Rediscovered: Quinn (Not the Eskimo)

Yeah, I know what some of you must be thinking: What kind of lame Autograph Hound Super-Sunday is this, anyway, that doesn’t even lay down a single John Hancock?

So, to deliver the goods, how about the inscription Seabury Quinn scratched into a copy of The Phantom Fighter for his longtime pal and fellow pulpster E. Hoffmann Price?

Late in 2010 J. Dan Price, only begotten son of E. Hoffmann Price, asked me about selling some of his dad’s library on eBay. I’d never sold anything on eBay, but how hard could it be? To start off — to see if he liked the action — Dan brought out a box from among numerous boxes and I selected five items to toss on the block.

If they were still on hand, I thought that the various books Clark Ashton Smith had inscribed to Ed would be the powerhouse offerings. But the CAS holdings weren’t in that box.

I did spot one book I thought would bring in some more serious loot. Quinn’s Phantom Fighter.

Here’s the blurbage I knocked out for eBay:

LOVECRAFT CIRCLE! Inscribed Seabury Quinn 1st to E. H. Price

As the first offering from the personal library of legendary pulp fictioneer E. Hoffmann Price, we have a special item — an inscribed copy of Seabury Quinn’s THE PHANTOM FIGHTER. Quinn (1889-1969) inscriptions are genuinely rare, with this from the hand of one pillar of WEIRD TALES magazine to another. Price (1898-1988) is famed as the only writer to have met the “Big Three” of WEIRD TALES — H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith — in person. And of course Price knew many others of that circle, as detailed in the posthumously published BOOK OF THE DEAD, “Memories of the Pulp Fiction Era,” Arkham House, 2001, which includes chapters on Quinn, Lovecraft, Howard, Smith, Edmond Hamilton, August Derleth and others.

THE PHANTOM FIGHTER — the first collection of the adventures of Quinn’s popular series character Jules de Grandin — was issued in 1966 in an edition of 2,022 copies by Arkham House publisher August Derleth under the sister imprint of Mycroft & Moran, devoted to tales of occult detection — in 1967 under the Arkham banner Derleth would publish the first collection of Price’s weird fantasy tales, STRANGE GATEWAYS.

Unlike his fellow fantasist Donald Wandrei (whose estate left many pristine first editions for resale), Price wasn’t a collector as such, and books from his library typically show signs of wear, casual staining, and occasional annotations. PHANTOM FIGHTER (actual item shown in image) bears an about Good unclipped dustjacket with edgewear, darkening, and slight edge chipping over a Very Good book with very minor staining to outer edges of text block. Since Price kept his library in the darkened living room of The Lamasery, his Oriental-carpeted eyrie in the hills above Redwood City, California, you can detect the weak ghost of a musty smell if you bury your nose in the pages — worth a warning for the super-sensitive. Other than the full-page inscription by Quinn, the only marking in the book occurs in the introduction where the author declares of de Grandin’s exploits, “Numerically his adventures total almost 300, chronologically they span a quarter-century.” As if in disbelief of his comrade’s productivity, the prolific pulpster E. Hoffmann Price underlined “300” with red ink and scribbled a small red question mark in the inner margin — and apparently Quinn was inflating his numbers by 200 or so. A significant association copy for any fan of WEIRD TALES, the Lovecraft Circle, occult detectives or the pulp era.

And the bidding began. When it wrapped up, the Quinn brought in $1058.00. I know the guy who nabbed it, an Arch-Arkham House Collector (Arkham House Arch-Collector?) who has set his sights on acquiring signed copies of every Arkham item that could be signed (with Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Hodgson and others no longer alive when the editions appeared).  The Quinn was a tough one. He told me, “I had never seen or heard of a signed copy of this title, in some twenty years of collecting signed copies of Arkham House titles.” 

Brian Leno got in on that bidding war, but as he noted, “The Phantom Fighter went much higher than I was able to afford at the time.” 

When I finally exhausted the Ed library items worth putting on eBay, Phantom Fighter remained the biggest earner. The Clark Ashton Smith books came close, with The Dark Chateau at $999.99, Lost Worlds at $920.00, Out of Space and Time at $876.66, Spells and Philtres at $622.ooo and Nero at $565.00. REH’s Always Comes Evening netted $711.00. Edmond Hamilton’s rare Horror on the Asteroid jumped up there with $912.00.

And here’s the inscription. If you have several signed copies lying around, they’re worth some bucks.

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