Collecting books on your favourite topics is an ever present challenge that can give great satisfaction and broaden as well deepen one’s knowledge of a subject. On 8 October 2022 Offaly History Centre is hosting a book fair, such as not seen in the town for three or four years. Many dealers are coming so why not call and talk books from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but don’t get caught in the callows! Bring money and enthusiasm.
History is of special interest but then McGahern’s The Barracks and Edna O’Brien’s County Girls can now be seen as the social history of the 1960s. First editions can be found but if you go the dealers or websites you can expect to pay up to €500 for a mint copy complete with jacket. As with ourselves condition is everything. If you want to combine the local with the literary you could try The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. Again if you want a first expect to pay over €200, or perhaps over €3,000 if you want a first edition of At Swim Two Birds. You can settle for paperbacks of O’Brien’s work and put a big collection together for perhaps €100 the lot.
Other books can be interesting to a few and well worth collecting for the genre such as Tullamore-born Tony Molloy’s Caught in the Callows.
Fortune smiles on the brave. If you see something you like and if it rare do not let it go.
Reprints can be exceptional value when issued and be very expensive fifty years later. or even three years later. Try ploughing your way though the six-vols of Ball’s Dublin, or the six of Hoare’s Wexford, or nearer home the four vols of The Diocese of Ossory. All six vols of Bagwell’s Tudors and Stuarts were available in Hodges Figgis, Dawson Street in the 1970s for 16 guineas. Expect to pay €600 now for the reprint. Wonderful material.
You may be interested in bookplates. This one was that of the barrister Constantine Molloy who was of a Tullamore family and died in 1897 shortly after a nice dinner in the King’s Inns.
Local prison poems collections will go scarce so collect if interested (and only if interested, never for the money)!
For discerning collectors you will want to arm your self with John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors. The themes were much parodied by Ronald Searle (d. 2011, aged 93). Searle was born in Cambridge, the son of a railwayman. He left full-time education at Cambridge central school at the age of 14 and started work as an office boy with a firm of solicitors. Doodling on legal documents proved a retrograde career move and he was fired. He found his métier and gave enjoyment to millions, especially with his St Trinian’s cartoons.
Early local books will cost you as per this example of the first book printed in Rome with the Gaelic type by our own Francis O Molloy.
Why not buy when books are issued. Many have short runs and when they are gone they are gone – unless you are willing to pay more later.
Famous bookshops are a story in itself Greene’s in Clare Street, Dublin was famous and we cannot forget Andy Gonoude’s several stalls in Tullamore.
Famous collectors include people such as Sir Thomas Phillipps whose collection of books and manuscripts took over 100 years to sell. Almost as long as the first edition of the seven-volume Annals of the Four Masters printed by Michael Gill, then of Dublin University Press, was in print. Another big collector with a big heart was Aidan Heavey of Athlone. He donated his collection to Athlone town and even after he had given away his collection he was still buying books to send to their new home.
Having fun collecting interesting books, both rare and common, but often equally satisfying. You can mark comments on the softback and keep the quality copy in perfect condition. If you grow famous your annotations may provide scholars with a thesis and years of labour.
Signed first editions are nice to have. For novels remember it must be the first edition first impression and kept in good order. Do not bring them to the beach and do not lend them. When you are asked if you have read all the books in your house one may yes: All of some and some of all.