Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Today I finished reorganizing our Russia section, and the Miscellaneous Europe section below it, as a break from Literary Criticism. We have a surprising number of books in Cyrillic, but I haven't the faintest idea of what any of them are about, so I shan't feature any here. In fact, I'd already decided what to put up here before I finished ... so talking about the section is a little mean, I guess. I'm really just mentioning it because you can tell what a behemoth Literary Criticism is how quickly I finished these other areas!

I was touched by the generosity of this week's Affordable but Interesting paperbacks, which are rather worn, but in pretty good shape considering their travails:

These are both horror collections -- one by H. P. Lovecraft, the other edited by August Derleth -- and their travails arise from the fact that they're Armed Services Editions. Apparently, during the Second World War, a whole nonprofit agency was created just to print cheap copies of current books to be sent to lonely soldiers. As this site on Armed Services Editions tells us, in fact, the books were actually printed more cheaply than was necessary -- the hope was that they wouldn't survive the journey back, and the book market wouldn't be flooded! Success made these books collectible, but not enormously so, so we're able to sell these historical curiosities for $10.00 each. Sending books strikes me as a much nicer gesture than knitting a scarf, to be sure -- it's a shame the agency didn't start up again in later wars.

The next item is really more Alan's Favorite than mine, but he was so excited about it that I was inspired:

At first glance, this seems like merely another of those turn-of-the-century fairy tales, with sweet Victorian children galloping about having heartwarming relationships with various animals. Of course, it is a First Edition -- and from 1911; and to be sure, the illustrations are beautiful:

The exciting thing about this book, though, is that the author turns out to be L. Frank Baum! Baum, who made his name with the Oz books, apparently published dozens of books under pseudonyms. One wonders why he did so. Perhaps he felt that the Oz books were serious business, and ought not be associated with fancies such as Babes in Birdland; one editor of Baum's time is also on record as having noted that Baum wrote very quickly, and it was not deemed wise to split the audience by issuing too many Baum books per season. Regardless, reading through the pages of this book reveals the same charming tone we know from Oz, and I don't feel nearly as patronized by the text as I thought I would. It's also in very nice condition. The pages are very clean -- there's a signature on the front free endpaper (right inside the cover), but the charming "This Book Belongs To" page was never filled in:

We're charging $125.00 for this pretty First Edition, part of the light-hearted "Twinkle Tales" series that of course never rivaled Oz but had its own popular run.

I guess that last could have been our Collector's Item, but I fear I must admit bias. If I ever become a collector, I'd be much more likely to collect this:

The very famous Daniel Burnham, who designed many of Chicago's major landmarks (click here for a rundown), made his fortune when he laid out the 1893 World's Fair. His fame grew and grew; he was eventually hired by Chicago herself to create an ambitious, attractive plan for the city's expansion. What we have here is one copy of the limited 1909 First Edition of the Plan of Chicago (only 1650 copies were printed, of which this is number 273). It contains quite a comprehensive discussion of Chicago's potential, a number of detailed maps, and some truly glorious illustrations of future Chicago city scenes:


Not all of Burnham's plans were realized, of course, but as the scholar Wilbert Hasbrouck has pointed out, "it was ... the prototypical city plan to which virtually every similar work undertaken ever since has been substantially indebted." Even today, Chicago's superhighways follow the Plan of Chicago, and the entire park system on the lakefront is just what Burnham wanted. We all share his legacy, naturally, but you could own his vision for $3,000.00.

I'm leaving soon for the holidays, dear readers; I'm going to try and convince the hilarious Alan to write next week's entry. Again, happy holidays; I'll see this beautifully-developed city again in January!

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