April 2014 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Nick Basbanes' Library of Inscribed First Editions for Sale

At last, a way to gauge one's level of bibliomania: What would you give to own a copy of A.S. Byatt's Possession inscribed by the author to Nicholas Basbanes? Or, Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, inscribed to the man who brought book collecting into the mainstream? How about Alberto Manguel's A History of Reading inscribed to the author of eight books on reading, writing, and collecting books?

These three association copies, and more than six hundred other modern first editions, all inscribed to Basbanes, are being offered en bloc by Lux Mentis Booksellers in Portland, Maine.  

DSC_5982.jpegMost readers hardly need an introduction to Nick Basbanes. He has been, since the publication of A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books in 1995, the book world's foremost expert on bibliophilia, as well as FB&C's featured columnist. Prior to that, Basbanes was book review editor and literary columnist for the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette from 1978 to 1991 and a freelance reviewer and writer from 1991 to 2000. It was during these years that Basbanes interviewed scores of authors. In the introduction to the sale catalogue for the collection of association copies, Basbanes writes that asking each author to sign a book for him "was central to my transformation from an impassioned reader who already loved books for their content into a bibliophile who treasured them as material objects."

Simon .jpgTwo of the inscribed books recall a lighthearted rivalry between Annie Dillard and Roy Blount, Jr. Basbanes had met with the two writers on the same day. Blount had inscribed, "It's nice to be able to discuss the concept of raunchiness with you just before you get to Annie Dillard." To which Dillard "replied" in her inscription: "...with all best wishes after a jolly old time at the Ritz-Carleton on the day of his talk with slightly more raunchy Roy Blount Jr."

DSC_6026.JPGSome of the authors he interviewed more than once (and so he collected more than one title), including Margaret Atwood, Harold Bloom, James Lee Burke, Pat Conroy, Michael Crichton, Louise Erdrich, P.D. James, Norman Mailer, David McCullough, and Maurice Sendak. He has a few Updikes too, one of which is inscribed "For Nick, the bibliophia expert," and a few from Joseph Heller, who referred to Basbanes as "an old and welcome friend."

All of the books are in very good to fine condition, and some even include a bit of publishing ephemera--review slips, press releases, publicity photos. It is, as Basbanes describes it, "a snap-shot of the literary scene of the day as it unfolded."

The price for the collection is available upon request from Lux Mentis.

Images courtesy of Nick Basbanes.