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Collecting Rare Books and First Editions: Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon's first three books are by far his most collectible. His first, V. (1963) shows up with some frequency, but is usually either spine-faded, or price-clipped (the price is placed well into the front flap, so clipping it leaves an even more than usually unsightly loss), or both. There also exists an Advance Reading Copy in wrappers that seems to wear easily - we look for copies that are relatively square, as it seems to cock or slant very easily.

Published on 20 Feb. 2018

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By Tom Congalton


Pynchon's first three books are by far his most collectible. His first, V. (1963) shows up with some frequency, but is usually either spine-faded, or price-clipped (the price is placed well into the front flap, so clipping it leaves an even more than usually unsightly loss), or both. There also exists an Advance Reading Copy in wrappers that seems to wear easily - we look for copies that are relatively square, as it seems to cock or slant very easily. The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) is frustrating in that it is usually found in pretty nice shape, but almost never in truly fine condition. We have also noted that the jacket on the book is often very slightly shorter than the book itself, probably a manufacturing glitch, so we wouldn't necessarily reject such a copy out of hand. Gravity's Rainbow (1973) seems like the book this author will be best remembered for, and seems to have become increasingly difficult to find in the right condition. This title too tends to fade at the spine, although a little more subtly than V.. A proof of this exists and has long been touted as a great rarity, and indeed it is genuinely scarce, although customers for it also seem to be pretty uncommon.

The tip is published by permission of Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc. Thank you very much.

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