featured bland art, but starting with the fifth book in the series, Four Frightened Women by George Harmon Coxe, Dell added an illustration showing the locale where the book's events took place. (Note: the previous book in the series, The American Gun Mystery by Ellery Queen, was later reprinted with a map on the back cover, but it was the fifth book in the series that was the first to feature a map.) The “maps” were not all conventional maps by any means, with cut-away illustrations of buildings being a frequent option the various artists used when the action was largely confined to one house or building. Dell paperbacks were distinguished airbrushed art and a distinctive Keyhole collophon with an eye peering through, a nod to the lurid mysteries they mainly published in the paperback line — although they soon began to add thrillers, romance, western titles, even historical novels and nonfiction as the series grew in popularity. The keyhole logo soon accreted a number of variations to denote genre, and (according to Piet Schreuders in The Book of Paperbacks) in 1949 it ceased to be used on the rear of mapbacks). Curtains for the Copper by Thomas Polsky New York: Dell Publishing Company. First editio... [more Collecting Dell Mapbacks]

This fascinating blog post about the history of vellum and parchment is written by Richard Norman, an experienced British bookbinder now living in France, where he runs Eden Wookshops with his wife and fellow bookbinder, Margaret, specializing in Family Bibles and liturgical books. The article originally appeared on www.edenworkshops.com, and is reprinted below with the author's permission. --Editor According to the Roman Varro and Pliny's Natural History, vellum and parchment were invented under the patronage of Eumenes of Pergamum, as a substitute for papyrus, which was temporarily not being exported from Alexandria, its only source. Herodotus mentions writing on skins as common in his time, the 5th century BC; and in his Histories (v.58) he states that the Ionians of Asia Minor had been accustomed to give the name of skins (diphtherai) to books; this word was adapted by Hellenized Jews to describe scrolls. Parchment (pergamenum in Latin), however, derives its name from Pergamon, the city where it was perfected (via the French parchemin). In the 2nd century B.C. a great library was set up in Pergamon that rivalled the famous Library of Alexandria. As prices rose for papyrus and the reed used for making it was over-harvested towards local extinction in the two nomes of the Nile delta that produced it, Pergamon adapted by increasing use of vellum and parchment. Writing on prepared animal skins had a long history, however. Some Egyptian Fourth Dynasty texts were written on vel... [more The History Of Vellum And Parchment]

Wouldn't you like to automate the process of searching our members' listings for the books or other items you desire? Well, you can easily let us do the searching for you! WANT LISTS Customers can set up “Want Lists” — saved searches for the books or items you are actively hunting for — which alert you (by email) anytime a new copy is listed or an existing listing changes substantially (new price, image added, etc.). You can tailor the frequency of these emails to suit your needs: Daily emails let you know within hours of any change or new copy being listed. Weekly or monthly emails will send you a digest of all new titles listed in the preceding week or month (and not sold by the time the email is sent). The default setting is for daily emails (as that's what ABAA members prefer). If you're actively trying to collect a popular niche or subject area, you may want more frequent emails, so no other collector beats you to your prize. CREATING A SAVED SEARCH "Want List" searches can be as general or specific as you wish. You can search for any books by a particular author, or just first editions, with or without dust jackets, or a very specific edition within a certain price range, etc., etc. If you want to monitor new listings in a broad category, enter the salient information in the “Keyword” field. (Ex: "Anarchy" or "Poetry, Ireland"). Once you've set up the search parameters, you can sit back and relax in the knowledge that if a book you want is offered for sale o... [more Let Us Do the Rare Book Searching for You!]