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Collecting Women Writers: Julia Peterkin, Ellen Glasgow, Margaret Ayer Barnes, Alice Walker

"Everyone knows Alice Walker's 1982 novel The Color Purple, but not everyone knows that the first issue jacket has only one address for the publisher on the rear flap – later issues have two." - "Peterkin's Pulitzer-winning novel Scarlet Sister Mary (1928) turns up occasionally, but there we have seen two variants of the jacket and haven't yet been able to determine whether one precedes or not." - "Spoken pompously, and with an air of experience: "Yes, my dear fellow, its the only copy we've ever seen (sotte voce: this week)." What is worth collecting or not among the works of Julia Peterkin, Alice Walker, Margaret Ayer Barnes and Ellen Glasgow.

Published on 24 Feb. 2018

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By Tom Congalton


Julia Peterkin


Peterkin's Pulitzer-winning novel Scarlet Sister Mary (1928) turns up occasionally, but there we have seen two variants of the jacket and haven't yet been able to determine whether one precedes or not. We tend to think their might have been a "special" issue, and they both might qualify as correct first edition jackets. Let us know if you figure it out.

If you really want to spend some money on Peterkin try the limited edition of her book Roll, Jordan, Roll (1935), illustrated with photographs by Dorothy Ulmann. Limited to 350 copies, and intended to be accompanied by an original photographic print, nice copies will cost you in five figures, depending on whether the print is still with the book. The trade edition in dustwrapper is much more affordable, but still not cheap. The publisher, Robert O. Ballou, went out of business soon thereafter, and copies with the imprint of other publishers (this only applies to the trade edition) are considerably less desirable.


Ellen Glasgow


Ellen Glasgow enjoyed popularity through the 1920s and then like others of that generation, including her Richmond neighbor and close friend James Branch Cabell, fell out of favor.

Her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel In This Our Life (1941), published late in her life was something of a valedictory award for good behavior. It is not stunningly uncommon, but is difficult in fine condition - the gold on the jacket rubs easily.

There has been some interest in Glasgow, as both a woman writer, and a Southern writer, and one would do well to keep an eye out for her pre-1920 books in jacket, as well as her collection of ghost stories, The Shadowy Third and Other Stories (1923).

Her popularity reached its apex in the 1920s, and the novels of that period, with printings that were commensurate with that popularity, can usually be found for modest sums.


Margaret Ayer Barnes


Years of Grace (1930), her Pulitzer Prize novel, is rare in jacket. It was reprinted innumerable times, and signed copies of later printings can be found for a modest sum, but if you want the first in jacket, be prepared to wait, and if it does manage to come your way, be prepared to pay for it, because you probably won't get a second chance.

This by the way, is a common ploy used by unscrupulous booksellers (not us – we'd never do such a thing, he protested too much). Spoken pompously, and with an air of experience: "Yes, my dear fellow, its the only copy we've ever seen (sotte voce: this week)." Unfortunately for Pulitzer collectors, in this case it's true. Barnes' other romantic novels are mostly quite inexpensive, although the interest in vintage dustwrappers has helped to prop up her stock a bit.

She did write a film source novel, Westward Passage (1931) that featured a young Laurence Olivier, but that still can be had inexpensively.


Alice Walker


Everyone knows the author's 1982 novel The Color Purple, but not everyone knows that the first issue jacket has only one address for the publisher on the rear flap – later issues have two.

Four of her five earliest books are very uncommon: two books of poetry, her first ,Once, (1968), and Revolutionary Petunias, (1972); a collection of stories, In Love and Trouble: Stories for Black Women , (1973); and a children's book, Langston Hughes, American Poet, (1974). All of them are expensive in fine condition.


These tips are published by permission of Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc. Thank you very much.

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