AbeBooks Top SFF Sales in 2017 To Date

Every quarter collectibles bookseller AbeBooks posts its top 10 high ticket sales. While there wasn’t a notable genre sale in the first three months of the year, John Wyndham and Aldous Huxley have been making the cash registers ring since then.

The top 10 sales for April-June included:

  1. Chocky by John Wyndham – $11,443

A science fiction story about an alien, first published as a novella in 1963 in Amazing Stories. This copy was a scarce 1968 signed first edition of the book format published by Michael Joseph, and in near fine condition. The BBC adapted Wyndham’s story for radio in 1967. Chocky was Wyndham’s last published story during his lifetime – he died in March 1969. British author Wyndham is best known for his novels, The Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids.

  1. = Letters from Aldous Huxley to Goddard Lieberson – $7,500

An exchange of letters between Huxley and Lieberson, president of Columbia Records from 1956 to 1971. Thirteen of the letters are either typed or autograph letters, signed, from Huxley, and the last two are autograph letters from Huxley’s second wife, Laura. Sixteen carbon copies of Lieberson’s typed letters to Huxley are also included. The letters span a significant portion of the end of Huxley’s life, from 1952 to 1963. Lieberson initially wrote to Huxley asking if he would like to be part of a series of recordings of authors reading their work, which already included Truman Capote. Huxley invited Lieberson to his house, in order to listen to some previous recordings, and the two became friends.

  1. = Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – $7,500

A first edition, first printing of Huxley’s most famous book in its dustjacket, published in 1932. Huxley’s New World was set in London in 2540 and predicts a variety of technologies concerning reproduction, learning, psychology, and conditioning. The author does not offer a positive view of the future.

And “AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of July, August & September 2017” featured these sff works:

  1. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – $13,844

A 1951 UK first edition of this classic science fiction novel featuring killer plants wreaking havoc, published by Michael Joseph and in near fine condition complete with its dust jacket. Inscribed by Wyndham. The book belonged to Jim Burch was a science fiction fan and co-organizer of the 1951 Science Fiction Convention in London.

Note: An article about the London convention and a photo of Burch can be found at Rob Hansen’s website.

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – $8,800

The 1969 edition illustrated by Salvador Dali. Limited to 2500 copies, this is # 2,386. Twelve surreal illustrations with original woodcuts and an original etching by Dali. Copies of this prized book regularly appear on this list. We recommend Princeton’s 2015 reprint if you don’t have thousands to spare.

Illustration by Salvador Dali in 1969 edition of Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

The Bradbury Type

Our favorite sf writer is still making news.

(1) PHIL NICHOLS. Fahrenheit 451 and Q & A with Phil Nichols is scheduled this month in Wolverhampton in the UK.

Bradbury 451 poster Nichols UK


24 May 2016 – 24 May 2016, Tuesday 24 May


Lighthouse Media Centre

This unique film imagines a future world where books are banned, and shows one man’s journey from book-burning fireman to book-loving rebel. This British science fiction film was the only English-language work from prolific French director François Truffaut, and is one of the best adaptations of the work of American author Ray Bradbury. To celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary, Phil Nichols will introduce the film and reveal the findings of his research into its unusual origins. The screening will be followed by a discussion.

(2) BOOKS IN DEMAND. Richard Davies has the “Top Most Searched For Out-of-Print Books of 2015” at AbeBooks.

It’s never dull when we dive into BookFinder.com‘s dusty archives of digital data to compile a list of the most searched for out-of-print books from the previous year. Sex, religion, quilting, gardening, swimming, pike fishing, cooking and UFOs, you can find all the important aspects of life in this selection of literature.

Ray Bradbury’s Dark Carnival is #42, Isaac Asimov’s Nine Tomorrows is #100 — but wait there’s more!

(3) THE CURSED TUBE. “What Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury Thought About Television” at Mental Floss.

The May 1991 issue of The Cable Guide is chock-full of vital information, like time and channel listings for both Bloodfist II and the tape-delayed World Professional Squash Association Championship. Also included in this ephemeral TV encyclopedia are charming and prickly interviews with Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury. The visionary authors sat down to talk about—what else?—television.

The interviews are presented as dueling, short features, and they are published under the auspices of promoting the authors’ upcoming cable specials—Kurt Vonnegut’s Monkey House on Showtime and Ray Bradbury Theater on HBO. Even when doing PR work, they remained their true, sardonic selves.

“I’m sorry television exists,” Vonnegut told the interviewer. According to him, TV is “like a rotten teacher in high school, except it’s everybody’s teacher.”

(4) MURAL TALK. Los Angeles High School Librarian Tikisha Harris shares behind-the-scenes info about the new Bradbury mural in “Community Collaborations for Los Angeles High School Bradbury Library”.

With the help of the art teachers and 10th grade English teachers, the decision was made to work with acclaimed community muralist Richard Wyatt Jr. As the novel was being taught in classes, students had the unique opportunity to create a work of art that would honor an famous author, paint a scene from the novel while learning art concepts and techniques in genuine apprenticeship capacity.

The out of school community also played an integral part in the entire process.  With the support and funding of the the school’s Harrison Trust, ARC after school program and a dedicated alumni group, the project would not have been possible. They provided everything from art supplies, after school student supervision, and community outreach on a larger scale to making the students feel and know that there can always be a connection between art, literature and the greater Los Angeles community. The students were able to see that their work and dedication matter to the literary world as well as to other students in the school who may not have been interested otherwise.

As a teacher librarian, each step of this experience was a learning opportunity. The end product was bigger than I imagined. I thought collaborating and co-teaching different parts of the novel along with facilitating the Book Club meetings was good enough. I had not thought about reaching out to other members of the community. This project made the school library a more welcoming space to reluctant library users and a tourist attraction for Bradbury lovers.

Now the bar is set high as to what can happen in a library. The Bradbury library is now a place for students to access all of the resources they may need for their academic work, check out  and read books, work collaboratively with classmates but also admire a brilliant work of art.

Bradbury mural

(5) ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT. The city of LA is using The Big Read for many things, like the draw for people to attend a presentation on the Essentials of Fire Fighting at a local library.

Safety first! Do you know what to do in case of a fire? Unlike the firefighters in Ray Bradbury’s make-believe world where fire was created on purpose (to destroy books), the Los Angeles Fire Department has teamed up with the Library to help you learn how to prevent fire danger and take precautions with everything from smoke detectors, candles, to outdoor grilling. Join us for this important and potentially life-saving presentation about safety and health, led by Sargent Stewart. For more information, please call 818.352.4481.

Event Location: Sunland-Tujunga Branch Library , 7771 Foothill Blvd. , Sunland, CA 91402

Date: Thu, May 5, 2016 Time: 4:00pm – 5:00pm

(6) LIVE FOREVER. Lifehacker lists 17 Science Fiction Books That Forever Changed the Genre.

#16 The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (1950)

Ray Walters at geek.com explains why this book was influential on not just literature, but also science:

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of loosely related fictional stories depicting humanities struggle to flee from the potential of nuclear war on Earth to try and find refuge on the Red Planet. Many of the ideas Bradbury put forth in the novels seemed fantastical at the time, but modern day efforts to explore Mars smack of the science fiction writer’s vision of what it would be like to visit there.

“While Bradbury is seen primarily as an author who had a profound effect on his literary genre, in reality his reach has been much wider. While his novels may not be required reading in our schools anymore (which blows my mind), his ideas are talked about everyday with the people uttering the words usually not knowing the origins of the topics they are discussing. Ray Bradbury will certainly be missed, not just for his amazing science fiction writing, but also for his visionary foresight into cultural phenomenons.”

NASA put a burned DVD containing The Martian Chronicles on the hull of the Phoenix Martian Rover.


Top Sales of 2015 at AbeBooks

AbeBooks, an online listing service for dealers in vintage books, publishes an annual list of the volumes it sold for the highest prices.

The most expensive item sold through AbeBooks in 2015 was Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo e adornata di figure intagliate in rame e miniate al naturale. Ornithologia methodice digesta atque iconibus aeneis ad vivum illuminatis by Saverio Manetti, a famous Italian ornithology book from 1765 that went for $191,000.

That sale also set a new mark as AbeBooks’ most expensive ever. The firm’s dual record holders before that were two books which each sold for $65,000 in 2003 — a 1937 first edition of The Hobbit and a 1644 copy of Areopagitica, John Milton’s defense of press freedom.

Works of genre interest AbeBooks sold for top dollar last year were —


  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – $25,000 A first edition from 1964 that had been signed and inscribed by the author with the words “For Jane and Alex with much love Roald Dahl October 1964.” The bookseller was Raptis Rare Books located in Brattleboro, Vermont. Published in September 1964 by Knopf, just 10,000 copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were published and they sold out within a few weeks. This copy is by far the most expensive Roald Dahl book to sell via AbeBooks and probably the most expensive Dahl book to ever be sold.
  1. Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien – $19,492 Three volumes comprising The Fellowship of the Ring (signed by the author), The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, published in 1954, 1954, and 1955 respectively. All first editions.
  1. The Astronauts: The Story of Project Mercury, America’s Man-in-Space Program by Martin Caidin – $18,500 Project Mercury was America’s first mission to put men into space. First edition published in 1960 and signed by all seven of the project’s astronauts – Scott Carpenter, Leroy Cooper, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, and Gus Grissom. The project ran from 1958 and culminated in 1962 when Glenn made three orbits of the Earth.
  1. (tie) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – $15,000 1968 first edition signed and inscribed by Dick. The book served as the basis for the Blade Runner movie. The plot is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a bounty hunter is tasked with destroying six escaped androids.

A couple of other genre works outside the top 15 that were mention in AbeBooks’ roundup —

  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett – $9,633 A 1983 first edition of the first book in the Discworld series that had a print run of just 506 copies, most of which disappeared into the library system. Sadly, Pratchett died in March 2015.
  • A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – $2,480 A signed 1979 first edition of one of the funniest books ever written.

Here are links to File 770’s coverage of AbeBooks’ sales roundups from the past couple of years.

Top Sales of 2014 at AbeBooks

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll & illustrated by Salvador Dali – $20,000 The 1969 Maecenas Press/Random House edition, signed by the artist. The seller described the book ‘as new’ and its leather Solander box as ‘fine’. Only 2,500 copies were produced, containing 12 memorable illustrations from the surrealist.

AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales of 2013

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – $20,000 First edition from June 1997 – one of the 500 copies printed.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

AbeBooks’ 100 Most Searched-For Books of the Past Year

Collectible book dealer AbeBooks has issued its list of the Top 100 Most Searched-For Books of 2014. You won’t be surprised to see multiple Stephen King titles among the ranks, and some of the other names in demand are equally predictable, but a few are real head-scratchers.

The King books are —

4. The Body by Stephen King

5. Rage by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

6. The Colorado Kid by Stephen King

22. My Pretty Pony by Stephen King

And the other genre names on the list are —

11. Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury

26. Murmurs of Earth by Carl Sagan

27. Ilsa by Madeleine L’Engle (a non-fantasy work)

42. Cyborg by Martin Caidin

92. Halloween by Curtis Richards

A non-genre, nonfiction work ranked #1 overall,  On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman F. Dixon.

Top 50 Sales of 2014 at AbeBooks

AbeBooks’ 50 Most Expensive Sales of 2014 included five books from the sf and fantasy genres — two of them copies of the same edition of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali.

However, the highest price paid in 2014 was $43,450 for a collection of books containing posters from Les Maîtres de L’Affiche, a French art magazine that reproduced the finest posters at the height of the Art Nouveau movement, with work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, William Nicholson and Maxfield Parrish.

And in second place was the $40,000 pricetag on an 1867 edition of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.

The top genre works on the list are:

Salvador Dali art for Alice in Wonderland.

Salvador Dali art for Alice in Wonderland.

8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll & illustrated by Salvador Dali$20,000 The 1969 Maecenas Press/Random House edition, signed by the artist. The seller described the book ‘as new’ and its leather Solander box as ‘fine’. Only 2,500 copies were produced, containing 12 memorable illustrations from the surrealist.

12. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling$15,956 An uncorrected proof in white with a yellow stripe, 224 pages long. It lists Joanne Rowling on the copyright page and J A Rowling on the title page.

13. Dune by Frank Herbert – $15,000 A 1965 signed first edition of this famous science fiction novel complete with its dust jacket. One of 4,000 first edition copies.

27. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Salvador Dali – $11,500 The 1969 Random House edition signed by Dali, who provided 12 color plates. This is number 533 of 2,500 copies. Similar copies sold for $20,000 in January 2014 and $7,650 in November 2013.

30. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – $11,000 A second edition and 11th overall impression. Signed by Tolkien on the title page. The book and its jacket are in near fine condition.

Also in the top 50 was this space exploration collectable:

33. Apollo 11 Large Color Photo – Signed – $10,031 Color photo of Buzz Aldrin standing next to a seismic experiment on the moon with the Lunar Module Eagle and U.S. flag prominent in the background. It is mounted to a 20″ x 16″ board signed by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, and inscribed, “To His Royal Highness/ Prince Bernhard/ of the Netherlands/ From The Apollo 11 Crew”.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales in 2013

AbeBooks’ 25 Most Expensive Sales in 2013 include four Bibles, Shakespeare’s works in French, poetry from Emily Dickinson, handwritten spell-books and classics from Charles Dickens, J.K. Rowling, William Golding, and Frank Herbert.

Of interest to fans —

6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – $20,000
First edition from June 1997 – one of the 500 copies printed.

7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding – $19,877
A 1954 first edition with its dust jacket. Written under the text of the half-title “for Angharad Ryder from William Golding with best wishes.” Loosely inserted is a hand-written envelope from Golding with a hand-written postcard inside, “Dear Miss Ryder, Yes Lord of the Flies is the alleged translation of Beelzebub. I will sign your Nobel Speech if you send it. Yours sincerely William Golding.” Also included are two hand-written letters from Golding to Ryder.

13. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams – $15,950
Published in 1922, first US edition of one of the first modern picture books for children.

16. Dune by Frank Herbert – $15,000
Signed first edition published in 1965 by Chilton. This copy was complete with the first issue dust jacket and the $5.95 price on the front flap.

19. Original Personal Handwritten Manuscript Grimoire by Persephone Adrastea Eirene – $13,865
Two spiral-bound books of spells handwritten in the 1960s by a high priestess of Wicca called Persephone Adrastea Eirene, an American witch of Swedish and English ancestry who led her own coven.

About the last item AbeBooks adds —

The spell-books, or grimoires to give them the correct Wiccan name, are particularly interesting as they are cursed. We have not heard from the buyer since the purchase – and that could be good or bad. The opening page of the first one is inscribed with the warning:

“To those not of the craft – the reading of this book is forbidden! Proceed no further or justice will exact a swift and terrible retribution – and you will surely suffer at the hand of the craft.”

The first comment on the post makes an interesting case against the authenticity of the grimoire on theological grounds…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Eye of the Beholder

night-of-light-philip-jose-farmerAbeBooks’ exhibit of Penguin book covers begins with this line of praise: “One of the many reasons Penguin has been so successful over the years involves its history of creating fantastic book covers.”

I had to laugh – most Penguin covers look to me like high school art projects made with ten cents worth of clipart.

Not that I’m condemning the publisher. I always considered that one source of the savings being passed along to me when I purchased these inexpensive editions.

Besides, if I put any Penguin cover next to an old Gollancz edition – well, it does looks pretty good.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]