Saturday, August 05, 2006

More eBay shamelessness

From the description of an eBay auction currently in progress:

The Book of The Thousand Nights and a Night
and SUPPLEMENTAL NIGHTS With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory
Privately Printed by the Burton Club for Subscribers only, n.d.
Limited to 1000 sets of which this is number 235. All 17 volumes are in good or better condition in half leather [. . .]

And here's the punchline: the opening price is $21,500, with a Buy It Now price of $27,500 :-)))

And the seller is a powerseller with 100% feedback. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Several copies of the true first edition of Burton's Nights are currently offered on ABE, mostly in the $7,000–$10,000 range. Thus $21,500, let alone $27,500, is preposterous even for a first.

Besides which, of course, the set offered in the above auction cannot be a first. The true first edition of Burton (Kamashastra Society, Benares — although of course the society was fictitious, and the book printed in England) was in 16 volumes, not 17. The third of the supplemental nights volumes was extra thick and thus many subsequent reprints split it into two volumes.

There were several ‘Burton Club’ reprints in 17 volumes in the first couple of decades of the 20th century, each limited to a thousand copies. So the total number of copies printed was not really all that low, and they aren't scarce now. With a bit of patience, it isn't difficult to get a good set for $200 or thereabouts. In an attractive leather binding, it might cost a few thousand dollars, but no more than that (you could buy a clothbound set and have it bound in leather by a bespoke bookbinder for that kind of money). And judging from the pictures included in the above-mentioned auction, the set offered there is far from attractive; the leather is fairly worn; it really isn't any better than merely good. A few hundred dollars, perhaps. But $21,500 has got to be a joke.


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