Wizardry

Prophecy is not one of my skills, though it does turn up here and there in my job description. Maybe I should just call it forecasting, which means I look over the trends and try to predict what will come of it all.

Yes, I have been checking the boxcount again. And though we have about three months before you can run in here, waving your cash, I believe there will be things for you to wave it over.

As mentioned before, the religion section is going to be much larger than usual: at one point, I thought it would be weighted in favor of Buddhism, but that was zen and this is…oh, you’ve heard that one. Well, we’ve added a major Baptist collection, and the library of a professor of comparative religion, so we should have a thorough spread.

Music has already surpassed last year’s total, as has Civil War (I mentioned those two collections, you’ll recall. I don’t just make these things up; I also sell them.) Poetry and Literature are likewise on the rise for our sixth annual 25th Book Fair.

I have told you several times that Easy Listening LPs are going to be available in quantity, as well as Easy listening 78s. (Or vinyl and shellac, if you prefer. Or those large black antique MP3 discs.) Just this week, we received eight huge tubs of CDs, very heavy on opera recordings. We seem also to be headed for a goodly collection of jigsaw puzzles and board games.

If you are one of those people with a dread of our Collectibles section, try to overcome it. Just in the past week we have boxed up a first edition of J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories and Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend. (Both from the same donor, by the way.) Remind me some time to tell you how your great-grandparents should NOT have bound their books: Our Mutual Friend is prettily bound, but the binder left out all those dreary publisher’s ads, which nowadays add something to the value of the book.

There was one book inscribed by cigar-smoker and poet Amy Lowell, and another signed by Jean Giraudoux. Richard Avedon signed a book of his photography, and there was another LP signed by Tito Gobbi. Someone dropped off a battered but pleasant copy of the 1768 edition of General Wolfe’s instructions to young soldiers, issued by him just as he was posted to Canada.

But to get back to the gent who gave us Salinger and Dickens (and Amy Lowell). His main business was the history of type and printing, so there are some beautiful things in the way of fine press and small press work, to be found in Collectibles ranging from $5 to $1,500. In fact, I put commas in five prices while I was doing his books. This is heady stuff. Sometimes a year will go by between comma prices.

What one wants from such a collection, of course, is something that everybody understands at once. If I drop the name “Officina Bodoni”, YOU, of course, get the idea and start mortgaging your spouse and offspring. But will this sell to the crowd down at Taco Bell? (I will state here and now that I have nothing against Taco Bell or its customers…except that they dropped the chihuahua from its commercials.)

On the other hand, if I mention his first edition of The Lord of the Rings, we may get some reaction. He bought it as a lot of people bought it: they didn’t catch on when The Fellowship of the Ring was first issued, but became curious a few months later, and then had to run out and buy the next two volumes. So his Fellowship is a fourth printing, his Two Towers is a second printing, and his Return of the King is a first printing, all in mildly chipped dust jackets. (The cover of the book was a lot more interesting than the jackets, so a lot of people threw those away. Another thing to mention to your ancestors when you get that time machine repaired.) He dealt heavily with British booksellers, so these are of course the original Allen & Unwin editions. He then ordered a copy of The Hobbit, and got a fourth printing of the second edition. This is also in dust jacket.

These will be sitting out on the Collectibles table, at least until someone rushes in to buy it. (Don’t forget the lesson of our first edition of Atlas Shrugged, which four people came in to buy on Preview Night. Three of those folks had to leave in tears.) The Lord of the Rings will be sold as a set only, and there is a comma in the price. There is no comma in the price of The Hobbit, but it also is a rarity and will be sitting in the same Lucite case.

Oh, I think it’s going to be a good Book Fair, but remember, I’m no prophet.

(Though I do try not to be a loss.)

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