Rediscovered: The Full Belknapius

Then again, I could start a regular Autograph Hound Super-Sunday feature. . . .

Brian Leno’s mention yesterday that he picked up his Alfred Galpin/Frank Belknap Long item from the Necronomicon Press catalog of Long’s last library reminded me of something. Leno isn’t the only dude on the ranch who has some autographed stuff, after all, although my holdings tend to be more along the line of signed or inscribed books than slips of paper with various John Hancocks.

So I pulled from the shelf a copy of Reign of Fear, a book I edited for Underwood-Miller back in 1988. In this case, copy “M” of the full morocco leather sub-state — the entire run numbered some 500 copies, all slipcased, with the idea they’d make their loot mostly by selling paperback reprint rights. Several of those, with the British trade paperback from Pan Books my fave of the mass market reincarnations.

The entire U-M run came with tipped-in autograph pages, and if you survey the one above you’ll notice Frank Belknap Long.

Also Charles Willeford.

In my book Willeford I go into how — as it happened — Willeford was genuinely ill at the time the sheets needed signing, and what an ordeal it was for him. And whether he was ill or not, Long was an old guy at the time and felt the pain of grinding out the signatures. He wondered what he was getting out of it, and I explained that he could sell his copy of the book if he wanted to make some cash beyond what he got for his little intro (which I had to touch up, a lot). Keep it in good shape until the price goes up, I advised, then sell it.

Early on copies of the book jumped up in price pretty nicely. That was the era to sell it if Long had only sold it. Jeez, his personal copy! Worth a premium. I haven’t checked in detail lately, but I think the numbered copies may hover back around their $75 per copy retail price. I imagine the leather-clad lettered run retains tags in the hundreds per.

But I think I oversold the idea of hanging on to the book for awhile, because when FBL died and Nec Press sold his stuff, he still had the copy. The few books he had left for them to list were mostly beat to crap (see the picture from Galpin, as a sample), but Reign was described as close to new.

The catalog offered it for only the retail $75. Someone got a hell of a deal.

And, may I add, Long got savvy as he signed sheet after sheet. Early sheets he’s doing his full name, but soon enough he’s “F. B. Long.” (I heard you can tell early signatures on the Clinton bio from a few years back — early, William Jefferson Clinton. Soon enough, Bill Clinton.)

Now Willeford, Long, de Camp and others from the sheets are dead. Dennis Etchison just died the other day. Thomas M. Disch was a suicide. A saga in that somewhat random gathering of names, which I suppose Autograph Hounds appreciate more than most.

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