Magazines for collectors at London book fair

I was at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair in Olympia on Saturday and saw magazines for sale on several stands – most prominently Biblioctopus offering a set of the 75 Holmes stories in the Strand for £55,000.

But even £55,000 is peanuts if you want to get your hands on the two Holmes stories, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, that predate the Strand. Scarlet was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. This is one of the rarest magazines in the world and probably the most expensive. (The wife of the publisher Samuel Beeton, was the Mrs Beeton of cookery book fame.) In 2007, a repaired but complete copy of the Beeton annual sold for $156,000 at Sotheby’s in New York.

The Sign appeared in Lippincott’s Monthly, a US magazine, in the February 1890 edition, which was published in both London and Philadelphia. (Lippincott’s also published Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray in its July 1890 issue.)

Neither story was particularly successful and it took George Newnes and his groundbreaking Strand to make a household name of Sherlock Holmes and his creator Arthur Conan Doyle with the short stories, starting with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in its launch issue of 1891.

My visit to the antiquarian book fair came about because of the boom Magforum is seeing in the level of interest in collecting magazines. In the past year, Magforum’s collecting page has established itself as the most popular of the site’s 200 pages, pulling in 1700 visits last month. It is the top Google result to searches such as “collecting magazines”. Two years ago, the page was not even in the top 10. So, I’m seeing big growth in interest in collecting magazines.

Ebay has driven the boom and both buyers and sellers have moved upmarket – as have the prices. Ten years ago, copies of Town could be had for £5; five years ago it was £10; now, the starting price is a tenner and many fetch £100. It’s a similar story with all the classic titles – and fans of the everything from the latest celeb such as Benedict Cumberbatch to the Man from Uncle prepared to pay £133 for a cheap 1966 magazine are continually pushing up the prices of all sorts of titles.

Another book fair item that caught my eye was a nice copy of Brassai’s first book, Paris de Nuit. Sixty of his images were printed in stunning gravure in this 1933 work over 74 pages. The copy was described as: ‘Cover slightly rubbed at corners. Spiral binding intact binding.’ The price was £1650. The Belgian bookseller Deslegte was also offering a ‘very fine copy’ of Robert Doisneau and Arthur Gregor’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 children’s book from 1955 for £525.

London’s Harrington Books had more copies of the Strand on offer, such as a set of the first 44 bound volumes for £2,750. However, it’s complete unbound copies that fetch the best prices, such as an issue carrying Conan Doyle’s The Land of Mist for £750.

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2 Responses to “Magazines for collectors at London book fair”

  1. The Strand magazine and its iconic cover | Magforum Says:

    […] fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. If you want to buy a set of the 75 issues that carried the Sherlock Holmes stories, you can expect to […]

  2. This month in magazines: The Strand’s albatross cover | Magforum blog Says:

    […] The Strand magazine was first published by George Newnes in 1891 and was an immediate hit – establishing both itself and Sherlock Holmes in the world’s imagination. Even today, it is the world’s most collectable magazine. A set of all 75 issues with Sherlock Holmes stories is likely to set you back £50,000. […]

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