menu Language Is A Virus

Take it as read - this one's an instant classic

by Catherine Keenan, Sydney Morning Herald, November 2, 2002

If sales of her first cult-status novel, The Secret History, are anything to go by, a few million people around the world have waited 10 long years for Donna Tartt's second book.

The Little Friend finally arrived in shops last week, in a flurry of publicity and by the truckload. And, for book-collecting Tartt fans, this presents a singular problem.

The basic currency of book collecting is the first edition, and the smaller the original print run, the better. Hence, like many much-hyped books these days, The Little Friend is almost worthless in collecting terms.

What are collectors to do? They can try for a signed copy, but antiquarian bookseller Nicholas Pounder says that now author tours are so extensive, even these are losing their value.

So, spotting a gap in the market, Tartt's London-based publisher, Bloomsbury, has released a special limited edition of The Little Friend for collectors, alongside the regular printing. They are leather-bound, signed and, most importantly, once 350 of them were printed, the plates were destroyed.

Books used to become collectable in retrospect. The fun lay in taking a chance, buying a book cheaply in the hope that it would become valuable later. But Bloomsbury is hoping to have manufactured an instant classic. Forty will be available in Australia, for $250 (the paperback is $32.95).

But are they really collectable? Mr Pounder says they should be a good investment, though they will never escalate in the same way as something truly rare. "You will always be able to sell it, but it's not going to be an astronomical increase in value. You're not getting in on the ground floor."

Books marketed as collectables will never enjoy the same status as those ferreted out from their hiding places, dusty and neglected, he says.

"The real treasure for a book collector is to find something that has traversed the ordinary hazards of existence, as an ordinary book. Not something that comes in a slip case, with a silk ribbon and a prospectus."

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