Becoming America (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

In honor of  Independence Day, we feature three books emblematic of the nation’s growing pains. The first, written near the country’s beginnings as a democracy, is a seminal work that helped define our legislative branch. The second, written thirty-four years later in 1821, provides detailed descriptions of the lives of Native Americans of that time before so much changed in their world. And the third selection provides a rare contemporaneous account of the Underground Railroad. Ironically, all three of these editions were published in the United Kingdom.

For this Fourth of July, along with your fireworks and hot dogs, find a little time to explore our country’s history in books!

A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America
John Adams
1787, London. Printed for C. Dilly, in the Poultry
First Edition. In original binding.


Adams intended to write a single volume. The first, published in London, was so successful that Adams was encouraged to write a second volume, and then a third. The book promotes a mixed government, in which “the rich, the well-born and the able” are separated into a senate, unable to dominate a lower house of representatives.

Our copy is in remarkable condition, considering its age and historical importance. The book is fragile but complete. There is an owner inscription from 1787, and a presentation inscription from 1909. Continue reading

Christmas Past Makes a Great Christmas Present

The literary work most associated with Christmas is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but, really, all of Charles Dickens’ works somehow seem to fit the holiday season, so we would like to take this opportunity to feature a very special array of British editions of Dickens’ novels, mostly first editions illustrated by Phiz, and a couple of other very special holiday collectible editions.1-thechimes

The Chimes
This 1905 J.M. Dent deluxe edition of the second of Dickens’ famous Christmas books is bound in vellum, with lovely decorative gilt to the spine and front board, showing holly, ivy and cherubs in an Art Nouveau style. Illustrated by Charles E. Brock. $225

2-nicholasnicklebyThe Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
First Edition, mixed issue. Chapman and Hall, 1839. Twentieth-century half morocco binding by Zaehnsdorf of London. $1,200 Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Mark Twain!: Rarest of Rare Collectibles

On his 70th birthday, Mark Twain gave a speech to friends gathered at Delmonico’s Restaurant. To mark the occasion, he noted that the age of 70 is “the time of life when you arrive at a new and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which have oppressed you for a generation and stand unafraid and unabashed upon your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach—unrebuked.”

On the same occasion, he joked about his very first birthday: “I always think of it with indignation; everything was so crude, unaesthetic, primeval. Nothing like this at all. No proper appreciative preparation made; nothing really ready. Now, for a person born with high and delicate instincts—why, even the cradle wasn’t whitewashed—nothing ready at all. I hadn’t any hair, I hadn’t any teeth, I hadn’t any clothes. I had to go to my first banquet just like that.”

It got better for Mr. Twain. He lived a long and happy-but-cranky life, very productive and much celebrated during his time. Continue reading

H.P. Lovecraft: Rarest of Rare Collectibles

We’re getting ready for Halloween, and that doesn’t just mean putting the final touches on our zombie and Princess Leia costumes, it also means getting out our favorite creepy stories to set the mood. In our stores all around the country, books by Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe are popping up on displays. Some of those displays include collectible books, and there are none finer than the two classic collections of H. P. Lovecraft works we’re featuring here.

Our Greenfield, Wisconsin, store was fortunate enough to have received a visit from the nephew of a very early Lovecraft enthusiast, Paul Klingbiel. Two Arkham House Lovecraft books were among the many books Uncle Paul had years ago, over many weeks, shipped to his science-loving nephew Robert. Now those two Arkham House treasures are being offered to our customers.

The Outsider and Others, by H. P. Lovecraft
Arkham House, 1939. First Printing.
The book is in Very Good Plus condition. The dust jacket, which is price-clipped, is in VG condition; there are several closed tears and paper loss to top and bottom of spine. $3,600

outsiders Continue reading

Banned Collectible Books (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Again this year, in honor of Banned Books Awareness Week, we present a couple of perennial reading-list favorites that have been censored and banned.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
First Printing, Little, Brown & Co., 1951

In 2015, one of our two featured books during Banned Books Awareness Week was J.D. Salinger’s first book. That copy sold out of one of our Minnesota stores, and this year a Texas store has acquired another first edition in Very Good condition.

The Catcher in the Rye has remained a popular and critical favorite since it was published, appearing near the top of the “greatest American literature” lists of Time, Modern Library and many other listmakers. Many school districts and libraries have restricted or banned it for profanity, sexual references and for being “negative” and because it “undermines morality.”

Continue reading

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Birthday (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

In honor of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ birthday, we present an assortment of collectible editions, just a few examples from his prodigious output. His wrote novels ranging from science fiction to westerns to mysteries—and, of course, the Tarzan books.

Our South Lamar store in Austin, has acquired several early Grosset & Dunlap reprints of Burroughs novels, including The Mucker (1921), The Chessmen of Mars (1922), Pellucidar (1923), and The Eternal Lover (1925). All of these books are in dust jackets, in Good to Very Good condition. Prices range from $40 to $75. Another volume, not issued in a dust jacket, is The Illustrated Tarzan Books No. 1, published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1929, a graphic novel with 300 black & white illustrations by Harold Foster. Boards are heavily rubbed and bumped. Its price is $40.

The store also offers a 5.75” x 3.5” card, signed and inscribed by Burroughs “To Preston Sawyer, Best Wishes, Tarzana Jan. 4, 1929.” There is a certificate of authenticity that describes Sawyer (1899-1968) as a journalist for the Santa Cruz Sentinel and an avid collector of autographs and other memorabilia. The autograph card is priced $350.

001Books.jpgOur Flagship store in Dallas also recently took in a number of Edgar Rice Burroughs hardbacks, published not only by Grosset & Dunlap, Canaveral Press and McClurg, but also by Burroughs’ own publishing company. Highlights include a first edition of Escape on Venus (1946), as well as early reprints of A Fighting Man of Mars, Pellucidar and Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. Prices range from $50 to $100. Condition is Good to Very Good. The Flagship also got a bunch of ERB paperbacks and a 1942 big-little-book edition of Tarzan the Terrible ($40). Continue reading

A British Invasion at Half Price Books

More than 600 books from across the waters will be available to see and purchase on September 9th.

Half Price Books has always been a melting pot of books and music. We still adhere to our founders’ motto: “We buy everything printed or recorded.” We take mass-market paperbacks along with fine antiquarian volumes; all formats of music and movies; games, both board and video; and now electronic devices related to books and music. Our 120+ stores buy all day every day and see and sell a little of everything. But still…

We’ve long pondered a little further outreach, specifically to England, for books. We were finally able to set something up with English bookseller Charlie Unsworth, with whom we’ve had a working relationship for decades: he worked out an arrangement with our book buyer James Crates to scout England for treasures seldom seen over this way; he gets them to us, and we offer them to our customers. Brilliant!

Books1 Continue reading

Cowboy Classics for Dear Ol’ Dad ( Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

For Father’s Day, we’d like to feature several cowboy classics—all signed by their esteemed authors and available at our Flagship store in Dallas.  If your dad’s a cowboy, real or wanna-be, he might enjoy one of these tales of buckaroos on the range.

Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry 26th Printing, Simon & Schuster, 1985
Signed by Larry McMurtry

LonesomeDoveTexas author Larry McMurtry has written several classics of the West, but none as enduring as the adventures of cattle drivers Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call, as told in Lonesome Dove. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, a critical success, became a huge commercial success following the popular 1989 TV miniseries that starred Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones.

This copy is in Fine condition. $400. Continue reading

What’s Your Story?: Rarest of Rare Collectibles

May 16 is National Biographer’s Day. I’ll bet you didn’t know that! We see a lot of biographies and memoirs come into HPB: life stories of the rich and famous, plus memoirs of the poor and infamous.

But it’s also wonderful to learn more about some of the offbeat, footnote characters in history, and I was delighted to hear about some life-story gems our stores have acquired lately. Continue reading

Charles Darwin—A Natural Selection for Today (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. His works continue to be among the most influential and important scientific works, from his popular account of The Voyage of the Beagle in 1839, through the seminal scientific work On the Origin of Species (1859), to the 1871 continuation of his exploration of evolution, The Descent of Man.

To celebrate Darwin’s 207th birthday, we’re proud to offer a Very Good copy of the first edition/ first issue of The Descent of Man.

darwin 2 vols

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin
London, John Murray, 1871.

First edition, first issue, of the Darwin classic. Two volumes. The first issue, in the original publisher’s green cloth binding, is scarce. Advertisements in both volumes dated January 1871. Bookplate and owner signature. Light foxing. (price on request)

This very special treasure was brought to our Flagship store in Dallas. Buyer Rachel, one of the lucky people who got to evaluate the book, was thrilled. “It was very exciting. We checked our resources to see whether it had all the first-issue points. It did!”

Darwin Fun Facts

EvolutionThe Descent of Man contains, on page two of the first volume, the first appearance of the word “evolution” in any of Darwin’s works.

The first edition was published in two volumes, despite the fact that Darwin saw the book’s two parts as one continuous work.

The HMS Beagle’s expedition, during which Darwin began developing his ideas about evolution, lasted nearly five years, but Darwin spent over three years of that time on land, conducting research.

darwin title page

And, for another science classic, we also offer:

The DNA Story: A Documentary History of Gene Cloning (W.H. Freeman, 1983, First Edition), signed by co-author (with John Tooze) and DNA co-discoverer James D. Watson. In Very Good condition: $350. Also available at our Flagship store in Dallas.

dna story 1

If you’re interested in either of these books, let the Buy Guy know!