Don't know how I hadn't found it before (or for that matter exactly how I did) but Bookride may be the best bibliophile site I have ever seen. It is written by a long- time bookseller with a shop in Charing Cross Road, for people like me-- people who in the words of Albuquerque bookman Jerry Lane are in need of a "book muzzle". It is literate, erudite, and at times laughing- out- loud funny. It is very English if you like such things-- I do-- and utterly without genre snobbery, or any other kind. It impartially covers "literature", children's books, crime, sci- fi, science, military books, erotica, photography, and any other category you can think of, from the Renaissance to the present, from books worth $25 to $90,000.
Nigel can really get on a roll. Here he is on a too- detailed description of a battered copy of a 1951 children's book called Bulldozer:
"It is described in what I call the Alain Robbe Grillet style --i.e. so much detail that it is hard to envision what the thing actually looks like. The cost for this paperback is $70 - take it away Alain:
'...Fair binding cracking at page 100; heavy spine crease; moderate crease along spine edge of front cover; slight crease along spine edge of back cover; ½" trinangular chunk missing from front fore-edge; ½" closed tear to top back spine edge; 1" closed tear to top and bottom front spine edges; small, slight crease to back corners; two heavy creases to bottom front corner; heavy crease to upper front corner; rubbing and chipping to upper edge of front cover; rubbing to other edges; rubbing, slight soil to covers; several indentations to front and back covers, two penetrate to next two pages; crease to bottom corner of about a dozen pages; age tanning to pages and inside of covers, pages are not brittle; moisture stain to margin of bottom corner of first 18 pages, does not affect the text; rectangular piece cut out of top corner of front endpaper; ¼" closed tear and crease to fore-edge of last three blank pages...'
He adds: "If the book was stabbed through the middle with a greasy kebab skewer and then dropped in a puddle it could hardly be worse but after all this we are assured '...pages are clean, no marks to text, no owner signatures, inscriptions, store stamps, remainder marks.' I would avoid buying the library of the collector who buys this."
I also like his concept of what he ends up calling the Mad Hatter Book:
"I've been looking for a name for the phenomenon referred to a few days back with Lady Liza Lizard - a the book that became more expensive in web listings as the condition got worse. I wrote: 'Sometimes you get a perfect vertical gradation where there are, say, 6 copies each more expensive than the other and the most expensive is in the worse condition and as they get cheaper they improve in condition with the cheapest being the best. This is perfectly logical because the more greedy a seller is the more he will ignore the effect of condition on price - so the worst copy is often the most expensive."
Go to this site if you love books, for the delight. You will doubtless learn more than a few things. But don't go for investment advice. As Nigel says, the only real advice there is that "The old cliche about buy what you love still holds... "
Re: investment advice... The bookstore at my alma mater gave away bookmarks bearing a quote attributed to Erasmus: "When I have money I buy books, and if any is left, then I buy food and clothing." Erasmus has been a terrible influence over the years... ; )
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