Old rare book catalogs are useful for more than driving yourself crazy looking at prices from days of yore. For example, they can tell you little bibliographic details about a publication or suggest the truth about what is truly rare. Take the C Press Sonnets by Ted Berrigan and Ed Sanders Fuck You, a magazine of the arts.
183. BERRIGAN, Ted. The Sonnets. Cover by Joe Brainard. N.Y.: “C”, 1964. One of 300 copies, this copy is unnumbered. Early cut-up technology and a cornerstone of the modern movement. Stapled wrappers. $30.00
Manufactured and/or readymade bricks (lines) placed in a wall (poem) through the chicks (holes) of which light (joy) occasionally shines. – T.C.
There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in this short entry. The most arresting is the price. A similar copy of The Sonnets is now easily a thousand dollar book. That is a compound annual growth rate of 11.21%. Now I do not know much of anything about investing, except for the fact that I have been pretty adamant that collecting rare books is not a good one. Well, I talked to my brother who does this accounting shit for a living and he assures me that five to ten percent is solid. Hey, I am willing to be convinced.
In any case, Berrigan’s reputation is still solid 30-odd years later as The Sonnets is still a foundational text. I was happy to see Richard Aaron acknowledge Burroughs’s influence on Berrigan and Tom Clark’s blurb referencing Duchamp provides a little joy. I love to see Burroughs and Duchamp linked up.
Of far more interest to me than the above, is the fact that Aaron was selling an unnumbered copy. In all my years of collecting I have seen far, far more unnumbered copies than numbered. In fact I am having trouble right now recalling that last numbered copy I saw. Probably in the James Jaffe catalog on the Tulsa School. Every bookseller throws around the fact that there are 300 numbered copies but is that really true. I was talking to Brian Cassidy about this and he has rarely seen a numbered copy. It is interesting that this was the case over 30 years ago. Were 300 copies actually numbered? How many unnumbered were run off? Should the unnumbered copies be considered a second printing? Or did Berrigan just print copies whenever he needed to make the rent?
Speaking of speaking with Brian Cassidy. We were hashing out which issue of Fuck You, a magazine of the arts is the rarest. One we came up with might surprise you. Here is Richard Aaron’s entry:
1582. (SANDERS, Ed.). Fuck You/A Magazine of the Arts. N.Y.: Fuck You Press, 1962-1965. Offered here are Issues 1, 3-4, No. 5, Vol. 2-Vol.4 & Vol. 6-Vol.9. Thus lacking three issues. This set with the very scarce Warhol Couch cover to Vol. 9 (sic; it is Vol. 8). The ultimate of what underground little press publishing was all about. An AM Here Absolute Must! Stapled wraps. (10 issues of 13) $325
Along with its Lower East Side companion mag, Ted Berrigan’s “C”, Ed Sanders’ “Fuck You/A Magazine of the Arts” is the primary document of the Sixties mimeograph explosion. It contains peace, love, myth, yuks, porn, art, and much interesting literature, adding up to a “total assault on the culture.” Contributors include Burroughs, Ginsberg, Berrigan, Corso, Auden, McClure, Jones, Huncke, Olson, Wieners, Whalen, Creeley, etc., etc. – T.C.
It is considered fact that the Madmotherfucker Issue with the Warhol cover is rare, or more accurately that the Warhol cover is rare. Almost impossible to find actually attached to the magazine with the original staples. In addition the early issues, particularly Issue 1 and 2 are considered tough; I know collectors who have struggled with Issue No. 5 Vol. 9. It is also received wisdom that the middle issues, namely No. 5, Vol. 1-6, are the easiest to locate. Yet talking to Brian suggests different. For whatever reason No. 5, Vol. 5 is a real bitch to get. This Am Here entry would seem to confirm Brian’s experience. Weird.
Such is the value of old rare book catalogs, they can simultaneously confirm and deny longstanding book collecting myths.