Saturday, January 19, 2008
A Double Shard?
Common sense would dictate that the older a book is, the harder it is to find and the more recent a book is, the easier it is to find.
Yet this isn't always true. Of the eighty-six Newbery winning books, two of the most difficult to find were published within the last decade. Both A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park and KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata were released quite early in the year with fairly small printings. They didn't seem to be on anyone's radar as possible award winners (though in retrospect, I do remember SINGLE SHARD winning a Mock Newbery competition at some point. Why didn't I pay closer attention?) Consequently, the first printings of both these books had already been sold (mostly to the library market) by the time the Newbery Medal was announced the following January, leaving just a few copies floating around to be fought after by book collectors. They can be found, even today, if you are willing to pay between one and three thousand dollars for them. My first car cost less than three thousand dollars.
I was lucky enough to find a first edition of A SINGLE SHARD at my favorite bookstore on Newbery Day and always hoped I'd find another copy which I could re-sell in order to plump up my book-buying fund. A couple years back, I saw a "first edition" of SINGLE SHARD for sale on the internet. I asked the dealer if the volume had the complete numbering sequence (10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1) on the copyright page, indicating a first edition. He said it did, so I immediately purchased it for (can you believe it?) forty-five dollars.
When the book arrived, I was ecstatic. The dustjackets were an exact match (in the picture above, my copy is on the left, the new copy is on the right.) I flipped to the copyright page and was relieved to see the full descending number sequence.
However, I quickly noticed some other differences between the two books. Here are the front flaps of the dustjacket:
In addition to being slightly different in color, my copy had a price at the top of the flap, but the new copy did not. Both, though, had the 301 publication date at the bottom of the flap.
Next I took the jackets off the books and compared them:
As you can see, my copy had a flecked oatmeal-colored binding, with a circular design imprinted in the center; the new copy was a dark color with no design imprint. I then turned the books sideways to compare the spines:
Identical, except for the different colored bindings and the fact that the author's name is a different distance from the top spine end.
Opening the books again, I noticed that my copy had red endpapers, but the new book's endpapers were white. Everything on the title page and copyright page matched in both books, except for one tiny difference. The pagination in both books has a little pen-stroke slash below each page number, like this:
However, my new copy of SINGLE SHARD also had that little pen-stroke on the bottom of the title page!
If I didn't have both copies in front of me I would assume that each was a true first edition. After all, the complete print key on the copyright page of both books indicates this. But there are just enough variables (no price on the second copy; different binding colors; color vs. white endpapers, and that mysterious tilde-like figure on the title page of one volume) for me to know these are two different editions.
My first thought is that my copy is the publishers' trade edition and the second copy is a book club edition...yet if it were a Junior Library Guild volume, wouldn't those words appear SOMEWHERE on the book? On the title page? The spine? The dustjacket flaps?
I'm telling this story in hopes that someone out there in the blogosphere can explain the reason for these two variant editions. I also present it as a warning to other collectors. If the copy with the dark binding and no price on the dustjacket is some kind book club edition, don't even think of spending thousands of dollars for it!