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Ayn Rand at The New York Antiquarian Book Fair, 2015

Ayn Rand at The New York Antiquarian Book Fair, 2015
Posted on April 20th, 2015

“I started collecting stamps when I was ten years old,” wrote 69-year-old Ayn Rand in blue ink on blue paper, where she proclaimed her passion for philately on a heavily annotated and corrected 16-page manuscript (“Why I Like Stamp Collecting”) offered for sale at The New York Antiquarian Book Fair, the granddaddy of all book fairs. This manuscript, along with other Rand treasures, bedazzled the Fair, where Ayn Rand commanded record-breaking prices.

My reconnaissance—to locate every Ayn Rand offering—began on Friday with my friend Don Hauptman, who introduced me to Tony Freyberg of Quaker Hill Books, who had graciously offered both of us passes for the day. Serendipitously, Tony was offering for sale another luscious Rand manuscript, the only other at the fair, one of two missing from my own collection of Rand’s LA Times articles I am offering for sale through Pen Ultimate Rare Books.

With a noticeably heavier emphasis on “antiquarian” this year, more so than in years past, Rand unquestionably made her presence known. I saw a lovely signed first edition copy of Rand’s courtroom drama, Night of January 16, offered at $2500. First edition copies of Atlas Shrugged—UNsigned — in dust jackets, shaky to stunning, ranged from $4500 to $5900.

An inscribed photograph of Rand, which I’d sold the dealer earlier this year for under $3000, is now asking for $5000.

Unsigned first revised editions of both We the Living and Anthem in a wide range of conditions punctuated the aisles, asking for mid-three to low-four figures. I did need to alert one dealer to the error he made (common and unintentional) in characterizing the Second Issue of the First American Edition of Anthem as the “First American Printing.”. Just to be precise, Anthem, the rarest of Rand's “Firsts,” was originally published in Great Britain by Cassell in 1938, Rand’s British publisher of We the Living. Its first American printing was published in 1946 as Volume III, Number 1 of the magazine The Freeman, published by Pamphleteers, in an estimated run of 2000 copies mailed to subscribers. Its copyright page contains the Los Angeles address, 725 Venice Boulevard. Later printings contain a different LA address. While the dealer had a lovely copy of the second issue of the first American Anthem, it was grossly overpriced.

To be sure, other non-Rand items at the fair tempted sophisticated bibliophiles, sumptuous rarities worthy of manor libraries and museums. Eye candy included illuminated leaves from the 15th century, engravings of the extinct dodo, a hastily scribbled lyric penned by Bob Dylan, and an R. Crumb (who designed the cover of Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills album, of which I’ve a copy, signed by Joplin) drawing of him and his wife. How about that later printing of Gone with the Wind, signed by all major cast members? Or that first edition copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five, emblazoned with an inscription and self-caricature complete with his ever-present smoking cigarette?

Intoxicating, I suppose, until I saw, illuminated under glass on the top shelf, two mouth-watering first edition copies of The Fountainhead. My heart stopped.

Howard Roark laughed.

The less expensive copy, at $75,000, is the loveliest copy I’ve seen to date. Its binding was strong, and its unclipped jacket was still bright. Clearly it had been read, but its previous owner cherished this 1943 unsigned first edition copy, as if predicting the valuation history would place on it.

The other first-edition copy, not quite as dazzling but still quite noteworthy for a book approaching 75, was inscribed by Rand in 1949 to Jack Warner, President of Warner Bros., which produced the screen version of The Fountainhead later that year. In full, Rand’s inscription reads: “To Jack L. Warner, thank you for your courage and for a magnificent picture. With my profound gratitude, Ayn Rand.”.

This one-of-a-kind copy of the first edition of The Fountainhead is asking for $125,000. The Fountainhead has punctured the 6-figure barrier.

Out of her way, Gatsby!

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