As you might know, gentle reader, I am more a book accummulator than a true book collector. I don’t go out to book shops with locked glass cases and leather chairs looking for obscure first editions, but I’ll pick some up if I come across them. Generally, to get a first edition, I’ll run across them if they’re at a garage sale for a dollar (as I did when I bought a first edition of Dune that I sold on eBay for $150–I related the story in my book report for that book). I am pretty sure most of my first editions have ex library markings on them, anyway.
That said, I do have some valuable books in my collection.
For example, I have a first edition two volume set of the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant which I inherited from my beautiful wife’s uncle. Although I’m not sure where they are on my shelves these days. I did recently buy a reading copy of the books, so I guess I can move the actual first editions somewhere safe. Like a safe deposit box or something.
As you might know, I was a fan of Robert B. Parker’s books for a long time since I started reading him in high school (the long story is in the essay “Meeting Robert B. Parker“). I picked up paperbacks and hardbacks where I could. When I started to come into some middle class money, I bought Spenser: For Hire scripts, some of the very limited edition stuff Parker published in the middle eighties such as The Private Eye in Hammett and Chandler, advanced reading copies, and whatnot. So as a collection, my Robert B. Parker stuff is pretty complete, although I stopped buying the books when his moral universe got wonky. Still, I could probably unload the pile for a couple bucks.
But I count as my most valued books my Edna St. Vincent Millay collection that my sainted mother bought me when I was away at college.
Early in my college career, I got really into the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay and the Romantic poets, so I asked for some of their collections for Christmas my sophomore year.
This was in the pre-Internet days, so my mother couldn’t just order collections off of Amazon or eBay. Instead, she went way out of her comfort zone and went to various used book shops in the University City and Central West End areas, including some that had front doors locked because they were in sketchy areas (I never learned if they had glass cases or leather couches, but I assume not).
I read those Millay books immediately, and their influence eclipsed that of the Romantic poets (although my mother did get me an 1889 collection of Wordsworth poems, I have not yet read it and might not given how slowly I’m crawling through the complete works of Keats and Shelley).
Edna St. Vincent Millay (as well as structured poetry, poetry, and reading books) has kind of fallen out of favor over the years, so I don’t think they’d fetch much at a book sale. They’d probably be in the collectible books for three or four dollars each, only to linger until half price day or bag day (using the Friends of the Springfield Greene County Library Semi-Annual Book Sale as an example).
But it was quite an adventure for my mother, though, and the books mean a lot to me. So they’re my most valued books.