Category: Lisa’s First Editions (Page 1 of 3)

Collecting Ellen Gilchrist

“In the Land of Dreamy Dreams” by Ellen Gilchrist. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1981.

unnamedEllen Gilchrist, a native of Vicksburg, Mississippi, had spent six years devoted to the craft of poetry when she began writing short stories. She published her first collection of poetry, “The Land Surveyor’s Daughter,” in 1979. In “The Writing Life,” she recalls learning “how to polish and edit poetry until it shone like a mirror” and she applied that skill to short story writing. Gilchrist composed her first story, “In the Land of Dreamy Dreams,” under the guidance of her teacher Bill Harrison at the University of Arkansas where she would later teach. The rest of the stories would be written in New Orleans; Gilchrist describes that time in “The Writing Life”: “I was in one of the spells that artists all know can happen. I knew what I wanted to write about and I just sat down and wrote it.”

Gilchrist sent the stories to Harrison one by one for feedback. Besides writing suggestions, he offered up his literary agent in New York. While many writers would have jumped at the chance, Gilchrist “didn’t want any strangers in New York judging [her] work” and took an offer from the University of Arkansas Press in 1981. The small press was looking for a lead fiction writer and Gilchrist was the perfect fit, but no one could have predicted that her first collection of short stories, titled “In the Land of Dreamy Dreams,” would sell 10,000 copies in the first week and would be reprinted seven times.

“In the Land of Dreamy Dreams” launched Ellen Gilchrist’s literary career and soon she was ready to accept a contract from Little Brown. First editions of “Dreamy Dreams” are difficult to come by but for collectors this debut work featuring the artwork of Ginny Stanford is prized.

Original to the Clarion-­Ledger.

See more Ellen Gilchrist first editions here.

Collecting Gabriel García Márquez

“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez. New York, NY: Random House, 1988.

In 1988, Gabriel García Márquez had been banned from traveling to the United States for years because of his friendship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Despite the travel ban, García Márquez enjoyed a great readership in the United States, particularly for his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1970).

When Bill Clinton was elected President in 1993, he had long been a great reader of Gabriel García Márquez. President Clinton lifted the travel ban and the two men met a number of times. As related in Gerald Martin’s biography of García Márquez, author William Styron invited García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes to his home to meet Clinton. Clinton and García Márquez shared a love for William Faulkner but García Márquez was certainly surprised to hear President Clinton recite passages from “The Sound and the Fury” by heart.

Gabriel García Márquez (1927­2014) is best known for writing in the style of magical realism, where the mundane seems magical and even the magical begins to seem ordinary. In 1982, García Márquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his short stories and novels but he is most famous for his novels “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1970) and “Love in the Time of Cholera” (1988).
“Love in the Time of Cholera” chronicles Florentino Ariza’s pursuit of Fermina Daza over the course of fifty­-three years, seven months and eleven days and nights. García Márquez ‘s parents were the inspiration for this unusual love story— Gabriel Eligio courted Luisa with endless violin serenades, love poems, and letters until her family consented to the marriage despite their objections.

unnamed (2)At the time “Love in the Time of Cholera” was published in the United States in 1988, García Márquez could not tour in the United States because of the government travel ban, so Random House mailed the sheets to García Márquez for him to sign. The sheets were bound into a beautiful limited edition of 350 copies with pink cloth over black cloth boards with a black lace patterned acetate jacket, housed in a yellow slipcase with a black lace pattern.



Original to the Clarioin-Ledger

Collecting Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. New York: Knopf, 2005.

unnamed (6)Cormac McCarthy is considered by many to be our genius of American literature. He is also one of the most reclusive and humble authors of our time. Born in Rhode Island in 1933, McCarthy grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, and set his first four novels in the South. McCarthy lived on the edge of poverty for years and his early work sold poorly. When asked to speak for compensation, he declined saying that everything he had to say was on the page. In 1981, a MacArthur Fellowship allowed McCarthy to buy a home in El Paso, Texas. In that southwest landscape he began to write Blood Meridian (1985) and All the Pretty Horses (1992 National Book Award Winner).

The 2000s brought Cormac McCarthy out into the spotlight. Following the Pulitzer Prize win for The Road in 2006, No Country for Old Men was made into an Academy award­winning film of the same name by the Coen brothers in 2007. To everyone’s surprise, McCarthy accepted Oprah Winfrey’s invitation for a television interview in 2007 after she selected The Road for her book club. At this point, McCarthy fans were not just a select number of literary readers. The collectibility of his books had also increased. But how do you collect an author who rarely does book signings?

If Cormac McCarthy does sign a book at a signing, he typically likes to personally inscribe the book to the recipient. While in many cases this may satisfy the recipient, a collector will desire a simple signature for long term value. Publishers do issue signed books and this is about the only way to get a signed Cormac McCarthy book.

In 2005, Knopf issued No Country for Old Men to booksellers in a signed hardback edition on a first come, first serve basis. The book is signed by McCarthy on a blank tipped­in page. This means that the author received the blank sheets to sign and then the publisher bound the signed page into the book.

unnamed (9)

unnamed (7)Later, B. E. Trice Publishing out of New Orleans used some of the signed sheets from Knopf to complete two of the most beautiful limited editions in contemporary literature: a limited edition of 325 copies in 1⁄4 leather and marbled boards, slip cased, and a deluxe limited edition of 75 copies 3⁄4 leather, marbled boards, with raised spine hubs, slip cased.

Cormac McCarthy, now 81­ years ­old, still maintains his privacy and accepts few request for public appearances, following his own advice that it’s better to be writing than to be talking about writing.


Original to the Clarion-Ledger 

To see more titles by Cormac McCarthy, click here.

Collecting Barry Hannah

“Neighborhood: An Early Fragment of Ray” by Barry Hannah. Tuscaloosa, AL: Gorgas Oak Press, 1981.
Born in Meridian, Mississippi in 1942, Barry Hannah grew up in Clinton, Mississippi. After changing his college major early on from pre­med to English, he set his sights on writing and earned his Bachelor’s at Mississippi College. While studying for his Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Arkansas, Hannah developed the surreal and dark humor he is known for in his novels and short stories. Nominated for the National Book Award for “Geronimo Rex” (1972) and also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for “High Lonesome” (1996), Hannah gained national acclaim. Over his long career, he became a popular creative writing mentor among students, holding teaching positions at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Sewanee, the University of Alabama, and the University of Mississippi, among others.

unnamed (4)While Hannah was teaching at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, he allowed the Gorgas Oak Press of the Graduate School of Library Services of the University of Alabama to design and print the book format for an early fragment of “Ray” called “Neighborhood.” The graduate students handcrafted a striking chapbook of handmade paper, hand-pressed with custom­ made ink, featuring the original interior etchings of Jill Valentine, and exterior wrapper drawings by Bruce Dupree. The print run was limited to 65 copies. The chapbook was not issued signed and signed copies are scarce today. This copy of “Neighborhood” is signed on the title page.

unnamed (5)This fragment of “Ray” also differs from the complete version of “Ray” published by Knopf in 1980 as pages 12-­26. The publication of Gorgas Oak’s “Neighborhood” provides a rare opportunity to compare an early draft of a literary text with its final form.



Original to the Clarion-Ledger

To see more titles by Barry Hannah, click here.

Collecting Margaret Walker

how i wrote jubilee FEWROTEJUBAs a young girl, Margaret Walker Alexander listened to her grandmother’s stories. Walker decided at the age of nineteen that “she would clothe that ‘naked truth’ in all the power and beauty of fiction,” and she spent the next thirty years meticulously researching her family’s stories of slavery and the Civil War from every side. When Walker’s novel “Jubilee” was published in 1966, Harper’s Magazine asked her to submit an essay about how she wrote “Jubilee.”
FEPROPHETS-2Unexpectedly, Walker’s essay for Harper’s was rejected in 1967.

Instead, “How I Wrote Jubilee” was published in the form of a chapbook by a small press called Third World Press in 1972. Founded in 1967 by Haki R. Madhubuti, a poet and one of the leaders in the Black Arts movement, Third World Press ran alongside another important black literary press of the time, Detroit’s Broadside Press, which published Walker’s “Prophets for a New Day” and “October Journey.”

In 1967, Mississippi’s Willie Morris had just been appointed as the managing editor at Harper’s Magazine. In his memoir “New York Days,” Morris reflected on Harper’s very “modest” operation and their $150,000 deficit. One way to increase their circulation was to publish excerpts of the latest novels. Bitingly, it was “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron that booted Walker’s essay out of Harper’s—as noted in “How I Wrote Jubilee.” Though Styron also went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature that year, the novel received a great deal of criticism for being more sensational than historically accurate in its depiction of the slave revolt of Nat Turner. While James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison praised “Nat Turner,” much of the black community frowned upon it. Over the years, the admiration and respect for Walker’s “Jubilee” has only grown.

Small presses like Third World have stood for authors like Walker who needed a platform for their work. In publishing “How I Wrote Jubilee,” Third World Press provided a lasting and beautiful chapbook which includes Walker’s essay, a Foreword, Afterword and Discussion Questions for “Jubilee.” Third World is still owned by its founder Haki R. Madhubuti. While most black presses went out of business or were bought out by large corporations, the press maintains its independence despite challenging times.


Original to the Clarion-Ledger

Collecting Barry Moser

appalachia“Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds” by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrations by Barry Moser. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.

In “Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds” by Cynthia Rylant, life is hard but it is also sweet. Rylant’s Appalachia is a land of coal miners, small churches, country dogs, dirt roads, homemade quilts, and cotton dresses. She communicates the rhythm of Appalachian life in her picture book for the young and old:

“In the summer many of the women like to can. It seems their season. They sit on kitchen chairs on back porches and they talk of their lives while they snap beans or cut up cucumbers for pickling. It is a good way for them to catch up on things and to have time together, alone, for neither the children nor the men come around much when there is canning going on.”

Cynthia Rylant, a Caldecott and Newbery award-winning author, writes about where she grew up in West, Virginia. Her young life was not unfamiliar to Barry Moser, the book’s illustrator. Moser, a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a printmaker, a designer, author, essayist, and teacher. He is well-known for his fully illustrated Bible published in 1999, by his own Pennyroyal Press which has designed some of the most beautiful modern limited editions of the twentieth century.

Moser’s paintings and prints have graced such classic stories and poetry as “The Adventures of Brer Rabbit,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and “The Tales of Edgar Allen Poe,” but he has also worked with many modern children’s books authors.

Moser’s paintings that accompany Rylant’s text were inspired by Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Marion Post Walcott, and Dorothea Lange. The subjects in the paintings are simple and direct. The gaze of the coal miner shows a man with few choices in life—his father and grandfather were coal miners, too. The sweetness of life is there, too, as in the opening quote from James Agee, a nod to his own family in Knoxville, Tennessee:

“The stars are wide and alive, they seem like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds . . .”


Original to the Clarion-Ledger

See more of Barry Moser’s books here.

Collecting 007

“Spectre,” the latest James Bond film starring Daniel Craig, hits US theaters November 6. “Spectre” is the 26th James Bond film. These films are based on the fourteen novels and a handful of short stories by Ian Fleming and a collection of continuation works in Fleming’s honor by Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks and others.

dr. no Bond-poster-1962

Back in 1962 the very first James Bond film, “Dr. No,” was released, starring Sean Connery. When Ian Fleming’s novel “Dr. No” was published in Great Britain, it set off a cycle of controversy. Reviewer Paul Johnson of the New Statesman in an essay titled, “Sex, Snobbery and Sadism,” described “Dr. No” as “all unhealthy, all thoroughly English—the sadism of a schoolboy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult.” Fleming was distraught and enlisted Raymond Chandler to help with a reasoned review, but the British seemed to have already made up their mind. Across the Atlantic, Fleming’s American publisher, Macmillan, took out a full-page ad in Time magazine, which did not try to deny Fleming’s bad boy image. In response to the British media, several of Fleming’s books that followed benignly portrayed 007 in rescue mode or saving the world from catastrophe.

dr. no US editionFrom Fleming’s first book “Casino Royale” in 1953, Fleming had always expressed an opinion about the design of his books and “Dr. No” was no different. Pat Marriott was the artist for “Dr. No” and he had also designed “Diamonds Are Forever.” Fleming had originally envisioned Honeychile on the cover standing on a Venus elegans dr noshell. For the final cover, Marriott revealed Honeychile as a silhouette on the beach. These British editions are the true first edition of Fleming’s novels and also more intimate for the input that he gave on the design.

The world of 007 is a rich one to explore—through the books of Ian Fleming, his life story, and finally through the thrill of the movie theater.


Here is a trailer for the new James Bond movie, “Spectre”, in theaters now.


Original to the Clarion-Ledger Book Page

The Great Migration

The Great Migration by Jacob Lawrence. New York: Harper Collins / The Museum of Modern Art & The Phillips Collection, 1993. 
jacob lawrenceJacob Lawrence was not your typical painter. He often spent months at a branch of the New York Public Library, taking notes from journals and books and other documents before he would began work on a formal painting project. Lawrence wanted his art to teach history to his people. In describing his research efforts for The Great Migration, Lawrence remarked:

“Having no Negro history makes the Negro people feel inferior to the rest of the world . . . I didn’t do it just as a historical thing, but because these things tie up with the Negro today.”

Jacob Lawrence’s family was a family of migration. His mother and father had left the South for New Jersey where Jacob was born in 1917. Jacob ended up in Harlem at the age of 13. His mother and art teachers saw his talent at a young age, and eventually his talent earned him a position in the WPA program which provided the first artistic opportunities for many black artists like him. After Lawrence’s position at the WPA ended, he applied for a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Fund (of Sears & Roebuck) and cited his unusual research needs as a painter in the application. He asked for six months of research time before he began painting the Great Migration series.

The Great Migration consisted of 60 small tempera paintings depicting the mass migration of African Americans from the South to the North after World War I. The paintings were accompanied by captions which showed the influence of modern media: the rise of graphic illustration in mechanically produced magazines and photo books. The photo book with accompanying text was a popular genre following the Great Depression.
12 million black voices FEMany New Deal programs were designed to document rural America through oral-history projects and photography series.
Well-known photo books from this era include: Erskine Caldwell’s and Margaret Bourke-White’s “You Have Seen Their Faces” (1937); Dorothea Lange’s and Paul Taylor’s “American Exodus” (1939); “12 Million Black Voices” by Richard Wright (1941); and James Agee’s and Walker Evans’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” (1941).

Lawrence chose this same format—he only altered the format with his striking paintings. In 1941, the enlarged photographs from “12 Million Black Voices” with text by Richard Wright were chosen to accompany Lawrence’s Great Migration panels on a 15-city tour.
jacob lawrenceIn 1993, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Phillips Art Collection released a signed limited edition book of 100 copies of The Great Migration with all 60 panels and captions.
In 2015, MoMA and Phillips released a new book, “Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series,” following a 2014 exhibition celebrating the artist’s life and work.

Written by Lisa Newman,  A version of this column was published in The Clarion-Ledger’s Sunday Mississippi Books page.

The Story of Lord John Press

“House Snake” by Reynolds Price. Northridge, CA: Lord John Press, 1987.

A young Herb Yellin caught the bug for autographs at Fenway Park in Boston. As he grew older Yellin became a serious reader and married the two passions when he began collecting signed first editions. Eventually, his insatiable quest for books led him to establish Lord John Press in 1976 as a way to offer something special beyond the hardback book. The books were often issued in printings of 150 and 300 copies and were signed by the author. The press showed a passion for paper, printing and book binding. The contents were never lengthy, containing an author’s short story, an essay, a speech, a poem, or an excerpt. Lord John Press did not publish the obvious, and this provided something special to the book collector and for the reader who was so devoted to that author.

house snake“House Snake,” a single poem by Reynolds Price, seventeen pages in length, was published in book form in colorful marbled boards with gilt decoration by Lord John Press in 1987. Only 150 numbered copies were printed and signed by the author.

Other examples from the press include:

The State of the Novel” by Walker Percy (in conjunction with Faust Press)

ill seen ill saidIll Seen Ill Said” by Samuel Beckett

The Literature of Exhaustion and the Literature of Replenishment” by John Barth

Acrobats in the Park” by Eudora Welty

acrobats in the park LTD marbledand “A Collection of Reviews” by Ross Macdonald.


Lord John Press got its funny name from the founder’s love of these authors: John Barth, John Cheever, John Fowles, John Gardner, John Hawkes, and John Updike. “Lord” is said to have come from his desire “to marry” Great Britain and America. Over the years Yellin published around 100 titles. Lord John Press has since closed and Yellin passed away in 2014.

Written by Lisa Newman,  A version of this column was published in The Clarion-Ledger’s Sunday Mississippi Books page.

The Book of Friendship

norton book of friendship“The Norton Book of Friendship” edited by Eudora Welty and Ronald A. Sharp. New York: Norton, 1991.

Eudora Welty and Ronald Sharp edited the “The Norton Book of Friendship” which contains more than 270 selections on the subject of friendship dating from antiquity to the end of the nineteenth century.

“The Book of Friendship” was put together in a conference room in the old Sheraton hotel in Jackson. Sharp recalls their editing process in his Introduction:

“Who has the fiercer rage for order, the artist or the scholar, is hard to say. But it was Eudora who had the brilliant idea of renting the Windsor Room. When she writes fiction she puts bits and pieces of stories and novels into a file, and when she is ready to start shaping the material, she spreads out the scraps of paper on a bed or a table or the floor, so she can see it all in one place, and then she actually ‘pins’ together the various pieces into a whole. ‘Shaping a book is a physical process,’ she says, and that is precisely what we discovered that afternoon in the Windsor Room.”

Welty and Sharp’s brilliant anthology includes letters and invitations from Colette, Raymond Carver and Samuel Johnson; poetry from Homer, Langston Hughes, Richard Wilbur, and Anne Sexton; Chapters from the Bible; Sonnets from Shakespeare; short stories from Chekhov, Tolstoy and William Maxwell; and too many other unexpected pieces to mention.

As Welty finished her Introduction to “The Book of Friendship,” she included a note to Sharp referenced in Marrs’ biography of Welty: “’The [Persian Gulf] war is so ghastly that nobody can feel very balanced about much, but it’s a good thing, ain’t it, that we’ve got Friendship.’”

“The Norton Book of Friendship” continues to be a treasure and a refuge for readers. Once you have one yourself—you find that it makes a wonderful gift. By the time “The Book of Friendship” was published, Welty was 82 years old and not doing very many public signings, so signed copies of this book are very rare and valuable to collectors.

Written by Lisa Newman,  A version of this column was published in The Clarion-Ledger’s Sunday Mississippi Books page.

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