Among the more than 120,000 books featured at the Annual Friends of the C.H. Booth Library Book Sale each year are some gems that pique the interest of book collectors and bibliophiles. Those books, winnowed from the many donations, make up the Specials Collection. Some of the books are very rare; others are valuable because of signatures or inscriptions. Still others have appeal because of subject matter, author, or illustrator.
This year’s Specials Collection at the 38th Annual Book Sale, scheduled for July 13-17, is not as large as some years, said antiques and rare books specialist John Renjilian, but contains several special items of interest “to a wide variety of audiences.” Mr Renjilian has offered his expertise for several years to the Friends, as volunteers work their ways through thousands upon thousands of donated books. Those volunteers do the initial assessment of books, then pass on to Mr Renjilian the books that they believe may be of great interest to collectors, or very valuable.
Among those volunteers is Carm O’Neill, who was tickled to come across the book that will be the premier offering this year in the Specials Collection. Ms O’Neill recognized the copy of C.S. Forester’s The African Queen as a rare find, and brought it to Mr Renjilian’s attention.
“People will be familiar with it as the movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn,” said Mr Renjilian, and if not for that movie, this book might not generate a great deal of interest. “The movie made the book famous,” he said.
However, said Mr Renjilian, adding to its value is the fact that it is by a fairly well-known author.
“Forester, later, was known for his series of books starring the fictional Naval officer Horatio Hornblower. This is also a first American edition,” he said, with a copyright of 1935. “It was probably a small run. The British edition was only 2,500 copies,” he said.
The African Queen was a book with two different endings, one for the British edition and one for the American edition. Mr Renjilian said he is not familiar with the British ending, and is unsure why the American edition differed.
“The book condition is not bad at all,” Mr Renjilian said. “The dust jacket has some tape marks and is a little taped up, but not too badly,” he said.
The African Queen will sell for $1,500.
Not a book at all, but “a nice little piece of history,” is a program from a memorial meeting for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were convicted as spies following World War II, and executed in 1953. Held in Newark on June 16, 1954, the pamphlet cover exhorts “Remember the Rosenbergs!” and “Justice for Morton Sobell!” (Morton Sobell was found guilty in 1951 of spying for the Soviet Union, and was also a defendant in the trial of Julius Rosenberg.)
This bit of ephemera, as Mr Renjilian referred to it, is representative of the times.
The rough-looking, coverless, bound volumes of the New York Weekly Magazine from 1867 would merely be “the equivalent of today’s pulp magazines,” said Mr Renjilian, if not for a particular series within.
“It contains the first English printing of Jules Verne’s From The Earth To The Moon,” he said, between the covers of this magazine, and published as a serial. “One issue is missing, but this is a pretty rare find. Any early edition of Jules Verne is valuable,” Mr Renjilian said. “Verne was big in his day, even though there was a little gap before his writings got to America. His writing had a huge influence on the science fiction genre,” he said, and he does not doubt that someone will snap up the volumes, at a price of $250.
The Specials Collection Room at Reed Intermediate School, where the sale will take place, will also house approximately 75 leather-bound books from Easton Press. The books are in perfect condition, and were once offered as a high end “Book of the Month,” and are very desirable for decorating. From classics like those written by Mark Twain to modern books penned by the likes of President Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger, the books will be sold individually, and priced between $15 and $50 per book.
Included in that series of books are volumes books signed by Jewish American author and concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel; American novelist Leon Uris; and Jewish American author and rabbi Chaim Potok.
An unusual book that has come into the hands of the Friends of the C.H. Booth Library this year is called The Happy Warrior: The Life Story in Picture Strips of Sir Winston Churchill. Told by Clifford Makins and drawn by Frank Bellamy, the large book from 1958 is a graphic novel, a genre rarely seen from that time period.
Perhaps not rare or of particular value, but those who hold all things “Oz” near and dear to the heart will be pleased to find four children’s books devoted to the magical world created by author Frank L. Baum. Ozma of Oz is by the original Wizard of Oz author. It is what Mr Renjilian described as a “mixed state of the first edition.” The pen and ink illustrations in this 1907 edition of Ozma of Oz and in the 1931 edition for Pirates In Oz, by Ruth Plumly Thompson, are by John R. Neill.
Also from the 1930s are the books Tik-Tok of Oz and The Tin Woodman of Oz, both published by Reilly & Lee.
More children’s books collectibles this year include a 1911 copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and two books by author A.A. Milne. Pooh Bear lovers will want to seek out the 1924 edition of When We Were Very Young or A Gallery of Children.
“There’s always plenty to interest collectors,” Mr Renjilian said, and with books still being processed, who knows what might turn up behind the doors of the Special Collection Room?
The 38th Annual Friends of the C.H. Booth Book Sale takes place Saturday, July 13, through Wednesday, July 17, at Reed Intermediate School, 3 Trades Lane. The book sale runs from 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday, with all items at full price; Monday, from 9 am to 7 pm, all items are half-priced; Tuesday, 9 am to 7 pm, fill a bag with books for $5; and Wednesday, 9 am to noon, when all items are free. There is a $5 admission, on Saturday only, for adults. Numbered admission tickets go on sale at 7 am, Saturday morning. A $1 off admission fee can be found at www.boothbooksale.org/coupon.html.