By Alan Chudnow
It all begins with sense of wonder.
At some point it hits you, an almost magical attraction to books. It may be books by a particular author or books about a distinctly engaging concept or it may be the sheer joy of holding a unique volume with a compelling physical appeal. However it happens, what ever causes it, there is an upwelling of affection and a sudden sense of wonder.
It is important to keep in mind that almost all book collectors begin as readers. Readers become collectors when they find that the books themselves have become important objects in and of themselves. The book has transcended the state of being merely a vehicle for passing on the author’s stories and thoughts and becomes an object with intrinsic beauty and value. Object and content enhance each other, heightening the unique experience the book brings to its owner.
By most accounts, the origin of Science Fiction as a distinct literary genre dates back to 1926, when Hugo Gernsback started publishing what he called "scientifiction" in a new magazine known as Amazing Stories. Gernsback said,
“…sense of wonder comes not from brilliant writing, nor even from brilliant conceptualizing; it comes from a sudden opening of a closed door in the reader's mind.”
Collecting the objects that initiated that amazement is the best way to keep it vivid, alive and immediately accessible.
Consumers vs. Collectors
Almost all Science Fiction and Fantasy book collectors begin as readers. This is an important point for by far the largest numbers of F&SF readers see books as consumables. They are content with reading a library copy or a paperback reprint and think of the book as simply a medium for conveying the author’s subject matter and deserve no more consideration than that.
Most readers use, and often abuse, the book as they please, dog-ear corners, make notes in the margins, bend the covers back and break the spine. For them, books are as disposable as a McDonald’s hamburger wrapper. They are book consumers.
For such readers things like the edition of a book, or its condition don’t matter. They perceive little difference between a hardcover first printing and a paperback reprint. The joy they receive from a book, and one must acknowledge that very real pleasure, comes from the author’s content alone. All other considerations are inconsequential.
2000AD Prog 207 2nd Chopper Ron Smith Judge Dredd 2000AD Rare Comic Issue VF
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Doctor Who Black Orchid RARE TITLE
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THE CRAFT OF SCIENCE FICTION by Reginald Bretnor Rare Trade Paperback Edition
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Roger Zelazny Damnation Alley Paperback 1969 Rare Sci Fi
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1950s science fiction HG WELLS THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON Rare Corgi 1957 ed
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The Book as an object of beauty and inspiration
For those of us who are not book consumers but book collectors, the joy of the text is but one of several delights in a book. Look, feel, the very tactile uniqueness of a volume elevate the book from simple container to an object of physical beauty and romance which augments the thoughts and ideas of its author.
We take care of our books like we would other valuable objects. We treat them gently, store them properly and do our best to protect them from injury. The very act of owning our books, being able to take them down off the shelf, turn them over in our hands and take pleasure in their presence, enriches our lives and gives continued delight.
Most collectors of Science Fiction books begin to do so because they have found something in the genre that is inspiring. Science Fiction stretches your imagination, introduces you to a future of endless possibilities and creates a sense of wonder. Included within the realm of Science Fiction are also Fantasy books that take you into the world of magic and myth and Magic Realism books where everyday life is transformed into the supernatural, while yet remaining grounded in reality.
Science Fiction Collections can be valuable
There are other reasons to collect Science Fiction and Fantasy books, the economic value among them. As the popularity of science continues to grow at an astonishing rate the value and desirability of first edition and limited edition Science Fiction books continues to intensify as well. First editions and limited runs ensure that availability decreases over time. There exists a large expanding market for books. A carefully assembled collection of first edition or limited print volumes will become increasingly valuable.
Why collect books? Collect them because they engage your sense of wonder. Collect them because they are beautiful. Collect them because they are valuable. Most important of all, collect them because you love them.
Alan Chudnow has been collecting books for over 30 years. He was one of the original partners in Dangerous Visions, a speculative fiction specialty bookstore in Sherman Oaks, California. Now sadly gone the way of most independent bookshops in this country.
He has been, at various times a motion picture and television film editor, theatrical producer and director, writer, actor, web designer and bookstore owner, all while continuing his pursuit of bibliophilism. He lives in Long Beach, California as close to the beach as he can get.
SF Bookworm is a Blog concerning Science Fiction, Book Collecting and more. Come visit, hang out and join the conversation at sfbookworm.collectingsf.com
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