Coming Attractions | Page 47 | Newberry

Coming Attractions

I get these occasional calls from people who don’t want to donate books, but want to know what their books are worth. I prefer to send people to a website like abebooks or alibris, but when I do wind up looking at samples from their libraries, I do come in contact with interesting books.

One of my latest visitors had a book which his mother had always told her was a first edition of a Major American Classic. He left it behind and I looked it up, and I worried for a week about how I would break it to him that yes, this WAS a first edition, and the first edition was worth about $8,000, but hers was NOT a first printing, and therefore was, at best, about a $75 book.

He was thrilled. “I didn’t want it to be worth a lot of money. We’ve taken such bad care of it that I hated to think you’d tell me we’d ruined a $5,000 book.”

June will NOT be another Smurf Singalong Month. He, after all, brought me those books in May, so he’s covered under that sign of the Book Fair Zodiac. (Some people have suggested Care Bear Month for June, but it being the season, I’m holding out for Strawberry Shortcake.)

There are a few other bits of business from May that I am still tidying up, and I thought you needed to know about them. My work does not break off into nice month-sized segments, and some Smurfiness will probably leak over into July. (This is why I sometimes look a bit cranky when I’m helping you unload those two banana boxes of business textbooks you brought me. When you knocked on the door I had just about cornered the last Smurf.)

That collection of highly valuable books that was deposited on my doorstep continues to unload Smurfily precious books: I need just eight more volumes to complete this set valued between $30,000 and $40,000 (I have one out of the nine, see, but hope springs eternal.) There is a nice book on the Irish Question, published in 1874. They had two copies of this: one bound in green, one in orange. That HAS to be coincidence, right? There’s this limited edition H.L. Mencken, which he didn’t get around to signing,

I’d be farther along with those Smurfs, but there was this estate involving 86 boxes of nice, shiny books that came in soon after. The Music section, for one, is going to be a major beneficiary here: one box was nothing but histories of various makes of guitar, while another had every book ever put together to celebrate the Top 100 or Top 40 or what have you pop song lists. One of these is arranged by day: you can look up what song was number 1 on any day of any year back to the late 1940s. I think we might be on to a new way to analyze your personality: how would your life be different if the #1 on your birthdate was “Purple People Eater” as opposed to, say, “Achy Breaky Heart”?

I’d be farther along with those, but there’s this collection of cigar boxes coming in, and I’m getting in some of the collection of a woman who wanted the Newberry to have a display of The Watch Tower in every language it’s translated into each week, and there’s this collection of supermarket tabloids dealing with Frank Sinatra’s funeral to be tended to, and…. Are we having a Book Fair this year, or is it going to be a spectacular Smurf Release?

All of this is really just a plot to keep me from getting back down to work with the records again, so I can see whether there are any more Smurf albums hiding there. (Have I mentioned the Spiro Agnew flexi-discs yet?)

[ADOPTION UPDATE: Claude Debussy is leading the field by several lengths now. Come on, where are all you Amadeus fanatics? What about Herman Melville? Do you want the Adoption Cup going to France?] 

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