Recent Acquisitions from 221Books (of AbeBooks) - August 2012
I’m sure many of you are familiar with Abe Books, one of the Internet’s most trusted and respected book selling sites. A myriad of book dealers from around the globe use Abe to create ‘virtual storefronts’ where they list books (and prints, and related products) from their physical inventory and sell them online - often times concentrating on specialized niche markets reached best via the Internet.
The dealer I usually go through is named - appropriately enough - 221Books. As you can probably deduce, they specialize “in books about the world’s first consulting detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and his friend and colleague, Dr. John H. Watson. In addition we maintain extensive holdings of the works of Dr. Watson’s literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as Sir Arthur’s contemporary English authors, H.G. Wells and H. Rider Haggard.” Along with providing detailed descriptions of all items for sale, excellent customer service and relatively fair prices for hard to find items, 221Books maintains Sherlockian inventory of the highest quality that always leaves me wanting more. For example, click 221Books + “Sherlock” for a list of all Sherlock Holmes-themed books currently available from 221Books on Abe sorted from most to least expensive; then give yourself 20 minutes or so to peruse what’s available.
Warning: you might want to lock-up your checkbook with your roommate’s hypodermic syringe and supply of 7% solution prior to browsing through this list. Personally, I allow myself one or two ‘modest’ purchases a month. Recently I acquired the following items:
The above note is written especially for you, but I draw your attention to the stationary design itself: note the word “Messages” written in the code of The Dancing Men as employed by Abe Slayney - “the most dangerous crook in Chicago” - when attempting to communicate with Elsie Cubitt née Patrick. Thanks to 221Books I now have a healthy stack of Dancing Men stationary to compose thank you notes, wish lists and diabolical schemes of one sort of another. After mentioning this stationary purchase, a few Sherlockians offered to show me their collections of letterhead/stationary accrued over the years. Depending on their willingness to let me document their collections, I might possibly have enough material for a multi-part article on Sherlockian stationary, business cards, custom letterheads/footers and - that Holy Grail of Holmes-themed design work - personalized Sherlockian bookplates! (of which Vincent Starrett and John Bennett Shaw had some of the finest examples).
Once I had stationary covered, I next had to cover my walls and what better way to accomplish this than to purchase a very large print of a very gaunt Sherlock Holmes gazing dreamily through a hypodermic syringe? I’ve owned Jack Tracy’s controversial 1978 monograph Subcutaneously, My Dear Watson for a while now, but only recently discovered the existence of 14’ x 22” prints (which must have been used as promo material when the book came out) based on the cover of Tracy’s little shot of controversial Sherlockiana.
I ordered a near mint copy for an extremely reasonable price (which also came with a free copy of the book - to be used as a prize at the next Priory Scholars of NYC meeting) but when the poster arrived the shipper had successfully mangled it in every way possible (ie. torn, crumbled, folded - everything short of tar and feathering). For anyone that’s had this happen to them, it’s a major bummer (albeit the very definition of a ‘first world problem’, it’s a ridiculously frustrating first world problem). I wrote to 221Books to let them know everything arrived quickly and safely except the Tracy print and that in the future they might want to package posters differently. To my surprise they wrote back immediately to inform me that they would be replacing the print with a new one - awesome! True to their word, a mint copy of the print arrived safe and sound and ready for framing.
My ‘major’ purchase on this order was Austin’s Sherlockian Studies: The Collected Annuals by Bliss Austin published by Magico. I’ve had my eye on this ever since Mr Austin won my impressionable Sherlockian heart while reading Jon Lellenberg’s BSI Archival History (vols. 4 & 5). Consisting of short ‘stocking stuffers’ delivered to select Sherlockians from 1953 to 1981, Austin muses on everything from literary osmosis to the more obscure illustrators of the Canon, from the identification of canonical locations to speculation on how exactly Holmes made his money. The collection can be read as short, individual pieces - or as a set of snapshots which should be read all in one sitting giving the reader a rapid fire 30 year barrage of Sherlockian/BSI thoughts and images which facilitates an experience of watching history “fly by” from the perspective of a true Sherlockian player. An essential book for every collection with a focus on scholarship and the writings of the giants of the early BSI.
LASTly, I picked-up the above postcard, mined from the Richard Lancelyn Green Collection, originally designed by illustrator Frank Wiles as one of the initial covers for His Last Bow. It makes a great framed picture and sits proudly on top of my bookcase warding curious cats away (in theory).
Thank you for indulging me in a blogging feature I hope to re-introduce to Always1895.net on a semi-regular basis: that is, reporting on my recent acquisitions, be they books, prints, ephemera, etc. A possible subconscious reason for creating these types of posts is the hope that if ‘The Collecting Mania’ started infecting me more severely, someone out there would step up and initiate an intervention, saving me from myself. Just this week Brad Keefauver on Sherlock Peoria reflecting on his own life - and mistakes made therein - dispensed a bit of extremely valuable advice to his readers: “take this as a warning, current and future collectors of the Sherlock. Be a little bit choosey in what you pick to bring home. Acquire what has true meaning to you, is part of your master plan, and is not just a moment’s fancy, a sudden surge of Holmes pride. So that one day, when you’re cleaning your house, you are dusting and caring for objects of pride and value … and not damned Garfield the cat [or whatever Sherlock-inspired junk may be tempting you at this very moment].” Thanks also to Phillip Gold of 221Books for sorting out my drug (poster!) problem and putting things back on the straight and narrow. I have over a year’s worth of Sherlockian acquisitions - plenty of quality Holmes books but also quite a bit of glorious canonical odds and ends (eg. a SH jigsaw puzzle, a tiny book version of BLUE and FIVE, a replica of The Naval Treaty itself, etc.). Enjoy!!