Here you are, in a book shop that specializes in first editions. Why would you want to buy one? Let me count the ways.
- You love books, and a fine copy of the first edition of a book you love is the best copy you can own.
- A first edition is as close as you can get to the book the author had in his hands when it was first published. Everything about it—perhaps especially the dust jacket, which often has the look of the era in which it was published—gives you a sense of being there with the book when it was new.
- Having a collection of first editions of an author you love is significantly more pleasurable than having a shelf full of paperbacks by that same author. It cements your relationship. Ask anyone who knows.
- Yes, you certainly can read your first editions, and you should. They do not have to be treated as if they are untouchable objects—just be a little nicer to them and don’t take them to the beach or read them in the tub.
- Something that is rare, even just comparatively rare, is almost always valuable as long as there are people out there who want to own it. And there are always people out there who want the same first edition you want.
- In many cases, but alas not all, buying a first edition does not cost significantly more than buying a new hardback—and sometimes a paperback—by the same author.
- First editions in fine condition almost always increase in value, often rapidly and significantly. Other editions of a book merely decrease in value, and they often decrease so much they become essentially worthless. You’ve tried to get rid of some of them, so you already know this.
- First editions don’t have to be old to be valuable.
- If you make the right choices, investing in first editions and rare books is a very good investment indeed. Of course, as with any other kind of investment, making the right choices is not always easy. However, even if you make the wrong choices (for investment purposes) but you end up with a fine library of first editions by authors you love, you’re still a winner.
- First editions impress your friends and colleagues, if that’s something you would like to do. They make you look smarter and more sophisticated, and they just look better on the shelf than other books. No, they do, I ’m telling you.
- You show somebody into your book room and they see all those books you have on your shelves. With ordinary books, of course, you don’t make a point of mentioning them. The person simply glances at your library and thinks, “this guy does a lot of reading.” With first editions, of course, you say, “these are all first editions.” The person is impressed. He thinks, “wow,” and then says it—“wow.” Conversation then ensues about rarity, value, love of books. You pull a book off the shelf and show it off, lovingly. Have you ever pulled a paperback off the shelf and shown it off, lovingly? I thought not.
- Books do furnish a room, and great books furnish it better.
- Almost everyone has collected something at some time: stamps, coins, baseball cards, dolls, beer bottles, barbed wire—you name it. Why do people do this? There are many theories, some great and some small, but for whatever reasons, collecting is satisfying, it’s something you can be interested in, it’s fun.
- Anywhere you go—any town, any city, any country—might be the place where you find what you’re looking for. The next book shop might be the one, and it only takes one. This means that everywhere offers the thrill of the hunt, everywhere offers possibilities. Collecting always gives you something fun to do, no matter where you are.