Monday, 3 March 2008

The 2MBS book bazaar at Pymble served up a bunch of good things on Sunday. The trip, undertaken while in thrall to raging flu, led to me netting several choice items, including this. Henry M. Stanley's Through the Dark Continent (in one volume, 1879) can be bought for over a thousand dollars through AbeBooks.

My edition is slightly worse for the wear it survived over more than a century in the possession of at least one man, a student of Melbourne's Haileybury College. The headmaster awarded the book for proficiency in Latin and Greek (proving that the traditional disciplines endured as significant elements of secondary education well past the scientific revolution of the mid-1800s).

The book is richly illustrated and includes a map showing the trajectory of the explorers who travelled from the Atlantic coast up the Congo River and across to the Indian Ocean.

Another item is a first edition of Noel Coward's Play Parade (William Heinemann, London, 1934).

The contents page shows the plays included. Like the Stanley book, I intend to sell this. The cover is reasonably stained on spine and is hand-worn at top. The page edges are discoloured with age.

Despite these drawbacks, I think it will net a hundred. Other books in my hoard, which cost me $225, are more likely to remain on one of my many bookshelves. This, despite the fact that several are worth a good deal more than I would normally pay for the privilege of reading the author.

One such is William Styron's first novel, in a first edition, which was published in New York and Indianapolis by The Bobbs-Merrill Company, in 1951. Online listings show a value near US$2000 for a good exemplar. Which this volume most decidedly is, as the picture shows.

The dust jacket is slightly torn but it at least exists. The original owner, or someone who had the book in their collection subsequently, took care to add a plastic wrapper over the paper cover. As a result, the illustration is clear and clean. Which brings me to observe that an author's early books may be better-presented than those which are published in his or her maturity.

Thea Astley, who died in 2004, is a mature Australian author and is, moreover, one I've never read. This is surprising as she won four Miles Franklin awards, including one for The Acolyte (1972).

Another find in my library following Sunday's binge is her 1979 collection of short stories, Hunting the Wild Pineapple. I now have four Astleys in my library. If she's as good as the literati seem to think she is, there is plenty of enjoyment coming my way.

Another school prize book is this one by "the first Australian novelist to gain international recognition", Katherine Suzanna Pritchard, who is another unknown for me. The lovely cover is worth the insignificant purchase price all on its own. I'm sure the girl who received the book (Fiona Watson, 3rd in grade 4A) treasured it for this reason alone.

The final item's cover shows a painting of Barry Humphries by James Fardoulys and it's delightful. A more serious man is seen in Cecil Beaton's photo, which is on the back cover.

This little volume should help keep me away from the DVD counter, where recordings of The Chaser boys are sold. With Bazza in my hands, I have no need for the common man's Media Watch.

Speaking of which, the series started again tonight with Jonathan Holmes, the new host. Clearly Aunty has taken note of accusations of bias from the right-wing print media. Holmes give good face and is far less strident than Monica Attard, who he replaces in the new series.

I suspect the content is much the same, so any alterations are likely purely cosmetic. Possibly that's all the school bullies need to feel wanted. A less threatening opponent may be less likely to cause them to want to rip his head off and mount it on a stick in the public sphere.

Whatever that is.

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