Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2005 Issue

Collecting New Authors

Kws1

A book that requires the reader's participation


By Bruce McKinney

I recently discovered an author whose work I admire: Katharine Weber. She teaches at Yale and writes fiction through the eyes and voices of women. The novels I read are Objects in Mirror Are Closer than they Appear [1995], The Music Lesson [1999] and The Little Women [2003]. In these books women are complete people, the equal of men, capable of creating and surviving life's sturm und drang. Her first book was Objects, which involved her imagination but not mine. Her second book, The Music Lesson is, I think, her best. It is a very spare story, the tale of an independent, clear-minded woman gone to Ireland for infatuation and a purpose. Her most recent book, The Little Women, is a 21st century rewrite of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, an entertaining construction set in New York and New Haven: an amusing story.

None of these books will change your life but they are all very well done and you may find in Ms. Weber someone to grow old with. Just as writers need their readers so to do readers need their writers and I suggest she may be an enduring interest. At 50 she should be writing interesting books for years to come.

Because I liked her material I asked two contemporary fiction dealers whether they knew her work and how one would go about collecting a new author. Neither had read her material and both expressed some interest in looking at her books. As to how to collect her work or, for that matter, any other new writer a reader discovers this is what I learned.

Success and recognition as an author does not, of itself, make an author collectable. Objects was a New York Times Notable Book as was the Music Lesson. In fact, in almost a dozen ways her work has been recognized although perhaps not quite to the point of being recognizable. Collecting's judgment seems to come some ten to fifteen years later when a variety of factors have had a chance to lodge themselves in the dealer's and collector's cumulative psyches. In the early years, the author's place in the field lies unattended and often unrecognized while history considers to anoint. Until that day the strong minded and opinionated can buy for a song what an opera will not procure in a few years if the cognoscenti have then chosen Ms. Weber for a permanent star in the literary firmaments.

Until that day you can parse Ms. Weber's books for sale on-line in all the shades of condition and form beginning at $1.00 plus handling. At this end of the for-sale lists there is little if any really collectible material. Reversing the order to read from highest price down confirms that Ms. Weber's material may be loaded in cannons for their flight into space but, as of today, the gunpowder has not yet been lit. We know this because while there are 238 of Katherine Weber items [searched with the date range 1990 to 2005] on ABE today, the most expensive is $65.00, a modest sum for a signed first in pristine condition. I suggest it's a bargain.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.
  • <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Summer Auction<br>July 9 & 10, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 1805 TN Supreme Court Book, John Overton and Hugh White Opinions. $800 to $900.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> TN Lunsford Bramlett Archive, incl. Polk White House Invitation, 8 Items. $400 to $500.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> Civil War Archive, incl. Gen. Bate on Death of Polk, Capture of Nashville. $2,000 to $2,400.
    <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Summer Auction<br>July 9 & 10, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 5 Dickens 1st Ed. Books, incl. Edited by Author. $800 to $1,000.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> Charles Dickens, 5 Christmas Books, 1st Eds. $800 to $1,000.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 2 Slave Documents, Nashville TN & North Carolina. $700 to $900.
    <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Summer Auction<br>July 9 & 10, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 3 Maurice Sendak Signed Items, incl. Nutcracker, Pierre. $500 to $600.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 7 Phillip Roth Hardcover Books, incl. Author Signed, 1st Eds. $500 to $550.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 6 Kurt Vonnegut Hardcover Books, incl. Author Signed, 1st Eds. $400 to $500.
    <center><b>Case Antiques<br>Two-Day Summer Auction<br>July 9 & 10, 2022</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> 3 Edward Gorey Items, incl. Print + 2 Books. $400 to $500.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> Josef Albers, INTERACTION OF COLOR, 1963. $800 to $900.
    <b>Case Antiques, Jul. 9-10:</b> Henri Matisse Jazz Portfolio for MOMA, 1st Ed., 1983. $600 to $800.

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