Sunday, 12 December 2010

Book of the Week - Philip Pullman, Ancient Civilizations

Most book collectors have a list of books which they would like to own, and I am like everyone else in this respect. In years gone by, searching usually meant trawling through second hand shops, writing to dealers or placing a wanted advertisement in a magazine. This process has been transformed by the internet, something on which many bloggers have written. This has undoubtedly reduced the interest of the chase, but made the process of finding books much more efficient. For a period of time there was a golden age for the astute collector – dealers began to list their stock on a variety of internet sites, and there were bargains to be found, especially for those who knew their way around search engines and sites. Things have now settled down – most dealers have listed their stock online and are careful with pricing when they add to their listings, and most collectors are familiar with the best online sites and search engines. However, it is still just as satisfying to find an uncommon book when the search has been ongoing for some time.

My wanted list is modest nowadays (and I try to operate a one in – one out rule!), and falls into two categories. Firstly, there are books which I can find fairly easily but which cost more than I am willing to pay. There are quite a few of these, mainly older editions (the Ricketts edition of the Sphinx, a Nonesuch Dickens) – I look out for a less expensive copy, or wait for a lottery win. Secondly, there are books which are uncommon but likely to be affordable. I finally managed to obtain one of these books this week, for the modest sum of £25, so my list is reduced by one. I have written previously about Philip Pullman, in whom I have been interested for many years. I have an almost complete collection of his books – Ancient Civilizations fills one of the missing gaps. It is a rather odd volume, a short educational book aimed at older children, with little intrinsic value, but it certainly seems very uncommon. This was the first copy I have seen in about two years of looking – it remains listed on ABEbooks (now twice!), so maybe the seller has come across a small stock of older copies if anyone else is looking. Alternatively it may be a listing mistake. Ancient Civilizations is only likely to be of interest to a serious Pullman collector (or a dealer), but is worth looking out for. One footnote – a number of online bibliographies list this as a 1978 publication. Having now seen a copy, the publication date for what appears to be the first edition is 1981 (which is the alternate date given by some other sites). I have now amended my bibliography to give the date as 1981, but if anyone has seen a 1978 copy I would be very interested to hear of it.

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