Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2012 Issue

Sex and Rage: BookFinder Issues Its Annual Report of the 100 Most Sought After Old Books


Madonna is a perennial #1.

BookFinder.com has issued its annual report of the 100 most sought after old books on their website. This is one of my favorites as it's such an eclectic list. BookFinder is a listing site search, that is, it searches many of the book listing sites all at once for matches. It is a place you go when you are trying to locate a particularly hard to find old book, one that may show up on only one listing site. As a result, the books on this list are likely to be highly wanted, yet out of print and hard to find.

This is a somewhat unusual combination because highly desirable out of print books are usually reprinted, at which point they stop being hard to find, and candidates for the BookFinder Top 100. Therefore, we frequently see books that were high on the list one year drop out the next, not because buyers stopped wanting them, but because they were reprinted and became easy to find. An example is Norman Mailer's Marilyn, which after four straight appearances was reprinted and disappeared from the list.

The few books that make an appearance year after year, then, tend to have some special circumstances. The most common explanation is that the book was an early work by a famous author, one they are now embarrassed by and refuse to allow to be reprinted. Nora Roberts' Promise Me Tomorrow, an early work she does not allow to be reprinted, is a long-running such example. Some might ask why Nora Roberts would single out one of her books in particular for this honor, but that is not a question I would ask.

Before we get to the top 10, we will take a look at a few of the other 90 titles that made the list. Number 85 is the oddly titled Apple Pigs by Ruth Orbach. It turns out this 1977 children's book has a loyal following of parents who loved the book when they were young, but can't find copies to give to their children. It's about a family that cares for a tired old apple tree, to be rewarded with such an abundance of fruit they have to share it with every conceivable person and animal.

We have seen this one before: #71 Pancakes A to Z, by Marie Simmons. It's a regular on the BookFinder 100. However, this is a new entry: #94 Almonds and Raisins, by Maisie Moscoe.

Number 67 provides one side of America's most famous dispute: McCoys: their story as told to the author by eye witnesses and descendants, by Truda Williams McCoy. Miss Williams, who married a McCoy, started her family history of the McCoys and their dispute with the Hatfields in 1920, and put her manuscript away in 1935, unable to find a publisher. It was not until after her death many years later that her daughter managed to get the book published (1976).

Item 31 is Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI, 1895-1952, by Sarah Bradford. George VI, a shy prince who stammered when he tried to deliver a speech, was never expected to be King. However, when his older brother abdicated for “the woman I love” in 1936, George was forced onto the throne, just as the winds of war were leading Britain to its most threatening of times. The current popularity of this book undoubtedly traces to the Academy Award winning film about George's speaking issues, The King's Speech. George VI died in 1952 and was succeeded by his daughter Elizabeth, Queen to this day.

Here now, are the top ten most sought after books:

10. Tudor Roses by Alice Starmore. Once, knitting books dominated the list. Not so much anymore, but this title by an expert on traditional Scottish knitting still makes the cut.

9. 365 Bedtime Stories, by Nan Gilbert. This contains a one-page story per night for young children at bedtime. It's unclear how parents are supposed to handle leap year.

8. Codex Seraphinianus, by Luigi Serafini. A regular on the top 10, this is a strange, complicated, illustrated book about a fantasy world written in a consistent, though incomprehensible invented language.

7. Man in Black, by Johnny Cash. The autobiography of the country music legend has been moving in and out of the top 10 for years.

6. Mandingo, by Kyle Onstott. This 1950s novel set in the antebellum South would be turned into one of the more successful of the “blaxploitation” films.

5. Pure, White and Deadly; the Problem of Sugar, by John Yudkin. Too few people read this book when it was new in 1972, so now we have an obesity problem. Unfortunately, it is very hard to find this book now.

4. My Pretty Pony, by Stephen King. This story by the immensely popular King was printed in a relatively short run, hence the supply/demand imbalance.

3. Promise me Tomorrow, by Nora Roberts. A perennial on this list, the ever-popular Ms. Roberts does not like this book and hence will not let it be reprinted.

2. Rage, by Richard Bachman. “Richard Bachman” is actually Stephen King. See #4 above.

1. Sex, by Madonna. This one is always #1. The 1992 pictorial essay has never been reprinted, though the demand is obvious. Despite the enormous amount of twisted material now readily available on the internet (which essentially did not exist in 1992), this book was so pioneering in its kinkiness that even today it manages to push the envelope. It is a lasting tribute to the power of weird sex.

The complete BookFinder 100 can be found at www.bookfinder.com/books/bookfinder_report_2012

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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