book collecting

Kristina Lynn asked what kind of books I have been looking for. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that before.

I collect children’s books illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, Helen Oxenbury, Rosemary Wells, Maurice Sendak, Jan Ormerod, Shirley Hughes, Gabrielle Vincent and a number of others.

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Just recently I’ve been looking for hardcover first editions of two of Oxenbury’s books, Tom and Pippo go to the Beach, and Tom and Pippo and the Washing Machine. Once a week or so I check all the online sources for the books on my list. Over time I’ve had pretty good luck finding the books I’m looking for.

The big exception is Gabrielle Vincent’s work. She publishes mostly in France, and it’s next to impossible to find hardcover (not ex-library) US edition copies of her Ernest and Celestine books.


Q: What exactly do I do with these books I collect?

A: That depends. On rare occasions I have bought a book simply because I have a hunch it might turn out to be valuable down the line. So, books as an investment. Those I definitely do not fuss with. Example: I’ve got a pre-Oprah debacle copy of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.

Most usually I go looking for a first edition/first printing of an adult book because I really loved it. If I can find a signed 1st/1st for a reasonable price, I’ll get that. I tend to leave the signed 1st/1sts alone, not so much to protect their value (although that is also a factor) but because I’ll usually have a reading copy. Examples: A Soldier of the Great War, The Rose Grower, The Time Traveller’s Wife. Of course there are hundreds and hundreds of books that would be in this category, if I could only afford a first edition/first printing. Examples of that: Lonesome Dove (a 1st/1st runs somewhere around $800); Shipping News, all the Dorothy Dunnett Niccolo Rising series, etc etc.

I collect children’s books almost exclusively because of the illustrations. I do look at these books, but I’m careful with them. In many cases we still have the Girlchild’s original copy, which I have packed away. This category is where I can get into real trouble, because kid’s books are expensive. But oh, the illustrations. As Rachel mentions, there are many I would love to have as prints to hang on the walls, but I never would take one of those books apart. The original illustrations are sometimes for sale, but way beyond my budget. Have a look at Lisbeth Zwerger’s original illustrations for sale at Storyopolis. $14,500 for a watercolor… yikes.

Today our local library is having an annual book sale to raise money. This is not the sale where they get rid of books they no longer want in the collection; this is good stuff. Donated stuff. A first edition of Anne of Green Gables, for example. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have a class on Tuesday afternoons, so I’m going to miss the pre-sale. The question is if I can stay away from the sale proper, which starts tomorrow at ten.