This one is not technically from my bookshelf, although it has a lot of sentimental value to me. This one if from Craig’s shelf, considerably smaller than mine as he generally only keeps books that I buy him. One book he had purchased and kept, however, was this Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe illustrated by Harry Clarke, from the early 1930’s.
When we opened the book shop in Parkdale, we put some glass cabinets at the front to serve as a counter and house some of our rare books. Craig added his copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination to the collection, and then printed cards for each book in the cabinet.
I was looking after the shop while he was out a couple of weeks after we opened when the owners of Bound Words in Hampton, Ailsa and Peter, came in to introduce themselves and have a look around. Aisla took a shine to the Edgar Allen Poe in the cabinet and told me she loved Harry Clarke’s illustrations, and after a brief look decided to buy it. I, of course, am pleased to make a good sale.
That is, until Craig got home and informed me, to my complete bewilderment, that he didn’t want to sell the book. I protested that it had a price tag on it, therefore I had imagined it was actually for sale. He told me it was just there for display and he hadn’t thought anyone would actually buy it as it was an expensive book. I had to agree there, we were a tiny bookshop and had only been open a couple of weeks. But the book was sold.
A couple of months later Craig’s birthday was coming up, which is shortly after Christmas, and wondering what on earth to buy him as usual, and if I could afford a good Philip K. Dick, inspiration struck. I’d replace the Edgar Allen Poe book. Maybe with a first edition instead of a later print. I’m sure my wallet actually shrieked in protest when I looked at the first editions on abebooks. I also noticed the first edition had a different cover than his first copy. So I figured I’d try eBay.
So I found a British copy which I think was from the early 1920’s. The first edition had only black and white plates, this edition had been updated with tipped-in colour plates as well as the full page black and white illustrations in the first edition. I decided it would do, and then got into a mad panic about actually securing the book. The seller was local, and sympathetic to my panicked pleas to come and collect it so I could give it to him for Christmas and bemused as I explained half-a-dozen times I wasn’t selling it (she had given me a good price and knew I was a book-dealer)
So now it’s in our collection (and yes he was completely tickled with it) and I keep it on one of our book stands rather than the shelf, so I can flip through it occasionally.
Harry Clarke is a wonderful illustrator, so please have a look at the full album of illustrations from this book on my Facebook albums here, and enjoy. They’re outstanding and I am sure you’ll love them as much as we do.