Monday, 19 March 2012

Book collections






I am fascinated by other people’s book collections. You can tell quite a bit (but far from everything!) about someone from the books they own, and once or twice I’ve used this as an element in my own stories. As recently as last week, I was writing a scene for my new book, set in the sadly fictional Amos Books in the Lake District, and drawing on what I have learned from various expert book dealers and collectors.

Last September, I had the great pleasure of visiting John Curran’s home, and admiring his extensive and very well-organised book collection. As you would expect of a great expert on Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime is prominent, but John also has some fine examples of the work of other Golden Age writers, as well as some enviable signed and inscribed classics.

Just before Christmas, I called on James M. Pickard, who – like those other excellent bookdealers, Mark Sutcliffe and Jamie Sturgeon, all of whom I can recommend – has a terrific stock of second hand crime novels. James is not just a dealer, but also a collector, and he has a marvellous array of books and artwork associated with Ian Fleming.

I was fascinated to see some of the obscure Golden Age titles in James’ collection. One of the remarkable features of them was the excellence of their condition – very important to keen collectors, since in some cases, a fine dust jacket can increase the value of a book tenfold. Many investors are interested in rare books these days, not least because of the unreliability of the stock market. I don’t myself look on books as investments, but I can understand why some people do. But whether as possible investments or just lovely things to have, James’ stock is truly impressive. If you’d like to know more, take a look at
his website

Finally, after my Sayers lecture, I travelled to the Home Counties to stay with another friend who has a truly astonishing collection. And it is his books that feature in the photos. For any Golden Age fan, truly mouth-watering!

7 comments:

Puzzle Doctor said...

Very jealous of all of these, especially the second photo!

Sextonblake said...

The Carter Dickson books! Oh my word!

Martin Edwards said...

Stunning, aren't they? I really was impressed and I'd love to read so many of those obscure titles.

Peggy Ann said...

Oh my goodness! I would think I had died and gone to hog heaven with all those books! I love Freeman Wills Crofts and John Dickson Carr. I read so many vintage books anymore I never have time to read any new ones. I must get to your books soon! I just stumbled upon your blog and will visit often.

Martin Edwards said...

Nice to hear from you, Peggy Ann. I like to think my books do have some of the virtues of those vintage mysteries (mind you, I'm keener on the excellent Carr than on Crofts, though I enjoy some of the Inspector French stories.)

John said...

Are those dust jackets genuine? Astounding. They look so fresh I suspected some of them might be facsimiles. Mark Sutcliffe's small catalog is far too rich for my pocket. So is Mr. Pickard's whose books I often come across when looking for one I can afford.

Martin Edwards said...

John, some are genuine, others are facsimiles. It is a quite stunning collection, created over about 20 years, and the owner has been very kind to lend me three or four of the books.