Mapping the Terrain of Used and Rare Books
Late one evening, sitting at a second hand desk lit by a green-shaded lamp of the kind seen in libraries and law offices, I was perusing Craigslist in search of books, sales, and events. Drowsy, wading through digital piles garbage, about to retire, a post caught my eye, titled “Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines, $2.”
The post listed hundreds of issues, including a sizable run of Locus Magazine (the newspaper of the science fiction and fantasy world) from 1976 – 2009, many issues of Analog, the lesser-known Delap’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Review (scifi, fantasy, horror book reviews aimed at library professionals and authors), Riverside Quarterly (a sci-fi fan zine, started in the 50’s), and several miscellaneous texts, including the proceedings of a symposium on H.P Lovecraft (1964, panelists including grand-masters Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, and Arkham House founder August Derleth). After some deliberation I decided on 10, and responded to the post with an offer of $20 ($2/each). Not thinking much of it I powered down my computer, clicked off the lamp, and made my way to sleep.
Early the next morning a response in my inbox politely informed me that the price was $2 for all of the magazines, and that he would prefer if I took the lot. I was astounded; this was an amazing trove of not only reading material but also rare and out-of-print stories and commentary by some of the best known authors in the field. I quickly agreed, secured a date, and went about my life.
As the date approached I confirmed that my lovely and talented girlfriend would take an evenings break from sewing (shameless plug: check out her blog here!) to accompany me to the suburbs, and confirmed the time and date with the owner of the magazines.
We arrived at the parking lot of a well known chain restaurant and connected with the seller, an extremely friendly, soft-spoken man with a bushy beard. We spoke for 15 minutes, expressing mutual appreciation for each others taste in science fiction, books, and the joys of collecting. He waived the $2 and sent us on our way with his business card and 8 large boxes filled with magazines, zines and pamphlets. The encounter left me feeling hopeful about the state of the world, for an evening, at least. I made my way home to sort and appreciate, and was not disappointed.
I won’t bore you with a detailed description of the hundreds of periodicals I received, but will focus on three highlights.
First and foremest,
H.P. Lovecraft: A Symposium
Los Angeles: Sponsered by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, Printed by the Riverside Quarterly (1964). Octavo, 18 pp, pictoral wrappers, first edition
This thin, staple-bound zine, with an image of some Lovecraftian horror on the wrappers, is rather underwhelming. That is, until you look inside and see the contributors. This is a piece of sci-fi history, featuring grandmasters Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, and August Derleth, speaking about the work of H.P.Lovecraft to an appreciative and knowledgeable audience. For those of you not totally acquainted with their work it is important to know the connections: Leiber was a personal friends of Lovecraft, and deeply influenced by his work; Derleth, while he never met the man in person, was in close correspondence and later took over Arkham House, the publishing house originally dedicated to producing Lovecraft’s work; Bloch, famously the author of Psycho, was a young member of Lovecraft’s literary circle and was mentored by the man. This small pamphlet offers an excellent, and rare, insight into Lovecraft from some of his closest literary associates.
1980, Addressed as a complementary copy to Gregg Press, 70 Lincoln Street, Boston MA
Analog is the longest running science fiction and fantasy magazine in the world. Started in the 1930’s, it participated in the Golden Age of Science Fiction and published the first stories of such authors as Orsen Scott Card. While most copies of Analog from the 1980’s are not valuable two of the volumes I received are certainly unique, and somewhat important to the history of sci-fi publishing. They have original address labels on them, addressed as Complementary copy, Gregg Press, 70 Lincoln Street, Boston, MA. Gregg press is a highly collectible and now-defunct science fiction and fantasy publisher, which produced works from authors such as Andre Norton, Fritz Leiber, and Philip K. Dick. These copies of Analog may have been read by the editors at Gregg press, searching for the next fantasy author to court.
An interesting and uncommon science fiction and fantasy zine from the 70s. Great cover illustrations and diy presentation.
While this magazine is in some ways redundant with Locus it is also significantly more uncommon. Bound in relatively fragile paper, and staple bound, it seems the type of periodical that would decay easily. These are particularly interesting for book collectors because they review new fiction, and one issues (focused on horror) reviews the first edition of Stephen King’s The Shining, as well as several other books. An excellent source for developing a more complete bibliography of particular authors.