Saturday, February 24, 2007

On My 60th Birthday

A month or so ago, while scrounging through piles of film books at the strand I stumbled upon a copy of The Movies Come From America by Gilbert Seldes. Published in 1937 by Scribner’s it was a first edition review copy with the slip laid in, and it also had its rare dustjacket, though it was chipped and frayed. For some reason in all my years as a dealer I had never offered a copy of this book for sale. At 9 bucks, which included my 10% dealer discount, I grabbed it. I figured it to be a 75.00 book, but maybe a little lower, maybe a little higher and I would still make a nice profit from it if and when I sold it. The trouble with this book began when I started to look through it, and discovered some underlining. This annoying defect could sometimes pose a problem for me depending on the book. With this one I let it pass, then I noticed a signature written in pencil on the margin of one of the very nicely printed still plates. “Joseph Cornell.” This stopped me dead in my tracks, and I started to sweat a bit. Then on another plate again the signature. Both stills picture a young acting Mary Pickford from 1914. How wonderful that she still lives on for many cinephiles. Also on some pages were slight notations. Could this have been Cornell’s own copy? It seemed possible to me at first as I carried the book and the frayed dustjacket carefully up to the cashiers. I mean why would someone write Joseph Cornell in a book if he wasn’t Joseph Cornell, and the subject of the book certainly fit his interests. I began working the book when I got home. I put it into a Gaylord heavy duty jacket cover and started to try to find examples of his handwriting on the net. I once owned a Cornell, and very special it was as he made it especially for me. Never mind the heartbreak, when I remember that I had to sell it. Some where in a carton I think that I have a copy of the letter that Joseph had handwritten to me in his beautiful script. I remember it being on a piece of thin writing vellum paper. He had enclosed small envelopes with hidden notes and postcards of a color tinted Paramount theatre with attachments to it. Stunning. He had send it to me in response to a copy of my monograph on Radio City Music Hall that I had sent to him and he loved it. The envelope was lined with an 18th century print of balloons and was torn open by me in excitement that Fall morning when M handed it to me. I thought about visiting him but he died soon after. As of today I have no idea if this was indeed his book. I’ve contacted several foundations with an interest in Cornell but none have responded. You would think that they could have at least emailed me saying that they received the scans. One book dealer with an interest in Cornell was helpful I guess and said after viewing the scans that it might be his or it might not be his. It doesn’t really matter except of course for the money. I once found a rather scarce Walt Disney Book on the bargain bin of the old wonderful Barnes & Noble Sales Annex on 18th street. The book was in fine condition with the dustjacket and under the front flap was written in ink the very familiar signature of Walt Disney. I nearly fainted but it turned out that the signature was signed most likely by one of his animators or flunkies. I sold it rather quickly for around $250.00 making a nice profit since I think I paid $2.98 for it. I guess for me the rarest signed book that I found was a few years ago in a local bookstore priced at $3.00. I don’t know what drew me to the copy of “Long Walk To Freedom” by Nelson Mandela, but when I opened it there was a nice inscription from him to Carol Bellamy who was the executive Director of The United Nations Fund. The book had some damp staining but so what and what in the world possessed Ms. Bellamy to part with this unique book, and how did it wind up on the Bargain bin of a bookstore in Brooklyn and why didn’t the owners catch this rare signature. I stifled a scream of joy as I brought it up to the front desk. “Where did you find this?” the clerk asked? “Over there on the bargain table “I said trying very hard to control my excitement. “Well this isn’t the right price” Oh shit I thought here comes a scene. “It should be $2.00 not $3.00,” he said. I put down my two bucks and walked out of the store with a big smile on my face. Oh yes I sold it shortly there after for $1,000.00.


Blogger jgodsey said...

now THAT is the balls!


3:42 PM  

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