Saturday, October 31, 2009

Christopher G. Moore

I didn't call this blog "old" books but "odd" books on purpose. Not all the books I want to write about are old. Today's author is a relative newcomer. Authors Brian Moore and Chris Moore are familiar writers, but Christopher G. Moore was new to me when I started at the bookstore. We don't acquire many of his books and over time I learned that every one has to be checked online because the resale price can vary greatly. Even his new books sell for between $19 and $26 in paperback. Some of his older paperbacks start at $74 at Amazon and go higher. He has written many books, and from what I gather most are set in Thailand where he lives; he has an online blog that updates his followers with his daily movements. What is his appeal? His book jackets label him an "expat" writer and contain praise from such as Gore Vidal. We have a very small group of Moore's readers here, which surprises me as Hawaii has many ties with Thailand including a large Thai population. I'd love to hear from Moore's readers with recommendations on his books and explanations of just what it is that makes him so special.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thomas Mann & Harry Warner

In 1938, Knopf published Thomas Mann’s Joseph in Egypt as a two volume set in a slipcase. We acquired a third printing dated March 1938. There are hundreds of these books available online, but a fewer number that are a third printing in good condition and with the slipcase. It can be purchased for about $12.00 including shipping. However, on the inside blank page of our volume one it reads in pencil “From Harry & Rea Warner, Hollywood,” and below this in the same writing is “Royal Hawn Hotel, Honolulu, and ’38.” In the second volume on the half title page, it reads in pencil “From Harry Warner (Warner Bros. Studios).” According to Wikipedia, Harry Warner was married to Rea Levinson; he was a studio executive and one of the founders of Warner Brothers. He served as the company president until 1956.

This set is not pristine and shows its age with spotting, tanning, and rubs on the top and bottom of the spine. The slipcase is also darkened and spotted with age. Stuck in the slipcase was a newspaper clipping from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of Tuesday, June 21, 1938, showing a picture of Thomas Mann and information that he had been named as a lecturer in humanities for the 1938-39 term at Princeton University.

Without an inscription, we do not know who obtained the signatures or if the signatures are by Harry as opposed to his wife Rea on behalf of both of them. Because one book is signed with only Harry Warner’s signature, and the signatures in the books are identical, we assume it was signed by Mr. Warner. Given this, how much does a penciled signature, assuming it’s valid, add to the value of the set, if anything? (I invite comments/information)

Monday, October 26, 2009

What are Odd Books?

One of the reasons I love the bookstore business is the sleuthing required almost every time we receive a batch of used books. Almost everyone likes a puzzler, an enigma, a conundrum. We deal exclusively in used books, and you’d be amazed at what people drag through the doors--sometimes literally, in large garbage sacks. Even with information widely available online, we find treasures among the moldy and buggy books (this is humid Hawaii). One example. A local organization collected used books for several weeks for a fundraiser then after the sale brought the leftovers to us. In one of the boxes was an old Bible in Hawaiian: a special, hard to find book that is fairly easy to identify.

It’s the older and obscure titles that engage my curiosity, those with issues such as unusual signatures or inclusions like letters that describe a history to the book’s past ownership. Should the book command a higher price? Should we separate the letter from the book? Who are these people? Sometimes with research, I can resolve the confusion and set a reasonable resale price on the book; but over time, the stack of books with unresolved issues has grown. And I’m curious. Someone out there must know something. Thus, the Odd Books Blog. I hope you enjoy this blog, or if not, I hope it attracts the occasional bibliophile who will take the time to comment with details on the books I profile.