Guess what I just got in the mail? Never mind – you can’t guess. I’ll have to show you some photos instead:
That’s right! A shiny new copy of The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox. Not just any copy, either. It’s a numbered, signed, 10th anniversary special edition hardcover. With special wine-red bookmark and everything!
Have I mentioned that I’m a reformed book collector? No? Wow, I can’t believe that slipped my mind. Back in the day (by which I mean about four or five years ago), I was obsessed with collecting books – in particular, the Biggles series by Captain W. E. Johns. In between writing my first novel drafts and tearing my hair out over undergraduate essays, I spent a fair amount of money and a great deal of time acquiring a number of beautiful first editions. The anticipation of the hunt! The thrill of the bargain! The sheer, gloating pride that comes from holding a beloved, 50+ year old book in your hands! I was addicted. It was terrible.
My parents encouraged my obsession, probaly because they were happy I was so involved in something that was not either sex, drugs or alcohol, as the rest of the student population undoubtedly was (at least, if you believe the news). I spent my free time either selling those copies I no longer wanted or needed to other collectors, book shops and young fans, or hunting down my next conquest. I was actually pretty good at remembering all the minutiae, like what made a true first edition (as opposed to a first thus) and the different illustrators, cover designs, logos and so on. I could sling around terms like “foxing” and “FFEP” (front free end paper) like nobody’s business. In fact, I still have about 65% of the series in storage – and just to give you an idea of how many books that is, I think there are something like 98 books in total. I also have duplicate copies, ephemera, and various miscellany related to the series that I haven’t yet been able to bring myself to part with. What can I say? I’m also a pack rat, in the worst way.
What was it that drew me to collecting? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it has something to do with the fact that nobody ever gave me books. This has always baffled me. I am a consummate book lover. I have been since before I could read. And yet, in my entire life I can only recall ever being given books once. And guess what books they were? That’s right. Biggles books. Aside from that, though, I think it’s the fact that I love old things and I love books, so old books are just like heaven to me. The way they feel, the way they smell, the bindings, the illustrations, the inscriptions, the covers…all of it so different from the way books are now. There is something about reading some Aunt’s birthday greeting to a beloved nephew from 1953 that sends chills down the spine. It’s like holding a piece of history.
Eventually, of course, the fever eased, and what with graduating and writing (and being somewhat broke) I eventually weaned myself off the whole collecting addiction and moved on to other things. Like blogging. However, every so often, I come across something that I simply cannot resist – like a numbered, signed, 10th anniversary special edition hardcover of my Favourite Book Ever. I came across it by accident online and the old collector’s fire took hold of my brain all over again. Just call it a (slightly belated) birthday present to myself.
At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.