Sunday, January 25, 2015

Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (First Edition)

A great rule of book collecting that I learned far too late in the life of my hobby is to focus on just a few authors you'd like to have first editions of their work and pass by things that don't quite fit into your library. There was a time a while ago when I knew a lot about rare first editions but lacked the focus to do anything important with that knowledge; I'd wander through shops and pick up books by authors I'd not yet read, motivated by the fact that I knew the book I was holding was sort of valuable, hard to find, or whatever. What I found after a few years of this was that I was accumulating a lot of books that didn't mean anything to me, books that were essentially the product of a bored book aficionado looking to fill his shelves. It's an eye-opening thing to look at a set of books you own and realize that, although being signed, first editions, they just aren't by an author you like. What I decided a few years ago is to stop browsing aimlessly and try instead to stick to a shortlist of authors that I was confident would be forever-authors, ones that I was nearly certain that I wouldn't have a change of heart over in my later years, and try to find some nice editions of their work. Thomas Pynchon was my first pick, and with the exception of V., I've completed his oeuvre. Another one that I'm slowly getting into, is the wonderful Shirley Jackson.

This is a non-price-clipped first edition of her superlative novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I found this last week on eBay after spending a couple weeks browsing new listings during an idle few minutes here and there at work. I added a "Shirley Jackson" search into that terrible cycle of websites that a person spirals through mindlessly, and one afternoon I found this, listed just a few minutes ago, at a shockingly low price. The condition was satisfactory (by no means great), but there were no signs of the book being any later printing. I couldn't be sure it was a 1st/1st but I went for it and was pleased with the results.

The book's jacket has seen better days, with chipping at the top and bottom, and the spine itself has a slight tilt to it.

The book's been bookplated on the front endpapers by previous owner "Lois Haberland Smith" (Google tells me she was the wife of Philadelphia music critic Roland Gelatt, via a NYT obit). 

In all, this book is a great example of how patience and a diligent eye will yield good results! Now, on to The Haunting of Hill House, if I can just wade through all those strange large-print editions out there...

Currently reading:
Vladimir Nabokov, The Eye

Currently listening to:
"Atomos" by A Winged Victory for the Sullen

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