by Craig Stark

#128, 12 October 2008

A Bookseller's Guide
to Book Club Editions

Part II, Book-of-the-Month Club Issue Points
Issue #54

In Part I, by way of jump-starting this series to promote profits for booksellers, I presented a list of 133 book club editions that in VG/VG or better condition (F/F for hypermoderns) will likely sell for $20 and up. This is particularly good news because book club editions were/are typically printed in numbers that far exceeded/exceed their trade counterparts, and many of the titles in my list are therefore common and frequently encountered.

In this and a following issue, I'll take on the oldest and perhaps best known book club of the many hundreds that have come and gone since 1926 - Harry Scherman's Book-of-the-Month Club (hereafter referred to as BOMC). There are two reasons for this special attention. First, more BOMC publications are collected than the publications of all other comparable book clubs combined (with the exception of so-called premium book clubs such as Easton Press, et al), and it's important to know both what the high spots are and how to distinguish them from trade editions. Second, there are as yet undeveloped opportunities for us to expand the BOMC collectible niche to previously uncollected publications. Sometimes collectors don't know what to collect until we booksellers teach them. This isn't hubris; it's simply a matter of pointing out the existence of publications that, because of one or more inherently special characteristics, play logically into the collector's hands. More about this later.

Issue Points

The first order of business is to nail down BOMC issue points. Warning: There's some complexity here; also, there's a good chance that we'll never know the entire identification story. What I can do is present what constitutes our present state of knowledge and assure you that this will make possible definitive identifications of most of what you will encounter.

I'll start with some history. The first title offered by the BOMC was British author Sylvia Townsend Warner's LOLLY WILLOWES OR THE LOVING HUNTSMAN, the April 1926 selection. (See a detailed discussion of LOLLY WILLOWES below.) This and the following 50 BOMC selections, up to and including the June 1930 selection, were published for the BOMC by their respective trade publishers. Moreover, they are identical in every respect to trade editions produced by these publishers with, in most cases, the exception of slight but determinant issue points that betray their book club status. (Minus a dust jacket, there are some titles that are identical in all respects to trade editions.)

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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