Friday, January 6, 2012

Celebrating Ronald Searle's Wicked World of Book Collecting

by Stephen J. Gertz

Ronald Searle was a great friend of rare books and the collecting world. We mourn his passing this week at age 91. 

The following originally appeared on Booktryst, October 26, 2010 in appreciation of the 21st birthday of his hilarious visual satire on trade terminology for describing a book's condition. The captions are his.

"Ever since as a child I lurked, lingered and slobbered in anticipation over the sixpenny book boxes of the Cambridge booksellers, I have never ceased to rummage wherever more than two books are brought together…

"As for catalogues: whenever I managed to beg, take, or even pinch one on my rounds, my weekend was made. I would spent it alone in my room, lost to the world over items of such unspeakable exoticism that if an armful of delights from the most perfumed local harem had been offered to this pimply teenager on a golden dish, they would barely have received a third glance…

"Thus the rot set in.

"Ten thousand bookshops and twenty thousand catalogues later, I lick my wounds, while all around me almost a half a kilometer of books now groan from lack of space"
(Ronald Searle, Introduction to Slightly Foxed - but still desirable).

SEARLE, Ronald. Slightly Foxed -  But Still Desirable:
Ronald Searle's Wicked World of Book Collecting.
London: Souvenir Press, (September)1989.
First edition
Happy belated 21st birthday to Slightly Foxed - but still desirable, cartoonist and illustrator Ronald Searle's satire on book collecting, specifically the condition terminology typically seen and understood by the Illuminati but Esperanto to those outside the trade or hobby; it looks like English, it reads like English, but it might as well be Martian.

A little dog-eared but otherwise acceptable copy.

Illustrated throughout with sixty-one full-page color drawings, it remains as fresh, charming, and delightfully irreverent as when originally published. In celebration of its coming of age, Booktryst presents a selection of its caricatures with the original captions.

A little thumbed, otherwise attractive copy.
A nice, bright set.
Cracked but holding.
Evidence of some insect damage.
Early manuscript notes.
Generally a little loose.
Leather labels and intricate decoration.
Lovingly thumbed by former owner.
Name on fly.
Slight splitting of paste-down.
Stitching a little loose.
Tail-edge shaved.
Somewhat spotted, but otherwise desirable.
Some worming of the epoch.
Some light surface abrasion.
Copies of the trade edition are currently selling for around $100. Copies of the signed limited edition  in fine condition, however, will set you back $1000.

SEARLE, Ronald. Slightly Foxed - but still desirable. Ronald Searle's Wicked World of Book Collecting. London: Souvenir Press Ltd., 1989. Signed and limited edition of 150 copies. Quarto. 124 pp. Sixty-one color drawings. Blue leather. Spine lettered in gilt.

Images courtesy of Ikahime at Flickr.

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