A year of reading Andy Warhol…

It’s about time to look back at the past year and try and make some kind of summary of my first year collecting these Warhol dust jackets. And maybe also give some tips and pointers to anyone interesting in starting collecting them. I don’t remember exactly when it got started but the first post i ever did on the subject was about Three More Novels in August last year. So i guess i’ll put that down as some kind of actual start date… So this post is a little bit overdue, but there is a reason for that – and that’s the fact that i wanted to wait until i received the books that was part of my trade with Guy Minnebach. And right after those arrived i found my lucky listing of Pistols For Two and wanted to wait so i could include that one also…

So, how did it all get started? I guess you could call it luck or just some random thing but as i remember it i stumbled upon Three More Novels on ebay. When this happened i had no idea Warhol had designed dust jackets but i thought it was a pretty cool book, and for $50 or whatever it was i figured what the hell, why not!? But after that it was a little tricky getting the ball rolling. Finding good information on this area of Warhol’s work was not an easy thing, and finding some kind of definite list of all the covers would prove impossible. A couple of guys have tried though it seems, after a bit of looking around the first article on the subject was this one in Rare Book Digest. The title mentions they are overlooked, and that is very true but more on that later… For me, finding this article was almost the same feeling as i imagine the development of DNA profiling was for the investigators of the Enderby murders – a revolutionary breakthrough!

Besides the jacket to Three More Novels this article mentions, and shows images of, six more dust jackets. There is also a seventh one mentioned in one of the comments to the post – The Grand Mademoiselle. So, it quickly danwned on me that not only were there obviously enough books to start a collection but that they also seemed to generate such low interest that it might actually be possible to find a couple even on a somewhat tight budget. I’ve often regretted that i started my record cover collection as late as i did but here was an opportunity to get an early start…

Around the same time i also found this article in an online publication called Polari Magazine. There is not much written about the actual covers but it does show images of an additional three jackets that i didn’t know about so that helped add a couple more to the list. There is no name of the author nor a date when the article was published but looking at the source code of the page i think it’s from late November 2011, so it seems that guy got off to an even earlier start… Some of the ones that were “new” to me at this time was The Saint in Europe and Who Cooked Mother Goose?

Then a couple of things happened in rapid succession, first off i found this listing on ebay of a book i had not seen before called The Runaway Pigeon, so that added yet another one to the list. Then at about the same time Guy Minnebach emailed me and thought it was great that i had also started a book collection. Of course he had been collecting these for quite some time already and had already found most of them, if not all… but he was also very kind and generous and shared his list of dust jackets with me. At the same time he also mentioned that there was an ongoing exhibition called Reading Andy Warhol at The Brandhorst Museum in Munich, Germany. I think Guy also tipped me off to this site where you could buy the exhibition catalogue. Of course i’d gone over Guy’s list and seen a couple i didn’t know about and some of these were shown in some sample images on that site like Manon Lescaut, The Madhouse in Washington Square and The Red and the Black.

In other words, after a pretty slow start during which it seemed tricky to find information on what to look for it only took a couple of months for me to get an almost complete list together, with the help of these articles and Guy of course. There was still one or two books on Guy’s list that i couldn’t really find anything about and those were According to the Evidence and The Butterfly Tree but i later got some images from Guy of both of these so that helped me know what to look for, i’m still looking for the latter though…

So, that’s that about how it all got started. And where am i now? Well, to say that i’m at the end of the line is perhaps a tad dramatic. But i’ve posted all the books that i currently have in my collection so no more surprises coming up and i’m still missing four books to make the collection complete(?). When i started i made the selfish decision of not posting all the ones i knew about but instead keep adding to my list as time went on. But i guess it’s not really a big secret which ones i’m looking for but i’ll still keep one or two a bit secret. One of these is quite obvious if you have been paying attention and the other one i’ll stay quiet about just because it was not that long ago that it was “discovered”. Even though i keep a lot of saved searches on ebay on different Warhol things i somehow managed to miss this book when it was on there but of course Guy Minnebach (who apparently has better eyes than i do) was able to get it. But anyways, the other two that i’m missing are Forbidden Childhood and The Butterfly Tree, both of these are available at various sites but the price tags on both of them makes me a bit hesitant, at least on the latter. And besides, part of the fun with this is the chase for bargains…

And while on the topic of fun, i think i’ve actually had more fun with these dust jackets than with the record covers in the last year. And this is mainly due to two reasons – first there’s the fact that interest and thus the price tags are as low as they are and secondly it’s the fact that ebay is pretty much useless and that you have to look elsewhere. Maybe i’m just bitter after loosing auctions for both Cool Gabriels and Nocturnes yesterday but when it comes to ebay it’s basically just to keep a couple of saved searches, play the waiting game and then at the end the guy with the most money wins. The possibility of making a bargain or finding something that’s flying under the radar is pretty much non-existent. But with the books it a whole other story, there are soooo many sites to keep track of and try your luck on and even though there are sites like BookFinder around you can still never be 100% sure and just trust that such a site catches everything from everywhere. Then of course there is also the fact that the prices are in a totally different league. I was going through a couple of my old post and i don’t think i’ve spent more than $50 on any of the books so far, and some i’ve even been able to find for around $10. And the way i see it that’s for an original price of Warhol’s work in what has to be a pretty limited edition these days, try finding a The Nation’s Nightmare or a Trombone by Three for $50…

So why is interest in these books so low and why are they so overlooked? I’ve been thinking a lot about this and i haven’t been able to come up with a good answer. I guess record covers and vinyl is generally considered a much cooler medium than books. And maybe also more of a conversation starter or whatever since you can turn on some music and then talk about both what you are listening to as well as what you are holding in your hands. There is also the fact that i guess vinyl in general and maybe also record collecting has seen somewhat of a renaissance in later years. And has reading ever been considered cool in any way? I doubt it. Some of the record covers are also for some very rare jazz albums so of course they generate interest from both us cover collectors as well as from those that are more into what’s actually on the wax itself. There is also the fact that there has been a lot more exhibitions featuring the record covers which of couse raises interest. The only show featuring the dust jackets and book covers that i know about is the one i previously mentioned in Munich that Guy Minnebach told me about. There is also the fact that there are quite a few sites dedicated to Warhol’s record covers, not to mention the great book by Paul Maréchal, whereas sites about the books are a rare find. So as i said i don’t really have a good explanation but that’s my basic thoughts on the matter… It’s a strange thing though, my general feeling is that there ought to be fewer of these books (with jackets that are in at least decent condition) that have survived during the years compared to the record covers. I assume that people in general took better care of their records than of their books. But if there is any truth to this assumption that would rather have had the opposite effect on both interest and prices, so i don’t know what to make of it all…

So… in conclusion i’m pretty amazed at the amount of books i’ve been able to find during this first year. Right now i think i have 15 of a total of 19 dust jackets/book covers that i know of. Even though i got a lot of help along the way through the trade with Guy Minnebach that made me get to include two of the most rare ones i’m still both thrilled and surprised at how fast this collection has come to grow during just a single year. And as i’ve said before i actually have high hopes of someday getting to call this collection complete.

Oh, i almost forgot… Some tips and tricks to anyone interested in starting a collection? Well, i’ve already shared the few links that i know of and as time has moved on this blog has now also become a source of information on the topic. Maybe not so much when it comes to the story behind each and every cover, but at least there are some pretty pictures to look at… The best piece of advice that i would give anyone interested is just to stay persistant. Sooner or later you’ll find something in your wish lists / saved searches thingys.

I’m looking forward to what the next year will bring and what i’ll be reading next…

WarholDustJackets

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2 thoughts on “A year of reading Andy Warhol…

  1. I’m looking out for another copy of the original THE BUTTERFLY TREE for you. As you know I do have a copy but am not willing to part with it. The author, Bob Bell, has a brother in Mobile who may have a lead for you. His name is Billy Bell–a rather common name, but you might be able to locate him. I’m sorry I didn’t think of him before. You also might contact the archives at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, which has a number of Bob’s writings. My bookstore contacts in that area yielded nothing for you. I’ll be in Mobile for the month of Feb and will do some digging if you are still looking for this dust jacket. Unfortunately people tend to think they can get a lot of money for such things.

    • Hi Mary Lois, thanks for your comment and for your help! There are a few copies online for around $400-500 which i guess is not TOTALLY outrageous. But of course i hope to find it for about 1/10 ot that someday. 🙂 I’ll send you an email, thanks for the tip about his brother. I’ll see what i can find.

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