Not too long ago Brian Leno tipped me off to a blog devoted to Vincent Starrett, entered via a specific post about the famous book collector’s bookplates.
I surfed around some, and quickly realized that blog fell under the same advice I gave out for dealing with Up and Down These Mean Streets. You can use the Search Bar here to look for specific things, or you could just go back to the beginning and cruise through like you’re reading a book.
But the Starrett blog doesn’t feature a Search Bar. So I worked my way back to the start, then turned around and came back. Some stuff I skipped or skimmed — I’m not a fan of Starrett’s then modern crime writing, so I breezed over those moments.
In a post talking about Items not yet collected I found a link to something really interesting — to me, in any case, and maybe to you if you like collecting books: a very detailed census surveying the whereabouts of every copy of Starrett’s Sherlockian pastiche The Unique Hamlet.
Every copy of the 1920 first edition of some 110 copies! The guy has tracked down 59 of them, with 26 of that total in institutional libraries.
A saga. Very cool.
Got me thinking about the rarest edition I’ve brushed up against lately: the Henrik Harkson first hardcover edition of John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos.
Haefele doesn’t know the precise copy count on the run — may have been slightly over 100 copies. May have been under, in only two figures.
I mentioned the Unique Hamlet census to him, and Haefele put a toe in the water toward doing a census of the hardback Derleth Mythos — you know, if someone gets ambitious. He said:
I didn’t keep records, but can make an educated guess regarding the whereabouts of about twenty of the 100 or so copies.
I personally have three copies, two pristine — & one banged up, over-written, working copy minus jacket.
Family members account for four copies.
Jack Byrne has one copy.
I assume Harksen has at least one copy, & there is another he placed in some foreign institution.
Of those stalwarts we know, I assume Joshi, Derie, Leno, Deuce, Krabacher, & Holmes all have/had the hardcover.
Faig did, but it went (I think) to his favorite pro-bookseller when he downsized.
Pugmire did, but someone grabbed it — I never saw it offered with the rest of his remains.
One or two of the early reviewers — e.g. Don Webb — must have had one.
And a few collectors, since copies were offered — Rajchel, for example.
These comprise 20% of the total.
The hardest to track will be Harksen’s overseas sales.
I may have given one to the Wisconsin Historical Society, where it will probably stay buried for the next five hundred years.
I told Haefele, “Well, that’s a start — and don’t forget me, I’ve got an inscribed copy.
“Pug’s copy in fact sold. Cheap! I covered it in the Collecting Haefele post. Joshi didn’t even know enough to ask the $60 original retail. (The other one mentioned in that post that popped up for $60 I told you about and apparently you told Rajchel.)”
Of the original Haefele’s Heretics, Morgan Holmes was the only one who had not nabbed a copy of the Harkson hardcover. (And omitted, by accident surely, from the brief list of Heretics above is Tex Albritton — I imagine Tex still has his copy.)
And at this moment two copies are offered on Amazon, both in the $190.00ish range. Cheap, compared to a copy of the first edition of Starrett’s The Unique Hamlet.