Guest Post: What First Edition Book Would You Buy If You Could?

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Jason VanHorn, who has some fun things to share for anyone who loves books. If you or a middle-grader you know are interested in action-packed spy adventures, be sure to check out Jason’s books at His newest release, Alabaster Dangermond and Astrid’s Jewel, is available now.

You know the drill. Email comes in not from work, check the sender, check the title, send it to the trash can. Repeat. If you’re like me, you’ve maxed out your junk mail filters and have to manually delete the junk now.

So when Abebooks recently spammed me, I started the drill again. Don’t get me wrong—I love Abebooks and buy long forgotten titles from their online store as often as I can. But seriously, I must get 100 emails a day as a professor at the university and most of them are junk.  In my fury to get to important messages, I almost hit delete on my Abebooks spam, but then I saw the first two words of their title, ‘Most Expensive…” They got me.

The full title, “Most Expensive Sales in January, February & March 2019,” was enough for me to enable the images in the email in Outlook and give a click to their full thread.  The wonderful article revealed the books that fetched the highest $$$$$ on Abebooks in the first three months of this year (yes, note the five $).

If you’ve made it this far in this post, then I’ll assume you’re like me and you love books. You LOVE BOOKS, so you’ll love this Abebooks list. Among the dandies I saw:

  • 1930 First edition of The Maltese Falcon by Hammett with rare dust jacket – $25,000
  • 1899-1907 – The Writings of Mark Twain owned by Twain (he received 12 lettered (not numbered) editions and this was edition ‘B’) – $25,000
  • 1938 First edition of Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail by Ansel Adams (rare lettered ‘K’ edition that was owned by Adams) – $15,000
  • 1950-1956 First edition of each of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, all UK first editions, first printings with the first issue dust jackets – $13,050
  • 1926 First edition of Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne, copy number 262/350 made on handmade paper and signed by the author and illustrator – $12,500
  • Two English Poems by Jorge Luis Borges, hand-written originals – $12,000
  • 1969 First edition of The Godfather by Mario Puzo, signed by the author to other famous individuals – $11,805.
  • A single illuminated manuscript leaf, circa 1400 vellum two-page spread – $9,500
  • 1912 First edition of Les Travaux et les Jours by Hesiod illustrated by Paul-Émile Colin – $9,036

Before I ask the all-important question, let’s pause for a moment and consider, which first editions do you own?

In our house we have several early copies of some books, but I can’t recall any first editions of note (other than the books I’ve written 🙂  ). Most of our early editions are classics from the 1890s and several children’s books throughout the 20th century. I do own a first edition of my favorite cartographer’s book, the 1938 edition of Erwin Raisz’s General Cartography (and his 1953 Spanish first edition), but we’ve not been serious about first editions in our home. 

But I do confess, sometimes I stop and look around when no one is looking and I open those old books just to smell them.

So how about you? Among those Abebooks that sold for top dollars in the first part of 2019, which one would you choose, if able to do so? Tell me in the comments below, or you can reach me on Twitter at @Dr_VanHorn. I’d love to know!

And among all books, all-time, which first edition do you want?

I’ve got some major book envy for that first edition collection of The Chronicles of Narnia. I wouldn’t object to a first edition copy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, either!

Some of my copies of Shakespeare from 1900.

Feel free to post a comment below, or even share a picture of one of your early edition books. I’m always on the hunt for old books at garage sales and consignment shops. You never know what treasures you might find!

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