Used and Rare
Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
St. Martin’s Press, 1997
It begins with the search for a birthday present, something a little out of the ordinary and ends shortly after a $10,000 bid for a copy of Damon Runyon’s Guys and Dolls. It’s a story of a couple who set out to buy used books, at first reading copies, then nicer copies, then first editions and then first edition, first state with documented errata. It’s a story of book fever.
This relatively slender volume (215 pages) is well written and filled with interesting people and provides some, but not an expert-level education along the way. The Goldstones, who decided to leave the hassle and hustle of Manhattan for the calm of the Berkshires, are writers and this book, written in narrative fashion is entertaining. I sat down thinking I would read a few pages and finished it later in the evening.
What this book is about, more than books really, is people who sell books and they are a varied lot. As the Goldstones venture ever further from their home in search of information and books they learn that a book is not the same thing to everyone, and to many it is merely a commodity.
The one thing that sets the Goldstones apart from many book collectors is that they buy only what they want to read and believe to be significant and worthy works by authors they admire . This isn’t about trying to figure out which new author’s book is going to escalate in price, it’s about purchasing copies of Dickens, Steinbeck, Orwell, Stoker, Conrad, Hemmingway; all whose books fall under the category of literary modern firsts. There are a few mentions in passing of mystery authors, Chandler and Hammett for instance, and there is one very brief mention of the hypermodern phenomenon.
This is an entertaining book. It isn’t a handbook for collecting nor is it intended to be a reference work, it’s simply an autobiographical story of two people got interested in and found out a lot about used and rare books.
If you are looking for a book containing a goodly amount of information to increase your expertise about book collecting, you will likely be disappointed, but for entertainment on a fascinating subject, you may find this very enjoyable.
(Note: the scan here is the whole cover of the book, the book you see ON the cover is just an edited photo)
This review is my 7th entry in a series of Friday Forgotten Books.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more FFB reviews at her own blog, along with a complete list of today’s participating blogs and the books reviewed.