Thursday, February 18, 2016

O Rare Arthur Bray!

I maintain a list of wants of extremely obscure books and rare titles on several bookselling websites. Periodically, I get an exciting email that one of those books is being offered for sale. I usually hold my breath, close my eyes and hit the link. Then I slowly exhale and open my eyes to see if the price is something I think is not only reasonable but affordable. More often than not I can afford the book and I buy it without hesitation. A few days ago I got an alert that one of those very rare "wants" turned up.

Here's the listing (with some typos corrected):

Title: The Clue Of The Postage Stamp

Author: Arthur Bray

Publisher: Alex Thom and Co, London and Dublin

Publication Date: 1913

Binding: Hardcover

Edition: 1st Edition

First edition. in original illustrated boards as issued. With original 'fake' postage stamp to front board as required. 8vo, frontispiece,371pp. Showing overall wear, rubbing to spine. edges and corners. Inner hinges firm, some wear and tenderness to outer. Overall marking and discolouration. Pencil annotation to f.e.p. stating 'very rare and almost unobtainable'. More images available on request. 9370. Eric Quayle p.88 the Collector's Book Of Detective Fiction.

And the price? A mere £2400 or $3535.61. Plus shipping! (the tightwads)

This title had been on my want list for nearly ten years. Patience is a virtue, right? At least I know it actually exists. Perhaps I need to heed my own tongue-in-cheek advice given to one blog visitor a while ago: "Take comfort in knowing that you can't have everything." ...sigh...

SURREAL UPDATE: Another copy of this extremely elusive book has suddenly popped up for sale from a different UK dealer on the same website. Based on the photos and description this second copy seems to be in much better condition and -- bonus! -- it's signed by the author, though for some reason the seller does not offer a photograph of the signature. Remarkably, it's cheaper than the one I was alerted about. You'll save four hundred pounds if you have £2000 in pocket change to buy this more attractive second copy. Photos of the other handsome copy can be viewed at the bookseller's own website.

13 comments:

  1. It's harder to take that kind of advice than it is to give it... ;-) There have been a few of my "wants" that I've let go by because I didn't feel like I could afford them (or that I could think up good enough logic to present to the provider of the other half of my bank account).

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    1. And the solution to that is -- get your own bank account! :^D Yes, I'm joking. No one would ever take my financial advice...or lack of it. When I started paying CASH and stopped using my credit cards, the book buying (and other luxury spending) got under control very quickly! And it's going to stay that way.

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  2. I've only once had one of my "wants" appear at an affordable price. This was when I was working on my biography of John Glassco. The only book of his I did not own was his hoax The Temple of Pederasty (North Hollywood: Hanover House, 1969 (but really 1970). After years of waiting, I was alerted to a copy at US$500. I just couldn't justify the expense - more expensive than travelling to Ottawa, reading the copy held amongst his papers, enjoying an expensive dinner, taking a hotel room, and returning the next day - so, I passed. The copy sold within 24 hours. The very next week, I received a second alert for the book. This time, the price was US$45. I didn't hesitate. Good things come to those who wait.

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    1. Yes, good things do come to those who wait. A month ago I was alerted through another want list email to a copy of the ultra rare haunted house/detective novel THE EMPTY HOUSE by "Irina Karlova" (aka Helen Clamp). I got it for $65. That book was rumored to be a phantom title by some collectors as no one had seen a copy of it for sale in over thirty years! Review coming soon.

      The most I spent on a book was $300 for a copy of THE BROKEN FANG, an obscure collection of short stories featuring an occult detective named Dr. Rhymer. I regretted it deeply. E.F. Bleiler gave it a good recommendation in his GUIDE TO SUPERNATURAL FICTION, but I thought the stories were really dull and very derivative. I sold it at a big loss about six months later to John Knott who works with L.W. Currey every now and then. It's still being offered -- at four times what I sold it to them for. Oy! Since that life lesson in book collecting/amassing I've never spent more than $175 on a rarity. And here's an ironic coda: THE BROKEN FANG is now available from Ramble House in a paperback edition for twenty bucks.

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  3. Here's one...

    http://www.worldcat.org/title/clue-of-the-postage-stamp/oclc/42396739&referer=brief_results

    At Indiana University. Don't forget to check your local library's inter-library lending program. I've been able to get some very obscure volumes that way. P.S.: love the blog!

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    1. Thanks, James, for the reminder about that invaluable service. However, many a time I've tried to get something via interlibrary loan and I know in advance that there is a copy within the tri-state area (IL, WI, IN for me) I am denied the loan! My tastes run to rare books that are often not allowed to circulate outside the library where they are housed. It's happened way too often to me and I gave up on inquiring about two years ago. With so many online sellers offering free shipping these days if I can find a reading copy for sale that's under $10 it's just so much easier. And I can always resell it when I'm done, usually at a profit!

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  4. Bloody hell John - it would cheaper to buy the rights and publish your own facsimile edition - in hardback!

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    1. Actually, if it was published in 1913 then it would probably fall into the public domain.

      Of course you'd need to find a copy of the book to get it published, so there's still that.

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  5. Take comfort in knowing you can't have everything, Grasshopper. Breathe in, breathe out.

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    1. "Déjà vu/Could this be the dream that I once knew?..."

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  6. I managed to read The Empty House a couple of years ago via interlibrary loan. I was even loaned a copy with a dustwrapper!

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    1. Did you think to scan or photograph the DJ before you returned it? I'd love to see that ultra rare DJ!

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  7. Of course. I'll email the scan.

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