No sirens blew. Not even a ring of a doorbell. But there was a certain fanfare attached to the arrival today of my $200 book.
I had gone to the front door just before 10 this morning to look for my young cat, Ares. And there before my widening eyes was this great sack of baby blue with “Great Britain” written across it.
Immediately, I knew what it was. It was my scarce Simon Mawer, “The Glass Room,” the novel I had written about earlier this month. I had to have it, knew it was ridiculous yet . . . . There it was. All the way from Taunton, in Somerset, England.
Grabbing my Canon from the dining room table, I began shooting photos like the father of a new-born, click, click, click.
The novel, like most of Mawer’s work, is set against a great event. In this case, it was the Holocaust and World War II. The publication by Little, Brown had, it was reported, an extremely small first press run of around 2,000. This first issue of the first edition is what makes “The Glass Room” valuable to collectors like me. In other words you can have a first edition but not necessarily a first issue.
That Mawer also signed, lined and dated the book just two months after publication further heightened the value. I suspect the book would be worth $75, maybe less, without the author’s hand-writing.
“It was as though they stood in a crystal of salt,” Mawer had inscribed it on March 3, 2009, supposedly at a book signing event at Toppings Bookshop in Bath. I checked it out with Toppings and found it was not quite accurate. Mawer had a book signing, all right, but not in Bath. It took place at the firm’s “sister book shop” in Ely, 70 miles north of London.
I say “supposedly,” not 100 percent sure that Mawer signed the book. Authentication can be tricky. I perhaps trust too much but the bookseller has a good rating. And he typed out a note at my request to give me the history of Mawer’s signing as he knew it. I have that much anyway.
And I’m sure it’s a first issue. Those things are well-known in the book trade. Like in the case of this publisher its firsts have the following designation on the copyright page: “First published in Great Britain in 2009 by Little, Brown.”
Mawer has signed at least two other books I’ve read about with the same “crystal of salt” inscription. It comes from page 64 of my paperback edition of “The Glass Room.” It is a sentence within a paragraph describing the principal figures, Viktor Landauer and his wife, Liesel, as they enter for the first time the “glass room” of their new house in Czechoslovakia.
The book arrived h in a plastic protective cover, and with great care I placed “The Glass Room” in my glass-door bookcase. The icing on the cake would be if Mawer would win a noted literary prize such as the Man Booker Award in Britain. Only then, perhaps, would this little investment pay for itself.