Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On the 21st day of Christmas, Babbitt's Books gave to me . . .

. . . a signed, first edition of William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner.

Whether they're buying from us or selling to us, a common mistake that people make is assuming that signed books are automatically valuable / expensive.  As in, worth $200 or $300 . . . or more. Of course, as evidenced by yesterday's $35 signed Sandburg, that isn't always the case. A signed book's value is based on a number of factors, including supply, demand, condition, edition, and scarcity. If you want J.D. Salinger's signature, be prepared to shell out at least $7,500; he rarely signed anything, unless it was to a friend. By the same token, you can buy a book signed by Toni Morrison for under $25, as she signs liberally. 

Tonight's book is a good buy all around. It's a first edition in the original dust jacket, which means that you get the book as it first appeared. A book doesn't get earlier or more authentic than a first edition. The condition is also agreeable. There's a smudge or two to the book itself, a couple small tears to the dust jacket, but no extremely compromising defects. Plus the book is signed on the blank front endpaper by William Styron. No flourishes, no frills. Just a plain signature and lots of empty space for you to add a gift inscription, if you're so inclined.

The book is a fictional account of the life of Nat Turner, and was controversial at the time of publication for its sexually explicit content, as well as the fact that it was written from a black man's perspective by a white author. Did I happen to mention that this book won a Pulitzer Prize? That it's William Styron's best-known book? That it's only $50? 

If you're looking for something a little cheaper ($8), we also have a first edition of William Styron's Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, an account of the author's plunge into severe depression in the mid-1980s. "Our perhaps understandable modern need to dull the sawtooth edges of so many of the afflictions we are heir to," he writes, "has led us to banish the harsh old-fashioned words: madhouse, asylum, insanity, melancholia, lunatic, madness. But never let it be doubted that depression, in its extreme form, is madness" (46-47). The book certainly deals with difficult subject matter, but it is also comforting to have someone put precise words, gorgeous words, to this often stigmatized disorder. 

Styron may not write the most happy-go-lucky books, but there's a reason he won a Pulitzer Prize: he's damn good. So if you're looking for a nice, modern signed first at an affordable price, look no further than Babbitt's Books.

Title: The Confessions of Nat Turner
Publisher: Random House
Year: 1967
Features: Signed, First Edition, Dust Jacket
Condition: Very Good-
Price: $50

Title: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
Publisher: Random House
Year: 1990
Features: First Edition, Dust Jacket
Condition: Very Good
Price: $8

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