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Collecting may be a bit of grand term of what is really no more than a wee shelf-full of almost randomly accumulated signed modern first editions. But for reasons I find hard to define I do like to have books signed by the author or someone else associated with the book (the latter more properly called ‘association copies’ than ‘signed firsts’, which implies the author’s signature is present).

I don’t have the funds – or the discipline – to collect actively or pay the hyper-inflated prices of some modern firsts, especially those in fine condition in fine dust jackets. (The recently launched Stanley Gibbons index of rare book prices suggested one might have to pay as much as £24,000 for a nice first edition of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, and that’s without a signature!)  And anyway, I buy books because I want to read them, not to file them away and preserve them, untouched and unspoilt.  But when browsing bookshops, finding a signed first on offer may just be what tempts me to buy that book over another, or to purchase right then and there rather than wait, and think, and probably move on to something else.

This week’s book buying, then, might be defined as one of success for both the crafty booksellers promoting signed modern firsts and for me as I have managed to find four that I wanted to read anyway.

WRCB0928SMy first find was Slade House by the masterful David Mitchell, spotted as I was taking a shortcut from the London Library to Piccadilly Circus tube through Waterstone’s Piccadilly.  I’ll read just about anything by Mitchell but this one is such a beautiful book so it’s a bit special. I love the way the book has been made to glisten by the tiny cut-outs in the dust jacket.  Those little flashes of red you can see are not printed but the binding cloth glowing through.  So clever and so effective – and just about perfect for a  ghostly-themed novel which must have been specifically timed for Hallowe’en.

WRCB096sThen, yesterday, a visit to my favourite, local bookshop, Wimbledon Books and Music. (Ostensibly trying to find a copy of David Park’s The Light of Amsterdam to read before bookclub next week – I failed on that score & had to turn to my bookseller of last resort, Amazon, who true to their word, delivered today).  I came home with three more signed first editions: The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien, A Snow Garden by Rachel Joyce and Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith.  I really enjoyed Joyce’s Perfect, so was tempted to try another but most of all I’m looking forward to The Little Red Chairs. It’s some years since I’ve read anything by Edna O’Brien – too long to be without her challenging voice and masterful storytelling.

A Snow Garden and The Little Red Chairs are nice enough looking to grace my beautiful books bookshelf but I do think that the presentation of Public Library and Other Stories is dull and uninviting.  But Ali Smith will always tempt me, however her books are dressed.

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