Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where are the Wild Things? Well... A first edition was once seen at Heritage Auctions

November 11, 2009
Written by Joe Fay

I was in a bookstore last night, as I seem to be most nights when I can find the time, and ran into a curious little book that got me thinking about a beautiful new movie and, subsequently, the classic book from whence it came, and, yet again, to the place I work and the job that I do there.

Let me explain:

I'm talking about Where the Wild Things Are. Last night, I spied a copy of Dave Eggers' new novelization of the Spike Jonze film adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic illustrated children's book. As a rare book person, I couldn't help notice the weird and twisted creative path this story had taken to arrive at this new book: classic children's book to screenplay to film to film adaptation, like a game of "telephone" played by eclectic popular creative artists. Sendak to Jonze to Eggers, oh, my.

Written by modern fiction's jack-of-all-trades, and co-writer of the screenplay for the film, Dave Eggers, the new novelization of Where the Wild Things Are, titled simply The Wild Things, was published in two versions. Of course (and again), being a rare book person, I immediately contextualized the two releases into vastly disparate tiers of future desirability. The trade edition is nice, and will continue to be bought and read, but it just ain't that cool.

The deluxe edition of the novelization is cool. True to his McSweeney's roots, Eggers master-minded a deluxe "fur-covered edition" of his novelization which includes a dust jacket made of grey fur, reminiscent of Max's wolf costume in the movie. It's a very cute touch that will surely have children's book collectors savoring the deluxe edition for years and probably decades to come.

The value of this fur-covered edition will never approach the first edition, first printing of Sendak's original, and the reasoning goes straight to what makes rare books rare and less rare books, well, less rare.

Mainly, what I'm talking about is the idea that collectors ultimately place the most value on "first" things.

As an example to illustrate the point, take Shakespeare's First Folio of 1623, the first time most of the Bard's plays were collected and published together. The value of this book is in the millions. By comparison, the movie tie-in for Kenneth Branagh's Henry V or Mel Gibson's Hamlet ain't worth a plugged nickel.

Eggers' fur-covered edition of The Wild Things will most assuredly be worth more than chump change in coming years, but it remains to be seen if it will be a truly collectible book. On the other hand, there's no doubt that Sendak's 1963 first edition in the first issue dust jacket will continue to appreciate. We've had the pleasure of selling one copy of Where the Wild Things Are at Heritage in June 2008 for $3,346, and hope to sell many more in the coming years.

In case you're wondering what makes a first issue dust jacket for this book, it must have a three-paragraph blurb on the front flap, three paragraphs on the rear flap, and no Caldecott medal, nor mention of one anywhere on the dust jacket. If your copy fits these criteria, you probably have a valuable book in your hands.

If you want to sell it, my direct line is (214) 409-1544.

Let the wild rumpus start!

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-Joe Fay

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