First Editions

$10,000 for a first edition book? Think about it. Or a million.

I was chatting with a friend last night, about how I’d searched for months for a reasonably-priced, first edition copy of Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) for a dear friend’s birthday. The conversation turned to a list of books for which we’d pay the $10,000 that was the going rate for the best of the aforementioned first editions. $10,000 is a lot of money. Before I came up with a single title, I had to wonder, what would motivate me to spend that kind of cash on a book for myself?

There is no chance that I can recall all of the hundreds and hundreds I’ve read, so I did the obvious, and limited the mental search to the books I that really stick to my grey matter. Then I considered WHY they stick. Some resonate with me even today because they were disturbing. Books like Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) and 1984 (George Orwell), while brilliantly written, left me horribly depressed. No, while I appreciate their genius, I wouldn’t want to spend $10K on something that stuck in that way.

Then I considered those books that would be considered cliché. Any work by Shakespeare, or Poe, or Hawthorne. All wonderful works of literature, but none that meant something visceral to me. It had to mean something bigger than the book itself.

After distilling the list down to a dozen of my favorites, I realized that the one that resonated the most was Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. I know it’s not considered classic literature, but it was the first book I read strictly for my own pleasure; it was the first book given to me by my mother, a voracious reader of all things macabre; and it was the first hard back I owned. Sadly, in the many moves from home to home, I no longer have it.

I was thirteen when first I read it. Of course, I didn’t know then that I lacked the maturity to really understand what I was reading, but I loved the imagery and the escape I experienced. I read it again at twenty, and by that time, much had changed in my life. My perspective was naturally wider. I had felt some of the things she described. I had loved. I had most definitely lost. Finally, I read it again in my thirties, when I knew better who I was. I felt vast differences in how I perceived the story and its details. I enjoyed the imagery more and better understood the passion in the relationships.

So, Interview with a Vampire is a kind of timeline for me. It’s the only book I’ve read in different decades of my life. I have a sentimental attachment to it because it introduced me to the idea that falling into a book, by myself, was a richly pleasurable experience. I’ve been addicted to the written word ever since the first time I heard the pages whisper apart in my hands.

So, if I had $10K to spend on a first edition book, Interview would be mine. What would yours be?

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One thought on “First Editions

  1. I think for me it would be Roger Zelazny’s 9 Princes in Amber (although for the size of the books I would want to get the 5 books in the series for that money)

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