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Los Angeles, CA

The Art of Reading and Everything At Hand to Make It More Enjoyable --

     Highly-desirable vintage and modern books,accessories and art

Blog

a selection of the very best vintage books & authors

Filtering by Category: valuable books

The Magic of Book Picking: Lessons in Art Deco Fashion Design

S.A.

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IMG_5171 There are two of us, Sophisticated Readers, living 100 miles apart. We are online only, when it comes to selling, but hands-on only, when it comes to selecting our books.

Some times, we experience an ineffable mystery of connection to our finds:  an indescribable cosmic link between us, the pickers, and the books we pick.

Once, at an outdoor book sale in Carlsbad, in the midst of thousands of books piled high on folding tables, I put my hand on an uncommon Charles Bukowski book of poetry: a birthday gift for Sophisticated Reader #2 who avidly collects him. Another time, in Los Angeles, at a thrift store, while out picking books with Sophisticated Reader #2, a Bukowski book fell off a book shelf and landed on top of her head. Luckily, it was a soft cover. Also, luckily, it was autographed by Sean Penn.

You can feel the magic when this happens. "Wait a minute!" the inner voice commands, as if this coincidence, this Jungian synchronicity, could not have happened the way it did.  Moments like this are memorable because they are random and infrequent. But recurring. Of course,  they do not always involve Bukowski (although wouldn't that be nice)?

They belong together

Take the set of Art Deco Fashion Design books, above, we are now selling. The scarce set includes both 17 softcover correspondence-school lessons in fashion design (1930s-'40s), plus a 1938  hardcover fashion design book by the same author & publisher. The hardcover is illustrated , with a surprise bonus of a valuable Deco pochoir fashion plate, tucked inside.

The magic in this pick is that I bought the softcover design-class books in March at an auction in Vista. Sophisticated Reader #2 bought the hardcover recently, at a sale of antique books in Glendale. Our picks were  months and miles apart. The books are only, now,  re-united, as if there had never been any time or distance between them. They belong together. 

Over the many years Sophisticated Reader #2 and I have collected, we've never run across these titles. Sophisticated Reader #2 didn't  know I had purchased the lot of fashion design correspondence books, until she told me about her Art Deco fashion design find.  But, her book, when added to the school lessons I already had, greatly increased the books' combined value, for more than one reason.

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To paraphrase, the great Kurt Vonnegut, "If this isn't magic, I don't know what is."

The Raggedy Story of Raggedy Ann and Cookie Land

S.A.

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Behold a copy of the original 1931 book, Raggedy Ann and Cookie Land.IMG_5136 Written by Johnny Gruelle, after the doll he designed in 1915 for his daughter, Marcella, this is one of the more prized vintage Raggedy Ann books. If, and this is a big IF, it had its original box and was in excellent (likely unmarked) condition, it might sell for $1000 or more.

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But this copy is likely far raggedier than the original rag doll whose face Gruelle artfully first decorated for his daughter. It is said that after Gruelle created the doll's face, he decided to name her "Raggedy Ann" - a combination (or should we say unsolicited collaboration) between James Whitcomb Riley's famed poem, "The Raggedy Man" and the popular cartoon, "Little Orphan Annie." Copying (borrowing) is always the sincerest form of flattery - or in Gruelle's case, genius.

My copy, found at a sale of antiquarian books, was marked $1 due to its condition - which, if I were being truthful, (as I am, always), would be considered South of "Poor." First Edition aside, its hinge is weak,  a few pages are loose and/or tattered, and some  still bear the grimy fingerprints of the 1930s-era children who owned this.

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Nevertheless, as a fan of both Raggedy Ann and of cookies, I snapped up the book, as fast as you can say "Ginger". It has value to me - not only sentimental value, but also as a very good reminder about future book scouting adventures. Paraphrasing the old saw about buying real estate, there are only three words that must be considered when purchasing an old book for value.

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And those three words are "Condition, condition, condition."

The Most Beautiful Vintage Cookbook in My Collection: Charlie Trotter's

S.A.

nullCharlie Trotter's (1994) is one spectacular cookbook - in fact, the most beautiful in my entire vintage cookbook collection. Although just a few years short of what is now considered "vintage" (the 1980s), this cookbook, as it ages, will likely still reign supreme among the most beautiful. It is that gorge. Charlie Trotter's Cookbook

Lest you think I don't know what I'm talking about, let me say I've been collecting and selling cookbooks (older and newer) for decades. Among them, Julia Child First Editions, the vaunted early Larousse, the ever-popular Vincent Price cooking volume (A Treasury of Great Recipes), early Betty Crocker books, and so on. Over the years, I've developed an eye for food beauty, even if I lean mightily towards the 1940s graphics (both illustrated and photographed) in cookbooks of that era.

Over the years, within my own collection, I've developed a sub-genre: artist cookbooks. These include recipes from Georgia O'Keeffe, Monet and Picasso, artist anthology cookbooks, and so on. But given all of the cookbooks I've bought, sold and am now selling, I have to say, I never saw a cookbook as beautiful as Charlie Trotters. Please consider  this  my homage.

The esteemed chef, Charlie Trotter, closed his Chicago townhouse-restaurant in 2012 and is now presumed off globe-trotting and/or studying philosophy. But 16 years before he shuttered his name-sake restaurant, photographer Tim Turner turned 72 of his favorite dishes into works-of-art in this book. Take a look:

If wishes were dishes--

Rabbit & Braised Turnip Lasagna with Sweet Pea Sauce

Nominated at least 5 times for a James Beard award for food photography, Turner elevated Trotter's food masterpieces into four-color plates worthy of framing (at least, I think so. but, mais non, I would not).

If you are a foodie, Hunt high & low for this book, as it is likely to grow in esteem. It's a treasure.

The Culinary Artist's Just Desserts: A Study in Apricot