Brother, can you spare $398,000 for a book?

shakespeare-folio-Bauman Rare Books is one of the premier rare book dealers in the U.S. I’ve always thought of them as the the dealer of choice for wealthy, lazy collectors. Granted, Bauman’s stock is top-shelf, but the prices they charge are so far above the market median that I can only think their clientele is people for whom money is no object. A little homework would turn up a comparable copy at a more reasonable price. But sometimes, they get a truly one-of-a-kind book and can charge whatever the hell they feel like. There IS no comparable!

Bauman occasionally buys a full-page ad in the New York Times Book Review. They’ll feature a dozen or so books. Most of them are show-off pieces. The type of posturing and preening you see at rare book fairs.

Currently, they have for sale, a Second Folio of Shakespeare plays (1632). It’s no exaggeration to say this book is a cornerstone of Western literature. There are fewer than 200 known copies and most of them are incomplete or somehow defective. This is a complete copy and is reported to be in excellent condition. Most of of the surviving copies are housed in institutions; there are very few in private hands.

So I would like this book. I’d like to keep it in my little hamlet in New Jersey. (Ha. See what I did there?) The asking price is $398K. That’s not so bad when you consider a First Folio would easily run in the millions. True, you can buy a house for $398K, but I’d really like this book.

Can you help me out, brothers and sisters?

28 thoughts on “Brother, can you spare $398,000 for a book?

  1. Sav: I think if I posted a PayPal link on my blog I’d risk alienating the few readers I have!XL: HA! That’s a good one! And they claim they invented the language. Pish. Everyone know “color” doesn’t have a “u” in it.Ponita: You’d better be careful because if I find out you won and didn’t buy me a Second Folio, I’m going to be really hurt.

  2. So supposing all we friendly bloggers chipped together and gave it to you. Then what? Surely it would be too precious to handle let alone read. And then there’s the insurance.No – for the better good I’m not going to organise a whip round. You know it makes sense;)

  3. Right, I’ve calmed down now.So.How can I say this?”IT’S A FUCKING BOOK!”You must realise what you and your family could do with THAT much moola?!Fuck sake, $398 is nothing to laugh at these days, let alone adding three zeros!!Sorry pal, but books and such, though wonderful things, come way down the list, (even imaginary) after roof & food these days!Times are a bit tough here at the moment! (Gigs a bit quiet!) :¬)

  4. 398 000 … US dollars. God I don’t even want to do the math to figure out how much that costs in rands. What do you even do with the book once you have it? Hide it away in a safe?

  5. Map: It makes no sense, I know, but you can apply that argument to ANY collectible. For that matter, what is gold but a piece of shiny stone?Sid: I don’t lock away any of my valuable books. It’s crazy, but I like to pull them off the shelf and smell them every once in a while.SF: You can’t blame this behavior on my recent head trauma. I’ve been like this for a long, long time. Ask Mrs. Wife.

  6. You know i saw that at Half Price Books the other day for only $199,000, i’ll check and see if it’s still there, the dustjacket was a little worn but other than that it was perfect.

  7. kono: That’s very funny! Laughed out loud in the office and made people turn around.SB: If there are, do I have to give you a copy? Can’t I keep them all for myself?SY: You’d better do away with that guilt nonsense or you’ll never enjoy anything that frivolous. I use to have a lot of Catholic guilt but it’s long gone. I’ve never felt better!

  8. SB: It could conceivably happen that, many generations from now, the Collins first editions could be more valuable than the Bard’s! There’s no way to predict it.Ellie: But not as digestible.MDeF: Hi! Please don’t post the endings. You’d spoil all future performances. I understand that some people die?

  9. Oh, I’d love to help you out, but I’m still saving up to replace the first edition of Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” that was in perfect condition and even had the dust jacket that one of our foster children stole when he got moved to another housing arrangement. The social worker was never able to quite get it back. I’m still annoyed.

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