Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, Signed First Edition

A signed, first edition of Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son arrived the other day. This book won the 2013 Pulitzer last week, and has suddenly become quite collectible in the wake of the award's announcement.

In my opinion, the Pulitzer is really difficult to predict. Unlike the usual suspects of the Booker Prize, the Pulitzer is surprisingly "introductory" in its selection. Books like Tinkers, Olive Kitteridge, and pretty much everything since Cormac McCarthy won in 2007 for The Road have all been fairly new names in the grand-scheme of "contemporary classics" and make for a pretty collectible snag if you were able to get a signed first edition of one of the winners.

I think one could say with confidence that most prize-winning collectible transactions take place in the ten minutes after a book award is announced. I think it's an awkward and somewhat dishonest thing to take part in, but you can actually buy signed books from sellers before they realize that their stock has risen in value. Lots of online stores received signed, first editions of Adam Johnson's book from the publisher and had them listed at or close to retail price for the majority of the afternoon on the 15th. Someone with little shame and a few hours of time to spare on google could have found a stack of these to flip. I'm conflicted about this, because it seems like a terrible thing to do, but is it worse than a store marking their unsold books up to $200 because it happened to win the award? It's a tough call. I was able to get myself a copy for my library at $30 from a bookseller and I'm very pleased with it. Could they have charged more? Yes. Would I have paid more? Probably...?

Curiously, this edition of The Orphan Master's Son is signed on a tipped-in page and not on the title page like usual. This got me thinking about tipped-in signatures, and how they are potentially more "rare" than other signed copies. You could, theoretically, sign an entire edition of a book on the title page over x amount of time--but, only so many books have this extra signed page bound in.

 And, a complete number line:

Currently reading:
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman
Song of Susannah by Stephen King

Currently listening to:
Kurt Vile, "Wakin on a Pretty Daze"


  1. I was fortunate enough to get a signed first through the Odyssey Bookshop first editions club well before he won. Better yet, it was an excellent book. Mine is signed on the title page though. Thankfully, he has a nice signature compared to some of the others I have.

  2. Odyssey Bookshop, in my old hometown of South Hadley, MA? What a remarkable coincidence...

  3. Yes, they have been wonderful to work with. I hope to get the chance to actually visit it in person at some point.

  4. I have never read a book quite like this one! There are parts that are terrifying, gruesome and hard to get through but other beautiful, moving philosophical statements that mark this work as a massive must-read. Somehow both parts are necessary in achieving the rollercoaster ride of a story that captures both what is beautiful as well is almost unspeakable in life.