Category Archives: Book Collecting

Books Authored and Signed by American Presidents

By David Thoreau

In recent years there has been a growing audience for books authored and signed by American Presidents. This article explores some of the most common books authored and signed by modern American presidents.

One of the earliest American presidents to author a book was Thomas Jefferson and his only full-length book known as Notes on the State of Virginia. Originally written in 1782 and published anonymously in Paris, Notes on the State of Virginia contains Jefferson’s political philosophy interspersed with geographic descriptions of the State of Virginia. Signed copies bearing Thomas Jefferson’s autograph are known to exist but are exquisitely rare.

More recently, Calvin Coolidge gained notoriety as a syndicated newspaper columnist after his career in politics. His autobiography was published in 1928 and copies bearing the inscription “Cordially Calvin Coolidge” in blue ink occasionally appear on the autograph marketplace.

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Cookery books signed by Julia Child selling like hotcakes!

Whilst Julia Child (1912-2006) may have turned American cuisine on its head through what was, in the 1960s, the revolutionary idea of introducing the ideals of the French cooking school to middle America, she was until very recently, far less of a household name in the UK and Europe. Her award-winning cookbooks couple with numerous series of television shows in a career which spread over four decades, became the model to which all future “TV Chefs” the world over would aspire – in essence she invented the idea of taking sophisticated cuisine and making it accessible to a wide audience. In a country that Europeans often wrongly see as a burger-guzzling nation, Julia Child was a woman who instilled passion into the food culture of the United States and beyond, often through the sheer force of her personality.

Without doubt one of her most famous cookbooks and one that is considered something of a seminal publication is Mastering the Art of French Cooking. First published in 1961 by Knopf it was followed by a second volume in 1970. Praised for many of the things we now take for granted in a cookery book, such as clear illustrations and easy to follow instructions, the book is still in print to this day. Child’s second book, The French Chef Cookbook, was a collection of the recipes she had demonstrated on a television show of the same name. When the series went into colour television this was reflected in her fourth book, From Julia Child’s Kitchen, which was illustrated with her husband’s photographs. Julia Child’s last book , an autobiography My Life in France, was published in 2006 although sadly, she didn’t live to see it in print.

And so we come to 2009, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking is top of the bookseller charts again thanks to the movie Julie & Julia, directed by Nora Ephron and starring none other than Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Based on the eponymous book by the blogger Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams in the movie) who set herself the staggering task of cooking all 524 recipes from the book and kept a daily blog of her culinary adventures.

Needless to say vintage copies of any cookery books signed by Julia Child are suddenly highly collectible!

signed Julia Child, 5, 267, “”

Signed First Edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in Charity Auction!

Children With Aids Charity has listed a UK first edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows signed by the author, J.K. Rowling on The charity was organized in 1992 to help infants and children affected by HIV/AIDS maintain a good quality of life.

On the bidding page, there are images of the signed page in the book and the letter which authenticates Ms. Rowling’s signature. Bids will be accepted until July 3, 2009. Click here to make a bid.

Thanks to CWAC for letting us know.

Is book signing just plain weird?

If you’re a passionate collector of books signed by the author you may be interested in this piece in the Independent, UK which takes a sympathetic look at the “book signing chore” that modern publishing demands of popular authors.

Excessive success, however, can also be a burden. There’s a shocking story about Stephen King signing books in a Seattle shop. He signed for hours until his shoulder ached and a publicist had to apply an ice-pack. Then his fingers dried up; they cracked and began to bleed, and he asked for a bandage. Hearing this, a fan in the queue demanded to have some authentic Stephen King blood on his book. Others joined in and he signed in his own blood for hours.

Signing off: the weird world of book signings
By John Walsh
Independent, Thursday, 21 August 2008

Are you a booksigning junkie?

There’s a wonderfully funny confessional article by Emily Grosvenor in the Publishers Weekly today. If the following snippet sounds familiar…then check out the full article!

I am a compulsive author-reading attendee, an obsessive reader and fan. People like me are the reason publishers send authors on book tours. Writers are my celebrities. I track news of them like other people follow Angelina Jolie. I sign up for e-mail alerts to keep abreast of their book tours. And when the writers I read go on tour, I am there.

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Signed by author…long distance!

There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times on line edition this morning about a revolutionary device which may turn the collection of signed books on its head! It talks about a device called LongPen which Margaret Atwood, the Canadian novelist, devised in 2004 so that she could sign books with a touchpad in her home, which in turn conveyed her handwriting to an autopen in a distant bookstore. You can read the full story by following the link below…

A Book Signing With the Author a World Away
Published: December 17, 2007
With his recent conviction and sentencing, the media baron and author Conrad M. Black has turned to a device called the LongPen to help him hold book signings from afar.

Continue reading Signed by author…long distance!

Collecting Ex-Libris Bookplates

Ex-Libris Bookplate

Originally uploaded by Deborah Swain

There’s an increasingly popular field of specialization in book collection – collecting books because of the ex-libris bookplates found pasted inside them. I’ve just launched a new Website dedicated exclusively to this area – The Ex-Libris and Bookplate Store

This particular bookplate looks very much like a Rockwell Kent design however I’m not certain…if anybody has any further thoughts or any ideas as to the identity of David Adams, please do leave a comment below. The ex-libris is pasted into a 1931 First American Edition of The Waves by Virginia Woolf, published by Harcourt, Brace and Company.

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Monkey by Wu Cheng-en | Translated by Arthur Waley | Dust Jacket by Duncan Grant

Monkey is the title of Arthur Waley’s popular 1942 abridged translation of the traditional Chinese folk tale Journey to the West which was first published during the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century and is now ascribed to the scholar Wu Cheng-en. It actually translates only thirty of the hundred chapters of the original tale.

This 1944 War Economy Standard edition was the fourth impression of the book and features a very beautiful dust jacket design by Bloomsbury Group painter Duncan Grant.

Monkey: Journey to the West has recently been adapted for the stage in the form of a circus-opera by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the co-creators of the virtual pop band Gorillaz, and Chen Shi-zheng.

Why Collect Science Fiction Books?

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.

rare science fiction, 5, 267, “”

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

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