Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Innocence Found in Scarce Dust Jacket

by Stephen J. Gertz

Take a good look; you'll likely never see another first edition copy of Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Innocence (1920) in its scarce first state dust jacket in this condition ever again. It's usually lost along with the innocence of the age it illuminates, America in the 1870s and the Victorian social standards of contemporary New York high society.

When seen at all the first state dust jacket usually proclaims "Chips Ahoy!" It's a rare cookie without divots aplenty at spine ends and along the edges as if leaf-eating insects chomped a banquet.

First edition, first printing (with "1" on p. 365) copies without dust jacket currently go for $2250-$9000. Copies in the first state dust jacket cost considerably more. The copy under notice, for instance, is being offered by Peter Harrington at $31,400 (£20,000).  Prices are extremely sensitive to DJ condition. Another copy in the first state dust jacket with a chunks missing at the spine head and upper right corner sold for $23,500 not too long ago.

This copy has a Wharton signature tipped-in to a prelim leaf. Per usual with clipped and mounted autographs it adds little to the value of the book. Inscribed and signed copies of The Age of Innocence in any edition, however, are even rarer than copies in the first state dust jacket. Only one such copy has entered the marketplace within the last thirty years, currently offered by Charles Agvent for $31,250.

Put this dj on that inscribed copy and you'd have a lollipazooza, easily worth more than double the price of the two sold separately. It becomes a $75,000-$100,000 book, greater than the sum of its parts.

Clearly, this is one very expensive dust jacket. It's not in the same class as the DJ to The Great Gatsby, which can add up to $175,000 to the price of a first edition copy, but, like Gatsby in DJ, it remains highly scarce and desirable and thus highly susceptible to fraud, i.e. restoration without declaration. Dust jackets to The Age of Innocence that raise suspicion should be examined under black light to reveal evidence of not-so-divine intervention.

First state dust jacket points:

• Quotes on rear panel by Percy Lubbock pulled from The Novels of Edith Wharton, an article that originally appeared in the January 1915 issue of the Quarterly Review.

In the second state dust jacket, Lubbock's quotes are replaced by those by William Phelps that originally appeared in the New York Times review, October 17, 1920.

• The price on the jacket is $2.

“There are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as major and Edith Wharton is one" (Gore Vidal).

WHARTON, Edith. The Age of Innocence. New York: D. Appleton, 1920. First edition, first printing. Octavo. 364, [2] pp. Publisher's original red cloth. Original first state dust jacket.

Hart 814. Garrison 30.I.a.

Images courtesy of Peter Harrington, with our thanks.

Of related Interest:

The $175,000 Dust Jacket Comes To Auction.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous! Very much enjoyed seeing this. Thanks for posting.


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