Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2004 Issue

Vintage Paperbacks From Black Ace Books

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Vintage paperbacks from Black Ace Books


By Michael Stillman

This month we review not only the catalogue of a new bookseller, but a new type of catalogue as well. Black Ace Books of Los Angeles specializes in paperbacks. Paperbacks are the stepchildren of the book world. They inhabit a back alley world of shame and degradation, along with such depraved institutions as television. You would not want to be in the company of one. You would certainly not place one on your bookshelves. No, paperbacks are not to be collected like good books. They are to be read in the dark of night when no one is looking.

Then something happens. Television may be disreputable, but old shows become classics. Old advertising, thoroughly insipid if not downright offensive in its day, becomes collectible. Perhaps it's camp, or aging people trying to hold onto their youth. Maybe it's just a simple recognition that great literature is the exception, the aberration of our culture, whereas the paperback represents its heartland. This material did not win many awards. It was not taught in school. But, for better or worse, it was read.

The nice thing about paperbacks, even old ones like these, is they are still priced to be read. You can affordably purchase them just for the joy, or whatever, of reading them. However, if you are looking for a genre to collect, and your budget does not permit collecting "collectible" books, you can still get in on the ground floor with paperbacks. There's nothing in this catalogue over $40, and that's the rare exception. There are only half a dozen titles over $20, and that's out of hundreds available. And if that's not enough, Black Ace provides substantial discounts for buying multiple titles, from 10% for two up to 40% off for 25.

The customs for collecting paperbacks are somewhat different from those of hardbacks. Usually you will find hardbacks listed by subject, author, or perhaps time period. Black Ace's catalogue is listed by publisher. Bantam, Ballantine, Pocket, Dell and many more, both familiar and obscure. Ironically, it's the way books of the highest quality of printers, such as the Limited Editions Club, are listed. Descriptions are sparse by comparison. Generally, the title itself explains what the book is about. There are no thorough descriptions and histories gathered from important bibliographies in this field. If the bookseller does not read each of these titles and provide a complete description, they can be forgiven. What do you want for a book that sells for $10? And you won't find much more information beyond author and title on the internet either. If a title intrigues, you will just have to read the book yourself.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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