Thursday, December 20, 2007

What's Wrong with This Picture?

Picture this scene. You find yourself with enough spare cash in your pocket to finally afford to be able to add a rare book to that little collection you've been nursing along for a couple of decades. Or maybe you want to give the perfect gift to that book collector in your life who has been reading auction catalogs for years without ever being able to bid on one of the books listed.

And suddenly you spot just the thing. What will it be?

Well, according to AbeBooks, these are the ten most expensive books sold from their website during the last two weeks or so, just in time for Christmas.

Now what's wrong with this picture?
1. Two Stories by Salman Rushdie - $7,031
‘The Prophet’s Hair’ and ‘The Free Radio’ combined into one book and printed in 1991, this is No. 4 of only 12 books privately printed. Bound in full leather and signed

2. Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne - $5,500
A first edition from 1926 of this legendary children’s book

3. A Guide to Modern Cookery by Escoffier - $5,124
One of the world’s great cookbooks, a 1907 first edition signed by the author and inscribed to Sarah Morgan, who worked at the Cavendish Hotel in London

4. Thelema by Aleister Crowley - $4,655
Witchcraft for Christmas? Perhaps. A first edition of a privately printed book from around 1909 containing The Book of Law - Crowley’s essential work

5. David Thompson’s Narrative of His Explorations in Western America 1784-1812 - $4,250
One of North America’s great geographers, Thompson mapped more than 3.9 million square kilometers. Published in 1916 - one of just 550 copies.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling - $3,600
More witchcraft for Christmas? It’s only Harry. One of 1,700 copies signed at JK Rowling’s midnight launch in July

7. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill - $3,500
An 1859 first edition bound in three-quarter leather of this key conceptual work on liberty by the great liberal thinker of the 19th century

8. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie - $3,000
A 1981 first edition of this Booker Prize-winning novel signed by the author “They are despite everything, acts of love, Salman Rushdie, 9/12/81″

9. An Atlas of Bourbon, Clark, Fayette, Jessamine and Woodford Counties, Kentucky - $2,750
A rare Kentucky atlas from 1877 – published by Beers of Philadelphia

10. Dune by Frank Herbert - $2,750
A 1965 first edition of this famous sci-fi novel where spice matters – first winner of the Nebula Award
Sorry, but I have to say it. Who in his right mind would spend that kind of money on a Harry Potter book when there are so many great rare books to be had out there for the same or even less money? What they say about a fool and his money is obviously true...


  1. I would love to have the Kentucky atlas: the combination of books and history is my idea of heaven!

  2. "One of 1,700 copies." Admittedly, I'm no rare book dealer, but doesn't 1,700 seem like a rather large number to have floating around and still be able to fetch this price? A John Stuart Mill first edition or an ultra-rare Rushdie special edition, sure, but the Potter thing makes no sense at all.

  3. No truer words were ever spoken, Carrie. It's amazing how long that particular "craze" lasted and how many otherwise normal people spent a small fortune on those tacky little guys.

  4. That does sound like quite a book, Nick. Just owning a book of that age is always fun because it is like holding a piece of history in your hands.

  5. Gotta agree, Pete. When I saw the number "1700" in the description of the book, I did a double-take to make sure that I was seeing straight. That's what makes this item's price even more unforgettably stupid...but they found the fool willing to pay the price, anyway.