Sunday, May 31, 2015

James Joyce, Ulysses (First US edition, 1934 Random House)

This is the first US edition of one of my favorite novels of all time, Ulysses. It was published by Random House in 1934, 12 years after the original 1000-copy edition was boldly published in Paris by Shakespeare and Co.

This copy belonged to my grandfather, who was a casual Joyce scholar and serious Joyce collector: it was passed down to me, jacketless, when he died, and I recently found a facsimile jacket to complete the piece.

The book is in surprisingly great condition and still has a tight binding and minimal staining and wear. The spine has some slight discoloration (likely due to sunning) but the book remains in highly presentable condition. Frankly, it feels unread, and that its wear is from its various phases storage and transport over the years.

An added personal bonus: the book is inscribed on the flyleaf by a "Lydia Evans", who graduated from my Alma Mater, Vassar College, in 1936. Wonderful to think of our potential overlap, seventy years apart, walking into the same library and across the same quad. I think it was 2004 that I first fell in love with Ulysses, too. Google tells me she was the wife of a landscape architect named Christopher Tunnard. Searching for both their names results in a number of donations to both the Yale and Vassar art collections.

It's one of my prized pieces. The book was highly influential to me, and still dazzles me every few years when I decide to revisit it.

Currently reading:
David McCullough, The Wright Brothers

Currently listening to:
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, "Loin des Hommes"

Monday, May 25, 2015

Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle Book Four (signed first US edition)

This is a signed first edition of Book Four of Karl Ove Knausgaard's six-volume masterwork My Struggle, published last month by Archipelago Books in Brooklyn. I'm a passionate Knausgaard supporter, and have written quite a bit about the first three volumes of My Struggle, which you can find at the following links:

I picked up a copy of Book Four for myself at Powerhouse Books in Brooklyn after Knausgaard made an appearance there to support his new book. In the flesh, it seems Knausgaard mania is still a thing, as Powerhouse told me their huge shop was packed to the gills with fans who pre-ordered tickets to the event. I would've been there, too, had I not had a conflict that night.

Now, like any good book collector, I picked up a second copy of Book Four along with my own: one to keep, one to sell. My copy has been on eBay for a measly $50 for the past few weeks and I've been stunned out how little activity there's been on it. Last year, I found a trove of signed copies of books one through three and they sold close to $200 each, with people fighting for the high bid. Now, I'm getting 10 views a week, if I'm lucky.

Does this mean that on the collector's front, Knausgaard mania has passed? Seems so. Lucky for us, they're still outstanding books, far more valuable in their content than their collectible state.

Currently reading:
William T. Vollmann, The Rifles

Currently listening to:
Miles Davis, "Kind of Blue"

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book to buy: Yoko Ono, Grapefruit, first edition facsimile from MoMA (2015)

I recommend that any collectors out there get an order in for this: in conjunction with the new Yoko Ono exhibition at MoMA, New York, MoMA has created a facsimile edition of the artist's monumental 1964 book Grapefruit. The Wunternaum first edition of this are impossible to find, as many of them are already locked away in museum collections and valued in the tens-of-thousands. And, others out there look like this soiled piece that I found on the Grapefruit wiki:

Because MoMA naturally has a pristine copy in their collection, with Ono's blessing they created two facsimile editions of the book. One started at $750 and was signed and numbered by Ono in an edition of only 50 copies. These have sold out ridiculously fast, have doubled in price in two days, and I believe are completely gone at this point. For the rest of us, for a mere $150 you can buy an unsigned one from an edition of 500 copies. When I placed my order yesterday, a store employee told me there were likely about 150 left.

Go here to place an order; I'm certain this book will be worth a lot, and it's really a special piece. The book is composed of 150 instructional "artworks", like the two below.

The book is small, only about 6 inches squared. I think this is an obvious acquisition for anyone's art library, or for those smaller-scale investors who want a piece that, in my opinion, is sure rise in value.

Currently reading:
Mikhail Shishkin, The Light and the Dark

Currently listening to:
Kamasi Washing, "The Epic"

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Towards a New American Poetics, limited edition signed by Allen Ginsberg and more (Black Sparrow Press, 1978)

This isn't technically in my collection, but passing through: Towards a New American Poetics is a gift my wife and I will be giving to a relative who will be getting his Ph.D. next month in American literature.

Published in 1978 by Black Sparrow Press and edited by Ekbert Faas, Towards a New American Poetics features essays by Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley, Robert Bly and Allen Ginsberg, as well as an interview with each by Faas.

In traditional Black Sparrow Press form, the book was issued in a trade edition of 1000 copies as well as a limited, numbered edition of only 125. These copies were all signed by the authors, with the exception of Charles Olson who died eight years previously. Pretty neat to see all these important poets on one signature page:

And, for good measure, an excerpt of Allen Ginsberg discussing Whitman's nonexistent influence on Howl; credit goes instead to Hart Crane, Shelley and Williams.

Copies of these are out there, kicking around eBay for a high fixed price and the option to make an offer. This was a little out of reach for us, but I figured I'd try with what I felt was a low offer (but still somewhat appropriate considering the book)... The seller accepted it, to my surprise, and the book is ours. I think it'll be a great gift.

Currently reading:
Notes from a Dead House by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Currently listening to:
Red House Painters, S/T (Rollercoaster)