Collecting William Faulkner
Faulkner provides opportunities for the beginning collector, and challenges for the veteran collector. After his literary reassessment in the late 1940s Faulkner's works were printed in larger numbers and collectible copies of most of his later works are readily available. Prior to this, however, Faulkner was neither widely read nor appreciated. Fine copies of his early works are particularly difficult to obtain. Faulkner was also famously averse to signing trade editions of his books – it is generally easier to find signed limited editions while authentic signed trade editions command a premium (and often have amusing stories of provenance).
Faulkner's first book, a generally regarded as juvenile collection of poems, The Marble Faun (1924) is very uncommon. Paid for by his friend Phil Stone, the cardboard spine is often perished (or found restored), and the very thin paper jacket is often missing or heavily restored. Ironically, but not too surprisingly, this is the one Faulkner title that can be found signed, as he must have sent off a batch of them in the first flush of authorial pride. Signed or not however, you'll probably have to pay the equivalent of a luxury car for a jacketed copy. Perhaps more difficult to find in any kind of jacket is his first novel Soldier's Pay (1926). Copies in fine jackets are rare. Another one to look out for is Turnabout, a short story that was separately published in Canada in 1939 (in a sort of cheesy purple velour binding, issued without jacket) without the author's permission. Reportedly only about 50 copies were published, and while its hard to argue for its importance, its easy to argue for its rarity. Reportedly, one of our Canadian colleagues once noted a copy at a bookstore, and not knowing of its significance, but finding it intriguing, reported it to another American dealer, who immediately sent him off to secure it. However, before he did so, the Canadian dealer insisted on attending a poetry reading, which diversion from the mission nearly gave his American friend a coronary (all's well though - he did eventually secure the book). Thus if you are standing next to me, or any other first edition dealers of a certain age, who are scheming amongst themselves about the advisability of buying a certain book, and one says to the other "and remember, no poetry readings," you'll know what they're talking about.
This article is published here by permission of Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc.
Published since 23 Feb 2010