I was amazed to find an inaccurate and misleading photograph in “Collecting Paperback Covers” (FB&C #32). The edition of Catcher in the Rye shown is not the first Signet edition of this classic. The first edition is #1001, not the #1667 depicted. The first edition has the same cover design by James Avati, but it goes to the edges of the cover and is not framed by a gold border. Further, for the first paperback edition to be worth $275, it would have to be in better condition than the one pictured. That copy has tears at both the top and the bottom of the spine, pieces missing from two corners, a reader crease, several noticeable creases at the bottom, and a ding on the lower right corner. Just from these defects, I would rate the copy well below average: good plus, perhaps. If a seller obtained $2 for this copy, he’d be having a good day. The suggestion that it is valued at $275 is not supportable.
I have a copy of #1001 in above average condition, which I purchased for $10 a decade ago. Most of the paperback price guides would value this edition around $50. The other books depicted in the article seemed to be accurately valued, but this error jumped off the page at me.
Shocked and Appalled
I love your magazine. The day it arrives is always a red-letter day. But not this month. I was shocked and appalled to see you feature an article about someone who destroys books, written as though this is a good thing (“The Cut-Up Artist,” FB&C #33).
The artist, Brian Dettmer, claims he limits himself to non-fiction and that he doesn’t use collectible books. Where in the article does it tell how he acquired the knowledge and experience to know whether a book is valuable or not?
Non-fiction covers an extremely large area and many very old non-fiction books are valuable. Old books with maps are often rare and extremely valuable as are books with hand-drawn medical illustrations and books with hand-drawn botanical illustrations, and so on.
Even if Mr. Dettmer sticks with old encyclopedias, old textbooks, and reprints, running an article praising book altering can and does give other people ideas of doing the same thing. Those people probably will not be as careful.
A local organization held a book altering class a year or two ago. The nice ladies were using very old USDA yearbooks—the ones with the fantastically beautiful (and irreplaceable) color plates. They also used nineteenth-century bound magazines with the lovely (and irreplaceable) color foldouts and plates. It was to weep.
Shame on Fine Books for running an article praising the destruction of books.
The Old Book Shop
As a subscriber and avid supporter of FB&C, I look forward to reading Nicholas Basbanes’s “Gently Mad” column in every issue. I also had the honor of meeting Mr. Basbanes at the San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair in 2007 and having him sign my copy of Every Book Its Reader. (I have all of his books to date.) However, I must take issue with his not-so-subtle jabs at conservatives and Republicans in his most recent article regarding Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (FB&C #33).
While I am all too aware that the book trade is predominately left-leaning, I do not appreciate the assumption that all of us share that political persuasion. Basbanes refers to the Republican-led Congress “slashing” the NEA budget until chairman Gioia took over. However, he completely fails to mention the fact that our Republican president, George W. Bush, requested an $18 million dollar budget increase for the NEA in 2004, the largest increase since 1984.
Contrary to Mr. Basbanes’s implications, Republicans are not haters of the arts who would prefer to spend their time at NASCAR races rather than attend a Shakespearean play. It is also highly unlikely that only conservatives were outraged by the kinds of “art” that contributed to the controversy over the NEA, like Andre Serrano’s photographs of crucifixes floating in urine or of the spectacle of naked performance artists smeared with chocolate. Perhaps such works of art had some role in the low expectations of the public toward the NEA. Chairman Gioia certainly deserves high praise for his remarkable improvements in such a short period of time.
Mr. Basbanes had no intention of bashing conservatives or Republicans in his story about the revitalization of the NEA. That is very hard to do because many conservatives count “slashing” the NEA’s budget as a proud accomplishment. Tom Coburn, for example, the incumbent representative from Oklahoma, still includes the abolition of the NEA as one of his legislative goals. While Mr. Basbanes did not mention the 2004 increase in the agency’s budget, in the second paragraph of his story he did refer to the even larger increase this year: “But under Gioia’s calm guidance, funding has gradually been restored, with the agency recently recording its sharpest budget increase in nearly three decades, a $20.3 million boost to $144.7 million for fiscal 2008.”—Ed.
I have been a subscriber to your magazine for several years. I find the magazine consistently features interesting, important, and unusual aspects of book collecting. It is a worthy successor to Bookways and Biblio, both of which sadly suffered a premature demise. I hope your magazine avoids the same fate.
I would like to take issue with the article by Richard Goodman, “Books vs. Art,” in FB&C #33. I have been a rare-book collector since my college days and have worked in the art business for thirty-two years. I think that the worst thing that has happened is that painting is being valued only by its dollar status. Painting is first an artist’s self-expression and second a cultural document. It is appalling that today painting is reduced to an investment. It is just another trophy for some wealthy cipher. The people who really care about painting, such as art historians, art teachers, and museum junkies, are losers when they are priced out of the market.
Fortunately for book collectors, there are still great items and undiscovered treasures available at reasonable costs. This makes for a level playing ground and for riches that are within the reach of real devotees who appreciate books for their artistic and cultural significance and not their luxury bragging rights.
The distressing part is that the way our culture is moving, I predict that both painting and book collecting will fade into an eccentric pastime in the coming brave new world.