So very rarely does it happen that someone thinks they have an exceptionally valuable book and it turns out to be true. A gentleman called about a book signed by Matisse. When he brought it in, I discovered he hadn’t mentioned it was also signed by James Joyce. It was a beautiful 1935 folio-sized edition of Ulysses with illustrations by Henri Matisse, the crown jewel of the Limited Editions Club catalogue. They printed many other nice books signed by their illustrators, but none with quite this much cachet. The man who had it was settling an estate, and inclined to accept a NY dealer’s offer of $10k. That dealer probably has a buyer willing to pay $15k or more. The only thing as rare as books that valuable are buyers for them. Well, it was fun to see, anyway.
An interesting contrast passed through our store the following week. It was an elephant folio, supersized 1975 Moby Dick illustrated and signed by Leroy Neiman, with a preface signed by Jacques Cousteau…which, for me, was all too much of not quite good enough things. It takes a lot to live up to Melville. And, with all due respect, the Cousteau signature was just a bit silly perhaps. It was a book that could be said to be worth a few hundred dollars, but I’d rather not be the one saying it.