Monday, May 25, 2009

The Long Good-Bye

This might just be my favourite book. Not only in terms of its content, but it is also the first book I bought through abebooks, and so it represents the start of a very dangerous collecting habit. I remember when I finished Playback being a bit upset that there was nothing more after that. At the same time this came through post for only £12 and even if there wasn't anything left to read there was still plenty to collect.

I decided early on that I could't afford 1st edtions in their jackets, which has left me in the wonderful position now, whereby I have the same empty feeling of finishing the last Chandler, but can look forward to hunting down jacketed copies. (I did once have a jacketed copy of The Long Good-Bye but had to sell it to fund other acquisitions.)

In terms of the content of this book, one scene has produced a great new item to collect. Marlowe frequently plays through chess games, but here he sets out to solve a mate in 11 moves problem.

I've never been any good at chess but can occasionally solve the 2 or 3 moves problems in the papers. I wanted to see how I rated against The Sphinx. Finding it online used to be impossible so I tried to track down the book by Blackburn [sic].

I haven't examined every work by Blackburne, but I've been through enough of them to be bored of looking any more. In a moment of inspiration I thought 'if he gets the name wrong, maybe he gets the end-papers wrong...', had a quick look online for Sphinx, Frontispiece, Chess, and found an book by Staunton. By some miracle another (tatty) copy was on eBay that day, and without knowing it my travel in hypercollecting had begun.

I've never got close to solving this and can see why Marlowe struggled with it (the solution is printed at somewhere in the text; so far I've resisted cheating).

Another great Chandler find came when I was nowhere near being able to afford even a poor copy of The Big Sleep and had to settle for the first french edition. Copies of Black Mask Magazine, which feature his early short stories, are also a bit too pricey for me, but to get his first ever published piece, all you had to do was wait for a 1909 volume of Chamber's Journal.
Sorry for the poor image, but this poem is the first appearance of anything by Raymond Chandler in print, we even get his name at the end.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

From Eco to Nabokov

Not the most earth-shattering collection, but I quite like this ensemble of first editions. (Apart from The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, which is an advanced reading copy that I begged a journalist friend to get for me. Wish I hadn't now since the illustrations in it are very blocky and in B&W. How anyone could have reviewed it properly is a mystery since the illustrations are a huge part of the joy of this book.)
I'm not sure what has happened to Baudolino; I've probably lent it to someone and taken their copy of The Golden Bough as collateral. One and a half detective fiction reference books have also managed to sneak their way into the picture.

Eco's books I'm sure will provide me with the sources of many posts, but this time it is the subject of the protagonist of the Flame's PhD that will serve -- the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. A book that in all likelihood I will never own, I did at least find a copy of the modern english translation for £3. The book is well known for the acrostic running through it which gives us the name of its author. As an aside, the idea of further codes hidden in the book was fictionalised as The Rule of Four.

When I first found out about the acrostic I wondered what the modern equivalent of it might be and Wikipedia came to the rescue. I tracked a copy of the first apperance of this down after much searching on abebooks and the other internet services -- hunting down first appearances of short stories like this is one of the more pleasurable aspects of my bibliomania (more on this in the next post with Raymond Chandler's first publication).
So there you have it, a rather tenuous link in my collecting habits, going from Eco to Nabokov via a truly weird and wonderul antiquarian book.

Incidentally my introduction to Eco was an airport paperback of The Name of the Rose, bought to keep me entertained on a part academic conference, part camping holiday in Estonia. I foolishly forgot my torch on this trip, and reading around the campfire one night, my paperback nearly went the way of that book's library!
As a bonus, since most of these pictures have been text heavy, here is my favourite illustration from the Hypnerotomachia (english ed.), the first appearance of what would become Aldus's famous device:

Friday, May 15, 2009

A New Bookish Blog

Hello and welcome to my new project, a blog about book collecting. I have for a long while been reading some of the bibliophilic blogs out there on a daily basis and thought I might give it a go. While my posts won't be as often as PhiloBiblos nor as beautifully illustrated as BiliOdyssey, I hope to find some happy middle ground between them.

The general theme will be to post on books that I have bought/sought after because of my nerdish inability to just be content with reading a book, but rather have to hunt down a first edition of it, find a stylish Penguin copy of it, and then gather any material (no matter how obscure) relating to its author, content or publishing history.

There will be an overabundance of detective fiction, for which I apologise, I will try my best to intersperse this with my other interests: the history of science; bibliography and the history of the book; libraries and other collections, etc., etc.

My next post (probably later today) will, in tribute to his essay whose title this blog shamelessly rips off, start with Umberto Eco.

PS as this is my first blog I am still experimenting with the layout, any thoughts as to what works best will be much appreciated.